Relocation Creates Open Seat On VSEA Board Of Trustees
VSEA member Sawyer Joecks informed headquarters this week that a change in his work location was forcing him to have to step down from his District 2 seat on the VSEA Board of Trustees. This means the District 2 seat, which includes Waterbury and the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital in Berlin, is currently open. To be eligible for this seat, interested members must reside or have an assigned workstation in District 2.
All interested members must obtain the signatures of 25 or more full-fledged VSEA members on a petition, which is due to headquarters by 4:30 p.m. on Monday, December 5, 2016.
VSEA Membership Recruitment Committee Launching New Recruitment Effort
The VSEA Membership Recruitment Committee is launching a 2016/2017 “Membership Engagement and Recruitment Initiative” to grow the union’s ranks, asking members to talk with current agency-fee payers about the benefits of full-fledged membership and why s/he should make the switch. If they decide 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 fleece vest (8 prizes awarded)
1 Grand Prize – $1,200
Note: WIA will periodically remind members about this effort until its culmination in August 2017.
Now Is The Time To Donate To The NMU, Corrections & Supervisory Unit Sick Leave Bank
VSEA member Dawn Carrillo staffs the Non-Management Unit Sick Leave Bank, and she asked WIA to remind not only NMU members but also Corrections and Supervisory Unit members that you can donate a few hours to your Unit’s sick leave bank from now until December 31.
“Just donating an hour of your time can mean the world to a fellow employee,” reads a flyer DHR is circulating. It also informs state employees that they can donate any amount of time to the NMU, Corrections and Supervisory Sick Leave Banks. “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.”
VSEA Strategic Analyst’s "Right To Work (For Less)" Presentation Now Available Online
VSEA Strategic Analyst Adam Norton’s presentation on everything wrong with America’s so-called “Right-to-Work” movement was so well received at VSEA’s Annual Meeting that Norton is now fulfilling requests to give the presentation to Chapters. Adam is pictured here delivering his presentation last week to the Bennington Chapter.
Norton’s “Right To Work (For Less)” presentation is a must-view for all state employees who are concerned about the move across America to bust unions and hasten the race to the bottom for workers. Please share this presentation with interested colleagues.
VSEA President Dave Bellini is asking all state employees who are threatened while performing your job duties to provide an account of the threat not only to your supervisor or the State, but also to VSEA.
“VSEA wants to begin to compile its own record of threats against frontline state employees, no matter your occupation,” explains Bellini. “I’m asking all employees who are threatened, especially those working in AHS, to take a few minutes to fill out an online form VSEA made to collect your report. The information will help us provide a firsthand account of the number of threats being made and where they are being made, in addition to some other things.”
VSEA Judiciary Workers Deliver Fair-Hearing Petition To Court Administrator
VSEA Judiciary workers elevated their campaign this week to negotiate a fair hearing process with the Court Administrator to resolve wage disputes. On Monday, Judiciary Unit Chair Margaret Crowley and other workers hand delivered a petition with the signatures of nearly 500 Judiciary workers and other supporters across Vermont.
Here is the press release VSEA put out as the workers were delivering the petition:
VSEA Judiciary Unit members hand delivered a petition this morning to the Court Administrator’s Office that calls on Judiciary Branch management to negotiate a fair process to resolve workers’ pay disputes, to include a neutral hearing based on the evidence. In response, management has threatened to withhold raises that are already approved and budgeted by the Legislature. VSEA members are outraged that the Court system would use economic coercion to punish court system employees for demanding basic due process.
“As an active member of our Judiciary workers’ Bargaining Team, I know for a fact that the Legislature has budgeted the money required to award frontline classified Judiciary workers with a raise,” explains VSEA Judiciary Unit Chair Margaret Crowley. “That said, we now believe management is leveraging these pay raises against us, in an effort to get us to back off our request for a fair hearing process. We continue to believe that the establishment a fair hearing process is the best way to stop the hemorrhaging of Judiciary employees due to low pay.” Crowley adds that nearly 25% of Judiciary Docket Clerks have left in the last fiscal year; many citing low pay.
The overwhelming majority of Unit members continue to stand behind their Bargaining Team and have signed a petition in support of a fair hearing process to resolve pay grievances. In addition, hundreds of community members have added their names in support. The petition reads:
“We the undersigned Judiciary Employees, State workers, and concerned members of the public call on the Judiciary of the State of Vermont to agree to a fair process for deciding pay grievances.
Under the current process, pay disputes are heard by a committee that is dominated by management and chaired by the Human Resources Manager. No record of the evidence is kept, and the testimony is taken without the employee or the union present. The application and appeal processes include unnecessary obstacles designed to discourage or trip up employees. The final decision is made by a person who is recommended by management and selected by the Chief Justice.
For years, the Judiciary has used this skewed process to prevent employees, particularly over 100 docket clerks, from being paid for the increasingly complex and demanding work they are required to perform. Now, the Judiciary is facing a turnover crisis as almost a quarter of the Docket Clerks left the Judiciary in the last fiscal year.
We ask for simple justice: pay disputes should be decided by a neutral decision maker based on the evidence. The Vermont Judiciary says it is “philosophically opposed” to this basic due process. We ask that they return to the bargaining table and negotiate a contract that respects employees’ rights to a fair hearing.”
VSEA’s Judiciary Unit members have been in a tough contract battle with the Court Administrator since December 2015, and a Fact Finder is currently reviewing both sides’ arguments and will be issuing a decision in the coming days or weeks. One of the workers’ key issues this round of negotiations is the establishment of a fair hearing process. If the parties are unable to reach agreement based on the Fact Finders’ report, the final step in Vermont’s statutory bargaining dispute-resolution process is a hearing before the Vermont Labor Relations Board. The Judiciary has made clear that it will withhold retroactive raises, and essentially divert money that was earmarked by the Legislature, if the employees proceed to that step, including its proposal that pay disputes be decided by a neutral party based on the evidence.
Recent Press Stories About Presidential Election’s Potential Impact On Workers & The Labor Movement
The result this year’s presidential election could mean big changes for working Americans. During the campaign, America’s newly elected president did not provide a lot of detail on how he will govern when it comes to working people and our issues. This void opened the door to quite a lot of conjecture this week in the press.
Here is a sampling of some of the stories/posts about the election result and its potential impact on working Americans—especially, it seems, unionized workers:
Alert! Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital To Lose Federal Funding In 2021
VTDigger reports on November 17 that the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital and Brattleboro Retreat will soon lose close to $35 million in “gross spending” to fund psychiatric hospitals, substance abuse centers, information technology projects and education projects.
For years, the VPCH has received its federal funding in the form of a lump sum from what is referred to as the Medicaid “global commitment” fund. However, this October, the feds included new directives in order to receive the global commitment funds, including, according to an AHS spokesperson, a requirement that states “phase down” the use of federal funding for “facilities that qualify as an institution of mental disease (IMD) under federal law, which is a facility primarily for mental health or substance use disorder treatment” with 16 beds or less. The VPCH currently has 25 beds, and in previous years, Vermont has been granted a waiver, which allows all 25 beds to be used. This will not be the case. The AHS spokesperson adds that Vermont will be required to transition to a new funding source in 2021 “and continue the transition over the next six years.”
In the story, Rep. Anne Donahue (R-Northfield) stresses that five to six years does not leave a lot of time to begin planning for how to fill the impending budget hole. “I think people need to be very aware of this and working actively on planning sooner rather than later,” Donahue says.
VSEA agrees. WIA will keep readers updated on any and all developments related to this breaking news.
Note: In a related matter, a “Request for Proposals” is being sent out—or has been sent out—seeking bids from private, for-profit firms to assume control of the “temporary” psychiatric facility in Middlesex, which is currently State-operated and staffed by VSEA members. VSEA is monitoring this evolving situation as well.
In the story, a faculty member who is represented by the Vermont State Colleges’ Faculty Federation (AFT) explains that there is an existing labor contract with certain terms and conditions that will have to be met, in order for the employees to be in agreement.
“One of the first questions we asked was ‘How will this affect our contracts?’”, says Julie Theoret, the chair of Johnson’s Math Department. “Our contracts lay out specific things about our job. If those things are changing, then that’s in breach of the contract.”
VSEA’s VSC Board of Trustees’ representative and Johnson State employee Sandra Noyes is also quoted in the piece, and she explains that the unification might not impact VSEA workers on the same scale as the other unionized employees.
“I don’t think unification will change much for us,” Noyes says. “Our unit includes maintenance workers, which each campus will continue to need—housekeepers, custodians…both campuses need that too. The office people all work directly with the students, so I don’t think it’s going to affect us as much.”
But Noyes also expresses some concern about the Administration not providing a whole lot of detail about the full impact of the unification, saying, “[The Chancellor] keeps saying, ‘I just hope the unions will cooperate,’ but he doesn’t go any further to tell us what he wants us to cooperate on. In our contract it says every campus will have a certain number of officers. It doesn’t say, ‘college.’ It says each ‘campus.’ It’s not like we can have a campus chair on one and not the other. Everybody has to keep their ears to the ground to hear what’s going on.”
Theoret then echoes Noyes, saying, “As far as we’re concerned, right now we don’t have any issues because we don’t know what the issues are. When a decision is made, we’re going to look at it and say, ‘how is this going to affect the faculty contracts?’ If it does, then those changes actually need to be bargained. They can’t just make the changes [unilaterally].”
Board Approves Sending VSEA Delegation To Washington For The “Women’s March On Washington”
>> Important Note: If you have questions or concerns about this allocation of funds, please send your thoughts directly to your VSEA Board of Trustees representative(s). Posting on VSEA’s Facebook page does not guarantee your concerns and questions will be heard and seen by the appropriate parties.
The VSEA Board of Trustees voted this week to allocate $5,000 to fund a small delegation of VSEA members traveling to our nation’s capital for the “Women’s March on Washington,” which is being held January 21, 2017. Organizers are billing the march as a “way to stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health and our families – recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.”
“I was proud to support this allocation to send a few VSEA women to DC to march in solidarity with hundreds of thousands of other women who will be welcoming the new Congress with a vocal reminder that women’s rights are human rights,” explains VSEA Board member Katelyn Chase. “VSEA members who attend will be supporting that message and adding to it that workers’ rights are also human rights. I’m inviting any VSEA member—woman or man—who is interested in going to DC to march to contact me as soon as possible.”
If you would be interested in traveling with Katelyn to Washington, D.C. in January for the march, please send an email to email@example.com. Once Katelyn can gauge the level of interest, she will be better able to allocate the funds awarded, so please respond to her by Monday, December 2, 2016.
Which VSEA-Endorsed Candidates Won On Election Night & Which Ones Lost
Last week, WIA let members know that more than 80% of VSEA-endorsed candidates running in statewide and Senate and House races were successful on November 8. This week, VSEA’s Legislative Team added a “won” or “lost” to the online listing of VSEA-endorsed candidates, and members are invited to now examine the complete list to see if an endorsed candidate(s) in your local area was successful or not.
Not wasting any time following the recent ratification of a new, two-year contract with the State of Vermont, a newly reconstituted Non-Management Unit (NMU) Bargaining Team is already preparing a new bargaining proposal survey for NMU members to complete and submit. The goal of the survey again is to assess NMU members’ bargaining priorities before entering into the next round of formal negotiations with the State. The NMU’s survey will be comprehensive, covering everything from wages to benefits to working conditions.
Once the survey is ready, WIA will publish the link where NMU members can go to complete it.
Bennington Chapter Looking For Members To Help Bake
VSEA Bennington Chapter President Victoria Thorpe is appealing to members for help baking cookies for the Chapter’s "Employee Appreciation Event" on Saturday, December 3, 2016, in the Crisp Room at the Veterans’ Home.
If you can help, please notify Chapter President Victoria Thorpe by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 802-753-6485. Let her know how much you can bake and what you’ll be baking.
Reminder: The Chapter is still in need of door prize donations for the employee appreciation event.
The labor seat on the Child & Elder Care Committee (C&EC) is currently vacant. The seat has been held for a long time by VSEA retiree Dave Clark, who is now stepping into the role C&EC committee administrator.
The C & EC is a statewide labor management committee formed under collective bargaining agreements between the State of Vermont and the VSEA and the Vermont Troopers’ Association. The committee is comprised of members from the VSEA, the Vermont Troopers’ Association and the State of Vermont. Its mission is to monitor existing child and elder care programs, recommend expenditure of funds committed to it under the CBA’s, and investigate other options for providing child care and elder care services to all State employees.
If you would like to be considered for the labor seat on this important committee, please send an email to email@example.com and write “C&EC Committee Interest” in the subject line.
VSEA First Vice President Looking To Fill Vacant Council Seats
VSEA First Vice President Aimee Towne is casting a net to try to fill several open seats on the VSEA Council. With more than 120 VSEA members, the VSEA Council is one of your union’s primary governing bodies and its largest and most diverse, with departmental representatives from across state government. The Council meets quarterly and retains a right to override decisions made by the VSEA Board of Trustees.
The following Council seats (by departmental heading) are currently open, and interested VSEA members are urged to self nominate:
Aging and Independent Living – 2 seats available
Auditor of Accounts
Buildings and General Services – 3 seats available
Children and Families – 2 seats available
ACCD/Marketing and Tourism
Commission on Women
Criminal Justice Training Council
Finance and Management
Forests and Parks
AHS/Rate Setting & Auditing
Public Safety – Civilian – 3 seats available
Public Service Board
Public Service Department
Secretary of State
Transportation – 2 seats available
Transportation Agency/DMV – 2 seats available
> You can find a self-nominating form by clicking here. (opens/ downloads as a PDF)
Questions? Please contact VSEA Administrative Assistant Ayla Hudson at 802-223-5247, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vermont Senators convened in Montpelier this week to conduct a vote to determine who the Senate’s new Pro Tem would be. By a 14-8 vote, the body elected Sen. Tim Ashe (D-Chittenden) to be its new Pro Tem. The vacancy was created when Sen. John Campbell announced earlier in the year that he would not be seeking re-election.
Ashe was initially challenged for the position by Senators Claire Ayer (D-Addison) and Phil Baruth (D-Chittenden), but both had withdrawn their names by the time yesterday’s vote was conducted.
Senator Leahy Announces Shift From Judiciary To Appropriations Committee
Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy passed up the opportunity to be ranking Democrat on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee once, but not again. Seven Days reports on November 16 that Leahy recently decided to accept the position of minority Chair of Appropriations, after serving many years in the same role on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In a public statement, Leahy explains his reasons for the move. He writes, in part:
“The results of [the November 8] election have reshaped the policymaking landscape in Washington and show the need for checks and balances, now that one party controls the White House as well as both houses of Congress. There are many challenges ahead. Against this new backdrop, I have decided that I will best be able to represent Vermonters’ voices, and reflect Vermont values and ideals, as the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee.
OSHA May Be Considering Formal Rulemaking To Combat Violence Against Healthcare Workers
Earlier this year, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sent the federal Office of Management and Business (OMB) a request for information on preventing workplace violence against hospital workers. National Nurses United and other unions have been vocal about the issue; violence against nurses and other workers in hospitals has been on the rise, and nine states have enacted their own standards requiring that some healthcare facilities develop workplace violence prevention programs. The agency updated its guidelines on the issue in 2014, but a media outlet’s recent request for information indicates that OSHA may be considering a formal rule making to address the serious problem.
Article Asks: “Where Are All The Social Workers Going?”
A November 17 article in Governing Magazine highlights the national problem of high turnover in the field of public-sector social work. The article points to Kentucky and Texas as two states where the situation is reaching crisis level, but many Vermont social workers will tell you that high turnover is a serious issue in our state as well.
From the article:
“Once turnover persists, it creates conditions that lead to a seemingly never-ending cycle: experienced caseworkers don’t have time to mentor new ones, caseloads increase, backlogs develop, tempers flare, pressures rise and burnout shows no signs of fading. This is an issue in most of America, but in some places, it has recently reached crisis levels.
“Turnover is devastating,” said Scott McCown, a former judge and now director of the Children’s Rights Center at the University of Texas Law School. “If you’re a caseworker, you develop a relationship with the parent and child. That’s what helps you help them. But every time there’s turnover, you start from scratch. If clients find themselves working with a different social services worker every few months, their confidence in their care and willingness to comply with bureaucracy can be lost. Constant workforce churn costs not just client’s hope but governments money.” Training a new social services worker costs $54,000 according to the Texas Senate Committee on Finance.
Sign Of Things To Come? Texas Judge’s Injunction Blocks Labor Friendly “Persuader Rule”
Ever since it went into effect in April 2016, business groups and lawyers have been fighting hard to block or end a new Labor Department (DOL) rule (“the persuader rule”) that requires law firms to publicly disclose the work they do for employers surrounding union organizing efforts. Needless to say, labor unions cheered the rule’s implementation and welcomed the transparency that came with it. However, in what could be an unfortunate sign of things to come, a Texas federal judge issued a permanent injunction this week against the persuader rule.
Labor representatives say they fear this judge’s decision could mean other DOL rules enacted recently to help workers might soon be reversed or allowed to die in the next administration.
VSEA Sponsoring A New Year’s Eve Trip To See Disney On Ice In Boston!
On the heels of successful VSEA “NASCAR Day” and “Day at Fenway” events, VSEA’s Membership Recruitment Committee is now scheduling a “VSEA Disney on Ice” event for interested members and your families.
The performance is New Year’s Eve, December 31, at 3:00 p.m. at Boston University’s Agganis Arena.
The package price is $60 per member/family member and that includes your ticket and transportation to and from the arena.
A chartered bus will pick members up members at:
9:00 a.m. – Waterbury
10:00 a.m. – White River Junction
10:30 a.m. – Springfield Park & Ride
Here’s a synopsis of the show: Experience Disney’s hilarious hair-raising escapade, Tangled; as Rapunzel, her unlikely companion, Flynn, and Maximus, embark on an uproarious journey that takes adventure to new lengths! Boogie to the beat of the bayou with Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen in a magical, musical journey that all begins with a fateful kiss. And fanciful dreams become reality as Cinderella meets her Prince Charming, with a glass slipper fit for an unforgettable fantasy come true. All your favorite princesses take to the ice in a spectacular finale at the ultimate Disney Princess event of a lifetime! Experience the beauty, sparkle, and spirit when Disney On Ice presents Dare to Dream comes to your hometown!
VSEA Offering Discounted Long-Term Care Insurance To Members
VSEA President Dave Bellini sent an email to members yesterday, announcing a new and valuable benefit for VSEA members. Your union is partnering with National Long-Term Care Brokers (NYLTCB) to offer Long-Term Care Insurance with discounted premiums.
The program is subject to medical underwriting and insurability is not guaranteed.
Some reasons people plan ahead for Long-Term Care:
To protect retirement assets and pension income;
To prevent Medicaid spend down (impoverishment);
To ensure options for health care; and
To avoid being a burden to loved ones.
As a VSEA member, this offering is made available to you and your eligible family members with a permanent discount, not available to the general public. Eligible family members include spouses/domestic partners, adult children and parents/parents-in-law.
You will have access to a dedicated Long-Term Care planning specialist to help determine if coverage is appropriate for you, and compare policies from different insurance companies to ensure the best coverage at the most competitive premium.
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.