June 30 Steward Training: Introduction &
VTrans Training Center
1716 U.S. Route 302
Deadline To Self-Nominate For VSEA Council Seat
July 2 Bylaws Committee Meeting
Independence Day Holiday
July 4 Lamoille Valley Chapter Marching In Morrisville July 4 Parade
July 7 Training: Stewards & A Hostile Environment
VTrans Training Center
1716 U.S. Route 302
Quote Of The Week!
“It will do nothing to prevent repeating the mistakes of failed trade policies that have contributed to stagnating wages, increasing inequality and the closure of more than 60,000 factories since 2000.”
From a June 22 AFL-CIO letter to members of Congress, attempting to prevent the U.S. Senate’s from giving the President “fast-track authority” on trade deals, like the Trans-Pacific one. The Senate voted 60-37 to give the President the authority.
District 5 Vacancy On VSEA Board Of Trustees
Vets’ Home worker and House Rep. Rachael Fields recently announced her decision to step down from her District 5 seat on the VSEA Board of Trustees, so the body is now actively looking to fill the seat, which represents Bennington and Rutland. With more than a year remaining on Fields’ term, the Board must conduct an election to fill the seat. VSEA members interested in the seat must reside or have an assigned worksite in the District 5 region.
The VSEA Board of Trustees manages the internal affairs of the union and ensures that the policies of VSEA are followed. It reviews and approves the union’s budget for submission to the membership, and it reviews committee reports and recommends action by the Council and members. The Board also sets policy for VSEA. The Board meets monthly and Trustees are expected to attend all the meetings, as well as all quarterly Council meetings and the VSEA Annual Meeting. Release time from work is authorized under the unit collective bargaining contract. Each Trustee is also assigned to at least one VSEA Chapter to attend meetings and provide any necessary assistance.
Mary Poulos, Chair
VSEA ERN Committee
D. 5 Seat
155 State St.
Montpelier, VT 05602
The deadline to submit your petition is 4:30 p.m., Monday, July 13.
Petitions not sent to VSEA headquarters by the deadline will not be considered.
VSEA Unit Chairs Reminded To Submit Your Annual Meeting Agendas
VSEA is asking all its Unit Chairs to please submit your Unit’s Annual Meeting agenda to VSEA Communications Director Doug Gibson by Friday, July 17.
These are the Unit meeting agendas to be included in the 2015 VSEA Annual Meeting WARN, which mails to all members prior to the actual Annual Meeting, which is Saturday, September 12 at the Jay Peak Resort.
Thanks in advance.
VSEA Officer Candidates Given July 17 Deadline To Submit Photos & Statements
For a few weeks now, WIA has been running a story, informing members who want to run for one of VSEA’s top officer positions that you must file a petition by Tuesday, July 14. Another caveat to running for one the officer positions is that each candidate is permitted to submit a photo and candidate statement for inclusion in the Annual Meeting WARN, which publishes and mails a few weeks in advance of the event.
Members who file a petition for office and want to appear in the WARN should send their photo and statement to VSEA Communications Director Doug Gibson by 4:30 p.m., Friday, July 17.
NMU Bargaining Team Wants Your Leave Request Stories
The Non-Management Unit’s Bargaining Team was at headquarters on June 3 to continue preparing for upcoming negotiations with the State this fall. One of the topics they discussed is the need to learn more from NMU workers about how long it takes different managers to process employee leave requests. Are workers’ requests being approved or denied in a timely manner?
If you belong to the NMU and want to share your story about how long it took for managements to process your leave requests, please send your NMU Team a summary of how long it took and what the ramifications were. Did you miss a booking date due to a delay? Were you denied at the last minute, after waiting for days or weeks? Did you have to cancel a trip or event due to slow processing of your request? Was your family made to suffer because management was stringing you along on your leave request? Your NMU Team wants to know.
To share your story (confidentially, unless otherwise agreed to) with the Team, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and write “My Leave Story” in the subject line. The Team thanks you in advance for responding to this request.
Reminder: VSEA Members Enrolled In The Delta Dental Supplemental Plan Are Also Eligible For Vision Discounts
VSEA staff and leaders hear often that members would like to see the current vision benefit negotiated in members’ contracts improved. Given this, VSEA wants to make sure that members enrolled in the Delta Dental Supplemental Plan know that you are also eligible to take advantage of a “Vision Discount Program” to help defray additional costs.
To see the vision discounts being offered through the supplemental plan, please click here and then click on the “Vision Discount Program” entry under the “VSEA Supplemental Dental Plan Info” heading.
File Your Petition Today To Run To Be A VSEA Officer!
Petitions to run for one of VSEA’s five top elected official seats are due 60 calendar days prior to the union’s Annual Meeting on September 12. This makes the deadline Tuesday, July 14, 2015.
Note: If running to be an elected officer, please make sure you clearly indicate the office you seek in the space provided. Primarily, this means distinguishing between First and Second VP.
Discounted 2015 Great Escape Tickets Now Available!
Hard Tickets Are Available For Pick Up At VSEA H.Q. in Montpelier!
Discount tickets are now available to purchase online by clicking here, but in order to access this page, which also includes the required VSEA username and password, you must be a registered “member-only” VSEA website user (you can sign up here!).
Please note that there is a service charge for purchasing online.
2015 Regular Day Tickets = $33 each
($25 savings over price at gate)
Do you have questions or comments about VSEA’s Week In Action Newsletter?
Due to the Fourth of July holiday, VSEA will not publish next week. Have a Happy Fourth of July!
Check Your Mailbox Soon For VSEA 71st Annual Meeting Registration Forms
VSEA’s Special Events Committee has finalized the registration form to attend the union’s 2015 Annual Meeting on September 12 at the Jay Peak Resort in Jay, and the forms will go out in the mail next week. You can also download a registration form by clicking here (Opens a PDF). This year, the Committee is sponsoring a special wild west-themed event on Friday night, September 11.
Your registration form must be mailed to VSEA HQ by 4:30 p.m. on Friday, August 7. Members who do not complete the registration form will not be provided meals at the Annual Meeting, as members must indicate their meal selections on the form in advance.
VSEA Members Urged To Sign Union’s “Respect & Dignity” Petition
Earlier this month, VSEA began circulating a “Respect and Dignity” petition to support VSEA members’ right to collectively bargain and to demand respect for the process and your contract. This is in anticipation of the tough fight for a fair contract we expect this year at the bargaining table. It’s also in response to the actions of some elected officials and lawmakers in recent months.
Remember that early in the session, the State repeatedly demanded VSEA members’ reopen their contracts and discuss concessions, effectively trying, once again, to balance Vermont’s budget deficit on workers’ backs. Additionally, several legislators, including the chairs of the House Appropriations and Government Operations Committees, penned an unsolicited letter to provide advice to the State on how to achieve labor savings in negotiations.
By signing the “Respect and Dignity” petition, you’re helping your VSEA Bargaining Teams demonstrate the membership’s level of support for ending the State’s consistent asks for a reopeners and for preventing more interference by lawmakers. You’re also helping VSEA send a strong message that your contract is a legally binding document (much like ski resort leases) that was negotiated in good faith.
Many of you who were union leaders and activists during VSEA’s Fight Back Campaign have received—or will soon receive—a packet in the mail with the petition and more information. Many of you will also be contacted by VSEA Organizers to talk about this petition and other ways you can support your Bargaining Teams in the coming weeks and months.
VSEA is sending best wishes to nurses working the University of Vermont’s Medical Center in Burlington. The nurses are entering the final weekend of contract negotiations, trying to reach an agreement by Monday. Frontline nurse Laurie Aunchman told reporters on June 24 that “So far, the proposals of the hospital have been less than optimal.” The nurses are asking for safe staffing levels and for a fair wage that allows the facility to recruit and retain the best nurses possible and cuts down on having to pay an estimated $22,000 to $65,000 to replace a nurse. “We are looking for a wage that is respectable for the work that we do.”
“VSEA has supported the nurses’ call for safe staffing levels for years now because it’s the right thing to do and because our members working at health care facilities want the same,” VSEA President Shelley Martin explained to WIA. “VSEA stands in solidarity with the UVM nurses, and we wish their negotiating team all the best in these next few days.”
The UVM Medical Center nurses have not ruled out a strike.
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.
Lamoille Valley Chapter Renews Call For Members To March In Morrisville’s July 4 Parade.
All Members Statewide Welcome!
VSEA’s Lamoille Valley Chapter has a great opportunity at this year’s annual Morrisville Fourth of July 4 Parade to show House Speaker Shap Smith and other local politicians that state employees are united and prepared to stand strong in defense of the services we provide. That’s because Smith and other elected officials will be marching in the parade, and so will we! The parade also affords us an opportunity to take our message to the public and enlist their support in our fight for the Governor and lawmakers to adopt a responsible budgeting process.
The Lamoille Valley Chapter is inviting all state employees (especially those who live and work in the Lamoille Valley) to march with the Chapter in this year’s parade. Here are the details:
Parade theme is an ‘All American Holiday’;
Being held on Saturday, July 4;
Beginning at 9:30 a.m., floats/marchers will be lining up at the Community College of Vermont Morrisville Campus. The parade begins promptly at 11:00 a.m. and it ends at the Peoples Academy High School; and
Chittenden Chapter Schedules Sixth Annual “Night at the Vermont Lake Monsters” & Pre-Game Barbeque For
Prior to the Chittenden Chapter’s sixth annual “Night at the Lake Monsters” game on Friday, July 24, the Chapter is pleased to once again be hosting a barbeque for VSEA members in the VDH Lab parking lot at 195 Colchester Ave. All VSEA members and their families attending the July 24 game are invited to drop by the Chapter’s barbeque beforehand to enjoy a free meal and a beverage. The grill fires up at 5:30 p.m. Haynes reminds that parking is not permitted in the Lab’s lot, nor is alcohol. This year, the Lake Monsters will square off at 7:05 p.m. against the Connecticut Tigers.
How To Get Tickets
VSEA members belonging to any Chapter statewide can reserve two tickets per member up until Friday, July 17. After that, tickets will be made available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Chittenden President Kara Haynes will keep a list of members wanting more than two tickets initially, and she will follow-up with these requests after the July 17 deadline to reserve has passed and she is able to determine how many tickets remain.
If you are a VSEA member wanting to reserve your two tickets, please contact Chittenden Chapter President Kara Haynes by phone at 557-1227 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Barre Chapter has scheduled its Chapter Annual Meeting for 5:00 p.m., Thursday, August 6, at the Quarry Restaurant in downtown Barre. There’s a full agenda, including the nomination and election of all Chapter officers. The Chapter is also hoping to fill a vacant Council seat at the meeting as well.
Chapter President Sue LaFleche is asking members interested in running for office to please contact her prior to the meeting by emailing her at Suzanne.Lafleche@state.vt.us. If you are interested in running for office, but can’t attend the August 6 meeting, please also contact Sue.
“I am always looking to hear from our Barre Chapter members,” reminds LaFleche. “What are your concerns or interests? Let’s organize some worksite meetings and talk.”
True to their word, VSEA activists John Howe and Joanie Maclay spent last Friday night at the Sheraton Hotel in South Burlington, collecting 81 petition signatures from supportive Democrats at the annual Curtis Awards Dinner. The petition being circulated was a frontline workers’ response to letter penned in mid-April by the Democrat chairs of two powerful House committees, which contained several unsolicited suggestions for how to lower labor costs through the collective bargaining process.
Howe shared his petitioning experience with WIA:
“I think that petitioning Democrats at their largest annual event and putting the House Appropriations and Government Operations Chairpersons’ letter on all the banquet tables was just the right the kind of action for the Curtis Award Dinner. Sister [Joan] Maclay and I got many of the Party’s leaders to sign the petition, including five members of the VDP Executive Committee, a former VDP Chair and two statewide office holders. It really shows us who our friends are in the Party. Joanie and I got 81 signatures during the hour that we canvased before the dinner started. If we had more members present I am sure we could have gotten many more. It was a good use of VSEA dues to sponsor a table so that we could get in the door. Petitioning was a great way to have a short one-on-one conversation with rank-and-file Democrats about the Chairs’ proposed assault on our collective bargaining. As state workers we need to keep constant public pressure on all politicians: we need to actually hold them accountable to vote pro labor when they say they are pro labor.”
He continued: “A follow-up to this action is that Speaker Smith—when approached with the petition—agreed to meet with VSEA members to discuss our concerns. This is a huge step toward having member-initiated lobbying. I believe the Chairs wanted to keep their attacks on our contracts hidden, but petitioning brings their attempt out into the open and hopefully will scare Democrats from doing it again. Keeping this out in front is more democratic (little D). This summer, as we go to Fourth of July and other Vermont Summer Festivals where politicians are as abundant as mosquitoes, I hope more members approach their reps and senators, especially those who did not support us last session, and confront them on their positions.”
VSEA Meets With DEC Members Impacted By Reorganization
A VSEA organizer, union representatives, the Executive Director and VSEA President Shelley Martin attended a June 23 meeting in Barre of impacted Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) employees to talk about the ramifications of an email they recently received from their commissioner, informing the workers their shop is being reorganized. Washington County Sen. Anthony Pollina also attended the meeting.
The email read: “Dear DEC: As I reported earlier, we were directed to cut $722,000 from our budget for fiscal year 2016 (July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016). To meet this obligation, I am reorganizing the Regional Office Program of the Drinking Water and Groundwater Protection Division by reassigning the duties of ten of our people in that program. Over the coming months, they will be transferred into a different program or division and, in some cases, to a different location. The people who are affected have all been notified.”
“I work for DEC, so I personally know the people affected by this decision, and I want to help them achieve the best possible outcome,” Martin tells WIA, adding that the workers think the decision will lead to more problems. “According to what I heard today, these workers believe that breaking up the Barre DEC team is going to draw out the length of time it takes to process permits, which could actually lead to decreased revenue for the state because the DEC workers won’t be processing as many permits.”
The Barre DEC workers told VSEA reps that the reorganization will reduce the permitting staff from five to three, and they warned about angry clients who could have to wait up the three times longer to complete the process. As for the staff, they say they are demoralized and their stress levels have increased. They also worry about losing seasoned workers to other programs and how that will impact their own workloads and productivity. They were also upset about the increased number of exempt employee they say ANR has hired—and is still hiring. Senator Pollina gave his full support to the DEC workers and promised to remind people that the State just a few months ago was trumpeting how it was moving employees into Barre, but that now they are taking them out.
The workers discussed several ways to address the situation and agreed on some steps to take in the coming days and weeks to educate politicians and the public about the ramifications of breaking up the Barre DEC office. These include drafting letters to key elected officials and the media, trying to schedule a face-to-face meeting with the ANR commissioner and filing freedom of information requests to learn about certain costs.
WIA will keep readers updated on this story, as it continues to develop.
Sen. Pollina shared this letter he wrote to DEC Commissioner David Mears on June 26, asking many of the questions generated at the meeting he attended earlier in the week. VSEA thanks Pollina for his support.
I am concerned about the proposed movement of workers from the Barre regional office of the Department of Environmental Conservation to offices in Montpelier. This move will impact State employees and their families, services available to people from surrounding communities and the Barre economy.
I recently met with employees of the Barre office and on behalf of those workers, and myself, I would appreciate your response to the following questions and concerns:
What specific savings are associated with the move from the McFarlane Office Building in Barre to the National Life building in Montpelier? What are the costs of operating in the current space versus rental of new space, including equipment costs ( specialized scanning equipment etc.), utilities, parking, security systems and other expenses, incurred by workers and the State?
What specific space is currently available at National Life and how will it meet our office needs?
What impact will moving the office from Barre have on our customers, the regulated community (citizens, engineers, designers and others) we serve, who frequently visit the Barre office?
Will there be an impact on the time needed to issue permits?
Will these moves lead to further moves and the eventual closing of the Barre office?
What impact will moving workers have on Barre merchants and the the Barre economy?
I understand this decision will likely be justified as the result of legislated budget cuts. I remind you that the Vermont State Employees Association, offered several ideas to raise revenue to avoid cutting services and I am sure they are willing to explore savings to avoid any dislocation of Barre workers and services.
I look forward to your response. I am also sure the workers would appreciate meeting to discuss these concerns.
Solid Proof Exists To Rebut Vermont Economist’s Hypothesis About How Staffing Levels Impact Corrections’ Costs
In a June 24 Burlington Free Press story, UVM Professor and Economist Art Woolf openly ponders why, in his opinion, Vermont Corrections’ costs are high. One of the theories Woolf openly floats is that the may simply be too many DOC staff, writing, “It’s also possible that Vermont’s prisons are overstaffed. In that regard Vermont prisons may be like its schools. In education we have very high per pupil costs because we have a lot of teachers compared to most states. In prisons we could have high costs per inmate because we have a lot of staff.” Woolf does catch himself later in the quote, adding “I’m not convinced the overstaffing explanation holds. The numbers don’t suggest that Vermont has a large number of corrections employees given the number of inmates in our prisons.” Well, you’re right Mr. Woolf, but VSEA is still encouraging its DOC members to draft letters to the editor to remind the revered economist about a study provided to legislators this year that showed a need currently exists for the DOC to hire 58 additional corrections officers, primarily for safety reasons. VSEA members can read about the report here.
U.S. Supreme Court To Decide Soon On Whether Or Not To Take Case That Could Really Harm Public Sector Unions
The Associated Press published a story on June 24 that reports the U.S. Supreme Court is currently debating whether or not to hear a “high-profile legal challenge” (Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association)that could severely impact the ability of VSEA and other public-sector unions to effectively represent members.
The Court is deciding if it will hear a group of California schoolteachers’ challenge to a 1977 Supreme Court ruling titled Aboud v. Detroit Board of Education, which permitted unions to collect “bargaining costs” from workers who choose not to join the union, as long as the money was not used for political purposes.
According to the story, America’s public-sector unions have good reason to be concerned about the challenge, as the Court “raised serious doubts about the viability of Aboud” when it ruled in 2014 that thousands of Illinois homecare workers could not be required to pay union dues that cover collective bargaining. However, the story also points out that the Court has been reluctant to overturn longstanding court precedent.
In the story, a spokesperson for the California Teachers Association sums up his belief for why this challenge is being advanced, saying, “I think it’s an attempt to reduce our numbers, reduce our clout and reduce our revenue streams.” He’s right.
WIA will keep readers updated on what the Court decides.