Brattleboro Chapter President Seeks Green-Up Day Volunteers
Brattleboro Chapter President Robin Rieske is urging VSEA members in her Chapter to help out on Green-Up Day, which is Saturday, May 7.
Rieske says there will be a VSEA table in downtown Brattleboro from 8:00 a.m. to noon, where members can pick up Green-Up Day bags, donuts and coffee. It will be located at the Restless Rooster Café, corner of Elliot and Elm Street. Wear your VSEA t-shirt (or pick one up at the table from Robin) and grab a bag to help clean up Vermont.
Rieske adds that all VSEA members should consider participating in Green-Up Day events all across Vermont. Click here to see a list.
Membership Recruitment Committee Looking To Reinvigorate VSEA Advantage Discount Program
Soliciting Member Input!
VSEA members belonging to your union’s Membership Recruitment Committee are actively working to reinvigorate the VSEA Advantage Discount Program; a popular member benefit that provides state employees with special discounts to Vermont and national businesses and services.
“The Committee is really interested in hearing from members right now about what new businesses and services you would like to see added to the program, from all across Vermont,” explains Membership Recruitment Committee Chair Katelyn Chase. “We want to learn more about where VSEA members shop and where you use services? We also want to find out what kinds of leisure and recreational activities you enjoy, which will let us target vendors who are offering goods and services that are important to VSEA members.”
VSEA members are urged to send your ideas and thoughts to Katelyn at email@example.com. Please write “Advantage Program” in the subject line.
“The Committee is really hoping to roll out a beefed-up Advantage Program soon, so keep an eye on future Week In Actions for progress updates and announcements of new vendors offering discounts,” adds Chase. “Thanks everyone for sending us your ideas.”
Note: The VSEA Advantage Discount Program is open to all members currently paying full dues to the union. A majority of participating businesses do require state employees to present their green VSEA membership card as verification of their full-fledged union status. In the future, VSEA will be making presentation of the card mandatory in order to receive a discount. If you do not have a green membership card, and you are paying full dues to VSEA, please contact Ayla Hudson at firstname.lastname@example.org to be verified and receive a card. Thank you.
VSEA To Conduct Gubernatorial Straw Polls
In order to provide your VSEA Board of Trustees with better insight on how VSEA members feel about all the declared candidates for Governor in 2016, the union’s Legislative Committee will be conducting two electronic straw polls for members to participate in; one before the primary election and another before the general election. The Board of Trustees governs VSEA’s political process, so input to the body from as many members as possible is very important.
IMPORTANT!! In order for a member to participate in the straw polls, VSEA must have an updated home email address for the member. VSEA cannot send emails of a political nature, such as the straw poll announcement, to state email addresses. If you are unsure, or don’t remember ever providing VSEA with your home email, please take time today to submit your name and home email address to VSEA@VSEA.org (please write “Home Email” in the subject space) To ensure you can vote, VSEA need this information no later than May 20, 2016.
The first electronic straw poll will be conducted in early June. Keep an eye on WIA for updates, but for now, send us those home email addresses.
VSEA Policies Now Available Online
Wondering about a VSEA policy and want to look it up online? Now you can.
VSEA’s website now has a page listing your union’s governing policies, and members with “member-only” website access can review any or all of them by clicking here.
Again, note that in order to view the policies on www.vsea.org, you must first be a registered user of the union’s website, which will then grant you “member-only” status. If you are not a registered user of VSEA’s website, you can click here to sign up today. If you are not a registered user, you will receive an “Access Denied” message when trying to view the updates.
Please note that in order to view the updates on www.vsea.org, you must first be a registered user of the site, which will grant you “member-only” status. If you are not a registered user of VSEA’s website, you can click here to sign up today. If you are not a registered user, you will receive an “Access Denied” message when trying to view the updates.
Want VSEA’s Legislative Team Updates Emailed To Your Inbox?
With more than 120 VSEA members, the VSEA Council is one of your union’s primary governing bodies and its largest and most diverse, with departmental representatives from across state government. The Council meets quarterly and retains a right to override decisions made by the VSEA Board of Trustees.
Questions? Please contact VSEA Administrative Assistant Ayla Hudson at 802-223-5247, or by email at email@example.com.
Special Alert To Stewards From VSEA Labor Educator
Note: Be sure to read #3 and then click to sign up.
1) Save the Date! Friday, May 20: VSEA Steward Summit Training.
All Stewards are urged to attend this special, all-day training. VSEA officers and staff will join us to collectively explore ways to improve public services, strengthen our contracts, and build our Union.
The day will include breakout sessions and workshops by bargaining unit, department and Field territory. Breakfast and lunch will also be provided on May 20.
Folks are invited to stay overnight at the hotel on May 19, especially if you are traveling from far away. You will need to make your own room reservation by April 11. Call Best Western directly and ask for the VSEA rate for May 19. VSEA will reimburse you for the hotel stay. There will also be a group dinner on May 19.
Best Western Waterbury: 802-244-7822
Questions about the training, contact Tim Lenoch: firstname.lastname@example.org
Questions about hotel reservation, contact Amy Haskins: email@example.com
See WIA entry “Labor Educator’s Winter/Spring 2016 Training Schedule” for more information.
3) Individual trainings/meetings at your worksite.
I would like to hold one- to two-hour individualized trainings with you, depending on your availability. Stewards can sign up for a training by clicking below on whichever link is nearest your worksite, and then select a time and suggest a location to meet. I will follow up with an email to confirm and discuss logistics.
Topics range from your experiences and worksite challenges to statewide issues and current VSEA campaigns.
Bolton Valley Already Offering VSEA Members Deeply Discounted 2016-2017 Season Pass Rates
Bolton Valley Ski Resort has been a participating member of the VSEA Advantage Discount Program for years, offering full-fledged VSEA members and their families discounted day and season passes.
Even though the 2015-2016 ski season isn’t over quite yet, Bolton is already offering VSEA members an early-bird special deal on a 2016-2017 season pass. This is special pricing that Bolton Valley is offering on a trial basis to gauge Vermonters’ interest in purchasing a pass way ahead of time if the price is deeply discounted.
Bolton is offering an adult “All-Access” season pass for $269 to VSEA members. This is a $230 savings per pass from last year. This price is good until October 31, 2016. Youth passes ($159) include an added discount that Bolton will stop offering on April 4, 2016, so, if interested, book these sooner, not later.
Full-fledged members will need a promo code at the time of checkout, which will apply discounts to the full price passes. VSEA’s promo code can be found by logging into your free VSEA.org account and navigating to Bolton Valley page of the VSEA Advantage Program.
Important Reminder About Messages to the Legislature or the Public!
VSEA members are under attack, both at the bargaining table and in the Legislature, and members’ voices are the most powerful force we have. Members are already speaking out, particularly to legislators, so we need to remember some basic ground rules. Click here to view a memo that outlines some basic points about how to make sure your speech is protected. One of the key rules is this:
When you communicate with legislators, the media, or the public, make sure you are not on work time and don’t use the employer’s computer!
Nothing will undermine your message more effectively than the suspicion that you are using work time or the employer’s property for personal purposes. Electronic messages to lawmakers should originate from your personal email account and not from your state email account. The same goes for posting on websites or blogs. Send your messages from your personal email on break time, or pre- or post-work.
VSEA thanks all members for your attention to this request.
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.”
Senate Passes Budget Bill With Full Contract Funding In Year One!
Amendment To Protect Risk Management Workers Narrowly Fails
VSEA members and staff have been busy at the State House since the Vermont Labor Relations’ Board (VLRB) ruled in favor of the union’s last-best contract offer on April 19. This week, the bulk of VSEA’s lobbying efforts were targeted at senators, asking the Senate Appropriations Committee and then the full Senate to fully fund the VSEA contracts.
The efforts proved mostly successful, and VSEA members were happy the Senate’s Appropriations Committee voted on April 25 to unanimously to fully fund the contracts, but the vote wasn’t all good news. The Committee left in a proposal to privatize the state’s Risk Management Division (Worker’s Comp, Liability & Safety), saying the projected (yet unconfirmed) $500,000 savings will help fund the contracts. That didn’t sit well with Sen. Anthony Pollina (P/D-Washington), who countered by introducing an amendment to delay the Risk Management privatization, calling for the creation of a panel “to study the pros and cons of outsourcing the service.” Pollina’s amendment was debated on the floor of the Senate on April 26, prior to a full vote by the body on the entire budget bill. Sadly, it narrowly failed by a 15-13 vote.
In a story about Pollina’s amendment, Seven Days writes, “Tuesday afternoon, during the Senate’s consideration of the budget bill, Pollina offered an amendment to prevent the administration from outsourcing the worker compensation processing until a new panel had studied the pros and cons of privatization. Pollina argued that the state had experimented with privatizing this work two decades ago, and it didn’t work. ‘We are really concerned we could end up with another disaster,’ he warned. ‘What we are looking for is to answer the questions before we go forward.’”
VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard voices the union’s opposition to the Risk Management privatization proposal in the story, saying VSEA will now move its fight to the House (which did not include the Risk Management privatization proposal in its budget bill) and hope that something can be done to prevent the service and job cuts in conference committee. "[Those who favor privatization] barely won," Howard argued. "I think that bodes well for our position in the House."
The budget bill, which the Senate passed 23-5 on April 26, includes many VSEA priorities, such as:
Full funding of the Executive, Judicial and Legislative Branches;
Restoration of $500,000 in security funding for state government;
Requires the Department of Corrections to reach an agreement to continue the operations of the St. Johnsbury Work Camp;
Funding for the Community High School of Vermont;
Funding for the Vermont Veterans’ Home, with a requirement that the Home submit a report about the use of temporary workers, overtime, and call outs;
Adding the Department of Corrections and the Agency of Natural Resources to the Position Pilot Program; a successful program that allows agencies and departments to hire more classified employees and reduce reliance on temporary workers and mandatory overtime;
Mandating that E911 call-taking continued to be provided by State PSAPs unless otherwise directed by the legislature;
Including a base funding increase of $600,000 for the Vermont State Colleges; and
Adding funds for the replacement of cruisers for the Vermont State Police.
The budget approved by the Senate now goes to the House for review and required funding and it will then end up in a conference committee, where Senate and House leaders will hammer out a final budget bill that will go to the Governor’s desk for his signature.
WIA and VSEA’s Facebook page and website will keep members updated on the progress of budget discussions and the status of funding.
VSEA Legislative Committee & State House Team Thank Members For Calls
VSEA’s Legislative Committee and State House team are thanking all the members who responded to email alerts this week, asking you to call or message your personal senators, and senators on the Appropriations Committee, to urge their support for full contract funding. Thanks also to everyone who made calls to voice opposition to privatization of Risk Management and the Veterans’ Home.
This fight is not over, so please continue to watch your inbox for VSEA alerts and calls-to-action.
Happy Public Service Recognition Week!
(May 1 – May 7)
VSEA President Dave Bellini and the entire VSEA Board of Trustees are wishing every state and public employee a happy Public Service Recognition Week 2016 (May 1 to May 7) and offering a huge thank you for your service to the people of Vermont.
“It’s important for America to designate a week each year to officially celebrate the outstanding work that public service workers do, but VSEA appreciates your contribution 365 days a year,” said Bellini. “VSEA is proud to represent you, and we take great pride in providing all the support and assistance we can. This includes bargaining help, complaint and grievance assistance, steward support, legal help, legislative lobbying, skills training and assistance with many other work-related issues.” He continued, “Sadly, the essential services provided by America’s public sector workers are often overlooked and undervalued, and it’s unfortunate that many citizens do not think about their daily use of public services and the people that provide them. One of VSEA’s top priorities will continue to be highlighting the value of the essential services you provide. On behalf of VSEA and the more than 5,500 public service employees we represent, we thank you for your commitment and service to Vermont.”
Chittenden State’s Attorney’s Office Workers Say “VSEA Yes!”
VSEA is celebrating yesterday’s vote by workers in the Chittenden State’s Attorneys (SA) to join VSEA, making it the first of several SA offices across Vermont to unionize since the Vermont Supreme Court ruled in January 2016 that the workers could be organized.
“When the Court ruled that VSEA could organize these workers under MERA, it opened a door that had been closed to these workers for far too long,” VSEA Organizer Tim Boyle tells WIA. “Now that the workers have spoken, we’ll be working with them to form a bargaining team and we’ll be strategizing about next steps and discussing what issues they want to bring to the table in first-ever negotiations. We’re very pleased to be welcoming these workers to the VSEA family, and we look forward to similar results in upcoming elections.”
Here are the upcoming elections that Boyle references:
Franklin – May 6
Rutland – May 12
Windsor – May 13
In January 2016, the Vermont Supreme Court overturned a 2014 ruling by the Vermont Labor Relation Board that SAs, Victims Advocates and Secretaries in the State’s Attorneys Offices cannot be organized under either the under the Municipal Labor Relations Act (MERA) or the State Employee Labor Relations Act (SELRA). The Court ruled they could under MERA. At the time, VSEA President Dave Bellini said, “This is an important victory for VSEA and working Vermonters, as it addresses a number of significant labor law questions and allows VSEA to now organize most of the employees in State’s Attorneys Offices. Under the Court’s ruling, we’ll have to do it on a county-by-county basis in in offices with five or more workers, but it’s a start.”
DCF Worker Safety Enhancement Bill Moving In House
Since the gavel banged to open the 2016 legislative session, VSEA DCF members have joined with staff to lobby for passage of S. 154; a bill that would enhance the penalty for assaulting a DCF worker. The workers had been seeking enhanced safety measures from management for years, without a lot of luck due to funding. The debate changed though following the August 2015 tragic murder of Social Worker Lara Sobel. Her death elevated the issue in the public and at the State House, prompting the drafting of S. 154, which the Times Argus reports on April 29 is moving now in the House, after passing out of the Senate.
Here’s an excerpt from the story:
The House gave preliminary approval Thursday to S.154, which originated in the Senate in response to the killing of DCF worker Lara Sobel outside Barre City Place in 2015.
“Violence against social workers has become an inherent risk to the profession, and while the social worker is there to help, they are not always seen that way,” said Rep. Barbara Rachelson, D-Burlington, who reported the bill for the House Judiciary Committee.
VSEA Welcomes New Administrative Assistant Susan DeVoid
VSEA is welcoming new Administrative Assistant Susan DeVoid to your headquarters’ staff.
Susan is a seasoned administrative assistant who has worked a variety of senior positions in the health care industry and for a short time in the non-profit housing sector. She has extensive experience, and both her parents were IBEW members right here in Vermont. Susan says she remembers walking picket lines with her mom and dad as a child.
DCF FSD Worker Teams Honoring Lara Sobel At This Year’s Corporate Cup
Lara Sobel’s DCF colleagues working in a half-dozen Family Services Division offices across Vermont— including the Barre office, where Lara was based—are sponsoring teams in this year’s Corporate Cup race on Thursday, May 12, and each team member will be wearing a t-shirt like the one pictured here.
Well done FSD workers! This is a beautiful design and a wonderful tribute to Lara. We’ll be cheering for you!
Serious and not-so-serious runners and their assembled teams will be participating again in this year’s Corporate Cup & State Agency Race in Montpelier on Thursday, May 12. In past years, many VSEA members and staff have put together dozens of running teams, but just as many VSEA members and staff have volunteered some time to help with the popular event, and it’s the volunteers who event organizers tell VSEA are desperately needed now.
Corporate Cup organizers are putting the call out for volunteers to help with registration, the food tent, the water stop (mid-way thru course), course director assistants, start and finish line personnel, Elm Street course monitors, race result posters, time keeping assistants, walking judges, pre-race cone placement, and post-race baggage, tent, etc. pack up.
Click here to go to the Cup’s volunteer sign-up page. If you have questions, please contact Cindy at firstname.lastname@example.org. Volunteer arrival times vary, but most duties require you to arrive on the State House lawn anywhere from 4:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Spread the word! The Corporate Cup cannot succeed without you!
Article Highlights The Shortcomings Of Vermont’s Mental Health Delivery System, Citing Several VSEA Attempts Since 2007 To Warn Against Actions Being Taken
An online article this week titled “Vermont’s Mental Health Crisis” takes aim at some recent decisions by the State, concerning mental health services, that the writer alleges are now pushing people suffering with mental illness into emergency rooms and prisons. The story also reminds about the nearly decade-long pushback VSEA has given the State on many of its mental-health decisions.
Vermont has relied heavily on designated agencies for community-based services since the 1960’s, but until 2011, there was still a state-run psychiatric facility, Vermont State Hospital (VSH), to care for the most acute cases.
After being decertified in 2003, VSH lost access to Medicaid funding, making the hospital a significant financial burden for the state. Conservatives had been trying to close the hospital for years, but they had been unsuccessful, due in large part to opposition from the VSEA.
Back in 2007, VSEA argued that the plan was "nothing more than an attempt by the Administration to wash their hands of the mental health system through privatization."
It wasn’t until Hurricane Irene flooded VSH in 2011 that the political balance of power shifted. [The State] used the disaster as an opportunity to close the hospital and further privatize the system. Instead of a large state-run facility, the [State} would create a decentralized system of smaller psychiatric units run by run by non-governmental service providers like Howard Center.
Shifting to designated agencies had the double advantage of regaining access to Medicaid funds and removing roughly 200 workers from the pool of state employees represented by the VSEA. The Ethan Allen Institute, a conservative think tank in Vermont, advocated for closing the hospital in part because it would "diminish the VSEA’s breadth and reach, i.e. membership base and dues."
Since the financial crisis began, the VSEA had been a strong source of opposition to budget cuts. As a result, the [State] tried to minimize cuts to public agencies. By contracting with designated agencies the government was able to bypass the VSEA altogether, making mental health services a prime target for the budget axe.
[The State] framed the new, decentralized system as a more ethical and cost-effective alternative to institutionalization. The only problem was that [it] never had any intention of providing the financial resources needed to make this vision a reality. What [it] was really doing was packaging neoliberal policies as leftwing reforms.
Designated agencies were, in theory, going to provide enough community support that the need for psychiatric beds would be minimal but the reality has been very different. Since the closing of VSH, there has been a chronic shortage of psychiatric beds throughout the state. Many of the people in need of psychiatric placement wind up in the ER.
May 9 Deadline Approaching To Apply For A 2016 VSEA Scholarship!
VSEA’s Scholarship & Awards Committee asked WIA to remind members that the deadline to apply for a 2016 VSEA scholarship award is May 9, 2016. The scholarship program is open to members and their spouses, dependents and domestic partners. The application process is easy. All it requires is for the applicant to write a couple of short essays, as well as provide a grade history, employment history, personal references and a few other things. All applications received before the May 9, 2016, deadline will be reviewed and ranked by Committee members to determine who this year’s winners will be. Winners will be announced at VSEA’s June Council meeting.
Old Labor Hall’s Annual May Day “Primo Maggio” Event To Celebrate Barre’s Scottish Heritage
The Barre Historical Society is hosting a Primo Maggio Day celebration on Saturday, April 30, and Sunday, May 1, at the Old Labor Hall. While the event has largely celebrated Barre’s Italian heritage in the past, this year’s focus is on the town’s Scottish population and how they too were active members of the Hall.
This year’s annual dinner will feature “Scottish fare” and will be followed by a concert of traditional Scottish music, featuring Norman Kennedy, Dominique Dodge and Ian Gauthier.
Here’s a full schedule of events:
Saturday, April 30 (Tickets $25)
6:00 p.m. – Traditional Community Dinner
7:00 p.m. – Traditional Scottish Music
Sunday, May 1 (Free & Open To Public)
4:00 p.m. – Illustrated Talk w/Prof. Robert Weir: Solid Men In The Granite City: Barre’s Socialist Mayors
Tickets: $25 ($20 for union members, seniors & students) at the door, or purchase online at www.oldlaborhall.com.
U.S. Supreme Court Strengthens Free Speech Protections For Public Employees
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week to strengthen protections for public employees to protect them from being fired or demoted for supporting a political candidate who is not favored by the employee’s supervisor.
“The Constitution prohibits a government employee from discharging or demoting an employee because the employee supports a particular candidate,” commented Justice Stephen Breyer, adding that the protection applies even if a supervisor mistakenly assumes an employee is supporting a particular candidate. “What counts is the employer’s motive,” he said.
The case that caused the Court to rule was brought by a New Jersey police detective who was demoted to patrol officer because he was seen carrying a sign supporting the mayor’s opponent. In fact, the officer was only putting the sign in his car to deliver to his mother.
Companies promoting their whistleblower Apps say the technology allows people to submit photos and video to support their claim. In some cases, auditors can use the app to respond and ask follow-up questions, “all while protecting the tipster’s anonymity.”
To date, app developers have been unable to discern how much of a difference the technology is making, versus traditional telephone hotlines.
Many across the nation mourned the death of musician Prince on April 21, and, since, there have been a ton of articles written about his life and legacy. The AFL-CIO penned one of the articles, and it talks about Prince being a union member for 40 years, belonging to both the Twin Cities Musicians Local 30-73 (American Federation of Musicians) and the Screen Actor’s Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Arts.
Excerpt from story:
The music industry has a deeply troubled past, with stories of corporations exploiting musicians, especially African-American musicians, being plentiful enough to fill libraries. At the height of his popularity, Prince decided that he would fight back. He was set, financially and career-wise, and had nothing to gain from taking on the onerous contracts that artists were saddled with when they were young, inexperienced and hungry. If he lost everything by taking on the industry, he still had money and fame to rely on. But he knew this wasn’t true for many other musicians, and Prince was always a fan of music, and he knew that taking on this battle would help others. So he took on the recording industry on behalf of music. On behalf of the industry’s working people—the musicians themselves.
VSEA Labor Educator Tim Lenoch asked WIA to announce a new round of trainings he has scheduled for winter/spring 2016. If you are interested in registering to attend one or more trainings, you can do so by clicking here. Please direct your training questions to Tim at email@example.com.
Trainings in blue are for all members.
Steward 2: Protecting the Contract and Building the Union
Wednesday, May 11
VTrans Training Center
1716 U.S. Route 302
Steward 3: The Contract and Challenges in the Workplace
Wednesday, May 25
VTrans Training Center
1716 U.S. Route 302