VSEA All-Member Appreciation Day Event Is July 29!
VSEA’s Membership Recruitment Committee is inviting VSEA members from across the state to attend a special “All-Member Appreciation Day” event on Saturday, July 29, at Elmore State Park off Route 12 in Elmore.
VSEA will fire up the barbeque at noon, and members are welcome to spend the day enjoying the lake, hiking trails or any of the park’s other outdoor activities.
Note: WIA was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Lamoille Valley’s Chapter Annual Meeting at Lake Elmore in 2016, and the setting is gorgeous and there are a lot of activities for people of all ages. Nice place to spend a day.
VSEA’s Special Events 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 banquet on
September 9 in Stowe.
Did You Receive Your Electronic Ballot To Vote In Upcoming VSEA Trustee Election?
All eligible VSEA members (except those who requested a paper ballot) should have received an email this week from email@example.com containing your electronic ballot to vote in the VSEA Trustees’ election. “Eligible” member refers to whether or not the member belongs to one of the Units where a seat is being contested or belongs to a Chapter in a region where a vote is being conducted (i.e. District 4 seat represents Chittenden, Addison and the Franklin/Grand Isle region, so VSEA members belonging to the Chittenden, Addison and Franklin/Grand Isle Chapters should have received a ballot).
Very important! Your electronic ballot was sent to both the home and work email address that VSEA currently has on file for you. If you do not recall receiving an email from firstname.lastname@example.org on June 20, please look in your “Other” or “Spam” folders before contacting headquarters to request that your ballot be reissued.
Reminder: VSEA is sending ballots to members’ home and work email address, provided the union has your correct home and work email address. This is a big reason why WIA is constantly soliciting members to contact VSEA with your updated email address. You can update your contact information here anytime.
Vermont Teachers Blast Secrecy & Result Of This Week’s “Deal” Between The State & Lawmakers To Force Contractual Savings
The Vermont National Education Association (VTNEA) wasted little time issuing a statement on June 21 that was not kind to a “deal” reached this week (in secret) between the State and legislative leaders that will adversely impact teachers’ bargaining for years to come. This is because this “deal,” according to the VTNEA, “will make it harder for local school boards and local educators to reach contract settlements.
“The compromise made…between legislative leaders and [the State] is what you’d expect in a backroom deal that comes about when the [State] threatens a DC-style government shutdown,” VTNEA President Martha Allen says in the release. “The deal is bad for local school boards, is bad for local educators and alters decades of successful negotiations between locally accountable school board members and the women and men who work for them.”
The VTNEA release continues:
“The deal sets ‘benchmarks’ for health insurance cost-sharing that affects state aid to local schools; it has the potential to further delay negotiations that have been in the works for months; it reopens all health insurance agreements again in 2019; and it erodes local control. The deal, however, will not affect school boards who have already ratified contracts or reached tentative agreements with local educators.
For 50 years, locally elected boards and local educators have worked together to build a public-school system that is among the very best in the nation,” Allen said. “Sadly, that 50-year – and 5,000-contract – history of success is threatened today by this backroom agreement between the governor and legislative leaders.”
“The [teachers’] benchmark plan will be the gold-level Consumer Driven Health Plan offered by the Vermont Education Health Initiative, with teachers covering 20 percent of premiums and school districts covering 80 percent. The Agency of Education will determine what districts spent on health care for teachers and support staff in fiscal year 2017 and speculate on what should be spent in fiscal 2018 based on teachers and staff utilizing the benchmark plan, plus an additional 5 percent cost cushion.
The State will then withhold 65 percent of the projected savings from schools in fiscal 2018 and 35 percent of the savings in fiscal 2019. The total savings for property taxpayers is expected to be $8.5 million in 2018 and $4.5 million in 2019. Districts that do not negotiate health care contracts with teachers that achieve the savings identified by the Agency of Education will be force to cut their budgets elsewhere to account for the reduced payments from the state.”
And We’re Back… Reminder Of What’s In The Budget Of Importance To VSEA Members
It’s been a while since lawmakers nearly unanimously passed a budget that was vetoed by the State over teachers’ health care, so WIA wants to remind VSEA members about what’s in the budget for you (first reported in mid-May).
In the budget are:
Pay Act – The FY18 Pay Act is fully funded, ensuring departments will NOT be expected to “eat” a portion of the Pay Act by absorbing the cost of the contractual 2.25% cost-of-living-adjustment scheduled for July and step increases throughout the fiscal year. Additionally, $1.9 million has been allocated for Executive Branch reclassifications;
Docket Clerks – The Judiciary reclassification for Docket Clerks, Court Officers and Court Room Operators is fully funded, including $324,000 for retroactive pay increases to December 15, 2016;
Vermont State Colleges –
A substantial 12.5%, $3 million, increase in base funding for the Vermont State Colleges. While the increase is not the $4 million the Colleges had requested, the appropriation will assist to shore up the institutions’ troubled finances and help correct decades of underfunding. Furthermore, the budget includes $880,000 in one-time money to assist in the merger of Lyndon and Johnson State Colleges into Northern Vermont University. The fight for increased funding for the Vermont State Colleges will continue next year; this is a significant step in the right direction.
New Authorized Positions –
The budget authorizes one classified Microbiologist in the Agency of Agriculture, two classified Tax Examiners in the Department of Taxes, and three limited-service Security Guards in the Department of Military. The budget also extends the position-pilot program, which allows cost-neutral conversions of contractors, temporary employees and overtime into classified positions without approval by the General Assembly, to the Department of Public Safety. The Department of Corrections budget includes the conversion of twenty-nine (29) temporary correctional officers into full-time classified correctional officers;
Liquor Control Privatization – Language to preclude the State from enacting its proposed privatization of the state’s Liquor Warehouse for the duration of FY18. Legislation was adopted to create a plan for the eventual merger of liquor and lottery, but this plan would still need to be approved by the Legislature;
Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center – The FY18 Budget assumes that the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services will restore funding to Woodside half way through the fiscal year. If funding is not restored, language in the budget directs the Department for Children and Families to produce a report on the fiscal impact and a plan to suspend operations at Woodside after accommodations have been found for the delinquent youth currently housed there;
Southeast State Correctional Facility (A.K.A. Windsor
Work Camp) – The budget does NOT include the State’s proposal to permanently close Southeast State Correctional Facility. However, the SESCF will close for six months for renovations, after which the facility will be repurposed as a re-entry facility for inmates who are soon to be released into the community. The Department of Corrections will present a plan on the repurposing of Windsor by November 1, 2017. The proposal includes language for employees who work at SESCF on or after November 1, 2017, which extends the Reduction in Force reemployment rights period beyond the contractual 2 years for these employees who have not found state employment during that period, and extends the geographic area allowing these employees to RIF solely into vacant positions at any State correctional facility that management intends to fill. The budget also provides a one-time mandatory offer of re-employment to these same employees at the re-purposed facility in Windsor when it reopens;
Department of Labor/ Agency of Commerce Merger – Includes language to prohibit the State from merging the Department of Labor with the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, by precluding the transfer of positions and their underlying appropriations. Legislation outside of the budget creates a study committee, composed of 7 members of the Workforce Investment Board and one member of the Labor community, that is charged with coming up with a variety of options, including the possibility of all programs staying within the DOL.
Vermont Life Magazine – The budget includes language instructing the Agency of Commerce and Community Development to issue an RFP for the sale of Vermont Life magazine, with the goal of recouping the mounting $3.2 million of debt the magazine owes the State’s General Fund. This language was improved during the budget process to not preclude the Agency from bidding on the continued operation of Vermont Life, so long as the magazine operations are funded by the Agency of Commerce by FY19. It is our understanding that the State prefers the latter option;
Electronic Monitoring –
The budget includes authorization for the Commissioner of Corrections to establish a more robust electronic monitoring program for home detainees and offenders on home confinement. The language allows DOC to consult with the Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs to enter into an agreement to electronically monitor offender positioning. DOC will continue to provide enforcement for home confinement and may now also provide that enforcement for detainees in conjunction with sheriffs in some capacity; and the
Vermont Veteran’s Home –
VVH received a $300,000 reduction in funding. $260,000.00 of this cut was a result of erroneous and outdated information provided by the management. The other $40,000.00 is anticipated savings from purchasing medications through the VA.
With A New Mandate To Cut Budgets, VT Public Assets Institute Says There’s A
Public Assets Institute (PAI) Policy Analyst Jack Hoffman penned a commentary in today’s Rutland Herald, titled “Weighing Budget Options.” It reads, in part:
“Do people really want reduced public services? That’s the question Montpelier should be asking Vermonters if the economists conclude that revenue will drop off next year. Vermonters need to hear what services or programs the state will curtail. And they deserve to hear the options for increasing revenues if they decide they want to maintain current services.
Ideally, the state would have this kind of discussion each fall, when the [State] is beginning to draw up its budget plans. We would have a current services budget, which the [State] published in greater detail this year than previous administrations had. It is an estimate of the cost of delivering all of the services the State is obligated or committed to provide. We would get the [State]’s budget, which is the amount the administration proposes to spend. And where the [State]’s budget falls short of what’s needed to meet [its] commitments, we’d get an accounting of how the reduced budget will affect specific programs and services.”
Note: PAI has consistently (and rightfully) opposed the State and lawmakers’ repeatedly asking for cuts to public services and jobs.
New Audit, New Findings Of Gross Negligence On The State’s Part When It
Comes To Accountability
And Still They Ask For
For years, the Auditor’s Office has been uncovering cases where there is almost zero accountability for how taxpayer dollars are being spent and what outcomes are resulting from these investments. VTDigger reports this week on a new audit that finds the State paid nearly $25 million to cover overrun costs associated with State building projects–and, surprise, there is very little accountability for why those dollars were spent. Building projects are administered by Buildings and General Services (BGS).
Because of BGS’s inconsistent tracking system,” [Auditor Doug Hoffer] tells Digger, it was difficult for members of his team doing the audit even to find the full cost of the projects.
‘The practical effect is, no accountability,’ Hoffer emphasizes."
Note: VSEA believes that it’s past time for lawmakers to demand that the State get its own house in order before allowing even one new 2% to 4% budget cut to be adopted. The Auditor’s Office has identified too many areas where taxpayer money is being wasted (sometimes millions) or there is no accounting for the funds being expended.
Lawmakers Voice Intention To Put New Agency Of Digital Services Under A Microscope
Seven Days published a story this week about lawmakers’ decision this session to green light a State proposal to abolish the Department of Information and Innovation (DII) and replace it with the Agency of Digital Services (ADS). According to the story, a big reason lawmakers adopted the proposal was their frustration with DII’s ability to produce the kind of data that legislators wanted to see; things like number of employees or how much money is being spent.
“I’m hoping this is not an exercise in rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic,” Rep. Maida Townsend (D-South Burlington) tells the paper. The State is promising that the change will instead result in “a more coordinated and accountable approach to managing the state’s IT infrastructure.” A state-employed software developer tells 7Days that his colleagues are approaching the transition with "cautious ambivalence."
Lawmakers are mandating the ADS to deliver a detailed implementation plan, updated information about the transition affects employees and state finances, and regular progress reports.
ADS’ new commissioner says he believes the workforce is split down the middle on whether or not the new agency will live up to the hype.
Note: Given the millions of taxpayer dollars that several agencies and departments have wasted on failed IT projects, VSEA hopes that whatever ADS reorganization is occurring includes enhanced contract oversight and accountability
for dollars spent.
The VSEA Waterbury Chapter is holding its next meeting on Monday, June 26, from 12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. in the Mountain Ash Room inside the Waterbury State Office Complex.
Mark this date also! The Waterbury Chapter is hosting an Employee Appreciation Day event on Friday, July 21, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Fox CC Atrium inside the Waterbury State Office Complex. Stop by during your lunch break for treats and VSEA giveaway items.
Springfield Chapter President Joey Holmes asked WIA to remind Chapter members that your next meeting is on Wednesday, June 28, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. in the Springfield State Building, 100 Mineral Street, Suite 102. Pizza and beverages provided. Hope to see you there!
Vermont Workers Make Top 10 In Nation For NOT Using Vacation Time
In the past few years, several news outlets have reported that Americans are notoriously bad at taking the vacation time they have accrued. Statistics show that nearly 54% of Americans do not use all their vacation time, and Vermonters are actually in the nation’s top 10 in terms of workers not taking their vacation.
VSEA Insurance Benefits Enrollment
In South Burlington and Colchester
Learn More Or Schedule An Appointment Today!
By Appointment Only:
VSEA Insurance Representative Joanne Woodcock will be at the following locations to talk with interested VSEA members about member-only insurance benefits.
South Burlington DMV
12:00 to 4:00
4 Market Street
Woodside Juvenile Rehab Center
12:00 to 4:00
26 Woodside Drive
July 11 and 12
12:00 to 4:00
7 Farrell Street
South Burlington, VT
Receive information on disability coverage, family life insurance, family accident, cancer and hospital coverage. You must be a member paying full dues to be eligible for this VSEA benefit. If you are an agency-fee payer, Joanne can provide you information about signing up for full membership.
All applications need to be taken in person.
Email Joanne@ vseainsurance.com for an appointment. Please provide your age, hourly wage and job description so I can send a quote BEFORE we meet.
Long-time VSEA insurance provider R.K. Tongue recently sent a letter to VSEA that detailed a switch in the insurance carrier currently administering the union’s Group Long Term Disability Income Plan. The provider is changing from United States Life to Metropolitan Life Insurance Company New York, NY (“MetLife”).
The letter reads, in part: “All insured members currently participating in the United States Life Group Long Term Disability Income program and not receiving Disability benefits on August 31, 2017, will transfer to MetLife with no change to rates, (unless you are scheduled for an age change increase that will move you to the next 5-year band of rates) and if under these plans you attain an age that benefits are scheduled to reduce (as indicated in the United States Life certificate of insurance). There may be minor differences or variations between the plans from the different insurance companies.”
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.
Do you have Week In
We want to know what you think of VSEA’s Week In Action Newsletter or if there is anything we could be doing better.
Springfield Chapter Meeting
Springfield State Building
100 Mineral Street
Chapter Presidents Committee Meeting
Elmore State Park
Retirees’ Mailing Meeting
Read Contracts Online At VSEA.org
VSEA members belonging to the Non-Management, Corrections, Judiciary, Defender General and Supervisory Units can click here to view your contract. All these contracts expire on June 30, 2018.
Quote of The Week!
“It’s going to put us under pressure to cut money, and hundreds of thousands of dollars out of our budget, and be faced with the prospect of cuts to programs and services.”
Burlington School Board member Mark Barlow to a VPR reporter asking about the impact of the “deal” that the State and lawmakers reached this week on teachers’ health care benefits.
Are Required Emergency Drills Happening Where You Work?
With the recent bomb threat at the State Office Building in St. Albans, VSEA wants to find out if the State of Vermont is following BGS emergency-situation protocol where you work.
The protocol on BGS’ website reads:
"All owned and leased State Office Buildings occupied by State employees will practice a minimum of (1) evacuation fire drill every year and (1) Active Shooter and hostile intruder drill at least every two years. A record of these emergency drills should be recorded in the EML by the designated ECM on the day of the drill. The Safety Committees will coordinate drills with their respective sites. The Safety Committees shall meet within (14) days after the drills to discuss, critique, and analyze the drill."
VSEA wants to know if the proper training is occurring at your workplace and when it occurred last. Also, if you are unaware of this protocol, that’s not good and VSEA wants to know this as well and also where you work.
Please send an email with your input to VSEA at email@example.com. Write" Protocol Status" in the subject line.
VSEA Legislative Team’s 2017 Legislator Scorecard
At the June 13 Council meeting, VSEA Legislative Committee Chairperson Margaret Crowley provided a comprehensive overview of this year’s legislative session, highlighting VSEA’s many wins at the State House. Part of Crowley’s presentation also included the distribution of a scorecard, providing each Vermont legislator’s “right or wrong” vote on the following bills important to VSEA members:
State’s Attorneys Office Collective Bargaining;
Beck Amendment To Interfere With Teachers’ Right To Bargain Health Care;
Time Running Out To Donate To Non- Management Unit Sick
Donations Accepted To June 30
June 30 is the final day to contribute some much- needed time to the Non- Management Unit Sick Leave Bank. VSEA NMU Sick Leave Bank Chairperson Dawn Carillo has been reminding members for weeks that the bank is nearly depleted and your help and hours you can spare are needed now.
“Just donating an hour of your time can mean the world to a fellow employee,” reads a new flyer DHR is circulating. It also informs state employees that they can donate any amount of annual- or personal- leave time to the NMU Sick Leave Bank. “Know that you are performing a wonderful service by helping your friends and fellow employees, who, along with their families, are struggling due to serious health issues,” the flyer concludes.
“I want to thank every member for considering a donation to your Unit sick leave bank,” says VSEA President Dave Bellini. “Even if you only donate one hour to the bank, these one- hour donations add up. It’s so worthwhile because your donation is going to help a fellow state employee who is battling a serious illness.”
VSEA Officer Candidate Petitions Due July 11!
The deadline to submit a petition to run for one of four VSEA Officer posts is 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, July 11. Members simply download a petition, collect the required signatures and then submit their petition to VSEA to place their name into nomination for one of the five union officer positions up for election in 2017. The positions are:
First Vice President
Second Vice President
Note: VSEA candidates for all positions are required to submit a petition bearing no fewer than 25 VSEA members’ names, signatures and employee number.
Looking Again To Fill Open Combined Unit Seat On VSEA Board Of Trustees
The VSEA Board of Trustees is once again casting a net to find members interested in filling the body’s Combined Unit seat. This seat is open to VSEA members working in the Defender General’s Office and at the State Housing Authority.
All full-fledged VSEA members who work for the Defender General’s Office and State Housing Authority are eligible and are encouraged to submit a petition.
Collect the names and original signatures of 25 full-fledged VSEA members on your petition and submit your completed petition to VSEA by 4:00 p.m., Thursday,
Agenda Released For August 18 VSEA “Steward Summit.” Register Today!
In an effort to better educate frontline worksite Stewards about their role in VSEA, as well as provide them with enhancements to their existing skill set, VSEA’s Field Department is hosting a series of “Steward Summits” across Vermont this year.
VSEA Stewards are learning the latest developments relating to contract enforcement and receiving an overview of the budget, safety and health and other challenges that lie ahead for state employees. Stewards attending are being asked to immediately help out by taking some of what they learn back to the worksite to educate their colleagues.
Three, six-hour trainings remain, and every current VSEA Steward is required to attend one session.
Here is the agenda released for the August 18 summit in Waterbury at the Best Western Hotel:
8:30 a.m. – Registration & Breakfast
9:00 a.m. – Welcome & Introductions
9:30 a.m. to Noon – Grievances (Learning the Basics) or Safety & Health
1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. – Role of Steward in an Investigation or Organizing (Member Recruitment)
2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. – Bullying in the Workplace
Future Steward Summits (all 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.) are scheduled for:
October 20 – Hotel Coolidge, 39 South Main St., White River Junction
November 3 – Holiday Inn, 476 Holiday Drive, Rutland
VSEA Member Only Benefits: Your VSEA Money Saving Advantage!
Vendor of the Week!
Enterprise will provide discounted car rental rates with no black out dates when using this link to reserve or utilizing VTEMP1 as the promotion code. The discounts will be provided anywhere in the world.
Enterprise has 12 locations throughout the State of Vermont: Burlington, Bennington, Brattleboro, Rutland, Middlebury, St. Johnsbury, St. Albans, Morrisville, White River Junction. We provide a free pick up service from home or office. A discount will be provided whenever you utilize VTEMP1 as the promotion code.
See What Discounts Are Being Offered Today!
Did you know the average VSEA member can save hundreds of dollars a year by taking advantage of some of the Members Only benefits offered through their union?
GET EXCLUSIVE OFFERS, DISCOUNTS & MORE
It’s free, just for being a Vermont State Employees’ Association PerksConnect member!
At the top of the Advantage Program page, click the link that says "Click Here To Log Into The New VSEA Advantage Program". This will redirect you to the new Advantage Program website. Please note this link will not work unless you are logged into your VSEA.org account first.
Select a category and start saving!
Present your VSEA union card, mobile device or printed coupons and offers at participating businesses and receive immediate discounts.
Don’t see what you are looking for?
Request a merchant by filling out the Vendor Information form here. Please note submissions are subject to approval.
If Searching For Child Care, Don’t Forget This Important Resource For State Employees
Longtime VSEA member, now retiree, Dave Clark has served on VSEA’s Child and Elder Care Committee for many years, and he recently asked WIA to remind state employees about an important child-care resource that is currently available to them.
“The Committee has noticed a recent decline in employees’ usage of the valuable child-care resources available to them, so we asked WIA to help us remind VSEA members about what is available,” explains Clark.
VSEA Organizer Tim Lenoch is personally conducting informational meetings in set workplaces on set days in four locations. He says the purpose of the meetings is to provide members with an opportunity to “join with their colleagues and VSEA staff for updates and discussion on the issues and challenges facing state employees and the impact on your working conditions and the services they provide.” He adds that members are welcome to “come share their ideas and hear from co-workers on how to build a stronger union and improve public services.”
Snacks and refreshments are provided.
White River Junction
State Office Building
118 Prospect Street
First Floor Conference Room
State Office Building
100 Mineral Street
AHS Conference Room
State Office Building
63 Professional Dr.
Last fall, VSEA’s Membership Recruitment Committee launched a “Membership Engagement and Recruitment Initiative” to grow the union’s ranks. The Committee asked members to talk with current agency-fee payers about the benefits of full-fledged membership and why the member should make the switch. If the member decides to upgrade their membership, the recruiting member will have the satisfaction of knowing they helped their union become stronger, but, in addition, the Membership Recruitment Committee will be awarding different levels of prizes to members, based on the number of new VSEA members recruited.
Here are the guidelines to participate and be eligible for a prize:
Whether submitting your recruited member(s) name(s)on a physical recruitment card or online, you must include your name as the recruiter;
Every member who recruits a new member will has his or her name entered into a drawing for the Grand Prize. The winner’s name will be drawn at VSEA’s Annual Meeting in September 2017, and the winner must be present to claim the prize;
Team entries are being accepted. Please register with Membership Recruitment Committee Chair Katelyn Chase by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Members who recruit a new member, who then agrees to join your union’s political awareness committee (VTPAC) will receive an additional chance to win the Grand Prize, and
The cut-off date for this competition is August 30, 2017.
Here are the different prize levels:
$10 gift card and a VSEA water bottle (75 prizes awarded)
$25 gift card and a VSEA hat
(40 prizes awarded)
$50 gift card and a VSEA tote bag
(15 prizes awarded)
$100 and a VSEA vest
(8 prizes awarded)
1 Grand Prize of $1200
Need To Update Your Contact Information With VSEA?