June 30 Special Events Committee
155 State St.
Montpelier 10:00 a.m.
Independence Day Holiday Most State Offices & VSEA Closed
Retired Members’ Chapter Annual Meeting Is August 13
The VSEA Retirees’ Chapter is hosting its 2014 Annual Meeting and luncheon, Wednesday, August 13, 9:30 a.m., at the Montpelier Elks Club. A delicious buffet luncheon will be provided for $10 for VSEA-RC members whose dues are current through FY14, and $15 for their guests. The Retirees’ Chapter will hold elections for Chapter officers and trustees. Retirees’ Chapter members must be current in their dues in order to vote. To find out if you are current in your dues, please call the VSEA staff liaison to the Retirees’ Chapter, Nikolas Stein, at VSEA H.Q.: 802-223-5247 or TOLL-FREE 1-800-427-5247.
The Chapter mailed this announcement yesterday to VSEA Lifetime Members, so keep an eye on your mailbox. If you don’t receive the VSEA Retirees’ Chapter’s paper announcement in the U.S. by the middle of next week, please call.
VSEA issued the following press release on June 25:
The VSEA Board of Trustees met in special session on June 23 and voted to name Steve Howard to be the union’s new Executive Director. Howard currently serves as VSEA’s Legislative Director; a position he has held since January 2013.
“I am very excited to assume this new role with the VSEA, and I look forward now to using my years of campaign, advocacy and union work to help advance the goals and mission of this great organization and its members,” said Howard. “Mark Mitchell did a great job helping VSEA leaders lay the groundwork to grow our membership and mobilize members at the worksite, and I want to continue to build on what Mark, President Martin and the Board have worked so hard to establish. Board members made it clear during the interview process that they really like the direction VSEA is going and they did not want it to change. I assured them that I don’t either.”
As examples of VSEA’s positive direction, Howard pointed to increased grassroots legislative and political action, stepped-up internal organizing and first-ever external organizing, improved efforts to empower frontline workers, enhanced steward training and the recent successful introduction of the “open bargaining” concept with the union’s State Colleges’ and Judiciary Units.
Prior to accepting the new VSEA position, Howard worked as a victims’ advocate in the Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s office. In addition, he served at the State House as a Rutland House Representative from 1993 to 1999 and then again from 2005 to 2010. Howard also served as Chair of the Vermont Democratic Party from 1995-1997, and he ran for lieutenant governor in 2010.
“VSEA is very pleased to have Steve Howard as our new executive director,” said VSEA President Shelley Martin. “I’ve had the great pleasure to work with Steve many times in the past, and I know what a fighter he is and how much he cares about state employees and the quality of services we provide to Vermonters. I know Steve will be a strong leader and that VSEA members will be well served with him as the executive director of our great union.”
Shortly after VSEA issued its press release, online media source VTDigger published a story about Howard being hired. In it, Howard expounds on some of the positive direction examples contained in the union’s release.
On the issue of direction, Howard explains: “The members decided about two years ago to become a much more member-driven model. That is, essentially organizing around issues that are not necessarily just subjects of the contract. Issues now regularly include non-contract working conditions and workflow efficiency. We are strongly committed to the fact that state employees are the subject matter experts.” He continues: “The more powerful the union … the better the results for both the worker and for state government. I’m really excited about the opportunity to work with the 5,400 members of the VSEA. I think their union is one that’s moving forward in exciting ways that’s significant for the labor movement in Vermont.”
When VSEA met on June 13 with DCF frontline workers in Burlington to discuss their concerns about being scapegoated for the recent tragic and unfortunate deaths of two Vermont children, the employees asked VSEA to let the public know that workers aren’t to blame. In a June 22 Rutland Herald front-page story titled “Union Says Blame The System, Not DCF Workers,” VSEA delivered the employees’ message.
“What our members [in the Burlington office] want to tell the public is that, to a person, the employees are following procedures and instructions to the letter,” VSEA Communications Coordinator Doug Gibson told the paper. “I’m hearing from the workers who are following the rules and procedures and they’re ripped apart by what happened [to Dezirae].”
Gibson also explained that workers had identified caseload and staffing issues as problems areas as well. The reporter augments the employees’ concerns, writing that “The agency currently has a ratio of one social worker per 16 clients, compared to the state recommendation of one per 12.
“The problem is statewide, and we’re bringing in members to testify that they need more help,” Gibson said. “This is an essential service and if it’s not being properly serviced, that needs to be addressed.” He adds that “the union stands ready to represent any state employee who is disciplined. He also said the union is mobilizing to appeal for additional staffing in DCF so employees can devote the proper time and attention to the cases they handle.”
The story also quotes Vermont Law School Employment Law Professor Joan Vogel saying that the calls for disciplinary action are common in cases like the one involving Dezirae. But she warns that they aren’t always the right course of action.
“If the problem is that workers are overloaded and not properly staffed, it’s going to happen again,” Vogel said. “Then you’ve got a real problem.”
To highlight a possible root cause for a lot of DCF’s current problems, VSEA is re-publishing this 2008 WIA entry:
In a Free Press editorial titled “State Cuts Could Affect Children’s Lives,” authors Kim Coe (Vermont Foster and Adoptive Families Association) and Mark Redmond (Vermont Coalition of Residential Providers) implore the State not to cut positions from DCF.
Here are some excerpts:
“While the official word is that no targets have yet been established for specific state departments, if you do the math, it is reasonable to assume that DCF could lose 60 positions.
Our position is that this is unacceptable and would put the lives of our state's most vulnerable children at risk…”
“Staff cuts at DCF, now or next January; take us in the wrong direction. If one of the main themes of the federal [review] is that DCF workers are not spending enough time in contact with children and families, how does reducing their work force by 36, much less a potential 60, rectify that problem? The answer: it does not.
Contrast this with Vermont's response five years ago when the federal government issued a similarly critical report about our state hospital. Was our response to cut the number of staff at the hospital? Hardly. To the contrary, millions of state general fund dollars were poured into the hospital to improve services. Why is the opposite happening with DCF?”
“There are departments, such as the State Police and Corrections, which the Douglas administration is declaring exempt from the 400 cuts, and rightly so. DCF should be added to that list. DCF protects those citizens that have no voice and can not vote, our children. DCF responds to those that are suffering in the cycle of poverty. DCF helps families which are trying to be productive citizens. Its mission is to protect and assist children in our state who suffer from abuse and neglect.
What could be more important?
Reducing the DCF work force will strip the agency of its very ability to perform its core functions of investigating allegations of abuse and neglect, protecting children, and helping families in need. We ask that legislators not allow this to happen.”
Annual Meeting Award Application and Nomination Forms Now Available!
VSEA’s Elections, Rules and Nominating Committee is at headquarters today to tabulate Judicial Unit contract ratification ballots, but the results will not be known until later in the day. VSEA will be issuing a press release once the votes are counted and the contract is either accepted or rejected.
Newport Chapter Invites Members To March On July 4!
VSEA’s Newport Chapter is again sponsoring a float in Derby’s annual Fourth of July Parade. Chapter members and their friends and family are invited to come out and ride on, or march alongside, the Chapter’s parade float. VSEA marchers are being asked to assemble at 9:15 a.m. at the Elk’s Club on Derby Road.
The parade begins at 10 a.m. at the Elk’s Club and ends on Main Street at Nelson’s Farm.
NEK/St. Johnsbury Chapter Seeks Volunteers To Help With July 17 Employee Appreciation Day Event
WIA apologizes for running the wrong date in last week’s edition!
Please note the NEK/ St. Johnsbury Employee Appreciation Day is Thursday July 17!
VSEA’s NEK/St. Johnsbury Chapter is hosting an Employee Appreciation Day event on Thursday, July 17, from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Vermont Department of Corrections, 1266 U.S. Rte. 5. Free ice cream will be served to VSEA members in a complimentary VSEA pint glass, while supplies last.
If you would like to volunteer to help with this Employee Appreciation Day event, please contact NEK/St. Johnsbury President Dianne Rivers at 626-6497 or email@example.com
Reminder: July Steward Trainings Open To All Members!
VSEA Labor Educator Tim Lenoch asked WIA to remind VSEA members that the July trainings listed below are open to all VSEA members and not just stewards. However, members who are not stewards must use your own leave to attend a training(s).
All trainings begin at 9:00 a.m. and end at 4:00 p.m.
Questions? Contact Tim Lenoch for details: firstname.lastname@example.org
*Stewards are strongly encouraged to attend the training specific to your Bargaining Unit or NMU Agency. NMU stewards can attend any of the NMU Agency trainings. Some Agencies do not have a specific training due to size and/or number of stewards.
Annual Meeting Toll-Free Reservation Number Correction
VSEA’s Special Events Committee asked WIA to issue this urgent update to VSEA members trying to dial the Killington Grand’s toll-free reservation line number listed in the recently mailed 2014 VSEA Annual Meeting registration information. The published number with the 888 area code is incorrect.
The correct number to call is 800-282-9955.
If you would like to download a revised registration form that includes the correct phone number, please click here.
Registration Now Open For VSEA’s 70th Annual Meeting
VSEA’s Special Events Committee met this week to finalize the registration form to attend the union’s 2014 Annual Meeting on September 13 at the Killington Resort in Killington. This year, VSEA is celebrating its 70th birthday, so the Committee is sponsoring a special birthday party event on Friday night, September 12.
Here is how the Committee is billing the events on the forms:
“The 70th VSEA Annual Meeting is being held on Saturday, September 13, 2013. All members are encouraged to attend the meeting and participate in the festivities. Friday night there will be a dinner banquet followed by a Happy Birthday VSEA Party (ADULTS ONLY). Feel free to wear your fanciest birthday attire! There will be games and tear-off tickets with the proceeds going to VSEA’s Member Support Fund, so bring your dollars and play!!”
To find official VSEA Annual Meeting 2014 registration forms online, please click here.
VSEA Advantage Discount Program Pleased To Once Again Offer Discounted Day Tickets To:
The Great Escape & Splashwater Kingdom
Lake George, New York
“Two parks of fun for the price of one!"
Park Opens Today, May 23, 2014, & Splashwater
Opens May 24, 2014
Discount Tickets Now Available Through
VSEA HQ & Online*
2014 Regular Day Tickets —
$31 each ($24 Savings)
To Get Tickets:
Send or drop off check (made out to VSEA), noting how many tickets you need. VSEA can mail your tickets or you can pick them up at VSEA HQ in Montpelier. VSEA members can also order tickets online by going to GE’s homepage, looking in the upper right-hand corner for the “Promo Code” box and entering VSEA’s promo code, which can be found here*. GE Phone Number: 1-888-792-3500