On Saturday March 8, VSEA members are invited to join the “Womens’ March For Dignity: Paid Sick Days For All” event. The march is begins at noon at the Christ Episcopal Church at 64 State St. in Montpelier. To find out more about the March 8 march for paid sick days, please click here.
CCTA Drivers Eye Monday For Possible Strike
The Burlington Free Press is reporting that Teamster Local 597 bus drivers employed by the Chittenden County Transportation Authority (CCTA) could strike as early as Monday, unless an agreement with management can be reached on Saturday, which is when the two sides will meet again at the bargaining table.
The Vermont Workers’ Center (VWC) is assisting the Teamster drivers with their contract campaign, and VWC representative Matt McGrath tells the Free Press, “The drivers are very interested in settling their contract, but if management is not interested in settling the contract on Saturday, then drivers are planning on going on strike on Monday. We’ve been working with the drivers, and none of them want to go on strike. They know better than anybody how their riders rely on their service.”
CCTA General Manager Bill Watterson tells the paper that CCTA is prepared to work on Saturday to reach an agreement with the drivers. He explains that four main areas of focus remain in negotiations, including improving the quality of full-time driver positions, clarifying work rules for drivers, improving overall driver working conditions by establishing work rules for a limited number of part-time drivers and increasing compensation for drivers in balance with the cost of living.
VSEA WEEK IN ACTION!
Weekly News From Your Union
March 3, 2014 – March 7, 2014
Judiciary Unit Members Wear Green In Support Of Bargaining Team!
The VSEA Judiciary Unit Bargaining Team is at headquarters today to begin formal negotiations with the State on a new contract. As part of the Team’s contract campaign, VSEA members belonging to the Unit were asked to wear green to work today in support of their Bargaining Team. The message was received, and WIA was pleased to receive photos this morning from a couple of Judiciary worksites, where workers are showing their solidarity by wearing green. Nice going Judiciary workers! Keep up the great work, and continued good luck to the employees’ Bargaining Team.
(Photo Above) Throughout the day, VSEA Judiciary members from several offices have been sending pictures of Judiciary workers wearing green to support their Bargaining Team. Offices represented in the photos include: Barre, Bennington, Franklin, Addison and White River Junction. Thanks for sending the photos!
State Says It Wants To Work With VSEA To Resolve Issues With Temporary Workers!
A February 28 Vermont Public Radio report about VSEA’s campaign to curtail the State’s dependence on temporary workers (a.k.a. “the invisible workforce”) got play this week in several other Vermont media outlets, including the Associated Press, which published a condensed version of the VPR story and then fed it out nationally.
The story focuses on VSEA’s proposed legislation to place a cap on the number of hours a temporary employee would be permitted to work (currently 1520 hours) before the position’s necessity would have to be reviewed by either the Legislature or Joint Fiscal Office. If the position is found to be necessary, the bill calls for it to be converted to a full- or part-time classified position, entitling the employee to the wages and benefits afforded to them by the VSEA-negotiated contract.
The VPR reporter quotes VSEA First Vice President Michelle Salvador’s recent testimony to legislators in support of the union’s temp legislation, including her reminder that, in many cases, temps have simply become stand-ins for positions formerly held by classified state employees. Salvador also explains how the State’s reliance on temps is undercutting workers’ rights, eroding VSEA’s strength and deteriorating the quality of services being delivered to Vermonters. “This is horribly unfair and inconsistent with Vermont values,” Salvador testified. “It is disrespectful of the hard-earned collective bargaining agreements of state employees, and it leads to disruption and sometimes chaos in state government.”
Secretary of the Administration responds to VSEA’s temp legislation in the story, telling the reporter that the State’s use of temps predates the current administration and that a majority of the temps are either seasonal or fill-ins for workplace emergencies, including family or medical leave. However, Spaulding then concedes that there are instances where temps are functioning as full-time employees, and that the State is willing to look at these cases and offer full-time, classified employment to the temp in question. “In instances where there are people that are working a lot of hours a week for long periods of time, we are looking at those situations, and think we ought to be careful that we’re being a responsible employer.” Spaulding unfortunately also tries to assert that the State’s use of temps has not grown in recent years, saying “there’s no evidence,” but the State’s own “Workforce Reports” actually do provide evidence.
“When VSEA reviewed the numbers from the State’s own workforce reports, we found the temp numbers have gone up annually, from 854,066 in 2004 to 1,154,888 in 2013,” explains VSEA Communications Coordinator Doug Gibson. “That’s a 35 percent increase. When we narrowed the time period to 2009 to 2013, the numbers still jumped 28 percent. If that’s not evidence, we’re not sure what is.
Two VSEA Members Have Very Respectful Showings In Town Meeting Day
VSEA members Rachael Fields (Right) and Tracey Harrington (Left) feel strongly about the importance of public service, and that’s why each of them decided to run this year for public office in the communities where they live. Fields, a Licensed Nursing Assistant at the Vermont Veterans’ Home, and Harrington, an AHS Systems Developer, both put up impressive numbers on election night (Town Meeting Day), but, unfortunately, each fell short.
Fields was one of six candidates campaigning for two seats on the Bennington Select Board, and she placed a very respectable third, garnering 799 votes in her first race. The winners received 1,056 and 934 votes, respectively, so you can see how close Fields came. The day after the election, Fields post this on her Facebook page: “It was a tremendously rewarding experience to run for office for the first time in my life. I learned so much and I enjoyed meeting so many people and reconnecting with friends. I grew up in Bennington, It is my home and I intend to participate and work to make improvements to this community. I decided to run for Selectwoman because I believe it is important for women to take leadership roles in building the community we want and need for our children, our seniors and our families. I am inspired to serve by the veteran’s I take care of at the Vermont Veteran’s Home. My goal is and continues to be bringing a sense of compassion and understanding in whatever I do.”
Harrington was unfortunately running in a three-person race for a seat on the South Burlington City Council, and the additional candidate may have adversely impacted her vote total, which was 1090 to the winner’s 1427. The third-place candidate received 429 votes. Harrington was gracious in remarks to Seven Days following news of the results, saying “It’s unfortunate it was a three-way race, but I’m just completely humbled and grateful for the amount of support I did receive.”
VSEA congratulates Rachael and Tracey for running good competitive races and for having the courage to run for public office because you believe you can make a difference. Hopefully, more and more VSEA members will follow your lead and run for office at the local and state levels. The more state employee voices in elected office, the better for our communities and for the services being provided daily to Vermonters by VSEA members.
Rutland Herald Commentary Cautions Against Rush To Judgment On DCF
Vermonters statewide are rightfully angry about the senseless death of two-year-old Dezirae Sheldon. It is a horrific tragedy; one that VSEA members in Rutland say was made even worse by some very serious and public threats made against them in the days immediately following.
On March 6, State’s Attorney Michael Kainen penned a commentary in the Rutland Herald, urging Vermonters not to rush too quickly to judge DCF and its frontline employees. Here’s an excerpt:
"We are lucky to have a number of hardworking and dedicated social workers, but they are under-resourced and working in a framework that encourages reunification with the custodial parent. I am very certain that there are social workers in the Rutland office who are agonizing over what they could have differently to save that little girl. Dezirae’s death was a horrible tragedy. But rushing to blame dedicated social workers who are overworked and under-resourced is hardly constructive."
VSEA thanks Mr. Kainen for being a voice of reason. You can read his entire commentary (and a reader’s thoughtful letter about the commentary) here: http://bit.ly/1faXN90.
155 State St.
Bylaws Committee Meeting
155 State St.
Steward Training: Introduction & Basics
Third Floor Conference Room
5 Perry St.
Franklin/Grand Isle Chapter Meeting
28 N Main St.
Chittenden Chapter Meeting
312 Hurricane Ln, Suite 201
Board Of Members’ Trustees’
155 State St.