VLRB Rules For State’s Last Best Contract Offer
VSEA’s Non-Management, Corrections and Supervisory Unit Bargaining Teams learned earlier this afternoon that the Vermont Labor Relations Board has ruled in favor of the State’s last best contract offer and not the VSEA Teams’ last best offer. The Board’s decision was 2-1 against.
“This is a very tough pill to swallow for sure,” says VSEA President Dave Bellini. “Our Teams and staff negotiators put a very fair offer on the table—and a neutrally agreed-to fact finder mostly agreed with VSEA’s proposal—but you can never be sure how the Labor Board is going to interpret and rule, which might explain why the Scott Administration chose to roll the dice. It’s a sad day for Vermont state employees.”
The implementation of the State’s last best offer will hurt state employees most in the following areas:
Wages: Instead of the 2% annual increases (beginning in October of each contract year, not July) the Teams’ requested, state employees will now receive a 1.35% wage increase the first full pay period in January of each year. Step movement will continue throughout the course of the two-year contract.
Health Care: Today’s Board’s decision means increased health care benefit costs for state employees and retirees in a number of different areas, including:
$25 more on your initial deductible;
$20 more for every office visit to a specialist;
$5 more for every office visit to a
$50 more for emergency room visits; and
$50 new copay for every MRI.
VSEA Teams fought hard to prevent any changes to state employees’ existing coverage. In fact, your Teams were proposing benefit enhancements, but instead state employees—especially those working at the lower end of the pay scale—and retirees will now be forced to pay higher out-of-pocket costs, which is unfortunate and something no one wanted, especially in an economic climate like today’s.
It doesn’t end here though.
Today’s Board’s decision also means the State now has sole discretion to determine:
What prescription drugs state employees will be offered;
The quantity state employees can receive; and
How much state employees
This is in addition to the State now being able to require state employees to get prior authorization.
“Rest assured, the pain of the State’s health care benefit changes and fee increases will be felt across state government, and they will really hurt the average state employee’s bottom line and Vermont’s economy as a whole,” explains Bellini. “Couple this with the State’s paltry wage increase, and there are going to be more and more state employees and retirees’ struggling even harder in the next two years to make ends meet.”
Note: VSEA will be sending a comprehensive summary early next week of the contract terms and conditions VSEA members will have imposed on them, beginning
July 1, 2018.
"In a letter to staff at the agency, Holcombe said she was proud of her work over the past four years, but didn’t provide any explanation for her departure.
"Last week, I submitted my resignation as Education Secretary to Governor Scott, effective April 1,’ the letter reads. ‘It is time to move on.’”
Flashback: VSEA members might recall that in November 2017, Seven Days reported that Holcombe was publicly pushing back against the State’s and lawmakers’ demand that she produce a report that she said could not be produced because she did not have the necessary staff.
”In an August 3 letter to the Vermont House and Senate Education Committee chairs, Holcombe flatly states that she has no plans to begin a study, required by the law, to examine how public school students are counted for the purposes of state aid to education.
"At this point, we do not have sufficient capacity to meet all of our new obligations, and certainly not on the mandated timeline," Holcombe writes. "We do not expect to initiate or complete the mandated weighting study contained in Act 49 until we have capacity to do so."
If this is part of the reason why Ms. Holcombe decided to end her tenure at AOE, hopefully she will speak out more about her frustration with trying to provide the service(s) required without being given the resources necessary.
“You have legislators—Republican legislators being most notable among them—willing to say openly that the ‘tax cuts at all costs’ strategy is starting to have really visible, negative implications that they’re not comfortable with.”
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Nick Johnson, commenting in a March 28 online Governing story about how teacher protests and strikes are winning historic tax hikes.
Expanded Mental Health Treatment Proposal Includes Private Hospitals Assuming
WCAX reports on March 28 that one idea being floated at the State House to address Vermont’s “shortage of mental health treatment” is to allow UVM’s Health Network to pay for a new mental-health-treatment wing at the Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin.
"There is no specific plan at this point and time. And the nature of the collaboration with the state is not defined and certainly the status of the current state psychiatric hospital is under the control of the state," Dr. Isabelle Desjardins tells WCAX.
VSEA members might remember that when both the Douglas and Shumlin Administrations proposed similar ideas to shift some, if not all, of Vermont’s mental health treatment services to Fletcher Allen or another private hospital, one of the people arguing loudly against the idea was Fletcher Allen Health Care’s own Psychiatric Unit Chief, Dr. Robert Pierattini.
Post-Irene, Pierattini stressed the importance of the State maintaining control of mental health treatment services, testifying to lawmakers in January 2012, “We need a replacement hospital that is accountable to the commissioner of mental health and fully integrated into a medical center.” He stressed the issue of accountability when private institutions treat mental health patients under State care, a concern raised at the time by VSEA as well.
Note: It’s important to remember here that, post-Irene, nurses and other private hospital staff were very vocal about the dangerous conditions they were exposed to after the storm forced Vermont to house dozens of patients with acute mental illness in private hospitals across the state. There is no mention in the WCAX story about worker training or protections being addressed in the UVM proposal currently being floated at the
In an effort to provide all VSEA members in good standing with access to both sides’ last best offers, staff and union bargaining statements and other helpful information, VSEA’s Communications Department has created a special “2018 VSEA Member Bargaining Resources” webpage.
The page will be updated with new information, as needed, and members are encouraged to reference the page throughout the negotiating process.
In order to view the resources page, VSEA members in good standing will need to first log into their VSEA.org account. Need a VSEA.org account? Sign up for a free account here.
Organizer’s Worksite Meeting On April 3 In Burlington!
VSEA Organizer Jen Larsen is holding a meeting on April 3 with VSEA members working in Burlington. The meeting begins at 12:00 p.m. in the State Office Building’s Conference Room 2B, located at 108 Cherry Street in Burlington. There will be pizza and snacks for members attending. A bargaining update will be provided, and there will be a discussion about the Janus lawsuit’s progress to date.
Members with questions can contact Jen by email (email@example.com) or by phone at 802-223-5247.
Organizer’s Worksite Meeting On April 4 In Montpelier!
VSEA Organizer Jen Larsen is holding a meeting on April 4 with VSEA members working in Montpelier. The meeting begins at 12:00 p.m. at the DFR City Center’s Second-Floor, Large Conference Room in Montpelier. There will be pizza and snacks for members attending. A bargaining update will be provided, and there will be a discussion about the Janus lawsuit’s progress to date.
Members with questions can contact Jen by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by phone at 802-223-5247.
VSEA Organizer David Oppenheimer is holding a meeting on April 5 with VSEA members working in White River Junction. The meeting begins at 12:00 p.m. at the State Office Building, located at 118 Prospect Street in White River Junction. There will be pizza for members attending. A bargaining update will be provided, and there will be a discussion about the Janus lawsuit’s progress to date.
Organizer’s Worksite Meeting On
April 6 In Montpelier!
VSEA Organizer Jen Larsen is holding a meeting on April 6 with VSEA 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. There will be pizza and snacks for members attending. A bargaining update will be provided, and there will be a discussion about the Janus lawsuit’s progress to date.
Members with questions can contact Jen by email (email@example.com) or by phone at
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
The House General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee has scheduled a public hearing on April 2 to help determine whether or not Vermont should raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. According to a Rights & Democracy post about the hearing, more than 25,000 working Vermonters currently live on the minimum wage and more than 70,000 would benefit from a $15 an hour minimum wage.
The hearing begins at 5:00 p.m. in Room 11 at the State House in Montpelier.
It’s Time! Please Donate Today To Your Unit Sick Leave Bank
Donations Being Accepted
April 1 To June 30
VSEA member Dawn Carrillo staffs the Non-Management Unit Sick Leave Bank, and she is once again asking WIA to help her solicit time donations to the bank from VSEA members. Carillo is also announcing that the donation period is April 1 to June 30, 2018, and she reminds that donations to the Corrections and Supervisory Unit Banks are also needed.
“Just donating an hour of your time can mean the world to a fellow employee,” reads a DHR flyer. It also informs state employees that they can donate any amount of annual- or personal-leave time to their respective Unit 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.”
Bolton Valley Offering “Industry Rate” To VSEA Members On 2018-19
All-Access Season Passes
Must Purchase By
April 2, 2018
Longtime VSEA Advantage Discount Program participant Bolton Valley let VSEA know this week that, for a limited time, the popular ski resort is offering VSEA members the “industry rate” on 2018-19 all-access season passes.
All VSEA members in good standing are eligible to purchase a pass or passes through April 2, 2018. You can purchase yours today by first contacting VSEA Administrative Assistant Susan DeVoid at 802-223-5247, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sue will verify your membership status and provide you with VSEA’s code, which you will need to complete your online purchase.
Oklahoma lawmakers increased pay for its teachers this week to try to prevent a statewide walkout on Monday, but teachers are saying it isn’t enough and they will still strike.
"While this is major progress, this investment alone will not undo a decade of neglect," Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest says in a March 29 story posted to The Hill. "Lawmakers have left funding on the table that could be used immediately to help Oklahoma students."
She continues, "This package doesn’t overcome shortfall caused by four-day weeks, overcrowded classrooms that deprive kids of the one-on-one attention they need. It’s not enough," she continued. "We must continue to push for more annual funding for our schools to reduce class size and restore more of the 28 percent of funds they cut from education over the last decade."
Michigan Finds Holes After “Fake Phishing” 5,000 State Employees’ Email Accounts
Hawaii Gets Hacked For Real
To test Michigan’s state government email security, state auditors recently “fake phished” 5,000 state employee email accounts, and, alarmingly, nearly one-third of the emails were opened.
Phishing schemes—in which hackers try to deceive email recipients by posing as legitimate entities—can lead to identity theft and other problems. The topic of the Michigan auditors’ phishing email was about an expired password.
Auditors made 14 findings, including five that are "material" — the most serious. They range from inadequate management of firewalls to insufficient processes to confirm if only authorized devices are connected to the network.
"Unauthorized devices may not meet the state’s requirements, increasing the risk of compromise or infection of the network," the audit said.
The audit, which covered a three-year period between 2014 and 2017, said the state did not fully establish and implement an effective process for managing updates to network devices’ operating systems. Ten high- or medium-severity vulnerabilities were identified.
KFVE television reports on March 28 that computers in the state’s Agriculture and Human Services agencies were recently targeted by hackers but internal alarms were triggered to prevent a widespread issue, “limiting the damage to just the affected employees’ inboxes.”
A Hawaii official admits that two successful hacks in one weekend is alarming and adds the state depends on employees to be the last line of defense, saying, "We can throw a lot of technology at it but at the end of the day, the best defense is relying on our users by educating them.”
Proposals should reference the number, section, sub-section, etc. of the bylaw you would like to change. You should also include the language you want to add, delete or substitute. Also include the reason(s) you are making this proposal. Example: “Bylaw 0 A (1) (b) Change: Monday to Sunday. Reason: Makes it easier to work with the calendar.”
Please be sure the changes you are recommending include all Articles and/or Bylaws that may be affected by the proposed change.
Updated List Of Lawmakers Who Support VSEA’s Campaign To Keep CoreCivic Out Of Vermont
In mid-February, VSEA posted a meme to its Facebook page that listed and thanked the Vermont House and Senate members who had signed on to a VSEA letter to oppose allowing the private, for-profit, out-of-state firm CoreCivic to set up shop right here in our state. WIA is pleased to report that since that meme posted, the list of signers and supporters has grown by a large number.
While growing lawmaker support on the letter is a great thing, oddly, the debate around CoreCivic being permitted to build a mega-prison in Vermont is still alive at the State House. Given this unfortunate reality, VSEA’s legislative team is continuing to lobby lawmakers to just stop the proposal in its tracks now.
If your lawmaker(s) signed VSEA’s CoreCivic letter, please do thank them but also ask them to lobby their colleagues who for some reason have yet to lend their name to stopping this private, for-profit, out-of-state firm (with a notorious reputation) to come to Vermont. Thanks!
Treasurer’s Office Holding One More Public Meeting To Discuss The Green Mountain Secure Retirement Plan
Earlier this year, the Treasurer’s Office held a series of public meetings to solicit input from employers and employees on the implementation of the Green Mountain Secure Retirement Plan. This week, the Treasurer’s Office announced that it had scheduled an additional meeting for:
Click here to learn more about the Green Mountain Secure Retirement Plan.
VSEA Urges State Employees Who Are Threatened On The Job To File Form
After leading a successful training last week for VSEA stewards, VSEA Field Services Director Gretchen Naylor asked WIA to remind all VSEA members that there is an online form to fill out if you are threatened while at work. Naylor said promoting the form and its link is something several stewards said would be useful.
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, but the form’s actual entry fields are located in a menu in the page’s left-hand column.
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. Oddly, the policy does not include a reference to the State’s eAlert online reporting function.
VSEA Legislative Team Weekly Updates
VSEA’s legislative team at the State House is now publishing a short, information-packed, weekly recap of what’s happening in Montpelier that VSEA members need to know about.
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.
New LifeLock Identity Theft Protection Benefit Being Offered To VSEA Members, Beginning April 1!
VSEA H.Q. sent an email last week to all members, announcing that long-time VSEA insurance provider R.K. Tongue Company will begin offering LifeLock identity-theft protection to union members on April 1, 2018. In the email, it’s explained that additional information and enrollment instructions will be emailed to all VSEA members on April 1. The enrollment period begins April 1 and ends April 30.
In the interim, VSEA members with enrollment questions can contact R.K. Tongue by phone, 800-638-6353 or by email email@example.com
Is Next Opportunity To Enroll In VSEA’s Popular Delta Dental Supplemental Plan Benefit
Emails 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.
What is the VSEA Advantage Program?
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.
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Request a merchant by filling out the Vendor Information form here. Please note submissions are subject to approval.
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.