Regional Steward Training: Bennington & Rutland
Bennington Hampton Inn
Bennington 9:00 a.m.
Board Of Trustees’ Meeting
Montpelier 9:30 a.m.
Retiree Chapter Special Meeting/Potluck
See Overview Above In WIA
Montpelier 9:30 a.m.
Brattleboro Chapter Participating In Annual “Toys For Kids” Drive. Toy Donations Urged!
This holiday season, VSEA’s Brattleboro Chapter is volunteering to help collect “Toys for Kids.”
VSEA members and other state employees are invited to stop by the Brattleboro State Office Building at 232 Main Street any time to drop off your new, unwrapped toy donations. Once everything is collected, VSEA members will deliver the donated toys to “Toys for Kids” at noon on Saturday, December 13. If you’re unable to drop off at the State Office Building, your toys can also be donated at the Brattleboro Price Chopper’s parking lot on December 13, between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
“We’re pleased to be helping this very worthwhile organization fulfill its mission, which is simply to give Brattleboro families in need a little something to put under the tree for their kids at Christmas,” says Brattleboro Chapter President Robin Rieske.
Brattleboro’s annual “Toys for Kids” drive is sponsered by the Windham County Sheriff’s Department, the Brattleboro Detachment and Auxiliary Unit 798 of the Marine Corps League.
For more information, or to volunteer fto help with this event, please contact Chapter President Robin Rieske at (802) 275-7232.
NEK/St. Johnsbury Chapter Again Conducting “Santa Fund” Toy Drive!
VSEA’s NEK/St. Johnsbury Chapter is once again conducting a “Santa Fund” toy drive this holiday season, and Chapter officers are asking workers in state offices throughout the region to please place a toy collection box at your worksite. Chapter members are then urged to donate a toy(s) at your worksite.
The deadline to collect toys is December 12, 2104. To arrange for someone to pick up your office’s donations, please contact NEK/St. Johnsbury Chapter President Dianne Rivers at 626-6223.
Chapter officers thank you in advance for your help.
VSEA Union Representatives’ New Territories, As Of Nov. 17!
VSEA Director of Field Services Gretchen Naylor recently announced a reshuffling of territories and agency/ department assignments for VSEA Union Representatives. The new assignments officially begin on Monday, November 17, so please consult the list below to learn who your Union Representative is.
John Brabant: St. Albans, Grand Isle, St. Johnsbury, White River Junction, Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital (VPCH), Middlesex Residential Facility, Lyndon State College, Vermont Technical College
Kelly Burns: Chittenden, Lamoille, Johnson State College
Dave Van Deusen: Statewide Agency of Transportation (AOT), Addison, Rutland, Castleton State College
Bob South: Brattleboro, Springfield, Newport, Island Pond
Brian Morse: Bennington, all supervisors, all of Judiciary
Josh Massey: Barre, Waterbury, Central Vermont (except AOT)
Post Office No Longer Recognizing Mail Sent To VSEA HQ Using Defunct P.O. Box Number
Stewards Urged To
VSEA is issuing an alert to members NOT to use P.O. Box 518 when sending mail or other correspondence to VSEA headquarters in Montpelier. The Post Office is no longer forwarding mail sent to VSEA with the P.O. Box number. VSEA Stewards and other leaders are being asked to review any cards or literature you may be passing out in worksites to ensure the address printed on the material does not include the now defunct P.O. Box number.
Approximately 125 people gathered outside the Royall Tyler Theatre on the campus of the University of Vermont on December 3 to participate in a spirited rally to support some 800 administrative, technical and specialized United Staff workers who will vote soon on whether or not to join the VSEA.
VSEA President Shelley Martin was unable to attend the rally due to a medical emergency, so First Vice President Michelle Salvador stepped in for her and told the crowd, in part:
“United Staff members are now in the homestretch of what has been a long but very necessary organizing effort. I really hope your vote on December 16 and 17 will send a strong message to the UVM administration that United Staff members are ready for positive change and ready to be treated with the dignity and respect you all deserve. VSEA members across Vermont are very excited about your upcoming vote and the opportunity to potentially welcome hundreds of United Staff members into VSEA.
United Staff leader Alison Nihart was the rally’s master of ceremonies and also its first speaker, reminding the crowd about the need for a voice at the table and some of the other issues that convinced the UVM workers they needed to organize. Other rally speakers included Salvador, UVM faculty member and UA President Denise Youngblood, Rep. Chris Pearson (P-Burlington), Sen. Phil Baruth (D-Chittenden), UVM worker Marilyn Eldred and Vermont Student Union representatives. The two students ended the rally by leading the group in singing the song “We shall not give up the fight.”
As mentioned above, United Staff workers go the polls on December 16 and 17 to cast their vote.
Just a note that the VSEA’s App has now been updated to include all the new contracts ratified this year by VSEA’s Bargaining Teams. VSEA App users can also find: steward, officer and staff contact information; a calendar of events; and labor news from Vermont and around the globe. The VSEA App includes:
Union Contact Info
Calendar and Events
Download the Free VSEAUnite App for Your Smartphone!
VSEA President Shelley Martin is resuming her tour of VSEA worksites next week, visiting with members in Newport on December 11. Shelley is hosting a meeting at the State Office Building at 100 Main Street in Newport, beginning at noon and going until 1:30 p.m. Room number 1521.
Columnist Writes About Growing State Deficit And Leaders Continued Reliance On Cuts
The following appeared in Paul Heintz’s December 3 “Fair Game” Column in the Seven Days newspaper:
As grandma prepared the stuffing last Wednesday, [the State] was busy cooking up a heaping helping of bad fiscal news.
The day before Thanksgiving, Commissioner of Finance and Management Jim Reardon announced that the [State] would cut another $17 million from this year's budget. The move came just three months after legislative leaders signed off on another $31 million in mid-year cuts.
The latest round of rescissions wasn't unexpected. In the first four months of the fiscal year, General Fund revenues clocked in at nearly $12 million — or 2.7 percent — below expectations. Since early last month, [the State] had been hinting that more cuts were in the offing.
Precisely which programs will be targeted isn't yet clear. Agency and department heads have until [today] to submit their recommendations to Reardon's office.
But one thing is certain: Any turkeys pardoned this time around will be back in the oven come January. That's because the state is already expecting a $100 million gap in next year's budget — and, after a decade of tough choices, lawmakers are running out of options.
If the burgeoning debate over how to fill Vermont's perennial budget hole has you feeling a bit of déjà vu, you're not the only one.
"The conversation about the budget is always, 'Is it up? Is it down? We're spending too much. We're not spending enough,'" says Paul Cillo, president and executive director of the Montpelier-based Public Assets Institute. "There's just been this manage-to-the-money idea, where if you're focused on the money, you're not focused on outcomes. You're not focused on what you can accomplish."
Cillo, a former House majority leader, points to the trouble-plagued Vermont Department for Children and Families as an example. For years, the child welfare agency has been underfunded and understaffed, he says. After two young children under DCF supervision were allegedly killed by family members last February and April, the agency was criticized for being — you guessed it — underfunded and understaffed.
"We heard this language in the recession of 'doing more with less,'" Cillo says. "And then, when we find out that we're doing less with less, we're really surprised."
Two recent reports requested by the [State] make a similar point: that state government isn't adequately serving Vermont's most vulnerable.
After a lengthy review of the two child deaths, the Vermont Citizens Advisory Board issued a brutal report a week and a half ago criticizing the state for failing to protect children who were clearly suffering from abuse. The independent panel, appointed by the [State], included health care workers, child advocates, legislators and a former judge, among others.
"It is clear that all agencies within the child-protection system are carrying case-loads that are too high, which causes workers to triage, to burn out and leave, and to cut corners in an effort to do the best they can," the report found.
It blamed "legislative funding cuts in the past decade" for a decline in quality control at DCF, and said that the 18 new positions added last summer "will not fully address" its high-caseload ratio.
[The State] has indicated in recent weeks that [its] disinclined to raise taxes to fill the budget hole or fund new programs. And House Speaker Shap Smith (D-Morristown) agrees.
"My view is that we need to look first at where we can reduce the amount of spending and then, if at some point in time we think we cannot get there, then we can look at revenue," Smith says. "But that's not our first option."
The speaker adds, "I think we're going to have to ask the question: Are there things we've done in the past that we can no longer afford to do? I don't know the answer to that question."
The way [Vermont Legal Aid’s Chris] Curtis sees it, if lawmakers choose to cut services instead of raising revenue, "That's effectively a tax on the poor."
"I hope that in the discussions around the budget that everything's on the table," he says. "This state cannot afford to continue to fight budget deficits with one arm tied behind our back."
"Also, the Legislature will have to address the problem of staffing at DCF. Short staffing has led to overburdened caseworkers, who have trouble giving cases the attention they deserve. The adequate training of caseworkers is essential. They have one of the most challenging jobs in state government, charged with making life-changing decisions, to confront problems of physical abuse, drug abuse, sexual abuse, neglect and poverty. People lie to them; they have to see through the lies. They have to look out for the interests of children, which may, or may not, require the awful decision of taking a child away from his or her mother — awful for the child and the mother, even if it is in the interest of the child."
Reminder: Retirees’ Chapter Holding Special Meeting On Dec. 11 To Select Trustee For Windham & Windsor Counties
The VSEA Retirees’ Committee is actively searching for a trustee to represent Windham and Windsor Counties. If you’re a current dues-paying retiree who resides in Windham or Windsor Counties, and you’re interested in running for this trustee seat, please send a letter of interest by 4:30 p.m., Wednesday, December 10, to VSEA RC President Maclay at firstname.lastname@example.org. Chapter officials will then hold a special meeting on December 11 to name a new Windham and Windsor trustee.
The meeting begins at 9:30 a.m., and there will be a potluck lunch, so retirees attending are urged to bring a dish with you. Kathy Callaghan will also be at the meeting to help explain any potential impacts of a single-payer health care plan on VSEA retirees.
As always, if you are a lifetime member of VSEA and are interested in joining the VSEA Retirees’ Chapter, please send your $10 dues check to VSEA HQ or bring this payment to the special Chapter meeting on December 11.
VSEA Joins With 15 Organizations To Voice Support For Lawmakers And State To Continue Forward Towards Single-Payer Health Care Plan
On December 2, representatives of 16 labor, consumer and health care advocacy groups were at the State House to hold a press conference to remind lawmakers and the State that this year’s election outcome is not a referendum on Green Mountain Care and that thousands of Vermonters still want the state to continue working to establish a single-payer system.
VSEA Legislative Committee Chairperson Dr. Leslie Matthews represented VSEA at the press conference, and she said the following:
“VSEA believes in a universal health care system that provides equitably financed, affordable, quality health care for all Vermonters. We believe that every Vermonter deserves the same level of care that we receive. We believe that our health care plan – the state employee health care plan – can and should serve as the baseline for Green Mountain Care. VSEA also believes that our universal health care plan must be transparent and accountable to all Vermonters. That’s why VSEA believes that any health care plan for all Vermonters should be administered by state employees. In short, as state employees, we say to all Vermonters – “join us!” Make our health care plan YOUR health care plan, so that every Vermonter pays their fair share, and every Vermonter gets the care they need, when they need it.”
Matthews was followed by AFT representative Mari Cordes, a nurse, who said:
“Get the insurance companies out of our exam rooms and get our hard-earned money out of administrative waste and exorbitant CEO compensation. A universal, publicly funded health care system is the only way to do that.”
NEA President Martha Allen called for a discussion to begin about what health care benefits will be covered by Green Mountain Care.
VSEA Participates In “Vermonters For Criminal Justice Reform” Group’s Press Event
On December 3, VSEA Brattleboro Chapter President Robin Rieske participated in one of two press conferences that were held statewide by the coalition Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform. The group, which is led by Rep. Suzy Wizowaty (pictured above left with Robin), is campaigning to return Vermont offenders back to the state and out of the private, for-profit, out-of-state prisons.
Here is the message Robin delivered:
"Hello. My name is Robin Rieske and I am here today on behalf of the Vermont State Employees Association’s Brattleboro Chapter and on behalf of the thousands of state employees my union represents across Vermont who work in Corrections.
VSEA and many of our frontline corrections’ workers support Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform’s goal to return Vermont offenders to our state.
All too often, VSEA’s corrections members see and witness what happens to Vermont offenders who are sent to these out-of-state warehouses. Our Correctional Officers and Parole and Probation employees report to us that these offenders come back to Vermont hardened, and in far too many cases, with gang ties.
Because these offenders are out of state, they often don’t have family nearby, and frontline workers strongly agree that a lack of family contact does take a toll and sometimes does have negative ramifications.
When it comes to offering a level of rehabilitation that allows Vermont offenders to re-enter society as a positive contributor, VSEA corrections members tell us that rehabilitation in Vermont correctional facilities is excellent but, in the out-of-state warehouses, rehabilitation consists primarily of a pack of smokes and a Gameboy. Vermont can and must do better.
Today, VSEA stands with Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform to call on the State and lawmakers to stop kicking the can down the road and finally take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that Vermont offenders receive their rehabilitation right here in Vermont…and with their family, friends and other support networks nearby.
When Vermont created its corrections system, it did so with an emphasis on rehabilitation and a commitment to house our offenders in smaller facilities that didn’t resemble larger, private institutions, like the ones in Kentucky, Tennessee, Arizona and other states.
It’s time for Vermont to bring our offenders home and start providing them with the programming and rehabilitation they need to become contributing and valuable members of our Vermont towns and cities.
Members In Certain Jobs Asked To Complete “Stressful Jobs” Survey
In advance of the upcoming legislative session, VSEA members in the following agencies, departments and job classes are being urged to complete a “stressful jobs” survey:
DCF Social Workers;
Vermont Veterans’ Home Workers; and
Vermont Psychiatric Care Center Direct Care Workers.
The survey was prompted by testimony lawmakers heard last year from a group of VSEA DPS dispatchers. The dispatchers were testifying, in part, about the high level of job-related stress they must deal with on an almost daily basis and the adverse impact it can sometimes have on their health and their family. In response, lawmakers asked if other state employees are dealing with equally high stress levels in their daily jobs, so to better determine that fact, they directed Human Resources (with VSEA assistance) to issue a survey and compile a report that includes worker recommendations on how to alleviate stress.
If you’re a VSEA member whose job is included in the list above, you can find the survey by clicking here.
To submit your ideas to alleviate stress, please click here and use the space provided to list your recommendations.
Thanks in advance for participating. Your input is valued and appreciated.
If you’re a VSEA member who is interested in helping educate lawmakers in the upcoming session about the stress level you are experiencing while at work, please contact VSEA Legislative Specialist Anne Accettella at 223-5247 or by email at email@example.com.
“It’s very helpful for VSEA to be able to put a face on this issue to lawmakers,” says Accettella. “Lawmakers really do appreciate hearing directly from frontline workers, and they want your input.”
VSEA Hosts Conference Call For DMV & DMH Employees Impacted By New Federal/State Regulations
VSEA’s General Counsel Tim Belcher, Field Services Supervisor Gretchen Naylor and Labor Relations Director Gary Hoadley hosted a series of conference calls with DMV and DMH workers on December 4 and 5 to discuss the potential impact new federal and state legal requirements could have on certain workers.
The new requirements call for background checks for at least some employees of both departments and would require physical examinations of DMH employees in the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital and the Middlesex Therapeutic Community Residence.
The call also updated workers on the progress their Bargaining Teams have achieved to date in negotiations with the State to try and limit any adverse impact to the employees held to the new requirements.
On Tuesday, December 9, VSEA's Brattleboro Chapter is meeting from 12:00 p.m. - 12:45 p.m., and members can learn more about VSEA member-only life insurance offers, eat some pizza and drop a toy off to aid our Chapter's “Toys for Kids” campaign. The Chapter is meeting at the State Building, 232 Main Street, Room 148.
Joanne Woodcock from VSEA Insurance Benefits will be at the meeting to educate members about the life insurance benefits available exclusively to VSEA members. If you are not yet a member, you can join at the door on Tuesday and instantly become eligible for life insurance, disability, cancer and accident coverage for the family.
At the meeting, you can also enter a raffle to win a free VSEA pint glass! And you can see the Chapter’s new banner.
For more information or to RSVP for the pizza order, please contact Chapter President Robin at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her cell at (802) 275-7232.
Reminder! Brattleboro Chapter members and other state employees can drop off new, unwrapped toys for children 12 and under any time at the State Office Building located at 232 Main Street no later than Noon, December 12. Toys can also be dropped at the Price Chopper lot in Brattleboro on December 13th between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.