VSEA’s Week In Action Newsletter: September 12, 2019

VSEA Remembers 

Remembering all those who perished 18 years ago this week in the horrific 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. Also remembering, and thanking again, all the first responders and other public employees who selflessly ran to the scene to assist, some never to return and many others developing chronic diseases from the debris left by the attack. 

Photo: “The Kneeling Fireman,” at 6 E. 43rd St. in Midtown is dedicated to the firemen, police officers and all first responders who served during the 9/11 attacks.



VSEA’s 75th Annual Meeting Is Saturday!

Walk-Ins Welcome!


VSEA is reminding all members and retirees that your union’s 75th Annual Meeting is this Saturday, September 14.

Annual Meeting is VSEA’s most important event of the year. At the meeting, there is discussion about VSEA’s operating budget, legislative priorities and many of the other issues impacting VSEA members and your services. Often, these discussions and debates are followed by a vote by the full body, and every active VSEA member in attendance gets a vote.

VSEA is also hosting a barbeque the night before Annual Meeting, offering members an opportunity to network with colleagues and fellow union members in an informal setting. In addition, prizes and VSEA swag will be awarded to some lucky members attending this year’s Annual Meeting.

Your Union’s 75th Annual Meeting Is Being Held Saturday, September 14, At Okemo Mountain Resort in Ludlow Vermont!

We hope you can make it! Active member walk-ins welcome!

Important! Download A Copy of The 2019 Annual Meeting Warn

(Member Log-in Required)

Learn More About Annual Meeting

VSEA Board’s  Workplace Safety & Security Survey Emailed Earlier Today! 

The VSEA Board of Trustees voted recently to send out a survey to VSEA members to identify employees’ chief safety and security concerns and then work with the relevant state entities to address them. The survey link was emailed earlier today to VSEA members. If you don’t see it, please look in your "Spam" folder to make sure it’s not there. 

The information gleaned from this survey will be useful at the State House in the upcoming session, as VSEA leaders, members and staff continue to make a strong push for improved safety and security for all state employees and the public-at-large who use Vermont services.

In addition to sharing the safety and security survey findings with lawmakers, VSEA will also be sharing them with the membership, the State’s Director of Safety & Security and with the state’s Joint Safety and Health Maintenance Committee.

The VSEA Board thanks all members in advance for completing this important survey.

Note: Response has been great so far today! Thanks!


VSEA Safety & Security Survey

VSEA Schedules Meeting To Hear From Members Impacted By Scare At 133 State Street

VSEA is asking any and all state employees who were impacted by the recent report of a possible shooter inside the 133 State Street–and who want to share what worked and what didn’t with your union–to attend a meeting on Wednesday, September 18. 

Employee Debrief w / VSEA – 133 State Street Scare
Wednesday, September 18
12:00 p.m.
133 State Street
Basement Conference Room #021

Can’t Attend This Meeting? You Can Email Your Union With Input About The Scare

VSEA continues to urge members who were impacted by the recent serious scare at 133 State Street to email your thoughts on what worked and what didn’t. To date, the response has been great, and thanks for that. With VSEA members sitting on a statewide Joint Safety and Health Maintenance Committee, the information gleaned will help these members share with this committee what was most beneficial and what needs to be fixed or implemented.

If you are a VSEA member who was impacted by the event at 133 State Street, and you want to share your views confidentially with VSEA representatives, please submit your thoughts below. Thanks!


Submit Your Thoughts

Attention VSEA Stewards! 

Note: Just two training locations still have room. Three others are full. See list below.

VSEA continues to invite interested Stewards to register today to attend one of five upcoming “Contract Administration and the Steward/Supervisor Relationship” trainings being conducted statewide in October and November by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) and the Vermont Labor Relations Board (VLRB). VSEA will cover any interested Steward’s $20 registration fee. Mileage and lunch reimbursed up to $10. 

The dates for trainings are: 

  • October 9 – Rutland (FULL)
  • October 15 – Berlin (FULL)
  • October 23 – St. Johnsbury
  • October 30 – South Burlington (FULL)
  • November 6 – White River Junction

All trainings begin at 8:30 a.m. and end at 4:30 p.m. Attendees need to provide their own lunch.

It is important to register early, as each training is limited to 25 attendees.

If interested—and to ensure you get a place—please visit this page to fill out and submit your registration formThe deadline for Stewards to let VSEA know is Friday, September 20. 

Bolton Valley Again Offering Discounted Ski & Ride Passes For VSEA Members!

WIA was asked by Bolton Valley Group Sales Manager, Eric Davis, to include the following in this week’s newsletter:

Buy next year’s season pass now and:

  1. Get the lowest price of the year AND…
  2. Ski & Ride the rest of this season FREE!!! That’s right, if you buy next year’s pass now, you can join us for the rest of this season on next season’s pass!


  • Adult (18+):
    Now through April 9: $379
    April 9 – Oct 31: $399
    Final Retail: $449
  • Youth w/ Adult (7-17):
    Now through April 9: $129
    April 9 – Oct 31: $159
    Final Retail: $179
  • Youth (7-17):
    Now through April 9: $175
    April 9 – Oct 31: $199
    Final Retail: $239
  • Senior (65-74):
    Now through April 9: $219
    April 9 – Oct 31: $229
    Final Retail: $239
  • Child (6 & under):
    Now through April 9: $29
    April 9 – Oct 31: $29
    Final Retail: $29

To receive corporate pricing on Bolton Valley All Access Season Passes:

  1. First, log into your VSEA.org account and go this webpage to receive the VSEA discount code.

    Don’t have a VSEA.org account? VSEA members can register a free account here.

  2. Go to www.boltonvalley.com/industry and click “Buy Online” to select the pass products you want
  3. In the Cart view, click on Add/Change Account button to set the passholder’s name and information to each pass product, then click Proceed to Checkout.
  4. Enter promo code in the field provided and then click Apply Code. The cart should be refreshed and show the discounted corporate pricing.

Please contact me with any questions.
Eric Davis
Group Sales Manager

Quote Of
The Week!


"We are betting the farm on Jeb’s desire to to turn the VSC into Southern New Hampshire University.

From a Caledonian Record story this week about VSC Chancellor Jeb Spaulding recently receiving a three-page letter from business and community members supported by Lyndon State College’s student and employee population who are concerned that VSC’s funding problems could lead to closure of the campus. The letter’s reference implies that this group believes the desire is to shutter Lyndon, and possibly other campuses, and put everything online, much like Southern NH University.  

Note: VSEA also continues to monitor any and all discussions about the future of all VSC campuses, including Lyndon, where the union represents administrative, custodial and maintenance employees 


Upcoming Meetings:


Organizer’s Worksite Meeting

  • Tax Department 
    Wednesday, September 18

    12:00 p.m.
    State Office Building
    133 State Street
    Basement Conference Room #021
  • Questions: Contact VSEA Organizer Danielle Warner: dwarner@vsea.org


Talking Points:


VSC Faculty Ratify(?) New Contract, Or Do They?

VTDigger posted a story this week about Vermont State Colleges’ faculty allegedly ratifying a new contract after 16 months of negotiations with the administration. However, the story also reports that VSC Chancellor Job Spaulding is not agreeing to the fact-finder’s recommended contribution to the faculty members’ pension plan. This begs the question that one VTDigger reader post to the story, which is, "isn’t it unusual for one party to “ratify” a collective bargaining agreement to which the other party has not agreed?"

If, in fact, the contract was ratified, the story says it includes a 16% cut to the teachers’ retirements, a small boost in salaries, and no change to health care premiums. 

Note: VSEA has reached out to VTDigger to seek clarification. 

Nurses At Brattleboro Memorial Hospital Vote To Ratify New Contract

VSEA Brattleboro Chapter President Robin Rieske forwarded the following email sent to her today by Stacy Chickering, the president of the Brattleboro Federation of Nurses. 

Dear Friends: 
It is with great pride that we share with you the news that the nurse members of the Brattleboro Federation of Nurses have reached an agreement with the administration of Brattleboro Memorial Hospital. On Wednesday, September 11th, our membership overwhelmingly voted to ratify the contract. 
Our elected bargaining team made the decision early on to open bargaining to all of our members to attend. This increased transparency allowed us to build more power in the workplace. Our strength grew through receiving such tremendous support from our community in the form of petition signers, letters to the editor, and local Windham County labor leaders signing onto a letter of support. 
As a result of our organizing, we were able to secure substantial wage increases, expanded our health insurance benefits, and establish improved practices related to floating and orientation. Our goal for this contract was to reduce nurse turnover at BMH.  The gains we made will allow BMH an advantage in recruiting and retaining nurses, which will lead to better patient outcomes. 
On behalf of the nurses, we want to extend our sincere thank you for your solidarity.  As you continue with your bargaining or campaigns here in the community, please be sure to reach out to us. Your support made a difference in improving our community hospital!
In Solidarity.

Note: Congratulations!

Pennsylvania Corrections Union Leaders Rebut  State’s Staffing Assessment 

The Johnstown Tribune Democrat published a story this week about a press conference by leaders of the PA unions representing corrections employees. The conference was supposed to be about a possible facility closure, but the union representatives also used the forum to question the State Corrections Department’s assessment of current prison staffing levels. This passage from the story should ring familiar to VSEA Corrections members, especially those who viewed the recent WCAX  story on Vermont prison staffing levels:

“The [PA] Department of Corrections has repeatedly testified to state lawmakers that the officer-to-inmate ratio is 5-to-1. This simply isn’t true. This would assume that all officers work every day, 24 hours a day, which is impossible,” said PSCOA President Larry Blackwell. “The real ratio is about 100 inmates to every officer. In many instances, officers are being left alone with 100 or more inmates at any given time. No officer should ever be left alone. This must be addressed.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections disputes that there are understaffing issues within the system, said department spokeswoman Susan McNaughton.

Photo: Seven Days

Longtime Labor Reporter Pens New Book On Status & Importance Of Unions

Common Dreams posted on September 9 about a new book just released by longtime New York Times labor reporter Steven Greenhouse and titled "Beaten Down, Worked Up: The Past, Present and Future of American Labor"

Here’s an excerpt from the Common Dreams interview with Greenhouse about his book:

Q: You tell this story about what your mother said to you, when you were in Wisconsin while [then Governor] Scott Walker was cracking down on the public sector unions.

My mother was born in the 1920s, she was a teenager during the Great Depression. I was in Madison, Wisconsin, covering the fight to defeat Scott Walker’s big effort to weaken public sector unions, to gut their right to collective bargaining, and really make their health and pension plans worse. I was on the phone with my mother. She was 86 at the time. This was back in 2011. And she said, "When I was growing up, people used to say, ‘Look at the good wages and benefits that people in a union have. I want to join a union.’ Now people say, ‘Look at the good wages and benefits that union members have. They’re getting more than what I get. That’s not fair. Let’s take away some of what they have.’"

And I add in my book, "Her comments captured an unfortunate loss of solidarity among Americans, as well as a lamentable impulse not to lift each other up, but to take away from other workers who might have it a little better."

Which reminds me — nowadays, a lot of corporations say, "We’re a much wealthier nation than in the 1930s, when the union movement took off. Corporations treat their workers well, rely on us, we’ll take care of you."

Don’t tell that to many workers at Wal-Mart, or Amazon, or McDonald’s. And in my book, I quote Martin Luther King Jr.’s response to this. He said, "The labor movement was the principle force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress. Out of its bold struggles, economic and social reform gave birth to unemployment insurance, old age pensions, government relief to the destitute, and above all, new wage levels that meant not mere survival, but a tolerable life. The captains of industry did not need this transformation. They resisted it until they were overcome."


This Week:

VSEA’s 75th Annual Meeting Is Saturday!

VSEA Board’s  Workplace Safety & Security Survey Emailed Earlier Today! 

VSEA Schedules Meeting To Hear From Members Impacted By Scare At 133 State Street

Attention VSEA Stewards! Training Opportunity

Bolton Valley Again Offering Discounted Ski & Ride Passes For VSEA Members!


Talking Points:


VSC Faculty Ratify(?) New Contract, Or Do They?

Nurses At Brattleboro Memorial Hospital Vote To Ratify New Contract

Pennsylvania Corrections Union Leaders Rebut  State’s Staffing Assessment 

Longtime Labor Reporter Pens New Book On Status & Importance Of Unions




September 18
Organizer’s Worksite Meeting: 133 State Street 
State Office Building
Basement Conference Room, #021
12:00 p.m.

September 20
OCS Labor / Management Committee Meeting
155 State Street
9:00 a.m. 


Important Reminders:


Possible Dues Increase Proposal Warned

VSEA BAC Members’ Update On Blue Cross Claims Issues

State Employees Who Are Threatened On The Job Should File "eAlert" Form

Told You’re Being Investigated?
Watch This Video!

What You Should Know About The Anti-Worker Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court Ruling

Getting Ready To Retire? Retired Already? Join The VSEA Retired Members’ Chapter!

What Is The VSEA Advantage Program?


Thank you for reading Week In Action!


Possible Dues Increase Proposal Warned

The VSEA Board of Trustees WARNed members via email about "the potential" for a dues-increase proposal to be introduced at this year’s VSEA Annual Meeting on September 14 at the Okemo Resort in Ludlow. 

The proposal WARN was sent to the primary email address that VSEA currently has on file for you. If you do not recall receiving an email from VSEA headquarters on August 19, please look in your “Other” or “Spam” folders before contacting headquarters to request a copy. You can update your contact information here anytime.

Don’t Recall Seeing This Email?

VSEA Benefits Advisory Committee Update On Blue Cross Claims Issues

VSEA’s Board and Benefits Advisory Committee, via WIA, recently messaged VSEA members and retirees about issues with Blue Cross / Blue Shield’s claim process. 

BAC Committee member Cindy Chornyak asked WIA to include this update this week, and we are happy to oblige.

Regarding the Blue Cross claims problems our health plan has experienced since January 1, 2019:  We want members to know that your VSEA representatives have been working closely with the State on your behalf to get these issues resolved. In May of this year, through the Benefits Advisory Committee, VRSEA Trustees and the VSEA members sent a strongly worded letter to the Commissioner of Human Resources, citing the many claim problems that our plan members have encountered.  We asked the State to assess the maximum performance penalties available under its contract with Blue Cross for the poor performance. And we are pleased to announce that to date in 2019, our health plan has assessed over $132,000 in performance penalties.

Recently VSEA learned of another newly discovered glitch in the Blue Cross claims system. Blue Cross has been assessing a $30 specialist co-pay for certain provider claims that should have a $25 regular co-pay instead. This can occur, for example, when a member sees a Nurse Practitioner instead of a doctor, which is fairly common these days. Our plan does not require that members choose a primary care physician. Claims by Nurse Practitioners or Physicians Assistants working with a physician should be covered the same as the physician’s claim.  

The State Benefits Office has asked Blue Cross for a date certain by which this glitch will be fixed and for a complete rundown of all state health plan members who have been impacted since January 1, when the new Blue Cross claims system came online. Blue Cross has promised that once the fix is in place, they will reprocess all affected member claims and fix any errors that might have occurred. Members do not need to take any action; any misprocessed claims will be reprocessed and correctly paid by Blue Cross. VSEA is closely monitoring this situation on your behalf as well.

VTPAC Silent Auction Needs Your Donations!

The VSEA members of the Vermont Political Awareness Committee (VTPAC), the group that helps make sure candidates that support your​ interests get elected to office, is looking for donations for a silent auction to be held the weekend of Annual Meeting.

Members willing to donate anything from homemade goods to services at the businesses of family or friends—or anything else that you think people would be interested in bidding on—should contact VTPAC Chair Kara Haynes at ​karahaynes802@gmail.com.

State Employees Who Are Threatened On The Job Should File "eAlert" Form

We are reminding members that there is an online form to fill out if you are threatened while at work

Find The State’s “eAlert” Homepage Here
Important: Once you land on the eAlert page, you will see an entry labeled “threat” in the menu provided. Click on it and you land on a page with written instructions and fields to complete.
In November 2017, the current Secretary of the Administration sent the State’s “Workplace Safety and Security” policy to state employees, and VSEA members are encouraged to read through the different policies, examples and responses, prior to an actual event occurring.

Told You’re Being Investigated? Watch This Video!

Please take a few minutes on a break to watch the video, and know that the information being relayed could very well save your job someday. Remember, as a VSEA member, you are entitled to no-cost representation in investigatory meetings that may lead to discipline. Non-members, however, must now pay a rate of $250 to $350 per-hour for the same level of representation!

More: Know Your Union Rights

Not currently a VSEA member?
You can sign up online.

What You Should Know About The Anti-Worker Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court Ruling

If you haven’t already, begin educating yourself today about what the Janus decision means—or supplement what you know already. Please also inform your co-workers about this Janus page and talk with them about what you learned and remind them of the importance of a union in their everyday life. You could make a difference. Every study shows that nothing is more effective than member-to-member communication.​

Learn More On VSEA.org

Getting Ready To Retire? Retired Already? Join The VSEA Retired Members’ Chapter!

Long-time VSEA activist and leader Terry Lefebvre is asking VSEA members getting ready to retire to join the VSEA Retirees’ Chapter to continue to be an active and engaged union member, even in retirement. Lefebvre also appeals to VSEA members to talk up the co-workers they know who might be preparing to retire. If you already belong to the Retired Members’ Chapter, a big thanks to you.

Learn More Here About The VSEA Retired Members’ Chapter

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!

Learn More!

Questions? Feel free to email 
vsea@ vsea.org


Need To Update Your Contact Information
With VSEA? 

Don’t Have
Union Card? 

Request A Green VSEA Union Card

Have You Been Threatened
At Work? 

Send A Threat Report To VSEA

Are You A
Council Member?

Join the VSEA Council Facebook group here!

Are You A
Chapter President?

Join the VSEA Chapter Presidents 
group here!

Are You A

Join the VSEA Steward Facebook
group here!





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