VSEA’s Week In Action Newsletter: November 3, 2017

Windsor Prison Officially Closes. DOC Submits Plan For Its Future

A couple of news outlets reported this week on the official closure of America’s first state-run prison, the Southeast State Correctional Facility, or the Windsor Prison, as it’s commonly referred to by Vermonters. The facility had existed for 208 years.

“We offered a lot here,” Windsor Superintendent Kat Tkaczyk tells the Valley News in a November 1 story. “[Inmates] weren’t sitting in their cells 24 hours a day. Inmates were given a lot of opportunity (for self-improvement). They were always doing something here, (such as) sanding, plowing, and shoveling in winter. Inmates pretty much did everything.”

Hartford Police Chief Phil Kasten is also quoted in the Valley News story, talking about how the prison’s closure is also ending his access to work crews.

“We were expecting them back this winter,” says Kasten, who had nothing but praise for the program and the completed work. “This is an opportunity for offenders to ease their way back into the community. It is important. Equally important are the interpersonal relationships between the inmates and the community. Now, with the prison closing, it limits those opportunities.”

WIA readers will remember that VSEA members and their union testified repeatedly against closing the facility, but, in the end, lawmakers said they could not find a way to fund Windsor’s budget and voted to shutter it; a move that has removed dozens of much-needed beds from Vermont’s prison system.

As the news story explains, the closure has also impacted VSEA members working at the facility. It reads, “When [Windsor] was in full operation, the 100-bed prison had a staff of about 60, but only 15 remained on the last day. While a few close to retirement took that option, most have been reassigned within the DOC, with the majority going to the prison in Springfield (VT).”

VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard tells WIA that once it was clear that lawmakers were going close Windsor, VSEA leaders and staff worked hard to educate the facility’s soon-to-be-displaced employees about their “Reduction In Force (RIF)” rights and also to negotiate a “pre-RIF” process to minimize bumping and “allow any impacted employees in the 35-mile zone to RIF into DOC vacancies anywhere in Vermont.” He adds that the negotiated pre-RIF process helps keep experienced DOC staff and fill existing vacancies.

Another result of VSEA and Windsor members’ lobbying efforts was to cause some lawmakers who initially favored outright closure to instead join their colleagues to order DOC officials to produce a “repurposing plan” for Windsor by November 1. DOC met its obligation and submitted a plan this week, and VSEA was pleased to see that it calls for any new facility to be staffed by VSEA members.

Lawmakers are expected to debate the DOC plan and Windsor’s future in the upcoming session.

WCAX Article: "Last day of operations at Windsor prison"

Quote Of The Week!

“With Pennsylvania, because we are going through the interstate compact, it essentially places a Vermont inmate into the Pennsylvania commissioner’s custody, and the rules and policies and laws are all governed by Pennsylvania.”

Vermont DOC Deputy Commissioner Mike Touchette, clarifying in a VPR story this week that Vermont inmates essentially waive their state rights if the DOC is paying to house them in a Pennsylvania prison.

Support Fairbanks Scales Workers’ Fight for Healthcare & A Fair Contract

UE Local 234 workers at Fairbanks Scales in St. Johnsbury are on strike, demanding a fair contract from their employer! They are walking a picket line 24 hours a day until the company comes back to the table to respectfully settle the contract.

VSEA and other union members as well as community volunteers are needed to walk the picket line at 2176 Portland Street in St. Johnsbury!

Local 234 President Polly Scott reports that Fairbanks Scales is demanding huge increases in what workers pay for health insurance and wants concessions on holidays and time off. The employer is also refusing to offer a fair wage increase.

"We’re working harder and faster than we ever have," says Divisional Plant Steward Ryan MacDonald, and yet "they are not even negotiating with us right now." 

Click Here For The Latest UE Strike Updates

Note: If you live or work in the St. Johnsbury area, please consider dropping by the picket line in a show of solidarity, or dropping off some coffee or food, or honking in support as you pass by. Small gestures from fellow union members mean a lot to the men and women who are fighting the good fight. Remember too that their fight is really a fight all working Vermonters.

Strike Press

Vermont DOC Having Buyer’s Remorse?

VPR aired a piece this week on the growing difficulty Vermont Defender General’s Office lawyers representing Vermont inmates are having communicating with their clients, who are being housed in a Pennsylvania prison on the Vermont DOC’s dime.

This quote in the story from DOC official Mike Touchette is all VSEA members need to know about why DOC and relevant State officials should have known the Pennsylvania deal had some serious drawbacks.

“With Pennsylvania, because we are going through the interstate compact, it essentially places a Vermont inmate into the Pennsylvania commissioner’s custody, and the rules and policies and laws are all governed by Pennsylvania.”

Vermont Defender General Matt Valerio Valerio tells VPR, “Vermont inmates in Pennsylvania are harder to communicate with and visit than they were at any previous out-of-state prison. All out-of-state prisons that previously housed Vermont inmates were owned and operated by private corporations.

‘It’s much more difficult,’ says Valerio.”

Note: VSEA continues to push for Vermont to bring all its inmates back in state and house them in State facilities, where the inmates can receive the levels of rehabilitation and treatment they require in order to return to their Vermont communities as productive citizens.

Help Spread The Word!
Print & Post Week In Action!

Please help spread the word about VSEA news in your worksite by printing and posting a condensed version of Week In Action.

Thank You!

View/ Print A Condensed Version Of This Week’s Issue Here!
(Opens/ downloads a PDF)

Get Your State Surplus!

The Stowe Reporter published a story on November 2 that takes readers inside the State of Vermont’s surplus property warehouse in Waterbury, Vt., introducing you to some of what’s available for sale and to some of the employees who work there.

Here’s an excerpt:

"State agencies or departments decide that they have surplus product, and they let us know,” said Terry Lamos, support services manager with Vermont Agency of Administration’s buildings and grounds division.

“Items at the Vermont State Surplus building are priced to sell, typically at a quarter to a half of their original prices, Lamos says. She uses the Internet to find the asking price for a new version of what comes in.

“Office furniture is what most frequently comes into the surplus building, Lamos says. The hottest sellers are what Lamos calls “airport sharps” — knives, including toys shaped like knives or guns, taken from passengers at airports around the state. They are delivered to the Vermont State Surplus building every quarter, and they’re by far the most popular items there.”

Search Begins Anew On Monday For VSEA District 5 Member To Serve On Union’s Board 

On Monday, the VSEA Board is again sending an email with a petition link to VSEA members in District 5, renewing its search for a member to fill VSEA’s now-empty District 5 Board seat. All that’s needed is for interested member(s) to submit a petition, which did not happen the first time around. The District 5 Trustee serves as the voice for Rutland & Bennington’s VSEA members on the Board.

Two years remain on retiring Vets’ Home employee Barbara King’s current term, meaning whoever is appointed to the position will serve out her term and then have to run for official election in the next campaign cycle. 

To be eligible for election to the District 5 seat, a member must reside or have an assigned workstation–and continue to reside or have an assigned workstation-in District 5.

If interested, you must be a member in good standing, and you must collect the signatures of 25 or more full, dues-paying VSEA members.

Click Here To View/ Download A Petition

If you are unable to access a petition online, please contact VSEA headquarters at 223-5247 to request to have a hard copy petition mailed to your home.

Next NEK/
St. Johnsbury Chapter Meeting Is November 8

The next NEK/ St. Johnsbury Chapter Meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, November 8 from 5:00 to 7:00 PM at New Century Restaurant (264 Portland Street, St. Johnsbury). The meeting will be held upstairs in the restaurant. Appetizers and non-alcoholic drinks will be provided!

Help spread the word!
Download this flyer for your worksite!

If you have any questions please feel free to contact the VSEA Northeast Kingdom/ St. Johnsbury Chapter President Ellen Hinman via email: ellen.hinman@yahoo.com

VSEA Insurance Benefits Enrollment At The Vermont Veterans’ Home November 7 & 8

Also In Brattleboro November 9

Learn More Or Schedule An Appointment Today!


VSEA Insurance Representative Joanne Woodcock will be at the following location to talk with interested VSEA members about member-only insurance benefits.

Receive information on disability coverage, family life insurance, family accident, cancer and hospital coverage. You must be a member paying full dues to be eligible for this VSEA benefit. If you are an agency-fee payer, Joanne can provide you information about signing up for full membership.  

November 7 and 8
Vermont Veterans’ Home
Canteen Area
12:00 to 4:00 PM

November 9
Health Department
Room 121
232 Main Street
Brattleboro, Vt.
12:00 to 4:00 PM

Call or email Joanne Woodcock for an appointment: 802-485-4820 Joanne@vseainsurance.com

Please provide your age, hourly wage and job description so I can send a quote BEFORE
we meet.

By Appointment ONLY

Joanne Woodcock
VSEA Insurance Benefits Administrator
802-485-4820 (land line)
877-485-3374 (fax)
888-510-4467 (toll free)
800-638-6353 (info line)

AOE Secretary Pushes Back On Lawmakers’ Additional Staff Demands

Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe
Photo: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur, Seven Days

Seven Days reports this week that Agency of Education (AOE) Secretary Rebecca Homlcombe has informed the State and lawmakers that AOE will be unable to fulfill one of its new legislative mandates because there is not enough staff to complete the job properly.

According to the story, ”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."

Holcombe says later in the piece that she "[doesn’t] feel good about this," But, she adds, "How else does somebody in my position make the case?"

Note: Given what VSEA knows about understaffing issues across state government, it’s a given that there are other Agency and Department Commissioners and Secretaries facing the same unfortunate—but fixable—situation.

Maine Opens New Mental Health Unit At Maine State Prison

For years, VSEA and its DOC members have been urging lawmakers and State officials to create a "forensic unit" to treat Vermont offenders with severe mental health issues, but their advice has largely fallen on deaf ears. Now comes news this week from Maine that the state is opening a new mental health unit for offenders inside an operating state prison.

From a Sun Journal story:

“We’ve been ignoring this problem for far too long,” [Maine Gov. Paul] LePage says.

“[Maine] is facing a loss of $20 million in funding for the Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta after the federal government found that there were far too many attacks against staff and other patients by violent patients. The opening of the mental health unit at the state prison will shift some of those patients who are convicted of violent offenses out of Riverview.

The new unit includes 32 beds with a staff of about 16 people. The unit was created from space that had once been part of the special management unit but more recently had been unused. The annual cost of the center is estimated at $3.2 million.”

New Study Recommends Steps To Address Serious Mental Illness

For years now, workers at the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital and Corrections employees have been voicing concerns to Vermont officials and lawmakers about them being too slow to respond to what they view as a real crisis, which is how to better protect frontline workers from assault by a Vermonter or Vermont inmate who is suffering with severe mental illness. Now comes news this week in the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer about a new joint study conducted by the National Association of Mental Health Directors and the Treatment Advocacy Center that makes 10 recommendations for states and policymakers to improve mental health delivery systems.

The study, titled “Beyond Beds: The Vital Role of a Full Continuum of Psychiatric Care,” recommends that states and policymakers:

  • Prioritize and fund the development of a comprehensive continuum of mental health care;
  • Direct relevant agencies to conduct a national initiative to standardize terminology for all levels of clinical care for mental illness;
  • Fund and foster evidence-based programs to divert adults and youths with serious mental illnesses or emotional disorders from justice settings to the treatment system; 
  • Monitor hospitals for adherence to the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act in their emergency departments and levy sanctions for its violation, including the withholding of public funding;
  • Identify those policies and practices that operate as disincentives to providing acute inpatient and other beds or that act as obstacles to psychiatric patients’ accessing existing beds and require hospitals benefiting from taxpayer dollar investments to directly provide or ensure timely access to inpatient psychiatric beds;
  • Prioritize and fully fund the collection and timely publication of all relevant data on the role and inter-system impacts of severe mental illness and best practices;
  • Recognize that the mental health, community, justice, and public service systems are interconnected, and adopt and refine policies to identify and close gaps between them;
  • Create and expand programs that incentivize and reward the use of technology to advance care delivery, promote appropriate information sharing, and maximize continuity of care;
  • Initiate assessments to identify, establish, and implement public policies and public-private partnerships that will reduce structural obstacles to people’s entering or staying in the mental health workforce; and
  • Recognize the vital role families and non-traditional partners outside the mental health system can play in improving mental health outcomes and encourage and support the inclusion of a broader range of invited stakeholders around mental illness policy and practice.

Subscribe To VSEA Today!

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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This Week:

Windsor Prison Officially Closes.
DOC Submits Plan For Its Future

Support Fairbanks Scales Workers’ Fight for Healthcare and a 
Fair Contract

Vermont DOC Having Buyer’s Remorse?

Surplus! Get Your State Surplus!

Search Begins Anew On Monday For VSEA District 5 Member To Serve On Union’s Board

Next NEK/ St. Johnsbury Chapter Meeting Is
November 8

VSEA Insurance Benefits Enrollment At The Vermont Veterans’ Home November 7 & 8. Also In Brattleboro November 9

AOE Secretary Pushes Back On Lawmakers’ Additional Staff Demands

Maine Opens New Mental Health Unit At Maine State Prison

New Study Recommends Steps To Address Serious Mental Illness




Week In Action Reminders:

VSEA FAQ Clarifies What Is Private Vs. Public Record For Classified State Employees

VSEA Treasurer Election Email With Ballot-Link
Coming Soon

More Contributions Needed Now To The NMU’s Sick
Leave Bank!

Union Rep Schedules Vet’s Home Meetings

Celebrate Old Labor Hall’s 19th Anniversary On November 11

Coming February 2018! VSEA Boston Bruins Bus Trip!

Advantage Program Vendor of the Week!

What is the VSEA Advantage Program?


VSEA Calendar:

November 6
NMU Bargaining Team Meeting
VTrans Training Center
1716 U.S. Route 302
8:00 a.m.

November 7
Joint Safety & Health Maintenance Committee Meeting
Department Of Labor
5 Green Mountain Dr.
1:30 p.m.

November 8
NEK/ St. Johnsbury Chapter Meeting
New Century Restaurant
264 Portland Street
St. Johnsbury
5:00 p.m.

November 9
Corrections Unit Bargaining Team Meeting
VTrans Training Center
1716 U.S. Route 302
8:00 a.m.

November 9
Supervisory Unit Bargaining Team Meeting
VTrans Training Center
1716 U.S. Route 302
8:00 a.m.


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.


Contact Your Union

Communication between Union members and Union leaders is important for a strong Union. Click the links below to find VSEA contact information for each category:

Board of Trustees

VSEA Council

Chapter Presidents

Find A Steward


VSEA FAQ Clarifies What Is Private Vs. Public Record For Classified State Employees

The Vermont Supreme Court ruled recently that a classified state employee’s private phone, email, etc., accounts are subject to the state’s Public Records Act—if state work is/was conducted on the device. In response to this new and pretty big twist, VSEA President Dave Bellini sent an email this week to all members that included a public-records FAQ prepared by your union’s legal team to clarify your rights and educate members about how to avoid trouble.

VSEA President Dave Bellini and the Board of Trustees are asking members to take some time soon to read and understand the contents of the FAQ. In the meantime, members with questions–or members who are being asked to produce a record(s) and aren’t sure how to proceed—are being asked to contact a member of VSEA’s Legal Team at 802-223-5247. 

Click Here To View Public Records Primer​


VSEA Treasurer Election Email With Ballot-Link Coming Soon

VSEA’s ERN Committee is charged with educating and informing the member electorate about your choices in union elections, including the current election being conducted to be VSEA Treasurer. To fulfill this charge, the Committee asked every Treasurer candidate to submit a statement about why s/he is running, and you can link to each candidate’s statement below. 

In the coming weeks, the ERN will be sending eligible members a link to your official online ballot to vote in the Treasurer election. Remember that recent bylaw and policy changes have allowed VSEA to conduct elections electronically. If you wish to receive a paper ballot and opt out of electronic balloting, please send an email to VSEA@VSEA.org and write “paper ballot” in the subject line. Please include your full name and your preferred mailing address. The deadline to request a paper ballot for this election was November 1, 2017.

The Treasurer shall oversee the receipt and disbursement of all funds of the VSEA and its various sub-entities. S/he shall keep or cause to be kept a true record of all receipts and disbursements. S/he shall disburse funds only when directed to do so by the Board of Trustees and then only when the disbursement is approved by the President or by the President’s authorized representative; provided however, that s/he shall reimburse any member of VSEA for necessary expenses in connection with the performance of his/her duties when so authorized by the Board of Trustees or the President.

The Treasurer shall keep all corporate funds in accounts under the name of the Corporation and shall submit all books and accounts to the auditor within thirty (30) calendar days following the close of the fiscal year or any other time when so directed by the Board of Trustees. The Treasurer shall furnish a bond in such amount as the Board of Trustees may require, the cost thereof to be paid by the Corporation.

In the absence of the President, the First Vice-President, and the Second Vice-President, the Treasurer shall preside at Council Meeting.

Below is a full list of candidates for this office:

Candidates for VSEA Treasurer:
(Click a candidates name to read their candidate statement, opens a PDF)


More Contributions Needed Now To The NMU’s Sick Leave Bank!

Deadline For Donations Is December 31, 2017

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 really needs your donated hours. NMU members can donate a few hours to your Unit’s sick leave bank from now until December 31, 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.

VSEA members interested in donating some much-needed time to the NMU, Corrections and Supervisory Sick Leave Banks can find a donation form here.

“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.”


Union Rep Schedules Vet’s Home Meetings

VSEA Union Representative Rachael Fields has scheduled a series of meetings to talk with Vet’s Home employees about their issues and concerns.
If you work at the Vet’s Home, please mark one of these dates and times down to stop by and talk with Rachael:

  • November 29 (Crispe Room)
  • December 27 (Crispe Room) 

Available Times: 6:30 a.m., 1:00 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.


Celebrate Old Labor Hall’s 19th Anniversary On Nov. 11

VSEA members are invited to attend the Vermont Workers’ Center’s 19th anniversary celebration of the Old Labor Hall on November 11, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Hall, located at 46 Granite Street in Barre. A meal is being provided by The People’s Kitchen (sliding-scale donations accepted!).
To RSVP for the anniversary celebration, please email kate@workerscenter.org and write “2017 Dinner” in the email subject line. 
Facebook Event Page


Coming February 2018!

VSEA Boston Bruins Bus Trip!

Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
Saturday, February 3
7:00 p.m. 
TD Garden (Section: Balcony 321)
Boston, MA

Based on the popularity of the first few member bus trips sponsored by VSEA, your union’s Membership Recruitment Committee (a small group of rank-and-file state employees who coordinate and host VSEA’s outings) recently polled members to find out what kinds of bus trips members want the Committee to pursue in the future. Coming up number one was a trip to Boston for a Bruins game, so the Committee has scheduled this trip.

$170 Per Person
Includes a bus ride to and from the park, as well as a ticket to the game.

To reserve a seat(s) on the bus, contact VSEA Union Representative Bob South. You can reach Bob by email at bsouth@vsea.org or by phone at 223-5247.

Important! VSEA will be taking the names down of those interested, as members contact VSEA, but you will not be officially on the bus until full payment is received at headquarters. Please make checks payable to VSEA.


Advantage Program Vendor of the Week!

Exclusive For
VSEA Members!

Vermont Tire
90 River St.
Montpelier, VT

1877 Williston Rd.
South Burlington, VT

In the market for some snow tires?

5% off for VSEA Members! Just present your VSEA union card to receive this discount.

Find more member discounts here!


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?


It’s free, just for being a Vermont State Employees’ Association PerksConnect member!


  1. Go to  VSEA.org  and login to your VSEA account. Don’t have an account? VSEA Members can sign up for a free account here!
  2. Once you have logged in, locate and click the yellow "Advantage Program" button on the lower left column of VSEA.org. You can also click here to be redirected to this page.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Questions? Feel free to email vsea@ vsea.org


Need To Update Your Contact Information With VSEA? 
Don’t Have A VSEA Union Card? 
Request A Green VSEA Union Card Here

Have You Been Threatened At Work? 
Send A Threat Report To VSEA Here