VSEA members and retirees have been asking me if I have heard this Janus radio ad that the Ethan Allen Institute (EAI) is paying to play on radio stations across Vermont. I have, and, frankly, there’s no information in the ad that VSEA wasn’t sharing years ago with members about the Supreme Court’s terrible Janus decision and how it would impact your union status. Saying that, the ad is a paid talking head, ranting against unions. The fact is that union membership increased after the Janus decision and that wasn’t what the anti-union forces wanted.
These kinds of pro-Janus, anti-union ads are being funded by wealthy, anti-union outside interests to be played on radio and television stations across the country. I’m guessing the Ethan Allen Institute (EAI) is probably benefiting financially from agreeing to run this anti-union campaign by sponsoring ads like the Janus one. You’ll notice that the EAI ad includes a pitch to visit the organization’s website, where visitors are greeted with a large button to donate. Truth is, this is a large radio-ad buy that had to cost a ton of money, which begs the question of who is really funding the EAI’s campaign?
It’s been months since the Supreme Court’s Janus ruling, and VSEA did what it could years and months ago to ensure members understood the ruling, understood VSEA’s position and knew their rights under Janus. The EAI and their wealthy funders had hoped that Janus would have caused VSEA members to give up their membership, but that’s not been the case, which might be why they felt compelled to hop on the radio ad bandwagon now. I’m actually pleased to report that VSEA membership is growing, post-Janus, and I attribute it to members understanding and appreciating the power of a union and knowing full well what life would be like without one.
Remember, there’s a reason corporate America and anti-union groups attack labor unions so hard. It’s because unions work, and they know it. Judging by the number of members VSEA is signing up after Janus came down, a large majority of Vermont state employees know it too.
The VSEA Board of Trustees and I thank you for your continued solidarity.
Woodside Workers Meet With Lawmakers To Discuss Future
VSEA Woodside members pose with Senator Dick Sears (center, vest) after meeting with him and other lawmakers to discuss the future of their facility.
On Wednesday, a group of dedicated Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center members drove down from Essex— after their shift — to attend VSEA’s final Legislative Dinner of the year. The members had a very positive, constructive conversation with more than 20 Senators and Representatives in the room.
In an informal discussion, members spoke directly with legislators about the incredible outcomes they achieve for Vermont’s most vulnerable children, the challenges they face in the workplace, and the vision they have for the future of the facility. Lawmakers voiced their strong appreciation for the opportunity to speak directly with frontline workers, and expressed interest in touring the facility going forward—a project that several member-leaders are eager to help facilitate.
Lawmakers walked away tremendously impressed with the work being done at Woodside.
WPTZ Story On State’s Infants-At-Work Policy Doesn’t Sit Well With VSEA Member Featured In Piece
VSEA Department of Health member Erin O’Keefe agreed to go on camera this week with WPTZ when they reached out to her to appear in a story about Vermont’s new infants-in-the-workplace program, which O’Keefe was recently approved to participate in. However, O’Keefe was concerned that much of what she told the reporter, including a staunch defense of VSEA’s position that the policy must be bargained, did not make it in the story. Instead, she is quoted saying she "respects" VSEA’s position, which, while the only soundbite used in the story, is not at all the only message O’Keefe delivered to the reporter.
O’Keefe wanted VSEA members and retirees to know what she actually told the reporter, so she asked VSEA to share the following message (which VSEA did on its Facebook page and now here):
"I am a proud member of VSEA and a full supporter of the collective bargaining process. I am in a position where this program was able to be financially and logistically beneficial to my family, however I can envision many instances where it could fall short for other state employee parents. In and of itself, bringing your infant to work is not a complete solution to supporting families. We need access to high quality affordable childcare and paid family leave option. With access to those supports, programs like Infants in the Workplace could help to retain families in the Vermont workforce."
Note: VSEA continues to urge every member and retiree who overhears a workplace conversation about the infant policy and VSEA’s position, pro or con, to please educate your co-workers about why VSEA is taking the position it has (policy must be bargained) and the ramifications for state employees if this policy is allowed to implement unchecked. Thanks!
VSEA Attends Fundraiser For Vermont State Colleges’ Scholarship Fund
VSEA State Colleges’ (VSC) Unit members joined VSEA staff to attend a Thursday night "Hall of Fame" event at the Capitol Plaza Hotel to raise some money for the state colleges’ scholarship fund. Pictured here is the VSEA contingent (l to r): Tom Abdelnour, Brian Morse, Adam Norton, Sandra Noyes, Karen Tetreault, Ken Ward, Steve Howard, Kelly Harris
Bad News. Three More Petition’s Targeting Labor Unions Filed At U.S. Supreme Court
The hits keep coming…
The National Law Journal reports yesterday on three new petitions filed recently with the U.S. Supreme Court, all bad for union members and all tied to the justices’ ruling last term against mandatory public-sector union fees.
According to the story,"two of the petitions—filed by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Buckeye Institute—confront laws that require a union’s exclusive representation of public sector employees. In the third, also brought by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, non-union home care workers seek refunds of about $32 million for fees paid to the union.
Here’s a brief synopsis of each petition filed:
Uradnik v. Inter Faculty Organization
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and lower courts are wrong that a 1984 high court decision—Minnesota State Board for Community Colleges v. Knight—approved of a state’s appointment of a labor union as exclusive representative of public sector employees, argues the petition. “The result of those decisions is to broadly sanction compelled representation of unwilling public employees and subsidy recipients like home healthcare workers, irrespective of their speech and associational interests. That result cannot be squared with this court’s First Amendment jurisprudence.”
The Eighth Circuit, which earlier had ruled in Bierman that Knight applied, affirmed the district court’s denial of a preliminary injunction after finding no likelihood of success on the merits.
Riffey v. Pritzker
The Seventh Circuit erred in affirming a district court decision that the plaintiffs failed to meet the requirements for approval of a class seeking refunds of union fees, according to the petition. “Here, Illinois deducted agency fees for SEIU from the proposed class of personal assistants’ wages without their affirmative consent,” according to the petition. “Under Harris(v. Quinn) and Janus, each unauthorized fee seizure inflicted a First Amendment injury. The victim’s subjective feelings about SEIU are immaterial to the First Amendment violation. The compensatory damages owed to each personal assistant in the putative class equals all fees seized from him or her, plus interest.”
The Seventh Circuit panel, in an opinion by Judge Diane Wood, wrote: “The assistants spurned the opportunity to suggest a narrower class in favor of a ‘go-for-broke’ strategy. In doing so, however, they overlooked the substantial deference we give to the district court’s decisions about predominance and manageability. The judge here came to a defensible—indeed, sensible—decision on these points.”
Bierman v. Walz
“Regimes of exclusive representation, like other mandatory expressive associations, are subject to a limiting constitutional principle: exacting First Amendment scrutiny,” Messenger wrote in the petition. “Whatever its merits in a public employment relationship, no compelling state interest justifies extending exclusive representation beyond that context to a citizen’s relationship with government regulators.”
The Eight Circuit panel, led by Judge Steven Colloton, said in its ruling in August: “There is no meaningful distinction between this case and Knight. The current version of [state law] similarly allows the homecare providers to form their own advocacy groups independent of the exclusive representative, and it does not require any provider to join the union. According to Knight, therefore, the state has ‘in no way’ impinged on the providers’ right not to associate by recognizing an exclusive negotiating representative.”
VSEA NEK / St. Johnsbury Chapter Conducting Food Drive
Throughout the month of March, VSEA’s NEK / St Johnsbury Chapter of VSEA will be reaching out to area members and retirees to solicit donations to local food shelves in Lyndonville and St. Johnsbury.
If you will be collecting at your office and want to arrange a donation(s) pickup, or if you have questions, please contact Ellen Hinman (Chapter President 751-0123), Dianne Rivers (Chapter Vice President 626-6497) or Monique Prive (Chapter Secretary/Treasurer 626-6364 )
Donations are being accepted until April 12, 2019.
Thank you in advance for donating to this worthy cause!
"Basket Raffle" To Help Family Of Employee Who Died In
We are hosting a basket raffle to help the Wiktorski family with some unforeseen expenses. Our own Lee Wiktorski lost his life in an unfortunate ice-fishing accident. We are asking for any donation that you can give, no donation is too small. Here is what we need:
BASKETS!! Themed baskets in a plastic wrapping. We are shooting for 100 baskets. (Gift certificates count as a basket and do not need a “basket”)
Large raffle donations; such as furniture, electronics, large gift certificate
Refreshments – baked goods, soups, sandwiches, chips, drinks, paper goods
Donations can be dropped off at the Castleton University library.
The Basket Party begins at 11:00 a.m. on April 6 and the raffle starts at 1:00 p.m. VSEA members, retirees or Chapters can send a donation / basket to Billie Langlois, Castleton University, 178 Alumni Drive, Castleton, Vt., 05735.
* Certain face amounts may not be available. Underwriting requirements apply. ** Subject to certain conditions and payment of claims is subject to all policy limitations and exclusions and pre-existing conditions.
This is a brief product overview for illustrative purposes only. Beneﬁts and/or premiums may vary based on the state and beneﬁt option selected. Riders may be available for an additional premium. Policies described herein have limitations and exclusions that may affect beneﬁts payable. For costs and complete details of the coverage, contact your Aﬂac insurance agent/producer. Individual coverage is underwritten by American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus.
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“Child care facilities inside state offices I could get behind.”
Line from a comment to a recent VSEA Facebook post about infants-at-work policy and how top State officials are not understanding the crux of VSEA’s unfair labor practice against the State for implementing policy without first bargaining with the union. Writer is referencing a VSEA proposal from years ago to open child care facilities inside larger state office buildings across Vermont.
Jacobin posted a story to its website this week, titled “The Public Does Not Hate Labor,” which provides readers with a pretty comprehensive overview of the consistent support for organized labor, writing, “Overall, support for organized labor remained consistent over the twenty years we studied. In general, in each state, most respondents had a neutral, if not positive view of organized labor.”
Based on our analysis, we can see that the American public — particularly those with lower incomes — does not dislike organized labor. The states that have adopted anti-worker policies have passed them in spite of, not because of, the preferences of most people.
On this issue, as with others, the US more closely resembles an oligarchy than a democracy. The preferences of those with more money win out over those with less. This is especially true when it comes to economic issues,where the very rich support much different policies than the average person. The nightmare scenario is that state legislatures continue to approve measures designed to weaken labor, which then amplify the power of well-off voices — and, in a vicious cycle, make it easier to approve to still more draconian anti-labor statues.
Workers do not dislike unions. They haven’t disliked them historically, and for the most part they do not dislike them now. But wealthy people and conservative donors sure do — and that, more anything, accounts for the anti-labor policies being passed at the state level.
"America’s First Craft Brewery" Workers Vote To Unionize!
Workers at San Francisco-based Anchor Brewing, which, according to Fortune magazine, is America’s first craft brewer, founded in 1896. According to the article, workers are seeking better benefits and wages, and Anchor has 10 days to dispute the union.
If unionized, Anchor Brewing employees will join the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).
Important: Once you land on the eAlert page, you will see an entry labeled “threat” in the menu provided. Click on it and you land on a page with written instructions and fields to complete.
In November 2017, the current Secretary of the Administration sent the State’s “Workplace Safety and Security” policy to state employees, and VSEA members are encouraged to read through the different policies, examples and responses, prior to an actual event occurring.
2019 VSEA Scholarship Application Available Now!
Each spring, the VSEA Awards & Scholarship Committee solicits scholarship applications from VSEA members and their spouses, dependents and domestic partners. The application process is easy, requiring the applicant to write a couple of short essays as well as provide a grade history, employment history, personal references and a few other things.
All applications received before May 8, 2019, will be reviewed by Committee members, who will then decide from among all this year’s eligible candidates who is awarded a 2019 VSEA scholarship.
Winners will be announced at the VSEA Council’s June 2019 meeting.
Between January 1, 2019, and September 1, 2019, VSEA is calling on all members to become active recruiters—and you might be rewarded for your efforts. Here’s how:
Members who recruit two members will receive a Dunkin’ Donuts gift card;
Members who recruit five new members will receive a VSEA insulated coffee mug; and
Members who recruit ten new members will receive a $50 Visa gift card.
Every time you recruit a new member during the designated period*, your name is entered into a drawing to be conducted at VSEA’s 2019 Annual Meeting. Four names will be pulled at random and winners will receive a check for $300!
* Please be sure the new members you recruit add your name to the "Recruited By" line on their union card or membership application.
If you have any questions, or want a list of non-members in your area, please contact VSEA Director of Operations and Organizing Ray Stout by email: email@example.com
"Protect Your Pension" Meeting Now
Prior to the legislative 2019 session kicking off, VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard was conducting an education tour around the state, talking with VSEA members and retirees about an expected attack on your pension, who is behind it and how to help prevent it from happening.
If you weren’t able to attend a presentation in your area, VSEA is pleased to now share this link to Steve’s December 2018 St. Albans presentation.
This video is for VSEA members only. To view it you must be logged into your VSEA.org user account. If you do not have a VSEA.org account, please sign up for a free account here.
It is important that every VSEA member knows his or her rights when it comes to union representation in investigatory meetings. Union representation at these meetings is a cornerstone of the labor movement. Your right to representation—as outlined in your contract and, in some cases, labor law—can be complicated.
Please take a few minutes on a break to watch the video, and know that the information being relayed could very well save your job someday. Remember, as a VSEA member, you are entitled to no-cost representation in investigatory meetings that may lead to discipline. Non-members, however, must now pay a rate of $250 to $350 per-hour for the same level of representation!
Getting Ready To Retire? Retired Already? Join The VSEA Retired Members’ Chapter!
Long-time VSEA activist and leader Terry Lefebvre asked Council members getting ready to retire to join the VSEA Retirees’ Chapter to continue to be an active and engaged union member, even in retirement. Lefebvre also appealed to Council members to talk up the Chapter to co-workers they know who might be preparing to retire.
With a possible fight looming on retirement security, Lefebvre stressed the importance to build the Chapter to be able to mobilize large numbers of past state workers to protect and defend the benefits they bargained to win over decades.
If you already belong to the Retired Members’ Chapter, a big thanks to you.
New Rates For VSEA Members Skiing & Riding At Bolton Valley!
Buy next year’s season pass now and:
Get the lowest price of the year; AND
Ski & Ride the rest of this season FREE!!! That’s right, if you buy next year’s pass now, you can ski/ride Bolton for the rest of this season on next season’s pass!
All VSEA members in good standing are eligible to purchase a pass or passes. You can purchase yours today by first contacting VSEA by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. VSEA will verify your membership status and provide you with VSEA’s code, which you will need to complete your online purchase.
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.
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 is working hard to collect members’ contact information.
You can help us 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.