Reminder: 2017 “Vermont LGBTQIA Solidarity March” Is Tomorrow!
The VSEA Board of Trustees voted last week to endorse VSEA member participation in the 2017 “Vermont LGBTQIA Solidarity March” tomorrow in Montpelier. The Montpelier march is just one of many being held across the nation on Saturday to coincide with a main rally and march in Washington D.C.
Montpelier marchers are meeting at 10:00 a.m. in the parking lot of the Department of Labor, located at 5 Green Mountain Drive. The march begins from there at 10:30 a.m., and there is a rally on the State House steps, beginning at 11:00 a.m.
State Directs Agencies & Departments To Reduce Budgets By 2% To 4% – Here We Go Again!
Seven Days reports on June 6 that the State recently sent all Agency and Department heads a memo, directing them to find anywhere from 2% to 4% in annual budget reductions.
"Agencies and departments should develop cost savings plans for an amount up to a 4% reduction in General Funds," Outgoing Finance Commissioner Andy Pallito wrote in his memo. "We are asking that your draft plan include scenarios for 2%, 3% and 4% reductions."
VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard voices the opinion of a majority of state employees when responding to news of the budget-reduction request, telling Seven Days, "We think state government is not adequately funded as it is now."
Pallito attributes the directive to the legislature’s mandate to cut $5 million in managerial expenses and a potential shortfall in anticipated state revenues.
Note: VSEA members are all too familiar with these now annual budget-cutting exercises, which lawmakers continue to entertain, as opposed to introducing new ideas to generate some additional revenue by adopting policies to ensure tax fairness across all classes of Vermonters. As has said many times in the past decade, “Forget the bone, Vermont state services and employees have already been cut
to the marrow.”
Vermont teachers’ fight to protect their right to collectively bargain health care benefits directly with their employer caused the State this week to make good on its threat to veto what is a balanced budget and one that contains no new tax increases—two initial requirements by the State for passage, prior to moving the goal posts with the teacher’s announcement late in the legislative session. Following the veto announcement, the Free Pressreported on June 6 that lawmakers continue to remind that the budget up for passage is one that meets the State’s stringent requirements and should be passed without delay. VSEA reminds that, across the nation, many states are grappling with massive budget deficits (some austerity-measure-induced, see Kansas and Oklahoma) and can only dream of nearly unanimously passing (one vote against) a budget that is balanced and doesn’t raise taxes.
Lawmakers must now reconvene in Montpelier on June 21 for a special session to see again if a compromise can be reached with the State on teachers’ health care benefits. This special session is on the heels of the State and lawmakers already extending the formal legislative session by two weeks—at taxpayers’ expense—primarily to try and reach a compromise on the teachers, which did not happen. If a compromise cannot be achieved on June 21, and no budget is therefore passed, Vermont is facing a government shutdown on July 1; a development that has adverse implications for every state employee and the service you provide.
On June 6, Vermont National Education Association (VTNEA) sponsored a press conference at the State House, where three past Vermont “Teachers of the Year” spoke out strongly against the State’s efforts to erode their collective bargaining rights. VTNEA President Martha Allen also reminded that if there is a government shut down on July 1, it will create a $400 million hole in the education budget and funding for schools and students.
The State continues to intimate that it will not allow a government shut down to occur.
VSEA Members Join With VTNEA & Other Vermont Union Workers To Rally Against State’s Desire To Strip Away Teachers’ Collective Bargaining Rights
VSEA members participated in rallies across the state on June 7, sponsored by the Vermont National Education Association (VTNEA). Teachers were rallying to build public support for their fight to retain a hard-won right to collectively bargain their health care benefits by individual school district. Teachers were also denouncing the State holding the budget hostage and wrongly making them the scapegoats.
VSEA President Dave Bellini and VSEA Board member Mary Poulos (pictured here) were just two of the VSEA members attending the Montpelier rally, which, again, was one of many held across Vermont. Turnout at many of the rallies is reported to have numbered from 50 to 100 participants.
The Vermont AFL-CIO and other Vermont unions also rallied with the teachers.
VSEA thanks every member who took time to attend a rally on June 7. Your solidarity is greatly appreciated. Thanks too to Sen. Anthony Pollina, who attended the rally in Montpelier.
Remember, if the State gets its way, does any VSEA member really believe that it won’t be long until a similar campaign is launched to strip state employees of your right to bargain future health care benefits?
Commentary Slams State’s Reasoning For Budget Veto
Vermont Columnist Richard Davis penned a commentary that takes issue with the State’s perceived “disregard for Vermont’s political process.” It appeared first in the Brattleboro Reformer and then posted on June 4 to VTDigger.
“So what would [the State]’s proposal really do? It would deal a blow to the collective bargaining process for teachers throughout Vermont. If it smells like a skunk, it must be a skunk and [the State]’s proposal sure smells like a bad thing. It is union busting pure and simple.”
“[The State]’s action ha[s] disrupted the political process in Vermont and it sure looks like [it] is playing to the voters who don’t understand the finer points of Vermont politics by promising a tax cut that has no basis in fiscal or political reality.”
VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard and Field Representatives Director Gretchen Naylor were in St. Albans on Wednesday to hold a meeting with VSEA members working at the State Office Building at 27 Federal Street, where a bomb threat was received on May 31, prompting the evacuation of some 140 state employees.
Thankfully, the threat was determined by law enforcement to be “likely not credible,” but the damage had already been done by then, meaning employees had already been subjected to what they could only assume was a real threat to their lives.
Howard and Naylor reviewed existing safety protocols with the workers and shared information with them about who they should contact in the event of a future emergency situation. Members were also able to ask any questions they had and talk about what worked and what didn’t work during last week’s emergency.
Why VSEA Continues To Fight Yearly For Improved Safety & Health Protections For Vermont Workers & The Public
Each quarter, a joint worker/State Safety & Health Maintenance Committee meets to discuss safety and health issues in Vermont state offices or leased properties that have brought to the committee for review. Together, the two sides try to come up with ways to address the problems/issues and then formally present their idea(s) to the Governor’s office or other appropriate entity.
At this week’s June 6 meeting in Middlesex, a document was distributed that identified the top five state agencies and departments in terms of the total number of worker safety & health claims made from August 1, 2016, to June 1, 2017.
The top 5 are:
Agency of Transportation
Total Incurred: $485,473
Total Paid: $214,019
Average Incurred (Per Incident): $2,667
Department of Mental Health
Total Incurred: $132,958
Total Paid: $92,897
Average Incurred (Per Incident): $1,055
Department of Corrections
Total Incurred: $795,706
Total Paid: $410,130
Average Incurred (Per Incident): $6.,919
Department of Public Safety
Total Incurred: $244,588
Total Paid: $116,516
Average Incurred (Per Incident): $3,494
Department of Buildings & General Services
Total Incurred: $252,362
Total Paid: $109,423
Average Incurred (Per Incident): $4,853
This is why VSEA continues to fight to improve protections for all state employees and the Vermonters who use our services. Don’t forget that by working to reduce this number, VSEA members are also helping to reduce the amount of claims money coming out of the state’s General Fund.
Potential Sale Of State-Owned Building In Montpelier Sparks New Debate About State-Owned Versus Leased Property
For years, VSEA members have openly questioned why the State of Vermont would want to rent private space for state employees, as opposed to housing workers in state-owned buildings. A June 7 Seven Days story highlights the issue, using the current debate in Montpelier about what to do with the empty Redstone State Office Building, which the state is currently spending “$15,000 to $20,000” annually to pay the building’s electricity and heating bills.
Newly appointed Buildings and General Services (BGS) Commissioner Chris Cole is quoted extensively in the story, and, on the upside, he does support reducing the state’s reliance on leased properties from 20% to 15%. Cole explains that the average cost of state-owned office space is $13.44 per square foot and that lease prices vary widely but average about $22 per square foot. Cole says he is hesitant to sell any currently owned state office building without knowing for sure if a need exists for space, especially knowing that the state has buildings sitting empty.
In the story, Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos fires back against the idea to sell the Redstone Building, telling the paper, "I think the state’s making a huge mistake if they sell it off. I just think it hasn’t been well thought out."
Franklin/ Grand Isle Chapter Seeks New Council Members
VSEA’s Franklin/Grand Isle Chapter asked WIA to let Chapter members know that three vacancies currently exist on the VSEA Council, and the Chapter is looking to fill the positions. Interested members should contact Chapter President Michael Gordon by email at michael.gordon.vermont.gov.
F/GI Chapter members should also mark these upcoming Chapter events on their calendar:
F/GI Chapter Employee Appreciation Day Event is Friday, June 23. Details in next week’s WIA; and
F/GI Chapter Annual Meeting is August 11, beginning at 5:00 p.m. at
St. Alban’s Bay.
The VSEA Waterbury Chapter will hold 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, June 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
VSEA Insurance Benefits Enrollment In Williston, Burlington, Waterbury and Castleton Throughout June
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.
June 13, 14 and 15
12:00 to 4:00
Dept. of Health Access
312 Hurricane Lane
12:00 to 4:30
108 Cherry Street
Conference Room 2B
12:00 to 4:00
108 Cherry Street
Conference Room 3A
June 27 and 28
10:00 to 2:30
Waterbury State Office Complex
AHS Focus Room – 109A
June 19 and 20
11:00 to 3:00
Calvin Coolidge Library
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.”
Connecticut State Workers Produce TV Ad To Fight Back Against Austerity Measures & Lobby For Tax Fairness
To combat a Governor & Legislature hell-bent on using ill-advised austerity measures to address the state’s huge budget deficit, the Connecticut State Employees’ Union (SEIU 1199) has released a new television ad that calls on the state’s Governor and lawmakers to instead consider adopting new measures to ensure tax fairness across all classes.
VSEA members are all too familiar with this fight, as it’s one Vermont state employees have had to wage for nearly a decade now, but with no movement to date by lawmakers to ensure tax fairness. But with the State’s newly announced mandate to cut budgets by 2 to 4 percent, and with coming federal budget cuts and a new round of contract negotiations this fall, VSEA members will more than likely soon be facing the same fight as CT state workers—and the need to begin producing VSEA’s own series of ads.
VSEA wishes our Connecticut sisters and brothers success in their just fight for social and economic justice.
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback once heralded his “march to zero” income tax reduction austerity measures as the cure for Kansas’ budget woes, but now the state is grappling with a nearly $1 billion budget shortfall and lawmakers have been forced to admit that the Governor was wrong and his budget policies are failing Kansas badly.
“Lawmakers who supported the bill and the override [of the Governor’s tax policies] said the 2012 policy was a mistake that had drained the state of revenue, leading to rounds of budget cuts and harming investments in roads and other priorities.
"It’s hard to celebrate because Kansas is in such shambles. The magnitude of the problems that we have to correct is so great," Rep. Melissa Rooker, R-Fairway, said.
“Kansas faces a projected budget shortfall of roughly $900 million over the next two years. Lawmakers also have approved hundreds of millions in new spending on schools, though Brownback has yet to take action on the legislation.”
Note: Kansas lawmakers did prevail this week, overriding the Governor’s veto of their bill to reverse his ill-advised policies.
New Study Looks At How Younger Public Workers View Pension Benefits
Pew Charitable Trusts wanted to know how younger public workers view the importance of retirement security in the form of a pension, so it conducted a study and the findings are telling. Some of the top findings were:
Younger workers are generally confused about many aspects of their plans, and more than a third of those under 30 could not name the type of retirement plan their employer offers.
Younger workers’ top priority for their retirement plans is the ability to take savings with them when changing jobs, followed closely by having a fixed, lifetime monthly benefit at retirement.
60 percent of workers under 30 do not expect to work for their current employer until retirement, compared with 26 percent of workers 30 to 39.
Nearly 80 percent of respondents are very or somewhat confident that they will receive the full retirement benefit promised by their employers.
From the study: “The results suggest that younger workers choose government jobs more for the day-to-day advantages, such as stable employment and work-life balance, than for retirement benefits.”
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.
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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 really ironic that in a state as wealthy as Connecticut that our lawmakers would be considering making cuts against those that are the most vulnerable and poor among us."
Rev. Kent Siladi, Conference Minister of the Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ, commenting to FOX61 about being arrested with six others this week for disrupting the legislative session to protest proposed service cuts.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
Future Steward Summits (all 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) are scheduled for:
August 18 – Best Western, 45 Blush Hill Road, Waterbury
October 20 – Hotel Coolidge, 39 South Main St., White River Junction
November 3 – Holiday Inn, 476 Holiday Drive, Rutland
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.
NMU Sick Leave Bank Teetering On Bankruptcy! VSEA Members Urged To Contribute
Donations Being Accepted
April 1 To June 30
VSEA member Dawn Carrillo staffs the Non-Management Unit Sick Leave Bank, and she is again asking WIA to sound the alarm that the bank is nearly depleted of hours. She is also announcing that NMU members can donate a few hours to your Unit’s sick leave bank from April 1 to June 30, 2017.
“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.”
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
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