VSEA issued the following press release on Tuesday, October 2:
VSEA President Dave Bellini and the VSEA Board of Trustees are cheering the news this morning that the union now represents more than 6,000 Vermont public employees (6,007 as of this morning)! This is the highest number of members in VSEA’s 73-year history.
“At a time when many unions are struggling to maintain current membership levels, VSEA is pleased that our focused efforts to increase our membership over the past few years are working,” says Bellini, who the VSEA membership recently re-elected to a new two-year term. He continues, “VSEA leaders are not oblivious to the many challenges confronting public- and private-sector unions across the country, but rather than sit idly by, we directed VSEA members and staff over a year ago to reach out to non-members about the importance of belonging to a union. Judging by the numbers, VSEA’s pro-union message is certainly resonating. It’s a message that the union fights for workers’ paychecks, healthcare, retirement and safe and healthy working conditions. Without a union, state employees could be treated the same as temporary state employees, meaning you have no rights, no benefits and no voice in your how you are treated at work.”
Bellini thanked VSEA’s Membership Recruitment Committee for its role in leading a union-wide effort to help recruit “agency-fee” payers to full membership and the benefits that come with it.
“This group of rank-and-file state employees sponsored a very successful recruitment campaign that helped VSEA make history today when we hit the 6,000-member number,” adds Bellini. “There is nothing more effective than frontline workers recruiting frontline workers. Our members are able to highlight wins like hard-fought contracts and the Judiciary workers’ recent victory in getting more pay for docket clerks. There’s no greater recruitment tool than VSEA’s 73-year proven track record of fighting for Vermont state employees. We reached a milestone this week, and we’re not taking our foot off the gas.”
“Unions have to provide services and representation equally to everyone in a bargaining unit. But if you can get those services for free, a lot of people won’t pay them. You have a classic
Harvard Law Professor Benjamin Sachs, commenting on Janus vs. Illinois lawsuit in Governing.com post.
VSEA Blasts Recent Patient-On-Worker Assaults At The Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital
VSEA issued the following press release just after WIA published on September 22:
VSEA President Dave Bellini is extremely concerned about a copy of a September 21 letter the union received today. It’s from a senior Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration (VOSHA) official to the Co-CEO/General Counsel at the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital, informing her that a “workplace hazard” was reported to have occurred at the facility on September 12 and that VPCH management now has 10 days to conduct an investigation and provide findings to VOSHA by October 5.
The September 12 “workplace hazard” mentioned in VOSHA’s letter was actually a vicious assault by a VPCH patient on three of the facility’s frontline workers and a traveling nurse. Two of those assaulted went to the emergency room with “serious concussions.” Here’s how the VOSHA letter describes the assault:
“On September 12, several mental health specialists reported increased agitation and escalation of behaviors in a patient to the charge nurses and to [the] Interim Director of Nursing. Nothing was done to address the issue or prevent staff from risk of assault. [The Interim Director of Nursing] even told one MHS [who was assaulted] in response to her asking for more help to address the issue, ‘If anyone can handle it, it’s you.’ As a result, 4 employees were assaulted and three of them were sent to the emergency room. [Two] received serious concussions and one [other] was injured as well. Another employee received a scratch where the skin was broken.”
“VSEA thanks VOSHA for its quick attention to this brutal assault on four hospital employees who were just trying to do their job, and we demand that the State and the Department of Mental Health take the necessary steps now, not tomorrow, to reduce the alarming number of patient-on-employee assaults at the VPCH and at every other Vermont health care facility…like the Vets’ Home, for example,” says VSEA President Dave Bellini. “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.”
Bellini notes that VSEA did a public records request earlier this year and found that, in a year-and-a-half period prior to November 2016, more than 200 patient-on-employee incidents (some serious, most thankfully not) were recorded at the VPCH in files provided to the union by facility management. VSEA filed an additional records request this week to obtain records from November 2016 to present (Update: records are being reviewed on Tuesday, October 10).
Read VOSHA Letter Here (Names redacted by VSEA to protect injured employees’ identities)
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
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.
If you have any questions please feel free to contact White River Junction Chapter President Don Shaw via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
VSEA is sending heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and co-workers of 29-year VSEA member Jamie Benneig, a DOC Work Crew Leader stationed in St. Albans, and VSEA member Detra Mailhoit, who retired from state service in 2012 after working 24 years as a DOC employee in Rutland. Benneig courageously fought cancer for many years, but, sadly, he passed away on September 21, and Mailhoit was the passenger in a car crash this week on Route 100 that tragically took her life.
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 Insurance Benefits Enrollment In St. Johnsbury and Morrisville Next Week
Learn More Or Schedule An Appointment Today!
By Appointment Only:
VSEA Insurance Representative Joanne Woodcock will be at the following locations to talk with interested VSEA members about member-only insurance benefits.
1016 US Route 5
October 11 and 12
12:00 to 4:00
63 Professional Drive
12:00 to 4:00
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.
Email Joanne@vseainsurance.com for an appointment. Please provide your age, hourly wage and job description so I can send a quote BEFORE we meet.
State Instructs Departments & Agencies To “Level-Fund” For Fiscal
Several news outlets recently reported on a September 21 memo to State Agency and Department brass from newly appointed Finance and Management Commissioner Adam Greshin that instructs them to level fund their budgets for fiscal year 2019. According to a VTDigger story, funding requests for 2019 (which begins July 1, 2018) should be flat and “filtered through the prism of the [State]’s strategic priorities: economic growth, affordability, and help for the most vulnerable.” Greshin attributes the State’s request primarily to uncertainty about looming federal program and budget cuts, as 40% of Vermont’s spending depends on federal dollars coming into the state.
Initial budget requests are due to Greshin by October 19.
Unions Nationwide Sounding Alarm About Supreme Court’s Impending Janus vs. Illinois Ruling
A few years ago, WIA readers might remember seeing articles pop up about a court case named Friedrichs vs. California Teachers’ Association; a case public-sector unions feared could strip away their hard-won right to represent “non-members,” or in VSEA’s case, “agency-fee” payers. The case collapsed after the untimely death of Justice Scalia, who almost certainly would have voted against labor unions’ right to represent “non-members.” The Court’s 4-4 vote deadlock could not be broken, but now that a new Justice has been appointed, it can. For a new vote to occur, all that was required was for a new case about union dues to come before the Court, and it recently did, in the form of a case named Janus vs. Illinois.
Since the Supreme Court announced it would hear the Janus case, there has been a ton written about the lawsuit’s adverse implications for unions and, quite frankly, our nation’s workers as a whole. VSEA members are urged to educate yourself about the Janus case and what it might mean for Vermont state employees and all of America’s unionized public-sector workers—and eventually our nation’s unionized private-sector workers as well.
Here’s a sampling of some of the more recent Janus articles:
Note: VSEA is urging members to begin educating your co-workers about the importance of VSEA in the daily life of every Vermont state employee, be it through negotiated wage and benefit improvements, effective contract enforcement to resolve a workplace dispute, quality representation of your interests at the State House, an assurance of dignity and respect in the workplace, etc., etc. The time to remain silent about the importance of VSEA to you and your co-workers is rapidly coming to a close, so please do not delay. All a current state employee has to do is look at how life is for public employees in right-to-work states, or how life is for temporary workers right here in Vermont. Ask yourself, “Do I really want to give up everything that VSEA members have fought so hard to win for state employees in the union’s
NPR reports this morning that the U.S. Supreme Court heard three cases this week to determine whether or not it is legal for companies to have employees sign an agreement that prevents them from participating in collective, or group, arbitrations against a company to resolve a workplace dispute.
"Most workers in the United States aren’t even aware of what arbitration is, never mind that they’ve signed this kind of agreement, maybe on their first day at work in a stack of papers, or maybe through clicking a box through their orientation materials," says Ceilidh Gao, an attorney for the National Employment Law Project, a workers’ rights group.
“Gao and others say collective action, whether it’s union organizing or class-action lawsuits, are a key tenet of labor law, with a long history of government protection. They argue employers should not be able to nullify that by inserting a clause in some paperwork.
Gao adds that most workers drop their cases, instead of going it alone, which means employers aren’t forced to correct systemic workplace violations.”
Private IT Vendor’s Security Breach Is Another Example Why Privatizing Services Is Often So Ricky
According to several news reports this week, including one from the Associated Press, Vermont’s Attorney General TJ Donovan is requiring private IT firm SAManage USA to pay the State $264,000 for a 2016 data security breach that exposed the Social Security numbers of 660 Vermonters enrolled in Vermont Health Connect. A Vermonter using the system reported the breach, and Donovan says he believes the exposure would have gone unreported if the AG’s office had not intervened.
The Albany Times Union reports today about a half-dozen Public Employee Federation (PEF) nurses working at state agencies and facilities in New York who volunteered to travel to Puerto Rico to assist with hurricane relief and were granted permission to do so.
“According to a Sept. 30 letter to union members from PEF President Wayne Spence, the half-dozen nurses are being asked to bring their own stethoscopes and blood pressure cuffs, and were warned that they would be sleeping on cots during their stay on the devastated island.”
The volunteers leave Wednesday on a charter flight being paid for the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).
Nebraska Corrections Workers Rally At Capitol
Nebraska KETV reports September 30 on a September 29 rally at the Nebraska state capitol, conducted by frontline Corrections workers and their union. The protesting workers’ issues, such as inmate violence, understaffing and mandated overtime, mirror many of problems VSEA Corrections members have repeatedly asked Vermont lawmakers to address.
"I say every day I have never seen it this bad, and every day, it gets a little worse," said Carla Jorgens, a corporal officer at the Nebraska State Penitentiary.
Jorgens is a 20-year veteran of the department and said she’s spent the last five years of her career hoping for change.
"We’re looking for it, we’re working for it, but we’re not getting it," Jorgens said, adding that the penitentiary is grossly understaffed, forcing employees to work 16-hour days multiple times a week.
"It’s not safe for the inmates, and it’s most definitely not safe for the staff," Jorgens said.
She also said staff members are hard to retain, explaining that new employees won’t stay because of mandatory overtime and veteran employees don’t have an incentive to.
"After 20 years of service, I make about $1.20 more an hour than a new hire does off the street today," Jorgens said.
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.
Do you have Week In
We want to know what you think of VSEA’s Week In Action Newsletter or if there is anything we could be doing better.
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 – Hotel Coolidge, 39 South Main St., White River Junction
November 3 – Holiday Inn, 476 Holiday Drive, Rutland
Are Required Emergency Drills Happening Where You Work?
With the bomb threat this summer at the State Office Building in St. Albans, VSEA wants to find out if the State of Vermont is following BGS emergency-situation protocol where you work.
The protocol on BGS’ website reads:
"All owned and leased State Office Buildings occupied by State employees will practice a minimum of (1) evacuation fire drill every year and (1) Active Shooter and hostile intruder drill at least every two years. A record of these emergency drills should be recorded in the EML by the designated ECM on the day of the drill. The Safety Committees will coordinate drills with their respective sites. The Safety Committees shall meet within (14) days after the drills to discuss, critique, and analyze the drill."
VSEA wants to know if the proper training is occurring at your workplace and when it occurred last. Also, if you are unaware of this protocol, that’s not good and VSEA wants to know this as well and also where you work.
Please send an email with your input to VSEA at email@example.com. Write "Protocol Status" in the subject line.
Threatened While On The Job? VSEA Wants To Know
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.
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.