“The reason [the Vermont Veterans’ Home] is the finest veterans home in the country is not because we have over 80 acres of land, deer parks, trout ponds and this beautiful building. The reason is because of the staff you see here. That is exactly why it is the finest home in the country.”
Vermont Veterans’ Home Chief Operating Officer Al Faxon, in remarks this week at a graduation ceremony to welcome six new Licensed Nursing Assistants to the Home; three of whom were existing workers who completed the coursework and are now working as LNAs.
Local Candidate VSEA Questionnaire Answers Now 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.
VSEA’s Legislative Department is casting a net to find VSEA members who are interested in volunteering some time to staff a phone bank in support of VSEA-endorsed candidates. The calls will be targeted solely to fellow VSEA members.
If you would like to volunteer a few hours of your time in the coming weeks to make some calls to promote VSEA-endorsed candidates, please contact VSEA Organizing Director Vinnie O’Connor by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.”
Please note that there is a service charge for purchasing online.
VSEA also has tickets available for members to pick up at headquarters, and there is no service charge attached.
Questions? Feel free to contact Laurie Hassett by emailing email@example.com or calling 802-223-5247
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.”
VSEA Judiciary members are appealing to all VSEA members to please sign their online petition. Doing so indicates your support for Judiciary Branch management to agree to establish a fair hearing process to resolve worker pay disputes. A 60-second radio ad about the workers’ fight began running this week statewide. It features VSEA Judiciary Unit member Beth Aiken educating Vermonters about the workers’ pay issue and asking folks to sign the petition.
The Vermont State Colleges’ Board of Trustees voted unanimously on September to proceed with a plan to “unify” the Johnson State and Lyndon State into “one school with two distinctive campuses.”
According to a September 29 Seven Days story, the vote occurred “despite pleas from some campus groups to delay it,” including Lyndon State faculty and an alumni group. The groups contend there are still too many unanswered questions. Many workers at the two campuses, including VSEA members, remain concerned about possible position cuts due to the unification. In the story, the Chancellor says the unification is expected to save $2 million annually, “largely through the elimination of four high-level administrative positions.” He adds that the unification will generate $2 million in new revenue as well. VSEA State Colleges’ Unit members will be closely monitoring the unification process as it progresses.
The two colleges are estimated to begin operating as one accredited college, beginning in July 2018.
Many VSEA members have reached out to VSEA’s Communications Department to ask why they don’t see their union’s posts in their Facebook newsfeed. Facebook has limited space to show you posts, so if you like a lot of Facebook pages, VSEA’s posts may not be appearing in your feed. But fear not, Facebook provides a way to prioritize your favorite pages, so you can ensure you don’t miss VSEA’s posts. It’s an easy process:
Is Your VSEA Work Site Bulletin Board Up To Date? Do You Have A Work Site Bulletin Board?
VSEA’s Organizing Department asked WIA to remind members statewide that, consistent with the contract, there should be a VSEA-designated bulletin board visible somewhere in your work site. This space is reserved for VSEA-only material and hopefully your bulletin board is up to date, but Organizers report seeing more than one bulletin board with outdated, irrelevant or even zero content.
“VSEA Organizers want to get a bulletin board hung in every work site, and we want to make sure the board’s content is from 2016 and not 2006,” explains VSEA Organizing Director Vinnie O’Connor. “I urge members in work sites without a bulletin board—or who want help with their board’s content—to contact VSEA’s Organizing Department. We want to help.”
Note: VSEA Organizers like Jen Larsen (pictured above) ask that you to also make sure your work site bulletin board is accessible, unlike the one pictured here that required Jen to climb on a counter to post material.
(L to R) VSEA staff member Laurie Hassett (who serves in the Guard and was leading a tour of the STARBASE facility for some VSEA staff) and VSEA STARBASE educators/administrators Paige Montgomery and Dan "Strider" Myers.
VSEA staff was at the Vermont Air National Guard base in South Burlington this week to visit with VSEA members who lead the “STARBASE” program, an educational program to "raise the interest and improve the knowledge and skills of youth in science, technology, engineering and math."
Each day, at the STARBASE campus in South Burlington and the one in Rutland, VSEA members are leading the very popular five-day program that educates some 1,500 young Vermonters annually. An estimated 21,000-plus have cycled through the program since its inception. The program is funded by the federal Department of Defense.
Pictured here (l to r) recently in a South Burlington STARBASE classroom are VSEA staff member Laurie Hassett (who serves in the Guard and was leading the tour of the STARBASE facility for some VSEA staff) and VSEA STARBASE educators/administrators Paige Montgomery and Dan "Strider" Myers.
After VSEA posted this story on its Facebook page this week, it prompted VSEA DOC member Steffen Filbotte to write, “I attended the STARBASE program in South Burlington 18 years ago and I will never forget the experience!”
The Non-Management Unit Executive Committee met recently to appoint a new Unit Vice Chair from a pool of applicants. The member chosen is Shawn Ainsworth, a nine-year AOT Maintenance Equipment Specialist who works out the North Montpelier Garage. Ainsworth also serves as Vice Chair of the AOT Labor/Management Committee and is a Council member.
Burlington teachers belonging to the Burlington Education Association (BEA) conducted two “informational pickets” this week, where they educated the public and press about the school board’s recent ill-advised decision to “impose an employment policy on the city’s teachers” in lieu of negotiating a fair contract with them. VSEA member John Howe is pictured here with a picket-line participant, demonstrating his and VSEA’s solidarity with the teachers.
The Burlington teachers need VSEA members’ support and solidarity to reach a fair contract settlement. For more information about how you can help, please click here.
Nearly 60 VSEA members and their families from across the state (some pictured here), representing several agencies and departments, were at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday, September 25 to participate in VSEA’s first-ever "VSEA NASCAR Day." It was a beautiful day for the New England "Bad Boy 300," and the winner was Kevin Harvick in his No. 4 Chevrolet.
Big thanks again to VSEA staff members Bob South and Susan DeVoid for all their work coordinating this event.
Stay tuned for details about the next VSEA trip for members!
New Study Concludes That Privatization Increases Inequality
A September 28 In These Times story, tilted “Contract for Disaster: How Privatization is Killing the Public Sector,” reports on a new study by the group In The Public Interest that concludes what VSEA members have been saying for years (especially those members working side by side with a temp; some for years): privatization increases inequality.
From the story:
"Privatized workers have lower rates of unionization, are paid less than their publicly-employed counterparts, don’t have access to benefits and experience high turnover, the report shows. Sometimes they work side-by-side with government employees, as at the University of California system, something that Cohen says is deliberate.
‘Part of the strategy of management is to contract out part of the work to keep the pressure on the non-contract part of the work,’ he says.
That strategy leaves workers shortchanged—literally. In 2013, the National Employment Law Project found that one in five federal contractors it interviewed was using Medicaid for health care, while 14 percent needed Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP). Reliance on federal benefits shifts costs from employers to taxpayers."
California Governor Signs Bill To Create State-Managed Savings Program For State’s Private-Sector Workers
In early January 2016, WIA reported on a VPR story about an AARP study that revealed how 45 percent of Vermonters working in the state’s private sector do not have any retirement benefit whatsoever. The scary finding was cited in a early winter hearing at the State House, where a committee of lawmakers was exploring ways for workers without any retirement plan to save some money, including looking at if it’s feasible to create a pension system for private-sector workers—possibly modeled on existing plans for state employees, teachers or others. No action was taken this session, but this is not the case in California.
The Sacramento Bee reports on September 29 that Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation this week to create “The California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program;” a state-managed savings program for private-sector workers without one. The program could begin accepting its first contributions in 2018, and the program is open to Californians working someplace with 100 or more employees. Within a year, it applies to all companies with five or more workers.
From the story: “The Secure Choice program, supporters say, would take advantage of economies of scale to automatically put a share of workers’ wages into a retirement fund at low cost, unless they opt out. Contributions would start at 3 percent of a worker’s salary. While employers would be required to set up the plans to accept contributions from workers’ paychecks, they would not be required to contribute to the retirement funds.”
Washington, Illinois and Oregon are also working to set up similar programs.
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.
Bolton Valley Extends Season Pass Offer To VSEA Members
For the fourth year in a row, the VSEA Advantage Discount Program is pleased to offer discounted season passes to the Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Bolton.
VSEA members who order before October 31, 2016, can purchase a discounted season pass for $269!
Discounted youth passes for your family members are also available ($199/$159).
Like last year, this offer is available only to VSEA members who are currently paying full dues to their union.
The sign-up process is pretty straightforward, but, like last year, in order for a member to view the special VSEA discount promo code (which can be found by clicking here), you must be a registered user of the VSEA website, which also requires you to be a full dues-paying member.
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.