VSEA Bargaining Teams Begin Prepping For Trip Back
VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard and Labor Relations Director Gary Hoadley walked from VSEA headquarters to the Vermont Labor Relations Board (VLRB) at close of business February 28 to hand deliver three VSEA Bargaining Units’ sealed “last-best-contract-offers” to the Board. The State also submitted its Last Best Offer.
What Happens From Here?
The VLRB now has 30 days to thoroughly review both sides’ proposals, as well as the comprehensive fact-finder’s report, to determine the terms and conditions of the contract that the VLRB will eventually impose on state employees.
LAST BEST OFFER: Each party’s last best offer (LBO) was filed with the VLRB under seal on February 28.
The VLRB will schedule a hearing on the LBOs. Within 30 days of certification, the VLRB shall select between the LBOs of the parties, considered in its entirety without amendment.
Should the Board find the LBOs of both parties unreasonable and likely to produce undesirable results, or likely to result in a long-lasting negative impact upon the parties’ collective bargaining relationship, the Board may select the recommendation of the fact finder as to those disputed issues submitted to the Board in the LBOs.
The decision of the Board shall be final and binding. No membership ratification vote on the LBO selection, the contract will be imposed without mutual agreement, pending appropriation.
The Board shall determine the cost of the agreement selected and request the General Assembly to appropriate the amount determined to be necessary to implement the selected agreement.
FUNDING BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE VLRB-IMPOSED AGREEMENT:
If the General Assembly chooses to appropriate sufficient funds, the agreement shall become effective at the beginning of the next fiscal year.
If the General Assembly appropriates less than the amount requested, the terms of the agreement affected by the lesser appropriation shall be renegotiated based on the amount of the funds actually appropriated, and the agreement with the negotiated changes shall become effective at the beginning of the next fiscal year.
No portions of any agreement shall become effective separately except with mutual consent of both parties.
Below, find links to the VSEA Teams’ Last-Best-Offer and to the State’s:
VSEA Labor Relations Director Gary Hoadley is sending an important bargaining update later this afternoon to the home email addresses all members belonging to the Non-Management, Corrections and Supervisory Units who have provided a valid address to VSEA headquarters. Gary says his message will clarify what members need to know about the State’s last best offer and the VSEA Teams’ offer, as well as some insight into the events that forced VSEA to have to go back to the VLRB again.
“There Was A Deal To Be Made Here,” Reminds VSEA Press Release
Faced with the State’s unwillingness to negotiate with three VSEA Bargaining Teams around the terms and conditions contained in a recently delivered fact-finder’s report, VSEA issued a press release on Monday to educate the press, lawmakers and the public about how frontline state employees are viewing the status of current negotiations.
In case you missed it, here is the VSEA release:
“After more than six months of negotiations between the [State] and the Vermont State Employees’ Association (VSEA) on a new collective-bargaining agreement, both parties appear headed to the Vermont Labor Relations Board (VLRB) for a final decision. Following the delivery of a neutral fact-finder’s report in early February, state workers say they are disappointed in the [State]’s unwillingness to date to reach a fair and reasonable compromise with VSEA’s Non-Management, Corrections and Supervisory Bargaining Units; one derived from the report.
‘It is extremely disheartening to me as a longtime Department of Corrections employee—and lifelong Vermont taxpayer—that after months of bargaining, mediation and hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars spent, [the State] is unwilling to accept a neutral party’s findings that VSEA’s teams believe could have resulted in a fair contract for state employees,’ says Dave Bellini, President of the VSEA.
Following VSEA and the [State]’s failure to mediate an agreement late in 2017, both parties mutually agreed to employ a neutral fact finder in the bargaining process, instructing the fact finder to review both side’s proposals, analyze pertinent Vermont economic data and make recommendations. However, to date, the [State] has shown little interest in seriously considering the neutral fact finder’s report with VSEA’s teams.
Bellini reiterates that state employees have been willing to compromise and were eager to reach an agreement.
‘We are asking [the State] to stand by the hard-working Vermonters who plow our roads, keep the public safe and care for our most vulnerable citizens. This is about being fair. VSEA followed the process, and our members are willing to accept the outcome of that process. Fair is fair. Does not have to go this way.’”
Note: As always, VSEA members can always reach out to a member of your Bargaining Team for a more comprehensive update on the status of negotiations. Find a list of Team members here.
Retired VSEA member Dennis Works posted a comment this week to a VTDigger story about the State not wanting to bargain with thousands of VSEA members around the contract terms and conditions contained in a recently released fact-finder’s report.
"During my many years as a State employee I never approached the average pay for classified employees of $62,195. Be that as it is, I felt fairly compensated – in large part thanks to the VSEA. A lot of people may not realize it, but for the most part, state employees receive far lower wages than their counterparts in private businesses. I have seen several state employees jump to the private sector because their pay would be substantially higher – sometimes by a factor of 2 or 3. They made the choice that they would rather see the higher pay now from working in the private sector, rather than to "bank" some other benefits that may (or may not) come at a later time, such as a State pension and fair and affordable health insurance. Each person has to make that choice for themselves and their families. But please don’t think that State employees are "getting rich" or are "overpaid" for the work they do. They often perform above and beyond what is expected from private sector employees, and for less pay (I know, as I’ve worked for both, including IBM) – with the hope and expectation that the promises that are made to them for the future will be kept."
Three faculty groups will be studying which course cuts (to include the professor’s position) are feasible, based on current students’ need for the course(s) to graduate. The groups will be making recommendations to the administration in April, and then the process of deciding what “non-tenured” staff will be cut will begin.
Layoff notifications must be issued by May 1 and will go into effect Dec. 1.
Note: VSEA staff is in contact with members working at Castleton to assess to situation and offer whatever help and resources the workers might need in the coming weeks.
Auditor Questions State’s Call To Expand State’s VEGI Program, Saying There Is Little To No Accountability For VEGI Money Already Being Spent
In a New England Public Radio story State Auditor Doug Hoffer is questioning the State’s call to provide more "enhancements" to the Vermont Employment Growth Incentive (VEGI) program to supplement the group’s "come-to-Vermont-to-work" recruiting efforts. The problem, as the Auditor has repeatedly told lawmakers, is that there is currently no way to quantify that the Vermont taxpayer dollars being provided to businesses are being used as intended or are producing the results required.
At a time when the State is claiming limited available money to fund new contracts for thousands of state workers, it’s amazing that additional dollars can readily be found to provide more "enhancements" to groups like VEGI, seemingly without question and without accountability.
Note: VSEA members support the Auditor’s call for more accountability for the state’s VEGI program, especially at a time when we’re constantly being told that every taxpayer dollar is precious.
VSEA Law Enforcement Members Being Asked For Feedback
VSEA’s Legislative team sent an email yesterday to all its law enforcement members, informing you about a bill being considered at the State House that could affect you and your job. If you recall receiving the email, please take a few minutes to learn about S. 198 in the summary provided and then take the short survey and send your thoughts to VSEA to VSEA’s Legislative team.
The email was sent to state employees working in the following:
Sworn Law Enforcement;
Department of Motor Vehicles;
Liquor Control; and
If you do not recall receiving this email and feel you should have, please contact VSEA Organizer David Oppenheimer by email at email@example.com.
The VSEA Springfield Chapter is holding a meeting on Thursday, March 8, at 4:30 p.m. at the State Office Building’s first-floor meeting room, located at 100 Mineral Street in Springfield. Food and beverages being provided!
Please RSVP in advance—or direct any questions or comments—to VSEA Springfield Chapter President Joey Holmes via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
VSEA’s Field Services Division is offering a steward training on Wednesday, March 7, at the Doubletree Hotel in South Burlington, beginning at 8:30 a.m. If you are a current VSEA Steward who has not registered yet, but who wants to attend, please contact VSEA Administrative Assistant Sue Devoid by email (email@example.com) or by phone at 223-5247. Sue can help answer your questions about the training as well.
Belonging To A Union Gives Working People Like Us The Power To Make Positive Change!
“Having an equal voice at the table when decisions are being made about our workplace, our livelihood, our health, and well being is the way we build better stronger communities for our families and future generations.”
Chair, VSEA Judiciary Unit Executive Committee
VSEA Organizer Jen Larsen is holding a meeting on March 9 with DOL members working in Montpelier. The meeting begins at 12:00 p.m. in the DOL’s Lobby Conference Room, located at 5 Green Mountain Drive in Montpelier.
Vermont Veterans’ Home Again Acknowledged For Top-Flight Service
In late January, a group called Pinnacle Quality Insight released the results of a “customer satisfaction” survey it recently conducted with residents at the Vermont Veterans’ Home (VVH) in Bennington. Once again, the Home and its workers are receiving high marks.
The VVH qualified for the Pinnacle Group’s “Customer Experience Awards” in the following categories:
Quality of Food;
Response to Problems;
Dignity and Respect;
Recommend to Others;
Safety and Security; and
Congratulations to all the VSEA members who work at the VVH!
“What the Janus backers (and most commentators) miss is that agency fees are not just compensation for the financial costs of representation, but for the political costs of representing all the members in the bargaining unit and maintaining labor peace. As AFSCME’s attorney pointed out in his oral arguments, the agency fee is routinely traded for a no-strike clause in most union contracts. Should those clauses disappear, employers will have chaos and discord on their hands.”
“The combination of exclusive union representation, mandatory agency fees, no-strike clauses and ‘management’s rights’ are the foundation of our peculiar labor relations system. No other country structures its labor relations system quite like this. Knock one part out, as the Janus plaintiffs aim to do with agency fees, and the whole system can fall apart. Employers will not like the chaos that this will bring.”
Former Labor Secretary Posts "Why Right-To-Work Is Wrong" Video
Timed to coincide with Janus vs. Illinois oral arguments beginning on Monday, Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich posted a new video to his Facebook page this week that takes direct aim at everything that is wrong about the concept of "right-to-work." VSEA members are urged to view the video and share it with as many of your friends and co-workers as possible.
“Jewish leaders, along with our Catholic and Protestant counterparts, have always supported the labor movement and the rights of employees to form unions for the purpose of engaging in collective bargaining and attaining fairness in the workplace.” In 2005, the Union for Reform Judaism resolved, ‘to support the rights of workers to organize and bargain collectively,” and to oppose the adoption of right-to-work laws that hinder unions’ ability to function.”
“The Janus case is part of a long-standing campaign by conservatives to undermine quality state-based public sector jobs that historically have been especially important to women and minorities."
VSEA joined with other unions around the nation on February 28 to congratulate the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) on the celebration of its 100-year anniversary this year. Across the U.S. and Canada, fire alarms sounded at 2 p.m. in fire stations nationwide to honor the anniversary.
VSEA congratulates Vermont IAFF members and all firefighters across the U.S. and in Canada. Thank you for your service.
Many West Virginia Teachers Reject Tentative Agreement And Continue To Picket
Almost a week after West Virginia teachers walked out en masse statewide to protest less-than-fruitful contract negotiations and low wages, the Governor of West Virginia, along with several union leaders, announced on Tuesday that a tentative contract agreement had been reached and teachers would be receiving a 5% wage increase. However, seeing how West Virginia ranks 48th in the nation in terms of teacher pay, not all West Virginia teachers are happy with the agreement and are ignoring calls to return to the classroom in favor of continuing to walk a picket line. View the strike fund GoFundMe page here.
Here is some of the press coverage from
The president of the union representing the state’s 10,000 corrections officers is asking the Department of Corrections to rid the entire prison system of all heavy-soled boots after authorities say an inmate wearing Timberlands beat and kicked a sergeant to death.
Sgt. Mark J. Baserman, 61, died Monday at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown, 11 days after Paul Kendrick, 22, who is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder, attacked him in a common area at the State Correctional Institution in Somerset County.
Kendrick was wearing heavy-soled Timberland boots that are available to the state’s roughly 48,000 inmates through the department’s commissary system. Male prisoners can buy a pair for $92.65.
The assault on Sgt. Baserman and another corrections officer occurred Feb. 15. In response, last Thursday the corrections department suspended the sale of boots in all state prison commissaries. But the union wants the state to go one step further.
The VSEA Membership Recruitment Committee is pleased to announce a 2018 casino trip with a two-night stay!
March 23 to March 25, 2018
Lodging Cost: (Two Nights at Two Trees Inn):
$138 per person/double occupancy; or
$122 per person/triple occupancy.
Bus Cost: $70 per person Bus will depart from Waterbury at 12:00 p.m. and White River Junction at 1:00 p.m.
(2) $10 food credit or full Festival Buffet;
$5 food credit or full Breakfast Buffet;
$20 slot play;
20% discount at any Foxwoods gift shop with a purchase of $25 up to $1,000; and
A Foxwoods souvenir.
To register or for more information, please contact VSEA Union Rep Bob South (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Administrative Assistant Sue DeVoid (email@example.com). Each can be reached by phone at 802-223-5247.
Payment must be received within one week of registering or you will lose your spot. Cash, check and credit card payments accepted. To pay, please contact VSEA Union Representative Bob South by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone 802-223-5247. Thank You!
VSEA Creates Council Member & Steward Facebook Group Pages
Responding to VSEA members’ requests for new ways to engage with their fellow union members and state employees, VSEA recently created two new Facebook group pages, one for Council members and another for Stewards. The pages are being administered by VSEA, and in order to keep out trolls or non-members, the name of anyone seeking to join one or both of the groups will be checked through VSEA’s membership database.
Hopefully, these pages will provide VSEA Council members and Stewards with a place to ask questions, provide information and post articles of interest to the group. In addition, Council members and Stewards can now engage with their counterparts statewide on a daily basis.
VSEA Policy Analyst Pens Overview Of State’s FY19 Budget Proposal
Following the FY19 budget address by the State’s top official, VSEA Policy Analyst Adam Norton reviewed all the documents made available to the press and public, and he has boiled down his findings into a one-page summary. VSEA members are urged to read through Norton’s summary to learn what’s being proposed and if your service could be hurt or helped by language in the State’s FY19 budget proposal.
Collective bargaining is the process by which unionized employees negotiate with their employer over mandatory subjects of bargaining, including wages, benefits like health insurance, working conditions and a grievance procedure to enforce the contract.
Note: VSCSF scholarships are not to be confused with VSEA’s annual scholarships, also being offered right now (which can be found here). Eligibility does not require attendance at one of the VSCSF’s four designated colleges or universities.
Is Next Opportunity To Enroll In VSEA’s Popular Delta Dental Supplemental Plan Benefit
Letters will be sent to VSEA members in April 2018, announcing a new, open-enrollment period to participate in your union’s very popular Delta Dental Supplemental Plan. The enrollment period is also when members already in the program can amend their number of dependents also using the program, if this number has changed in the past year.
Once received in your mailbox, all enrollment forms will be due back on a May 2018 date to be announced.
Note: If you are already taking advantage of this benefit, and you have no changes this year to your coverage, you do not need to send back a new form, as you will be automatically renewed.
President Bellini Wants Your Cost-Savings Idea(s)!
Heading into the January 2018 session, VSEA members already knew it was going to be another case of “new budget year, new budget deficit.” It’s a Vermont problem that refuses to go away, and our state’s quality public services and many of the men and women who deliver them continue to suffer as a result.
In past deficit years, VSEA members have been asked to voluntarily submit cost-savings ideas to headquarters, in hopes that some of your ideas could be adopted and implemented, eventually generating the funds needed to save a service or jobs. In 2010, the Vermont Legislature followed VSEA’s lead, passing legislation to provide cash awards to state employees whose ideas were vetted by a special committee and found to generate savings. Unfortunately, this legislation sunset in 2012, and lawmakers have not resurrected it–yet.
For this reason—and in advance of the 2018 legislative session—VSEA President Dave Bellini is again asking frontline state employees with “department- or agency-specific cost-savings ideas” to please submit them to VSEA as soon as possible. Again, President Bellini is looking for department or agency-specific ideas, and nothing "philosophical," he politely requests.
Thank you in advance for your attention to this very important request.
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.
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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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.