President Bellini Announces Highest VSEA Membership Ever!
VSEA President Dave Bellini asked WIA to inform you that VSEA now has the most members ever in the union’s existence. As of today, 5,920 state employees have signed a card to join VSEA as a full-fledged member.
“This is a pretty special achievement, and I want to thank everybody who has had a hand in helping make this happen, from VSEA frontline employees to union leaders and activists to staff,” Bellini tells WIA. “We have a lot of very serious challenges ahead of us as a union, so we’ll be needing every one of our 5,920 members—and every VSEA retiree—to help us win the tough fights.”
Storm Clouds On The Horizon For State Programs That Rely On Federal Funding?
The U.S. Congress got to the business this week of formally vetting the new Administration’s budget proposals to determine each one’s breadth, impact and service and human toll. Initial reports are not encouraging for some Vermont public services, but it’s still early in the process so it’s still unclear which of the Administration’s budget proposals will be adopted (if any) and which will be tossed. In advance of anything being finalized at the federal level, the online publication Governing.com this week published a story that ranks states based on each one’s current reliance on federal funding.
Here are some the Vermont rankings on note:
Public Welfare = 73.5% (12th in the nation)
Education = 9.9% (46th in the nation)
Roads = 58% (5th in the nation)
Overall, federal revenue accounts for 35% of Vermont’s General Fund budget.
Some Of What We Know About The Administration’s Federal Budget Proposal:
Cuts Labor Department (DOL) budget by 20 percent;
Cuts National Labor Relations Board budget by 6 percent;
Increases Department of Homeland Security budget by 7 percent;
Slashes DOL worker training programs by 36 percent;
Proposes $1.6 billion outlay to build wall on U.S. southern border;
Adds 500 new Border Agents and 1,000 Deportation Officers;
Increases staff at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services;
Increases staff in federal Immigration Courts by 12 percent;
Cuts 10 percent of the staff of the Human Services Office of the Inspector General;
Cuts $190 billion in funding from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in next ten years;
Calls for reduction in funding for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program;
Cuts the USAID budget by 30 percent;
Cuts $2 billion, two years straight, from disability programs;
Cuts $5.8 billion over next 10 years from Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP);
Eliminates subsidized student loans in 2018;
Cuts Education Department’s budget by 13.5 percent in 2018; and
Cuts one-third of the Environmental Protection Agency’s overall budget.
Note: The Vermont Legislature is already preparing to reconvene in October 2017, which is when the Congress must pass its budget. Lawmakers have intimated that they have several revenue generation ideas in their pocket to mitigate at least some of the damage from federal cuts.
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The May 20 Times Argus published an editorial tilted “Standing Firm,” and it is highly critical of the State’s threat to veto a budget that was approved a near majority of lawmakers—a feat unheard of in the past decade. The editorial compares the State’s actions and veto threat to tactics employed by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in his well-documented campaign to decimate that state’s labor unions.
The editorial ends, "There need not be a budget veto. Vermont is not Wisconsin, and to promote the divisive politics besetting that state would not be a service to workers or taxpayers, who after all, are the same people."
Next Franklin/ Grand Isle Chapter Meeting Is Friday, June 2
The next VSEA Franklin/Grand Isle Chapter Meeting is Friday, June 2, at the Swanton House of Pizza in Swanton. The meeting begins at 5:00 p.m., and refreshments are being provided. Members with questions are welcome to contact Chapter President Michael Gordon in advance by email at email@example.com.
Building Community Solidarity! Bennington Chapter Hosts Craft Booth At Youth Appreciation Day Event
VSEA Bennington Chapter President Victoria Thorpe and other Chapter members spent May 20 hosting a craft booth for kids at a Youth Appreciation Day event held in Bennington’s Willow Park. Thorpe reports that it was a very successful event that welcomed more than 500 Vermonters.
“We had 112 youth participate in making face masks and designing puzzles with Bennington Chapter members,” says Thorpe.
“Chapter participation in community events like this really help to raise awareness in our communities about VSEA and the services our state employees deliver every day,” praises VSEA Communications Director Doug Gibson. “I applaud the Bennington Chapter and its members for taking time from their schedules to give back to their community and to their union. Hopefully, as more VSEA Chapters adopt this approach, VSEA can begin educating even more Vermonters about how a union raises the bar for all working Vermonters. This education is especially important right now, in advance of bargaining this fall with the State.”
VSEA Recognized For “Employer Support Of The Guard & Reserve”
VSEA Operations Director Ray Stout accepted a special award this week on behalf of your union. VSEA is being acknowledged by the federal Department of Defense for its support for Vermont Guard personnel and Reservists. The award is in recognition of VSEA headquarters employing both Air National Guard member Laurie Hassett and Navy Reservist Amy Haskins.
An awards banquet was conducted at the Capital Plaza Hotel on May 23, where Stout accepted an official certificate. He is pictured here at the ceremony, flanked by Haskins (left) and Hassett (right).
VSEA thanks all its veterans and all its members who are currently serving our country. VSEA is proud to support our Armed Forces.
New Study Finds Vermont Does Not Have An Exorbitant Number Of Public Employees
Often during election season, you will hear some politician openly grousing about Vermont having more public workers than any other New England state, but a new scorecard reveals what other studies before it have as well—we don’t.
Kentucky Judiciary Stands Up For State’s Social Workers
The Kentucky Associated Press reports on May 24 that some Kentucky judges and attorneys have begun to publicly sound the alarm about the impact a lack of frontline social workers is having on the state’s ability to adequately protect its children.
"Social workers that have 40 families on their caseloads, that is a time bomb looking for a place to go off," Bullitt County Family Court Judge Elise Spainhour explained to a panel of state representatives during the first of several meetings to come up with legislation to overhaul a dysfunctional system. "It’s an inhuman standard that we have set on social workers."
Editorial Warns Texas Lawmakers Against Putting New Public Employee Hires In 401K Retirement Plan
In response to some Texas lawmakers desire to pass a bill that would place new public employee hires (including police officers and firefighters) in a 401K defined contribution retirement plan—as opposed to the existing defined benefit plan that currently covers all Texas public employees—Texas Association of Public Employee Retirement Systems’ Executive Director Max Patterson penned an op-ed in the Houston Chronicle on May 23, titled “401K Push Is Big Risk For Public-Sector Employees.”
It reads, in part:
“It is unconscionable that 401(k)s, having wreaked havoc upon retirement security for private sector employees, are now conservatives’ best policy option. Let’s look at their problems.
First, 401(k)s are expensive. Compliance and management fees have been documented to sap returns to a degree far greater than most people admit. Then, doing-it-yourself is not for everyone: It’s hard to be the best investment manager for your own portfolio while working your full-time job. And most individual investors are unwisely risk averse, investing in bonds or near-cash equivalents when they should be in stocks in early adulthood. The problem is the loss of growth opportunities: Stocks show better returns over the long-term.
Other facts prove these 401(k) problems troubling. Retiring comfortably requires about $375,000 for the average American. The average account balance in Fidelity Investments managed plans was only $88,900 in June 2016 and thus may only generate about $4,500 per year in interest without touching principal. Considering there are more than 70 million people participating in 401(k) plans, the average balance is abysmally low. It is no surprise that a recent Insured Retirement Institute survey of 800 Americans aged 54-70 found just 23 percent thought their savings would last.”
Note: WIA has run a couple of stories recently on this topic, and it’s important for VSEA members to remember that Vermont actually ranks dead last in the nation in terms of retiree savings, making your VSEA-negotiated defined benefit plans all the more important.
USW Blasts Harley-Davidson Announcement That It Will Open A New Manufacturing Plant In… Thailand?
Luke Duggleby for The New York Times
The New York Times reports on May 23 that American manufacturing icon Harley-Davidson has caught the offshoring fever and is building a new plant in Thailand, where motorcycles will be manufactured for sale in Europe.
“It’s a slap in the face to the U.S. workers who built an American icon,” says Robert Martinez Jr., the international president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. The union represents Harley-Davidson workers at plants including one in York, Pa., where the company plans to lay off over 100 workers.
The United Steelworkers of America also represents Harley-Davidson workers, and the union released a statement this week in response to the NYT story, writing:
“Harley-Davidson has been the crown jewel of American manufacturing. It’s an iconic brand that represents true American spirit. Management’s decision to offshore production is a slap in the face to the American worker and to hundreds of thousands of Harley riders across the country.
This decision puts in jeopardy one of the few remaining genuine U.S. brands.
Our members have been true partners with this company, working in good times and bad to make great products that fostered its growth and success. We remember the U.S. government stepping up in the 1980s to save Harley-Davidson and contributing to its revival.
Harley owners and prospective buyers across the globe want to continue to enjoy machines made in America that provide quality rides and unique experiences. Harley’s potential outsourcing of production puts all of this at risk.
Offshoring production is the wrong path to prosperity. It puts in jeopardy the success that has propelled Harley over the years: It is a brand of excellence that enables riders to confidently know that they are joining a special community of enthusiasts.
“Harley-Davidson should abandon their offshoring plans and expand their operations here in America.”
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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Memorial Day Holiday
VSEA Office & Most State Offices Closed
Board Of Trustees’ Meeting
Franklin/Grand Isle Chapter Meeting
Swanton House Of Pizza
32 Merchants Row
Read Contracts Online At VSEA.org
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!
"I’m just really appalled. You have 16 Democrats who aren’t really Democrats."
Former State Representative Tony Klein commenting to Seven Days about the 16 Democratic lawmakers who recently voted to strip teachers of their right to collectively bargain their health care.
Important! VSEA Moving To Electronic Balloting
When VSEA conducts its next membership vote; all members will be able to vote electronically for the first time in your union’s history. Members can still receive a ballot by U.S. Mail, but you will need to let VSEA know that this is your preference as soon as possible! Failure to inform VSEA that you would prefer your ballot via the U.S. Mail could result in you not being able to cast a vote on important decisions that impact the VSEA membership at large.
If you want to continue to cast your vote via U.S. Mail, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or letter to VSEA headquarters, attention “My Voting Preference”, 155 State Street, Montpelier, 05602.
Thank you in advance for your attention to this important notice.
VSEA Member Only Benefits: Your VSEA Money Saving Advantage!
See What Discounts Are Being Offered Today!
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.
Don’t see what you are looking for?
Request a merchant by filling out the Vendor Information form here. Please note submissions are subject to approval.
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.
State Office Building
232 Main Street
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 email@example.com.
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
Need To Update Your Contact Information With VSEA?