For some VSEA members going to the Vermont Labor Relations Board during contract negotiations is like déjà vu.
VLRB Schedules Contract “Last-Best-Offers” Hearing Date Of March 20
VSEA staff negotiators and Bargaining Teams are diligently preparing for a March 20 hearing before the Vermont Labor Relations Board (VLRB) to present the union’s “last-best-offer” package for a new contract.
The VLRB announced the hearing date for VSEA and the State this week. On March 20, each side will have an opportunity to present argument on their respective last best offers to the VLRB members, beginning at 9:00 a.m. in the VLRB’s hearing room, located at 13 Baldwin Street in Montpelier.
This is the final stage of the collective-bargaining impasse process, following unsuccessful negotiations that began in August 2017. The VLRB is charged with selecting between the parties’ last-best-offer packages, considering them in their entirety and without amendment. However, should the VLRB find that each side’s last-best-offer is unreasonable and likely to produce undesirable results—or likely to result in a long-lasting negative impact upon the parties’ collective-bargaining relationship—the VLRB may select the fact-finder’s recommendations on disputed issues submitted to the VLRB in the last-best-offers.
The VLRB’s decision is expected by March 30, and it will be final and binding.
Here are links to VSEA’s and the State’s
VSEA Labor Relations Director Sending Bargaining Message On Monday To Members With Valid Home Email Addresses
VSEA Labor Relations Director Gary Hoadley asked WIA to let members know that he will be sending an important bargaining update first thing Monday morning to Non-Management, Corrections and Supervisory Unit members who have provided VSEA headquarters with a valid home email address.
Seven Days Reports On Stalled Mental Health Care Debate At State House. Frontline Workers Waiting For Help.
Seven Days posted a story on March 7 that concerns stalled debate at the State House over the future of Vermont’s mental health care delivery system. The story details some lawmaker opposition to a State plan to construct a forensic mental health unit at the Northwest State Correctional Facility.
The secretary has asked for $2.9 million to build a temporary 12-bed psychiatric wing at the Northwest State Correctional Facility that would cost $6.5 million annually to operate. The House Health Care Committee formally declared its opposition last week, on financial and policy grounds.
While most lawmakers agree on the need for more beds, there’s no consensus on the best solution. That doesn’t bode well for a larger challenge that policymakers have yet to confront: Vermont is three years away from losing millions of federal dollars that help pay for a large portion of inpatient beds in the state system.
"We’ve gotta get this moving now," [AHS Secretary Al] Gobeille said.
He’s right. And it appears from this story excerpt that VSEA members are not alone in their desire for quick and comprehensive action to address Vermont’s mental health care crisis.
“The bed shortage reached such a crisis that, last August, emergency room doctors and nurses from Central Vermont Medical Center showed up unannounced at [the State’s top] office in Montpelier and demanded to meet with [the Governor]. [He] wasn’t available, but he sent Gobeille to talk with the group the next day.
What the hospital staff told the human services secretary wasn’t news to him: Patients are languishing in emergency rooms, where they occupy badly needed beds without receiving the treatment they require.”
Reminder: VSEA DMH Members Tried To Do The Right Thing In 2006
VSEA members and Vermont mental health advocates produced a working plan as early as 2006 to construct a stand-alone, state-of-the-art, mental-health hospital right here in central Vermont. The plan was introduced largely to address the federal government’s refusal to fund any mental health facility with more than 16 beds. The VSEA/advocate plan called for 65 beds. Critics, including State officials and legislators, argued it would have cost millions to build at the time, but VSEA and advocates countered that it would pay for itself over a short period of time–and it would have.
One legislator who was listening at the time was then Rep. John Rogers, who, after hearing VSEA members’ testimony in favor of a new, state-owned facility, openly asked his colleagues in 2010 “Is there a reason we have to depend on this federal money?"
Here is a link to a 2010 WIA story about VSEA members’ lobbying efforts, which includes a reference to a letter the Vermont State Hospital’s then-Director of Psychiatry Dr. Larry Thomson wrote to legislators about the VSEA plan. At the time, the State was proposing to allow a private entity to take over the service entirely.
VSEA members are urged to contact Vermont’s federal representatives and your state representatives to voice your support for “repeal of the 16-bed federal IMD mandate” and for them to “find more, much-needed acute beds to care for every Vermonter who depends on the state’s mental health system.”
Note: Dr. Thomson was a VSEA member and leading voice for Vermonters living with mental illness when he penned this letter. Sadly, Larry has since passed away. His voice would have been so meaningful right now, especially given the current crisis right here in Vermont.
VSEA Urges State Employees Who Are Threatened On The Job To
(Even If Online Form Navigation Is Tricky)
After leading a successful training this 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 Congratulates New Barre Mayor & Montpelier City Councilperson
VSEA is sending congratulations to past VSEA Treasurer and current state employee Lucas Herring on being elected on Tuesday to be Barre’s new mayor and to past VSEA staffer Conor Casey on being elected to be Montpelier’s new District 2 Councilperson.
If you know of current or past VSEA members or staff who ran for local office and won on Tuesday, let WIA know, and we will send out congratulations to them as well.
VSEA Law Enforcement Members’ Feedback Needed By March 16!
VSEA’s Legislative team sent an email late last week 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.
David is asking VSEA’s law enforcement members to please complete this important survey by Friday, March 16.
Organizer’s Worksite Meeting On March 13 In Middlebury!
VSEA Organizer Jen Larsen is holding a meeting on March 13 with VSEA members working in Middlebury. The meeting begins at 12:00 p.m. in the State Office Building’s First Floor Conference Room, located at 156 South Village Green in Middlebury.
The VSEA NEK / St. Johnsbury Chapter is holding a meeting on Wednesday, March 14, at 12:00 p.m. at the St. Johnsbury District Office, located at 1016 U.S. Route 5 in St. Johnsbury. Pizza and beverages being provided!
Please RSVP in advance—or direct any questions or comments—to VSEA NEK / St. Johnsbury Chapter President Ellen Hinman via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Weather forced the VSEA Springfield Chapter to cancel its March 8 meeting and reschedule it to March 15 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 email@example.com.
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.
West Virginia Teachers’ Stay Solid And Win New Agreement
This week’s contract victory by West Virginia teachers is being called one of the biggest wins for organized labor in a long time—and rightfully so.
In case you missed the news, a much-publicized West Virginia teachers’ strike finally forced state lawmakers this week to agree to a 5% pay raise the teachers had been promised. Last week, there was news that a tentative agreement had been reached, but teachers, to their credit, refused to stop picketing until lawmakers officially approved the raise. Thanks to the teachers win, state employees will also receive a raise.
Here are some of the better press generated by the teachers’ victory:
Oklahoma, Kentucky & Arizona Teachers Could Be Next To Strike
This week’s huge victory by West Virginia teachers has opened the door for more teachers across the country to consider taking collective action like a strike to obtain fair wages and benefits. Here is some of the press about what might be coming soon:
Don’t Forget What International Women’s Day Is Really About
"Low income, migrant women working tirelessly as employees, carers, wives and mothers knew withdrawing the work they did would stop the world
For International Women’s Day on March 8, Independnet UK published this piece on the history of International Women’s Day and how it came to be.
From the story:
"In the early 20th century, their movement blossomed. New York City’s streets again saw women march demanding shorter hours, better pay, an end to child labour and the right to vote in 1908. Leading labour organisers sought to strengthen the movement internationally. At the Conference of Working Women held in Copenhagen in 1910, Clara Zetkin asked over 100 women from 17 countries – representing unions, socialist parties and women’s working clubs – to pass a motion for an International Working Women’s Day. They did so, unanimously, and the so International Women’s Day was born."
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 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 Bus Trip To Foxwoods Casino! March 23 – Learn More
Don’t Forget To Turn Your Clocks Forward On
This is the 100-year anniversary of the use of “daylight savings time” here in the United States, and its initial goal was to conserve coal during World War I.
VSEA members are reminded to set your clocks forward at midnight on Saturday night.
Hawaii and most of Arizona don’t take part in daylight saving time. Arizona, which receives ample sunlight, opted out in 1968. Other non-observers are American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
VSEA Legislative Team Publishing 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.
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.
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.