VSEA’s Week In Action Newsletter: October 13, 2017
Three newly elected VSEA members joined the union’s Board of Trustees on Wednesday for their first-ever meeting as new leaders. Joining the Board this week were newly elected Second Vice President Cassandra Edson and District 4 Board member John Federico, who is representing members in the Franklin / Grand Isle, Chittenden and Addison regions. Cassandra is a DOL employee in Montpelier and John is an AOT employee who works out of South Hero. Interim Treasurer Sawyer Joecks, who was recently elected by the membership but then announced he would be vacating the post for personal and professional reasons, also attended the meeting.
“There is a bipartisan agreement and consensus about what CHIP should look like for the next five years. But moving Congress to act on this is proving more difficult than we’d anticipate.”
Center on Budget and Policy Prioroties Senior Analyst Jesse Cross-Call,
commenting in an October 12 VTDigger story about Congress’ failure to date to reauthorize funding for the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). According a recent report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, Vermont will exhaust its CHIP funding by January 2018, unless
VSEA Member Sought To Take Over For Retiring District 5 Trustee
A petition is now available online for VSEA members interested in running to fill VSEA’s District 5 Board seat; a leadership role that allows you to serve as the voice for Rutland & Bennington’s VSEA members at the Board table.
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
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
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.
VSEA Judiciary Unit Members Take Their "Come To
The Table Management" Message To
VSEA members belonging to the union’s Judiciary Unit were out leafletting Wednesday morning in front of the Vermont Supreme Court building in Montpelier and in front of the Washington County Court House in Barre. The leaflet workers were distributing is intended to educate the public about this group’s ongoing struggle to get Judiciary management to the bargaining table in a timely fashion, meaning now, as opposed to management’s desired early 2018 start.
Pictured here leafleting are VSEA Judiciary Unit members Bill Capasso (in Montpelier) and Beth Aiken (in Barre). Also helping with leafleting today were VSEA Board members Cassandra Edson and William Wells.
VSEA FOIA Review Finds Average Of 10.6 Assaults Per Month On VPCH Workers From January 2015 To September 2017
VSEA Communications Director Doug Gibson and Organizer Danielle Warner were at the Department of Mental Health on Tuesday to review patient-on-worker “incident reports” at the Vermont Psychiatric Hospital (VPCH) from November 2016 up until the very serious assault that occurred on September 12, 2017. That assault, which injured four employees, prompted VSEA to issue a press release, urging DMH to take steps now to better protect frontline VPCH workers.
VSEA found there to be an average of 10.6 assaults per month on frontline VPCH employees in its review(s) of patient-on-worker assaults “incident reports” filed by the workers from January 2015 to September 2017 (Note: the new VPCH facility did not open until 2016, but assaults were unfortunately still occurring even during the period while workers were waiting for the new facility’s construction to be completed).
While a majority of the incidents reported thankfully did not require the VPCH worker(s) to visit to a hospital lab (spitting incidents seemingly being the most common reason for a lab visit) or emergency room for follow-up, there were still more than a few reports in the mix where there was a serious injury to a worker, and he or she did end up having to pay a visit to a health care facility for assessment and treatment. Some employees even required time off following the incident to heal physically and emotionally. And, sadly, some VPCH workers have had to file multiple incident reports over the years, including an employee who was one of the four viciously assaulted on September 12.
After reviewing the reports, VSEA wants to look into what training and direction VPCH employees receive, if any, to fill out the incident paperwork properly. The union will also be trying to identify who determines what level of urgency a particular incident rises to, meaning is it “minor” or “moderate,” etc. There are boxes to be checked on the official reports, indicating the severity of the incident, and there seemed to be some inconsistency in how incidents were being categorized, including the September 12 incident, which only rose to the level of “minor,” according to the incident reports reviewed by VSEA. Remember, three of the four workers assaulted on September 12 ended up at the ER, two with severe concussions.
VPCH workers report they have been: punched; kicked; scratched; spit on and forcibly grabbed. In addition, they report having objects, including human waste, thrown at them and being verbally threatened, or the employee’s family being threatened.
On the heels of the recent VOSHA complaint against the VPCH, VSEA will be continuing to push for stronger protections for frontline VPCH workers, using the incident-report data collected to help illustrate the patient-on-worker assault issue to lawmakers and relevant State officials.
VSEA VPCH Members Not Happy With Management’s Weak Response to September 12 Patient-On-Worker Assault
Following the brutal September 12 patient-on-workers assault at the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital (VPCH), a formal complaint was filed with the Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration (VOSHA), seeking some kind of remedy to ensure better protection for workers from assault. WIA readers might remember that VSEA issued a press release on September 22 to sound the alarm (again) about the VPCH employees’ dangerous working conditions, calling for management to produce a plan to address the assaults—as soon as possible.
On October 5, VPCH General Counsel Karen Barber sent management’s response to the VOSHA complaint, concerning the September 12 assault, and VPCH workers who WIA has spoken with say the letter’s content does little to make them feel safer while at work. Boiled down, management’s response amounts to “piloting a process to better inform staff” on procedure, holding trainings on relevant rules and inviting certain employees to attend Safety Review Committee meetings.
“I’m upset that the letter doesn’t talk about what steps are being taken to really make sure we aren’t going to get the crap beat out of us on any given day, and how they are going to help us prevent it,” one VPCH worker tells WIA. “Training and meetings won’t make sure the hospital is fully staffed and that we aren’t being mandated all the time, which I know for a fact doesn’t help the situation at all. It actually hurts the employee and our patients and makes the situation here even worse sometimes.”
VSEA is letting VOSHA know of VPCH members’ concerns and questions, and the union is committed to continuing to work with members there to reduce the number of patient-on-worker assaults to zero. As President Dave Bellini said in VSEA’s press release about the assaults, “No one should ever have to report to work every day with the very real expectation that they might be assaulted. This will never, ever be acceptable to VSEA and its members, and we trust the State and DMH agree and will work with VSEA members to end this violence against workers now.”
Note: VSEA and VPCH workers have yet to see how VPCH management will be addressing the “serious” VOSHA citations issued to the facility in June 2017; all of which management contested.
Here’s a reminder of what the citations
Citation 1 – “The employer did not furnish employment and a place of employment which were free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees.”
Citation 2 – “Protective equipment, including personal protective equipment for eyes, face, head and extremities, protective clothing, respiratory devices, and protective shields and barriers shall be provided, used and maintained in a sanitary, reliable condition whenever it is necessary by reasons of hazards of process environment, chemical hazards, radiological hazards, or mechanical irritants encountered in a manner capable of causing injury or impairment in the function of any part of the body through absorption, inhalation or physical contact.”
Citation 3 – “The employer shall assess the workplace to determine if hazards are present, or are likely to be present, which necessitate the use of personal protective equipment.”
More Contributions Needed Now To The Non-Management Unit’s Sick
Donations Being Accepted October 1 To December 31
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
“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.”
Lamoille Valley Chapter Moves Meeting Date To October 26
VSEA’s Lamoille Valley Chapter is moving its next meeting date from October 19 to Thursday, October 26, beginning at 12:00 p.m. at the State Office Building, located at 63 Professional Drive in Morrisville. Food is being provided. The Chapter apologizes for any inconvenience caused by the date change.
If you have any questions please feel free to contact Lamoille Valley Chapter President Aimee Towne via email: email@example.com.
White River Junction Chapter Holding Employee Appreciation Day Event On October 26
VSEA’s White River Junction Chapter is holding an Employee Appreciation Day event on Thursday, October 26, beginning at 11:00 a.m. at the State Office Building, located at 118 Prospect Street in WRJ. Food and beverages being provided.
State Employee Social Worker Crowned Mrs. Vermont International. Makes Child Safety Her Platform
Congratulations to St. Albans DCF Social Worker Chelsea Phillips on recently being crowned Mrs. Vermont International 2018! This week, the VSEA Board of Trustees voted to provide Phillips with non-monetary sponsorship to include promotion of her pageant fundraising efforts to highlight her mission to keep children safe.
From Phillips’ gofundme page (where VSEA members can contribute to help Chelsea!):
“I am a social worker for the state of Vermont. I am a mom of two beautiful children, a wife, and a nationally certified child passenger safety technician. In these roles my number one priority is keeping children safe, which is why I have chosen Keeping Kids Safe Worldwide as my platform.”
Background on Mrs. International pageant from a post to vermontbiz.com:
“The Mrs. International Pageant is owned and operated by International Pageants, Inc., which also operates Miss International and Miss Teen International pageants. It is the only platform-based pageant system dedicated to highlighting women’s accomplishments through community support. Mrs. International showcases married women 21-to 56 years old and features three categories of competition, including interview, evening gown and
Health Care Is The Topic Of The VT Chapter Of The Alliance
For Retired Americans
13th Annual Conference
The Vermont Chapter of the Alliance for Retired Americans (VT ARA) is holding its 13th annual conference on Saturday, October 28, and VSEA retirees and members are invited to attend.
The feature topic of this year’s VT ARA conference is “From Expensive To Affordable: Vermont’s Health Care Future” and featured speakers include Dr. Deb Richter and Public Assets Institute President Paul Cillo. A representative from Senator Bernie Sanders’ office will also be providing an update on S. 1804, which is also known as the “Medicare for All Act of 2017.”
Conference participants are invited to join in the discussion about how we can work together to overcome the challenges that are currently preventing Vermont from being able to provide quality, accessible and affordable health care coverage to all its citizens. The VT ARA wants to send conference participants home with the knowledge and tools they need to educate their fellow Vermonters about the need “to establish universal, publicly financed primary health care in Vermont.”
The official meeting begins at 9:30 a.m. and ends at 2:00 p.m. It’s being held at the Montpelier Senior Activity Center, located at 58 Barre Street in Montpelier.
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: annajaneo@ aol.com or (802) 229-0850.
Newsweek reports this week that a newly released Department of Labor study finds that 94% of workers who belong to a labor union have access to some level of health care coverage, as opposed to just 67% of non-union workers.
“Having access” means that the employer offers health care benefits, but not all employees decide to participate.
“Recognizing that social workers are the largest force on the front lines of the opioid crisis, MA Gov. Charlie Baker said the program will make them far more helpful in assisting people and families dealing with the issue. He says the goal is to make it part of training for all social workers.
‘The most important thing we need to do here is get everybody to understand and accept that they have a role to play in this, and not simply the purview of those who might choose to enter a field or a space where you might see more of this because as we’ve said before, this is everywhere,’ Baker said.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders adds, ‘Almost every front-line social worker will engage with a client struggling with substance use disorder or a family with a loved one struggling over the course of their career. They must be equipped with the best clerical tools to help clients navigate a path to treatment and recovery.’”
Washington State AG Sues Private-Prison Behemoth
No one seems sure if the State and lawmakers will pursue rumored plans to construct an 800-bed, mega-prison somewhere in the state, but you can be sure Geo Group will be throwing its hat in the ring if the rumor is true. But a story this week out of Washington State (along with many other negative ones over the years) will hopefully give lawmakers pause and prompt them to stop Geo Group from even getting in the door.
From Workers’ Independent News:
The state of Washington is suing the country’s second-largest private prison corporation for paying thousands of incarcerated workers only one dollar per day, or in some cases paying them only in snacks, candy or extra chicken. The workers are non-criminal detainees at an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement detention center in Tacoma run by the multi-billion dollar GEO Group.
Assistant Attorney General La Rond Baker is one of those leading the case:
[La Rond Baker]: “GEO relies almost exclusively on detainee labor to perform all of the necessary functions to keep the facility operating and functional…and GEO doesn’t pay them the minimum wage, but pays them instead a dollar a day or snacks or extra chicken for the work. And we believe that violates our state’s minimum wage laws and we also believe that GEO Group, Incorporated has become unjustly enriched by not paying the state minimum wage for a private detention facility that is run for profit. Detainees raised their concerns about the dollar day doing hunger strikes that have been going off-and-on this year. They’ve also raised concerns that quality of food, healthcare, cleanliness of the facility.“
The state’s lawsuit calls for GEO to comply with the state’s minimum wage laws and give up the millions of dollars in ill-gotten profits made by underpaying workers:
[La Rond Baker]: “We are seeking it to put into a fund that would help people who are, in the future, detained in that facility, and to help workers who didn’t have job opportunities because of GEOs practices. So, not specifically individual backpay for people who were in the facility. We’re looking to make sure to alleviate the harm
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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A few weeks back, WIA informed readers that the first in a series of video chats with frontline state employees had posted. It featured longtime Military Department employee Ed Thomas in the first of what the VSEA Communications Department hopes will be many face-to-face sit-downs with VSEA members to talk union and why every member needs to be engaged and informed.
For members who might not have seen VSEA’s September 26 Facebook post about the second in the video-series posting, featuring Reach Up Case Manager
Sign Up Today For February 2018 VSEA Trip To TD Garden For Boston Bruins vs Toronto Maple Leafs Game
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 you want the Committee to pursue in the future. Coming up number one was a trip to Boston for a Bruins game, so the Committee is wasting no time responding, scheduling the following:
VSEA Boston Bruins Bus Trip
Saturday, February 3, 2018
TD Garden, Boston
Section: Balcony 321 $170 Per Person Includes: Bus ride to and from TD Garden in Boston and a ticket to the game.
To reserve your seat(s), please send your non-refundable payment in full to Susan Devoid/Bob South at 155
State Street, Montpelier, VT.
We cannot guarantee you a seat until your payment is received.
Tickets will be distributed on a first come, first serve basis depending on when we receive you payment.
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:
October 25 (Upstairs Board Room)
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.
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.
President Bellini Wants Your Cost-Savings Idea(s)!
In past deficit years, VSEA members have been asked to voluntarily submit cost-savings ideas to headquarters, in hopes that some of your ideas could be adopted and implemented, eventually generating the funds needed to save a service or jobs. In 2010, the Vermont Legislature followed VSEA’s lead, passing legislation to provide cash awards to state employees whose ideas were vetted by a special committee and found to generate savings. Unfortunately, this legislation sunset in 2012, and lawmakers have not resurrected it–yet.
For this reason—and in advance of the 2018 legislative session—VSEA President Dave Bellini is again asking frontline state employees with “department- or agency-specific cost-savings ideas” to please submit them to VSEA as soon as possible. Again, President Bellini is looking for department or agency-specific ideas, and nothing "philosophical," he politely requests.
Thank you in advance for your attention to this very important request.
VSEA’s Field Department continues to host a series of “Steward Summits” across Vermont this year. At the Summits, VSEA Stewards learn the latest developments relating to contract enforcement and safety and health and find out about the 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.
Two, six-hour trainings remain, and every current VSEA Steward is required to attend one session.
Future Steward Summits (all 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.) are scheduled for:
October 20 – LOCATION CHANGED!
New Location: Hampton Inn, 104 Ballardvale Dr, White
November 3 – Holiday Inn, 476 Holiday Drive, Rutland
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.”
If you are a state employee who is threatened on the job, please click here to find the online report form, which will remain confidential, unless otherwise approved by you.
VSEA Advantage Discount Program 2017 Killington & Pico Ski Offers
New this week, the VSEA Advantage Discount Program is pleased to welcome the Killington and Pico Resorts back your union’s popular longtime, ski-discount program:
Killington Ski Resort
Killington Resort is offering VSEA members a discount on day tickets!
$76* each (nearly a $40 savings!)
Killington Resort is offering VSEA members a discount on day tickets!
$50* each (nearly a $30 savings!)
*No blackout dates or restrictions
Program Terms & Conditions:
Upon purchase, a ticket order will be created in the Killington Resort & Pico Mountain ticket system under the client’s name.
Tickets may be picked up at any ticket window location throughout Killington Resort or Pico Mountain.
Killington Resort Tickets are valid any day during the 2017/2018 season at Killington Resort.
Pico Mountain Tickets are valid any day during the 2017/2018 season at Pico Mountain ONLY.
Important! VSEA is waiting for Killington to send a link for members to use, but you can still order your Killington tickets today by contacting VSEA Administrative Assistant Sue Devoid, who will give you the code you need. Sue can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone
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?
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.
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