"The decision to fully fund the ARC made by the Legislature and the administration is something that shows more financial discipline.I think we’ve seen a commitment by both the administration and the General Assembly to do that. That’s a good thing. That’s something the ratings agencies look at, the pension liabilities."
State Treasurer Beth Pearce, quoted in a November 4 Time Argus story about her recommendation to fully fund the state employee and teacher pension plans in the upcoming budget.
State employees weren’t happy about having to weather an 18% health-care premium increase two years ago, which, according to VSEA President Dave Bellini, was caused by the State’s raiding of the fund’s entire $38 million reserve and by implementing “premium holidays"—against VSEA’s advice. But late last week, VSEA learned that the additional funding from employees has allowed the fund to stabilize, meaning its reserve has now been nearly replenished. This is really good news, and, because of it, VSEA was informed that employees’ health care premiums will rise by only 3%, beginning January 1, 2017. This increase is well below the historical 6% increase level usually seen, and the high-level increase other plan’s are experiencing.
"The low increase is because state employees stepped up two years ago, and we went to the legislature and exposed the State’s fund-raiding practices to ensure it wouldn’t happen again," explains Bellini. He adds that most of the 3% increase (1.65%) is due to the claims experiences and inflation, and the remaining 1.35% will further strengthen the plans reserves to help mitigate drastic premium increases in future years.
Results Of VSEA General Election “Endorsement Survey” Online
VSEA was alerted this week about some recent discussions on social media, concerning which candidates for statewide office VSEA members supported in a recent general election "endorsement survey." In an effort to address some of the misinformation being floated, here are the official results of that survey for all members and the public to see.
Don’t Forget To Vote On Tuesday, November 8!
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.”
Local Candidate VSEA Questionnaire Answers Online For Review
Recently, VSEA’s Legislative Committee sent questionnaires to candidates for local office. In an effort to better educate members about these candidates, prior to the November 8 general election, VSEA is pleased to make each candidate’s questionnaire answers available for review here. Please take time to review their answers and then consider casting your vote on November 8 for candidates whose answers reflect that they will work hard to support and defend state employees and the services you provide.
This Campaign Season, Ask Yourself: “Is It Fact, Or Is It Myth?”
With Vermont’s general election cycle now gearing up, it means there will now be a lot of rhetoric flying around about why Vermont continues to have budget deficits, with some candidates almost certainly talking about having to “streamline” or “modernize” government” or they will propose giving more tax breaks to corporations to entice them to do business here. VSEA has listed some of the more prevalent myths we hear each election about Vermont’s economic and social climate, and included a fact to counter each. During the campaign, VSEA members are urged to question candidates who continue to promote some of the more common myths.
Here’s an example:
Myth: Too many Vermont young people are leaving the state.
Fact: From a July 15, 2016, VPR story: “According to data from the Internal Revenue Service, nearly as many young people are moving to Vermont as those leaving, dispelling the popular notion that Vermont is losing young people in droves.”
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.”
Don’t forget (how could you really?) that Tuesday, November 8, is Election Day 2016. Please cast your votes for the candidates who are committed to protecting Vermont’s quality public services and the men and women who provide them daily. Go here to review a full listing of VSEA-endorsed candidates.
Also, the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office is making it easy for Vermonters to educate themselves, prior to voting on November 8. If you aren’t sure where your polling place is or want to see a sample ballot to better prepare, then visit the Secretary of State’s online “My Voter Page.”
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.
The VSEA Elections, Rules and Nominating Committee recently mailed run-off ballots to Judiciary members to decide the winner of the election to the Bargaining Team’s final seat. Judiciary members Penny Hogan and Deb Stevens received an equal number of votes in the first election, so a run-off election is being conducted.
The deadline to vote is November 18, at 4:30 p.m. Ballots must be returned to VSEA by 4:30 on November 18.
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 email@example.com.
The Times Argus reports on November 4 that State Treasurer Beth Pearce is recommending that the state set aside $52,065,396 to fully fund state employee and teacher pension plans. Pearce says the amount “would cover annual contributions and continue on a course to have the state employees’ pension system retire all of its unfunded liabilities by 2038.” She adds that not all of the $52 million recommended ARC payment would come from the state’s general fund, saying she expects the state will need to contribute between 36 percent and 40 percent of that number from the general fund.
The Shumlin Administration took a pass on whether or not it supports the Treasurer’s allocation, instead deferring the decision to whoever is elected governor on Tuesday.
Vermont Superior Court Judge Rules That The Records Of A Private Contractor Doing Work For The State Are Public
The Associated Press reports on November 3 that Washington County Superior Judge Mary Miles Teachout recently ruled that records belonging to private vendor Vermont Information Technology Leaders (VITL) are “public,” which is a victory for Vermonters with questions about some of the deals the State enters into with various private contractors. The ruling was prompted by a Vermont citizen’s request for VITL records related to its management of medical records for the State. VITL initially denied the citizen’s request, saying it is a private, non-profit firm, but the judge disagreed and ruled that VITL is the “functional equivalent” of a public agency.
“VITL is the functional equivalent of a public agency for purposes of Vermont’s Public Records Act.” She then references a series of laws passed between 2005 and 2015 that controlled different aspects of what VITL does.
“VITL is and always has been nearly exclusively funded by or through the state. The Legislature has always controlled substantial aspects of what VITL does, the composition of its board, some of its internal policies, how it interfaces with the state, and how the state will interface with it. VITL was not created exclusively by the state, but the appearance is that it likely never would have been created without the state’s involvement, and continuing state involvement appears to be vital to its ongoing existence and functioning.”
The judge said she would hold a status conference soon to determine what will happen next.
Note: In 2010, WIA reported on a similar ruling from the Tennessee Supreme Court. Here’s a snippet from that piece:
In April 2007, a prisoners’ rights publication called Prison Legal News went to court to try to force Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) to turn over documents on lawsuits and complaints against the company. CCA maintained that because it was a private corporation, it was not subject to Tennessee’s open-record laws, but the court disagreed with CCA and instructed the company to turn over the records. CCA appealed the decision to the state’s Supreme Court, but this week the court declined to hear the company’s appeal. In fact, Appeals Judge Michael Swiney felt so strongly about the case that he wrote in his opinion “With all due respect to CCA, this Court is at a loss as to how operating a prison could be considered anything less than a governmental function.” Prison Legal News’ Alex Friedmann told AP the ruling was a positive development “because taxpayers have a right to know how CCA is spending their money.
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!
Updated! VSEA Members Invited To Alliance For Retired Americans 12th Annual Conference
The Vermont Chapter of the Alliance for Retired Americans (VT ARA) is holding its annual conference on Saturday, November 12, and VSEA retirees and members are invited to attend. The feature topic of this year’s VT ARA conference is “Health Care For All: The Vermont Way,” and speakers include Dr. Deb Richter, Paul Cillo and Ellen Oxfeld.
Conference participants are invited to help shape the future of health care in Vermont. Guest presenters will address the confusion surrounding the proposed “All Payer and Accountable Care Organization” model the state is considering. The VT ARA is inviting participants to help develop the organization’s 2017 health care goals and then strategize about how best to achieve them. Individuals and organizations are invited to attend and become engaged!
The official meeting begins at 10:00 a.m. and ends at 2:00 p.m. It’s being held at the McClure Multigenerational Center at 241 North Winooski Avenue in Burlington.
Conference Registration is $15 per person or $20 for 2 and includes morning refreshments. The cost of lunch is $10, and membership in the Vermont Alliance for Retired Americans is $10 per year. For information or to register, contact Jane Osgatharp, President: firstname.lastname@example.org or (802) 229-0850.
California State Workers Conducting Strike Authorization Vote
After six months of futile contract talks, which finally led to impasse, more than 95,000 SEIU Local 1000 state employees began voting this week on strike authorization. Like VSEA, Local 1000 represents state employees in many agencies and departments, including IT workers, nurses, administrative and clerical staff, and DMV and Corrections workers.
From a story about the possible strike:
“The state’s latest offer includes a meager 2.96 percent salary increase during the first year that will be more than offset by its demand for a 3.5 percent increase to employee retiree health care contributions. Wages would then increase under the state’s offer by 12 percent over the subsequent four years. This inadequate offer, which amounts to a wage freeze or even a wage cut when inflation is taken into account, comes in spite of the fact that the state has experienced its third annual budget surplus in a row after nearly eight years of deficit. In fact, successive state administrations were able to “resolve” the state’s budget crises entirely on the backs of workers and especially on state workers who have seen their incomes and living standards drop precipitously.”
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.