Central Vermont Chapter Meeting
Second Floor Conference Room
Board Of Trustees’ Meeting
Lamoille Valley Chapter Employee Appreciation Day Event
State Office Building Courtyard
63 Professional Dr.
Retirees’ Chapter Meeting
Training: Stewards & Labor/Management Committees
Open To All Members!
VTrans Training Center
1716 U.S. Route 302
Quote of The Week!
"The judiciary can continue its embarrassing pattern of suppressing pay for its lowest paid employees and run the risk of degrading the Judiciary’s service to Vermont or it can recognize the very difficult responsibilities of these positions and pay a fair wage,” “The judiciary can continue its embarrassing pattern of suppressing pay for its lowest paid employees and run the risk of degrading the Judiciary’s service to Vermont or it can recognize the very difficult responsibilities of these positions and pay a fair wage."
Chittenden Superior Court Presiding Judge James Crucitti, in a letter of support for VSEA Docket Clerks to be paid fairly.
“I invite VSEA retirees to join us to help plan the future of our Chapter,” says Maclay. “We need you to help energize the Chapter and assist your leaders in steering it ahead in a positive and productive way.”
Maclay adds that all of the Chapter’s officer seats are up for election this year, and that nominations will be made from the floor at the August 18 meeting, with voting by attendees to follow. There will also be a presentation on health care by Chapter member Kathy Callaghan,
More Chapter Annual Meeting information will be sent to retirees in early July. To ensure you receive this information, the Chapter must have your current home email address and your correct home mailing address. If you have changed either of these in the past year, please email VSEA (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your updated information. If emailing, please write “Retired Member Update” in the subject line.
Discounted 2016 Great Escape / Splashwater Kingdom Day Tickets Available Online & At VSEA!
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
Deadline To Submit Board Of Trustees’ District Seat Ballots Is August 1!
Ballots have been mailed to VSEA members eligible to vote for candidates running for one of three VSEA District Board seats:
District 1 – Barre & Central Vermont
District 2 – Waterbury & Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital
District 5 – Rutland & Bennington
The deadline to return your ballot is 4:30 p.m., Monday, August 1, 2016!
VSEA AOT Members Holding “AOT Union (Motorcycle) Ride” On
All VSEA Members Invited To Ride!
A group of VSEA AOT members are planning a motorcycle run on July 30 to celebrate recent gains they made in the new contract and to demonstrate solidarity with all Vermont workers. While the ride is being coordinated by AOT members, all VSEA members with a motorcycle are invited to join.
Riders are meeting on the State House lawn in Montpelier, beginning at 9:00 a.m., and the run will commence at 10:00 a.m. After touring through Morrisville, West Danville, Groton and Barre, riders will end back in Montpelier on Main Street at roughly 1:00p.m.
VSEA members interested in participating in the run can RSVP to Union Representative Dave Van Deusen by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Winners announced at Annual Meeting on September 10.
VSEA Surveying Members About Forming Legal Defense Fund
VSEA sent a survey to members this week to solicit opinions on developing a program to provide legal defense to members who face criminal charges or other civil or administrative challenges arising from actions taken in the course of their employment. The survey email explained that VSEA is reviewing several options, including one that would cover the unlimited costs to defend you in the event of a criminal prosecution or some civil prosecutions arising in the course of your work. The benefit would cost you an additional $4.70 per month, on top of your regular dues.
If you might be interested in such a program, please complete the following survey, which can be found here. Your answers will help VSEA design a program to best meet VSEA members’ needs.
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.”
VTDigger Reports On VSEA Docket Clerk’s Campaign For Economic Justice
A campaign by VSEA Judiciary Unit Docket Clerks to raise awareness about their historic low pay received a boost this week when VTDigger published a story on July 5 about the workers’ fight.
The story explains the workers’ situation, using the voices of several VSEA Judiciary Unit members, including Jayne King, Shannon Bessery and Margaret Crowley. “We’re understaffed and overworked and overwhelmed,” King says. Most important though, Docket Clerks are underpaid.
One powerful quote that really stands out in the piece comes from James Crucitti, the presiding judge at Chittenden Superior Court and one of several dozen judges and lawyers who have written letters in support of the Docket Clerks’ fight. Crucitti labels the Clerks’ pay as “unfairly low” and adds, “The Judiciary can continue its embarrassing pattern of suppressing pay for its lowest paid employees and run the risk of degrading the Judiciary’s service to Vermont or it can recognize the very difficult responsibilities of these positions and pay a fair wage.”
In the piece, Court Administrator Pat Gabel explains to the reporter that she believes the Judiciary’s reclassification system is working fine, but here’s what VSEA members are telling the public about the allegedly fair system:
“We want a fair process for reclassification appeals. Currently, employees who are underpaid for the work they do submit an ‘RFR’ to a panel that is controlled by management, and chaired by the Human Resources Manager. The panel takes evidence in secret, without the employee or the union in the room. If the employee loses in front of the committee, he or she may appeal to someone selected by the Court Administrator and the Chief Justice. The process is deliberately designed to be cumbersome, in order to discourage appeals. Your team is simply asking for a a fair hearing on the evidence in front of a neutral decision maker.”
Judiciary Branch’s Request To End Contract Fact Finding Is Denied!
Last week, WIA informed VSEA members about an odd request from the Judiciary Branch to a fact finder to end the fact-finding process because a scheduled fourth day of testimony—featuring the voices of frontline workers—was “not worthy” of the time and expense. We’re pleased to report that, just after WIA published last week, VSEA’s legal team received word that the Judiciary Branch’s request had been denied. Fact finding will proceed, as scheduled.
Note: VSEA Vermont State Colleges’ Unit Chair Sandra Noyes asked WIA to include this note to VSC members.
“Thank you to everyone who recently took time to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on a new contract for Vermont State Colleges’ VSEA members. It was great to see that an overwhelming number of you agreed with your Unit Bargaining Team and voted with us to ratify this agreement
Your Team worked very hard to negotiate a contract that is fair to the staff we represent at the table. We were pleased to be able to successfully bargain a four-year contract, fend off a move to claim the right to outsource our jobs, increase bereavement time and improve our layoff article.
Thank you also to everyone who attended one your Team’s informational meetings about the contract. We held these meetings at all four campuses, and there were some excellent questions, which Team members did our best to answer.
On a personal note, this was my first time to be part of the negotiating process, and I want to thank some individuals for their help and guidance. First, we were lucky to have retired Unit Chair Janis Henderson to share her knowledge from past bargaining with the Team. Also joining us were experienced VSC negotiators Monique Prive (LSC), Billie Langlois (CU) and Karen Tetreault (VTC). And we were pleased to welcome these new Team members to the table: Trevor Allen (VTC), Debbie Ballantine (CU), Jay Bona (LSC), and Ken Moore (JSC). Finally, thanks to VSEA staffers Adam Norton, Kelly Everhart and Jennifer Larson.
Anytime a VSC member wants to talk, please feel free to call/email me.
VSEA Central Vermont Chapter President Cassandra Edson asked WIA to remind the Chapter’s next meeting is Monday, July 11, at the VDOL in Montpelier, second-floor conference room. The meeting begins at 12:00 p.m., and there will be a discussions about upcoming Annual Meetings and temp workers. If you have any questions, contact Cassandra at email@example.com.
Windham County Sheriff’s Decision To Stop Providing Security At The Courthouse Reminds Of VSEA’s October 2015 Call To Improve Courthouse Security
VTDigger reports on July 5 that Windham County Sheriff’s Deputies will no longer provide security at either the Newbury or Brattleboro Courthouses after August 2016, citing the Judiciary’s inability to “cover costs.” No contingency plan has been announced, and County Sheriff Keith Clark, who talked with Digger about the deputies’ decision, made it clear that time is of the essence when it comes to security because “It’s going to keep going in the wrong direction until someone gets seriously hurt in one of the courthouses.”
Back in October 2015, VSEA Judiciary Unit members renewed their years-long call for enhanced courthouse security, following a rape inside a bathroom at the Costello Courthouse in Burlington. The crime occurred nine months after Judiciary Chief of Finance and Administration Matt Riven delivered a report to the legislature that was prepared by “national court security experts” and identified “significant unmet security needs in the four courthouses in the study sample,” which included Costello.
After the incident in Burlington, VSEA issued a press release that quoted Judiciary Unit Chair Margaret Crowley, saying “The incident…at the Costello Courthouse that we all only just learned about is further evidence that courthouse security upgrades are needed, and VSEA hopes the Judiciary will join with frontline workers in the upcoming months to lobby for the additional funds needed to ensure worker and public safety.”
This week’s Digger story references a report that Court Administrator Pat Gabel gave to lawmakers that requests $1.8 million “to boost court officer coverage.” In the report, Gabel notes a 2014 assessment by the National Center for State Courts that determined “for Vermont to achieve ‘best practices’ security standards, it would need 155 full-time equivalent court officers. The State had just 64 such officers earlier this year.”
VSEA Judiciary members vow to continue their efforts to enhance courthouse security, before a Vermonter visiting a court, or someone working there gets severely injured, or worse.
VSEA DOC Members Question Again If Mentally Ill Inmate’s Lawsuit Against The State Could Have Been Avoided
VTDigger published a story on July 6 about the Vermont Human Rights Commission (HRC) recently filing a lawsuit against the State for discriminating against a disabled inmate who is battling mental illness.
The HRC’s lawsuit comes down hard on the DOC for its care of the inmate while in State’s custody, but the story also reveals how the private, for-profit firm charged with providing care to Vermont’s mentally ill inmates failed in its duty, prior to handing the inmate back to the DOC to supervise. From the story:
“Meetings between staff of Correct Care Solutions, the private health care company the DOC contracted with, and C.S. were “quick and dirty” interactions that were “superficial, ineffective,” according to the report. The meetings with the staff were held through a cell door or in a space that wasn’t confidential, and he was “almost always” shackled during those interactions.”
No one condones the poor treatment of any individual with mental illness, regardless of where the person is located, but many VSEA DOC members believe that this is the kind of lawsuit that could have avoided if State officials and lawmakers had listened to repeated calls from VSEA members to build a special forensic unit to house inmates with mental illness. They believe it’s past time to act because, according to those who know, this is an inmate population that has been growing, not shrinking.
Here (again) is a quick summary from WIA posts of the number of times VSEA DOC members have voiced their concerns about having to supervise mentally ill inmates, beginning in 2007:
The legislature’s Mental Health Oversight Committee held a meeting on November 9 to hear testimony from nearly every party tied to the Vermont State Hospital and learn more about the status of interim plans to replace the services provided at the facility prior to it being inundated by Tropical Storm Irene.
The VSH workforce was represented by Psychiatric Techs Kris Martin and Peter Bartlett, who testified about how unique and specialized the current VSH staff is and how a lot of employees have real concerns about the level of care their patients are receiving in some of the State’s interim facilities, which includes a prison. Martin and Bartlett also voiced their support for the State to construct a State-run, stand-alone hospital somewhere in central Vermont; one that is also equipped to accept Vermont’s forensic (a.k.a. inmate) population suffering with acute and severe mental illness. “I think the only logical solution would be a centrally located new hospital with 30 beds at least,” said Bartlett. Martin concurred, adding, “A centrally located, new facility is the answer.” Martin also expressed his hope that no VSH employee would lose his/her job as a result of Irene, and he voiced the frustration of many VSH employees about how long this workforce has waited for a real solution to replacing the VSH, saying, “People are fed up. They want a decision.”
“Our DOC members have been warning VSEA for years that the number of severely mentally ill inmates is rising, and that, as a result, they fear more and more for their own personal safety,” VSEA’s Legislative Coordinator told WIA. “VSEA has also been trying hard to get the appropriate legislative committees to address the issue of mentally ill inmates by adding forensic beds to any plan adopted to replace the Vermont State Hospital. These beds would be a place where Vermont’s severely mentally ill inmates could receive proper treatment for their illness, instead of DOC employees having to just deal with it at their own peril.”
While VSEA supports the idea of siting the facility in Waterbury, we have serious concerns that using the Dale facility may limit the space that will ultimately be needed for patients transferring from the Vermont State Hospital. If the Dale facility closes as a women’s prison, the State should consider creating a ‘center for forensic psychiatry’ for DOC which can house offenders with serious mental illness.”
While VSEA disagrees with the lack of forensic beds suggested in the new system—and still supports a new, state-of-the-art hospital rather then a “rehabilitation and recovery center”—the union believes this report is a positive step away from the Administration’s favored plan to privatize the mental health system by building a $100 million facility on the Fletcher Allen campus. The future of the Vermont State Hospital will remain a top priority for VSEA in the coming legislative session.
In the weeks and months leading up to the Vermont’s August 9 primary election—and then to the November 8 general election—VSEA Legislative Committee members and HQ staff will be asking members to volunteer some time to assist candidates who have received VSEA’s endorsement and who deserve our support. A reminder that, this year, there are five VSEA members running for office, and each could use your help.
There are many ways for you to participate in VSEA’s Campaign 2016 activities, including:
Participate in a VSEA- or candidate-sponsored phone bank;
Participate in a VSEA- or candidate-sponsored honk-and-wave;
Participate in a VSEA- or candidate-sponsored door-to-door canvassing effort;
Participate in a VSEA- or candidate-sponsored candidate(s) rally;
Educate your family, friends and colleagues about the candidate and his/her positions on issues important to VSEA members;
March with a candidate in a parade;
Volunteer to help at a candidate’s headquarters (if applicable) with things like answering phones, filing, assembling educational packets/mailings, etc.;
Put a yard sign in your yard, or help the candidate distribute signs in your area;
Host a candidate house party;
Drive voters to the polls on Election Day;
Pen a letter to the editor in support of VSEA-endorsed candidate(s); and
Make a monetary contribution to a candidate(s).
If you would be interested in volunteering some time to help your union’s campaign 2016 efforts, please contact VSEA Organizing Director Vinnie O’Connor by email firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 223-5247.
Important Note: It is imperative that VSEA have your current home email address, so you can receive political material. This is because some messages could be labeled partisan, and therefore they are not permissible to send to work emails. When contacting Vinnie with interest, please be sure to let him know your current home email. Thanks!
VSEA Insurance Representative In Chittenden County Next Week
VSEA Insurance Representative Joanne Woodcock will be Chittenden County next week to talk with interested VSEA members about member-only insurance benefits.
108 Cherry Street
July 11 – Conf. Rm. 1A
July 12 – Conf. Rm. 3A
12:00 to 4:00
1000 River Road
July 20 – 21- 22
Health Access Eligibility Unit
Bromley Conf. Rm. #958
1st Floor – 12:00 to 4:00
Receive information on disability coverage, family life insurance, family accident and cancer coverage. You must be a member paying full dues to be eligible for this VSEA benefit. If you are an agency-fee payer, Joanne can provide you information about signing up for full membership.
VSEA Labor Educator Announces Summer Trainings – Four Open To All
VSEA Labor Educator Tim Lenoch asked WIA to announce a new round of trainings he has scheduled throughout the summer 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.
There are four trainings open to all members, please invite folks who may be interested:
Recent Study Finds Middle Class Vanishing As Income Gap Widens
The Utica Observer Dispatch published a story on July 4 that profiles the economic struggles of middle-class working families in New York’s Mohawk Valley. It comes on the heels of a recently published study by the Pew Research Center that found there is a widening wage gap across America and it’s forcing those previously labeled “middle class” to either move into higher- or lower-income groups.
"The shrinking of the American middle class is a pervasive phenomenon," says Rakesh Kochhar, associate research director for Pew and the lead author of the report. "It has increased the polarization in incomes."
Pew defines the middle class as households with incomes between two-thirds of the median and twice the median, adjusted for household size and the local cost of living. Median income is the dollar amount which half of all households make less than, and half of all households make more than. It can better capture broad trends than an average, which can be distorted by heavy concentrations at the top or bottom of the income scale.
The U.S. Census Bureau released its quarterly report on state and local government public pensions at the end of June, and according to a recent story on CNBC, after hovering around 5% for nearly a decade, public employees’ pension plan contribution rates have increased to 5.7% in 2012 and 6% in 2014.
VSEA Strategic Analyst Adam Norton tells WIA that VSEA members are currently contributing 6.65% to their pension plan, which is more than the average.
“That’s not surprising,” Norton explains. “Our fund is smaller, and larger funds can compensate for stock market crashes easier and can hedge better gains.”
Note: VSEA members are advised to remember the 6.65% number, especially if the debate over state employee and teacher pension plan funding levels heats up again and officials and lawmakers start asking state employees to contribute even more to their plan.
One of the items being prepared for members attending this year’s VSEA Annual Meeting in Killington is a reprint of a 1984 document titled “A Brief Chronology of the VSEA 1944 – 1984,” which was created in 1984 by the VSEA History Committee. In the coming weeks, WIA will be sharing snippets from the book with members.
Here’s the entry in the booklet from 1972:
“Membership reaches ‘a new peak’ of 1,980; 14 new local Chapters are formed (Brattleboro, Bradford, St. Albans, Burlington, Brandon, Newport, St. Johnsbury, Bennington, Rutland, Windsor, Bethel, Springfield, Johnson and Middlebury. VSEA introduces 23 bills in the Legislative session, 10 are enacted and a group life insurance plan ($1,000 per employee) and ‘coffee break’ (a fringe benefit) become reality.”
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.