Bargaining Teams &
State To Try Mediation, But…
VSEA’s NMU, Corrections and Supervisory Bargaining Teams were back at the Vermont Labor Relations Board (VLRB) on July 12, asking the Board to reconsider its March 30 decision in favor of the State’s last-best-contract-offer.
The following is a short summary of what transpired yesterday that VSEA posted last night to Facebook:
The VLRB heard oral arguments on VSEA’s motion for the Board to reconsider its March 30 decision in the contract last-best-offer (LBO) case. VSEA’s motion challenges the LBO decision from several angles, asking the full VLRB to adopt the VSEA proposal. VSEA outside counsel Al Gordon represented the union and argued forcefully and effectively for reconsideration. Board members Clark and Park heard the case as the last two members of the original panel, now that Karen O’Neil’s appointment has been rejected. The Board faces a difficult bind since it is required to make decisions with three-member panels and two of its five remaining members are recused.
At the start of the lunch break, Chairman Park urged the parties to consider returning to mediation as a way to resolve the dispute. The VSEA Teams agreed to attempt mediation, with the understanding that the legal process will resume if mediation is unsuccessful. VSEA Teams expect to attempt mediation in early August.
In the meantime, VSEA members and retirees are invited to watch and review today’s hearing on VSEA’s Facebook page. If you have any questions, please direct them to a member of your VSEA Bargaining Team. Find Team members’ contact info here.
Note: Until mediation and a possible return trip to the VLRB are complete, the State’s last best offer is still the contract in place right now. Wage increases and certain healthcare co-pay increases do not kick in until January 1, 2019.
No mediation dates have been scheduled yet, but VSEA Teams expect the process to begin in early August.
Reversing Course, State Says It Now Agrees To Follow Process When Making Future VLRB Appointments
Vermont labor unions, led by VSEA, cheered news this week that DOL Commissioner Lindsay Kurrle had sent a letter on July 9 to two Vermont Labor Relations Board (VLRB) members, telling them essentially that the State now agrees to follow the process in statute when making future appointments to the VLRB. Kurrle’s letter was prompted in part by VSEA publicly shining a spotlight on the way Karen O’Neill was appointed as a “neutral” to the VLRB and also by a recent letter from two sitting VLRB members to the State, reminding that "labor organizations" must be consulted in the appointment process, not just one labor union, as was the case with Ms. O’Neill. Interestingly, Kurrle’s letter comes on the heels of DOL General Counsel Dirk Anderson telling VTDiggeron June 26 that the State had no plans to “change the process” that got Ms. O’Neill appointed
In a July 11 VTDigger story about the State’s welcome reversal, VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard called the move good but rightfully adds, “It looks like they are going to start over with the mess they created, but they have a lot of work to do.” Howard also cautions that, “[The review] panel is still stacked against workers, and we will be back in the State House next year saying you need balance here.”
There are currently three vacancies on the VLRB, and, this time around, VSEA was contacted to submit names.
New Contract Printing & Posting On
Hold, Pending Outcome Of July 12 VLRB Hearing
Several VSEA members have inquired to headquarters about the status of the new NMU, Supervisory and Corrections’ contracts and where they can find them online to review and understand.
To date, the contract the VLRB ruled in favor of has not been printed or posted because, as VSEA members and retirees know, three VSEA Bargaining Teams were just at the VLRB yesterday to ask for reconsideration, which, if granted, would mean another chance for the VSEA Teams to make their case for the fair contract terms and conditions they proposed. Instead, both sides agreed to take one last try at mediation, before asking the Board again to revisit its March 30 decision.
VSEA Members Invited To March In July 28 Barre Heritage Festival Parade
VSEA members and retirees are invited to march with your colleagues in the 2018 Barre Heritage Festival Parade.
Here’s the information:
Parade: Saturday, July 28
Begin Gathering: 11:30 a.m.
VSEA Members Gathering At:
16 Auditorium Hill, Barre
Parade Start Time: 1:00 p.m.
Details: March in solidarity with VSEA in the 2018 Barre Heritage Festival Parade!!! Marchers each get a VSEA t-shirt to wear during the parade, and you can help hand out candy, balloons, and stickers to the crowd. Member’s and retiree’s family and friends are welcome to join in the fun!
According to a story in today’s Free Press, nurses’ union lead negotiator Julie McMillan says she’s not sure what’s next and that striking nurses will be taking this weekend to breathe. On Monday, she says, they will be reaching out to management to try to schedule new dates to negotiate. “We have to go back to the table,” she tells the paper. “There are many outstanding issues." If that doesn’t work, Nurse Samira Lawson, also a member of the bargaining committee, says the union might hold another strike vote next week. "We definitely have the support," she says. "It’s quite impressive how many people showed up to picket."
UVM nurses want to say thanks, so you’re invited to attend:
UVM Nurses’ March & BBQ To Thank The Community
Meet to March – 5:30 p.m. @ 94 Colchester Ave. (Old North End to City Hall)
BBQ in City Hall Park – 6:30 p.m. Event Facebook Page
VSEA DCF Workers Await Congress’ Direction On Who Will Qualify For SNAP
“Food-Security” Program Benefits
The men and women who administer Vermont’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are watching and waiting while the U.S. Congress tries to reach agreement on a new farm bill that might, or might not, change the program’s eligibility requirements. VTDigger reports on July 11 that “the U.S. House wants to drastically reform the food-security program by raising income eligibility levels and expanding work requirements for participants in the program. The U.S. Senate would keep the food stamps program intact.” The story explains that “if Congress adopts a proposal in the House bill that would bar states from using a higher income eligibility level than the federal standard of 130 percent of the federal poverty line, nearly 24,000 recipients in Vermont would lose the [SNAP] benefit.”
Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and he tells VTDigger that “he sees a strong commitment in the Senate to oppose the House’s changes to the program during the conference committee process.
‘What encourages me is that we got a very, very strong bipartisan effort to preserve SNAP in the Senate version of the farm bill,’” Leahy said.
July 15 Deadline To File A
“Request For Reclassification”
If you’re a group of VSEA members considering filing a class-action request for reclassification, remember that you must:
Tell VSEA by July 15; and
Submit paperwork to VSEA by
VSEA’s Executive Branch collective-bargaining agreements require that all class-action RFRs must be filed within a certain window, following July 1 in any given year—and the window differs depending on Unit-specific contract language. The State will not even entertain RFRs that did not receive prior VSEA approval. The VSEA Board of Trustees adopted a new policy to ensure that VSEA has time to properly evaluate class-action RFRs before they are submitted to the State. This deadline was needed because some RFRs are still being submitted right before the deadline, which prevented VSEA from making sure that the RFR protected all members’ rights.
The Board’s new policy requires any member(s) who want to submit a class-action RFR to VSEA for review and approval must provide notice to VSEA of their intention to file a class-action RFR on or before July 1 in any given year. Given the late notice this year, that deadline is extended to July 15. A copy of the proposed class-action RFR must then be submitted to VSEA before August 1 in any given year. All class-action RFR’s received at VSEA after August 1—or those submitted directly to the State Classification division without notice and consultation with VSEA—will not be “recognized” and/or “signed off” on by the union.
VSEA’s Awards and Scholarships Committee is urging members to give some thought to each of these awards and if you know of a deserving state employee—or a deserving Chapter—then please don’t hesitate to submit your nomination(s).
Winners will be announced at VSEA’s Annual Meeting in September.
VSEA’s Awards And Scholarship Committee Needs You!
VSEA’s Awards And Scholarships Committee meets twice a year to administer your union’s award and scholarship programs, which primarily involves reviewing applications to determine winners of scholarships and winners of VSEA Annual Meeting awards.
VSEA members interested in becoming a member of your union’s Awards And Scholarships Committee should email the committee’s staff liaison, VSEA Communications Specialist
Kris Lizzari at email@example.com
CNBC Disagrees That Vermont Is In Decline, Naming It The Nation’s Top State To Live In
Vermonters hear a lot from politicians about our state being in decline and people moving out left and right, but, according to a new CNBC survey, Vermont is the number one state to live in America. We think it also has a lot to do with Vermont having the nation’s best state employees and public services.
From the CNBC survey:
The Green Mountain State has America’s second-lowest violent-crime rate, a healthy population, a pristine environment and strong anti-discrimination laws to make sure all can enjoy the place. No wonder nearly 77 percent of those surveyed tell Gallup they feel "active and productive" — the highest rate in the nation. Vermont is not exactly a magnet for tourists, suggesting there may sometimes be a shortage of things to do. But Vermonters will tell you that is just part of the idyllic charm of America’s Top State to live in for 2018.
In These Times Chronicles The Koch Family’s “60-Year Anti-Union Campaign That Gave
The July 12 edition of In These Times features an excellent historical review of the prominent role members of the infamous Koch family have played in anti-union campaigns and efforts for some 60 years, including helping to fund the legal effort to ensure the Janus case made it to the U.S. Supreme.
Labor Relations Director’s Contract Summary Available Online
VSEA Labor Relations Director Gary Hoadley’s comprehensive summary of the contract recently imposed on VSEA members belonging to the Non-Management, Corrections and Supervisory Bargaining Units is available online by clicking here.
Friendly Reminder: What Has Our Union Done For Us Lately?
Just in case. Here is a reminder of just some of what VSEA has been able to accomplish for state employees (guided by rank-and-file leaders and activists) since its inception in 1944:
Yearly wage increases totaling more than 45% in cost-of-living and step increases since 1990;
Improved health benefits, comprehensive dental insurance including benefits for domestic partners;
A 30-year/no-penalty retirement plan with five-year vesting;
Enhanced mental health benefits;
Double-your-salary life insurance;
Time-and-a-half overtime benefits for over 4,600 employees;
Guaranteed maternity/paternity and adoption leave;
A strong grievance procedure to guarantee your rights;
Layoff (RIF) rights;
An effective lobbying and political program that defends your rights in the legislature;
A Communications Department that provides timely news and analysis of developments affective you and your job;
Member benefits including discount programs; and
Access to stewards, Union Representatives and lawyers to answer questions and address workplace issues.
Show Your Facebook Friends You’re VSEA Strong With VSEA Facebook Profile Picture Frame!
In light of the Janus Supreme Court decision, consider using VSEA’s newly created “I’m Sticking With The Union” profile picture frame to send a message that you are VSEA strong and you’re sticking with your union.
Hover over your Facebook profile picture and click, “Update Profile Picture”
In the next menu, select, “Add Frame”
Search for "VSEA" and select the color frame you would like to use, set the duration, and click “Use as Profile Picture”
Note: The following colors are available: Green, Gold, Black, White, and Green/Gold.
VSEA Elections, Rules & Nominating Committee Reminds Members To Vote In Four Board Of Trustees’ Elections
Deadline to vote is August 1!
Members of VSEA’s ERN Committee asked WIA to re-share this letter:
As many of you know, there are four elections going on right now for seats on the VSEA Board of Trustees (NMU, Judicial, District 3 and District 6). This is a reminder that ballots for these elections were issued Friday, June 15, at 8:00 a.m. All members who are eligible to vote in one or more of these elections should have received an electronic ballot(s) from “Simply Voting” in your primary email (a.k.a. home email, unless VSEA does not have a home email for you, then we use your work email). All email providers filter mail differently, so if you did not see the ballot in your primary mail box please do a keyword search of “all mail boxes” for “Simply Voting” or “elector” and this should bring up your e-ballot. If you are unable to locate your ballot, VSEA can have Simply Voting re-issue the ballot. Your unique ID ensures you can only vote once per election.
To request a new ballot, or have your ballot sent to a new email address, please email Ray Stout at VSEA at Rstout@vsea.org. Voting in any of these elections closes on August 1, 2018, and, until then, members will be receiving weekly reminders to vote, including a voting link.
In the past few years, VSEA and the ERN Committee decided to make the switch to electronic balloting, and, to date, it’s been successful, evidenced by a member-participation rate that has nearly doubled.
Members, of course, have the option to opt-out of electronic balloting and receive a standard paper ballot via US Mail. You can request a paper ballot be sent in future elections by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “paper ballot.”
The VSEA ERN Committee
What You Should Know About The Anti-Worker Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court Ruling
If you haven’t already, begin educating yourself today about what the Janus decision means—or supplement what you know already. Please also inform your co-workers about this Janus page and talk with them about what you learned and remind them of the importance of a union in their everyday life. You could make a difference. Every study shows that nothing is more effective than member-to-member communication.
Thanks in advance for visiting VSEA’s Janus webpage to ensure you are an informed union member.
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VSEA’s Communications Department is happy to disseminate any and all communications the leadership, Chapters, Units, and others request, however, the lists the Department currently pull from are provided to the union by the State of Vermont. VSEA’s Communications Department has found the lists to be dated, incomplete and sometimes lacking key information that was entered by a VSEA staff person but later overwritten or deleted during a State data dump.
To help VSEA more effectively reach active members—and really all those members who want to know what’s going on in their union—VSEA will be working hard in the coming months to collect members’ emails on its own and begin to build contact lists that cannot be altered by a State download.
You can help us get started by clicking here and signing up for the VSEA communications you are interested in receiving.
Thank you in advance for subscribing. Please urge your colleagues to do the same.