NEK/St. Johnsbury Chapter’s Employment Appreciation Day
Depot Square Park
Junction Railroad & Eastern Ave.
NMU Bargaining Overview Meeting
312 Hurricane Lane
Large Conference Room
NMU Contract Overview Meeting
State Office Building
NMU Contract Overview Meeting
Parks & Recreation
Labor Educator’s Monthly Worksite Meeting
State Office Building
Conference Room 148
Labor Educator’s Monthly Worksite Meeting
State Office Building
First Floor Conference Room
NMU Contract Overview Meeting
McFarland State Office Building
ESD Conference Room
Training: The Labor Activist
VTrans Training Center
1716 U.S. Route 302
NMU Contract Overview Meeting
133 State St.
Quote Of The Week!
“This sense of oneness, strength, and mutual sharing of grief has been evident to all of us from the very onset of this tragedy. On behalf of myself, my wife and the entire family I would like to express how grateful and appreciative we all are for this outpouring of love and support from everyone.”
Alex Sobel, father of slain DCF Social Worker Lara Sobel, talking to the Times Argus about the establishment of a VSEA fund to help Lara’s daughters.
VSEA Board Of Trustees’ Corrections Seat Open To Interested DOC Members!
For years, VSEA’s Corrections Unit has been represented admirably on the VSEA Board of Trustees by Dave Bellini, who was recently elected VSEA President. Bellini’s new post creates an opening on the Board, and VSEA is accepting petitions from interested workers who belong to the Corrections Unit.
If you’re a VSEA DOC member who is interested in running to fill the Corrections Board seat, you must obtain 25 signatures or more on a petition and submit it to headquarters by 4:00 p.m., Friday, October 9, 2015.
VtSHARES Welcomes New Program to its Roster of Charitable Organizations: Girls/Boyz FIRST Mentoring Program
This piece was submitted to WIA by Doug Kievit-Kylar (VSEA & Sustainability Committee Member/Mentor with the Girls/Boyz FIRST Mentoring Program
The season of giving will soon be upon us once again as VtSHARES rolls out again this autumn. This is the time of year when we all invest in our fellow Vermonters by donating to charitable organizations designed to help those in need. Every year Vermont state employees demonstrate remarkable generosity of spirit through their donations to VtSHARES – and VSEA members have, and can continue to play an important role in supporting charitable organizations of their choice.
VtSHARES was established in 1977 as the State Employees’ Combined Charitable Appeal (SECCA) to allow an annual, coordinated campaign to permit payroll deduction, thereby encouraging financial support from Vermont State employees for local charitable organizations providing services to Vermonters. The campaign allows employees to spread contributions over an entire year or to make a one-time gift through payroll deductions.
This is the first year that the Girls/Boyz FIRST Mentoring Program is included in the roster of charitable organizations that State employees may elect to support with a donation. As a mentor for nearly two decades in this program myself I urge you to learn what you can about mentoring, about this important program, and consider making a donation to support young Vermonters.
The economy and environment have continued to be hard on many Vermonters, and supporting those in need has always been a trademark of state employees and VSEA members. I urge you to take part in VtSHARES and choose to make a difference.
"Right-Size Government" Is Code For Service/Job Cuts!
VSEA is advising members to keep an ear open for the phrase "right-size government" in the coming months. It’s code for service and job cuts.
If you hear this phrase, remember what "right-sizing" government means to frontline state workers, which is:
Adding 52-84 new positions in Corrections, which a study said was needed, primarily for safety reasons;
Adding 40-60 (or more…) new DCF social worker positions, to try to prevent another tragedy;
Adding much-needed positions at the Green Mountain Psychiatric Care Facility, where one or two wings are currently closed due to a lack of staff and Vermont is in a mental health crisis;
Adding Dispatcher positions to help alleviate the workload issues caused by the ill-advised recent closure of two Vermont PSAPs; and
You tell VSEA. Send an email to email@example.com and write “Positions Needed!” in the subject line. Tell us what you do, where you work and why more employees are needed.
Please help VSEA ensure Vermonters understand the message. Thanks!
Discounted Bolton Valley Season Passes Now Available To VSEA Members
For the third year in a row, the VSEA Advantage Discount Program is pleased to offer discounted season passes to the Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Bolton, Vt. VSEA members who order a pass before October 31, 2015, will receive a $70 discount off the regular $569 season pass price, making it just $499. Like last year, this offer is available only to VSEA members who are currently paying full dues to their union.
The sign-up process is pretty straightforward, but, like last year, in order for a member to view the special VSEA discount promo code (which can be found by clicking here), you must be a registered user of the VSEA website, which also requires you to be a full dues-paying member. If you want to register for member-only status, please click here. To sign up to become a full, dues-paying member, please click here.
After acquiring the special VSEA promo code, VSEA members can go here to place your season pass order.
Follow these instructions to make your purchase:
Click on “Buy Online” and select pass products, accepting or declining pass protection and adding each product to your cart.
In the Cart view, click on “Add/Change Guest” to set the pass holder’s name and information to each pass product, then click “Proceed to Checkout.”
Enter your Promo Code in the box where it asks for your promo code then click “Apply Code.” The cart should be refreshed and show the discounted corporate pricing.
A 2015-16 Bolton Valley All Access Season Pass includes:
Unlimited alpine skiing and riding;
100km of Nordic and backcountry skiing;
A 20% discount on rentals, retail shop purchases, group ski and ride lessons, and lodging (includes condos, suites, or hotel rooms); and
Sports Center Membership including access to an indoor heated pool, hot tub, and sauna.
BV pricing allows you to build your own family pass. Adult passes are just $499 and passes for youth 17 and under are just $159 when purchased with a parent’s pass.
Week In Action will not publish next week, October 9, 2015
NMU Members Notified About Election Ballot Error
Revised Ballot Mailing Soon!
VSEA’s recently appointed Elections Rules and Nominating Committee Chair Rubin Jennings sent a message this week to all the candidates running to be an NMU officer or member of the Unit’s Executive Committee, informing them that he is voiding the ballots NMU members recently received in the mail and is instructing staff to send a revised ballot.
An issue arose with the ballot after VSEA was notified by members who received it—and who attended VSEA’s Annual Meeting and allege they witnessed the nominating process—that they believed two names had been left off the ballot. One of the missing names was an admitted oversight, but the other name has triggered a dispute within the NMU’s governing body, and Jennings informed the candidates in his message that there is a process in place to address the dispute and it is being used, however, he warns that the process could delay the certification of the race in question. Jennings goes on to assure the group that the “NMU election will still be conducted within the required timelines.”
A revised and corrected ballot is already at the printer and members should be receiving it soon. All original ballots received will not count and will be destroyed. Please be sure to carefully read through the mailing instructions that are included with your revised ballot. Revised ballots are due back to VSEA headquarters by 4:30 p.m., Friday, October 30, 2015. No scanned or faxed ballots will be accepted.
VSEA Spreading The Word About Newly Established Fund For Lara Sobel’s Children
Less than a week old, word about the “VSEA Fund for the Children of Lara Sobel” is spreading far and wide, thanks in large part to a VSEA Facebook post earlier this week that has been shared more than 500 times and to news stories this week about the Fund ‘s launch.
ABC WFFF aired a story on its September 30 nightly newscast, featuring VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard, who tells the reporter, “We hope we never have to do this again. We’re going to do our best to make sure we get the kind of support we need for Lara’s children, but we also want in the long term to engage Vermonters in reaching out to their elected officials to say they expect them to keep state employees safe, in order to keep children safe, in order to keep Vermonters safe.”
The Times Argus published a story on October 1, featuring the voices of Lara’s father Alex and VSEA Treasurer and AOE worker Sheila Manchester Coniff. Mr. Sobel thanks VSEA for helping create the Fund, and adds, “The desire of so many people to do something for Julia and Elahna in the creation and the donations to this fund is a true indicator of how an entire community comes together. This sense of oneness, strength, and mutual sharing of grief has been evident to all of us from the very onset of this tragedy. On behalf of myself, my wife and the entire family I would like to express how grateful and appreciative we all are for this outpouring of love and support from everyone.” VSEA’s Manchester Coniff adds VSEA’s perspective to why the Fund’s creation is so important to state employees across Vermont, saying, “This was unprecedented. This has never happened to a state employee who isn’t a state trooper. State employees feel so helpless, but this is something we can do. It won’t bring those girls’ mother back, but it might make their lives a little bit easier.”
If you haven’t donated yet to the VSEA Fund for the Children of Lara Sobel, but want to do so, please go to www.vsea.org/donate (and please share this link with everyone you know!).
Contributions can also be mailed to VSEA C/O The VSEA Fund for the Children of Lara Sobel, 155 State Street, Montpelier, VT 05602 Attention: Amy Haskins.
All contributors will receive a purple "Lara Sobel Strong" wristband.
To date, more than 50 people have donated to the Fund, and the contributions are coming from Vermont and all over the country, from California to Texas to Florida to Wisconsin. Already, nearly $4,000 has been raised.
Have You Signed The VSEA 2015 Contract: Respect & Dignity Petition?
As official contract bargaining on successor agreements begins, VSEA is reminding members to sign your union’s “2015 Contract: Respect & Dignity” petition, which calls for good-faith bargaining, an end to cuts, cuts and more cuts and for lawmakers to stay out of the collective bargaining process (language prompted by a letter from the Chairs of two powerful House committees with their suggestions for what and how to bargain with state employees). To date, VSEA has collected nearly 900 signatures on the petition, but we need more!
VSEA Member Victorious At Labor Board In Dispute Over Improper Overtime Payments
VSEA learned this week that the union had scored a victory at the Vermont Labor Relations Board (VLRB) on behalf of a Fish and Wildlife Department member.
On September 10, VSEA Associate General Counsel Justin St. James and VSEA member Michele Eynon appeared at the VLRB to participate in a hearing that concerned the State providing only compensatory time to employees for overtime worked, instead of cash, as the contract dictates for members in certain overtime categories. VSEA and Eynon argued the arrangement ignores the employee’s overtime category that dictates cash as the form of compensation for all overtime hours worked.
The VLRB ruled in its decision that VSEA members who are in overtime categories that require the State to pay them cash, and not compensatory time, for overtime hours must follow the contract and pay the members in cash. Further, the VLRB determined that because management alone authorizes overtime hours, that regardless of whether members are assigned or volunteer for overtime work, workers must be paid according to the contract. And the Board reaffirmed its long-held belief that in contractual grievance matters involving pay, the timeline for filing grievances is dependent upon when employees receive their pay advice or paychecks, not when they may have knowledge of how the State intends to pay them.
NEK/St. Johnsbury Chapter’s Employee Appreciation Day Is October 7
VSEA’s NEK/St. Johnsbury Chapter is hosting an Employee Appreciation Day event on Wednesday, October 7, at the Depot Square Park at the junction of Railroad Street and Eastern Avenue in St. Johnsbury. The event begins at 11:00 a.m. and will go until 3:00 p.m. Chapter members attending will receive ice cream in a free VSEA pint glass, while supplies last.
For more information, please contact Chapter President Ellen Hinman at 751-0110, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The awards and praise continue to come to the once beleaguered DCF 3SquaresVT food program. In March 2015, VSEA was congratulating state employees working for the program for dropping the program’s processing error rate down from 9.81% in 2013 to just 2.58% in 2014. The reversal prompted the Feds to name Vermont the nation’s most improved state in 2014. Then in July, the program was found to be “in line with federal standards,” which earned the state of Vermont a $300,000 bonus.
Now comes word his week that the program has received a new $252,344 bonus, again for increased performance.
According to a statement from the State, “the decision to award a performance bonus is based on a state’s Program Access Index for calendar year 2014. Vermont’s calendar year 2014 PAI was 92.99 percent, one of the highest in the country.
Congratulations to all the VSEA members working for the 3SquaresVT program for helping to make it one of the nation’s best.
State Sends Disconcerting Memo To Agency & Department Heads, Concerning Talking With The Media
VSEA learned through a September 27 Burlington Free Press story that the State recently sent a memo to all agency and department heads, directing them to contact the Fifth Floor before responding to press requests and inquiries. The story raised the eyebrows of newly elected VSEA President Dave Bellini, who told WIA that VSEA will be inquiring soon about the reach of the directive, meaning does it apply to classified employees as well.
In a follow-up story a few days later on VTDigger, the State’s chief spokesperson downplays the memo, calling it a “routine reminder” and explaining that he just wants to ensure reporters are receiving the most accurate information. When asked if the memo runs counter to the State’s declared commitment to transparency, the spokesperson replies, “I just want to be very clear. I have never and will never tell someone that they can’t go to the press.”
Note: VSEA advises state employees who are delivering testimony at the State House (which we encourage!) or talking with the press (which we also encourage!) to preference your comments with “I am speaking as a citizen of Vermont and not on behalf of my agency or department.”
VSEA’s Retirees’ Chapter Still Looking To Fill District 6 Trustee Vacancy
VSEA’s Retirees’ Chapter is still looking to fill its District 6 (Windsor/Windham) Trustee seat. VSEARC bylaws allow the BOT to appoint to this seat.
The Chapter is again recruiting for anyone interested in this seat. Please send your name to the VSEARC Board of Trustees, on or before October 9, 2015. You do not need to reside in Windham/Windsor Counties or Vermont. You do need to be a member of the VSEARC.
Please submit your name to: Vsearc@vsea.org. Names of interested lifetime members must be submitted by October 9, 2015.
State Reveals $8 Million Omission From Budget That Just Passed
VPR reports on September 30 that, after months of knowing, the State finally revealed to lawmakers this week that Vermont has to pay an extra week’s Medicaid benefits in this fiscal year because there are more that 52 weeks in 2015; an anomaly the story says occurs every five to seven years. How much? According to the story, Vermont “is on the hook” for $18 million due to the oversight, which the federal government will pay roughly $10 million, leaving Vermont with a new $8 million budget hole.
Secretary of the Administration Justin Johnson tells VPR that the State chose not to reveal the information because, he explains, “At the time we put the budget together, it was determined because it was a flexible piece we would wait for budget adjustment and see what things were looking like.”
Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Jane Kitchel says lawmakers depend on the State to keep them updated on matters like these, telling the reporter, “When we’re building the budget, I guess the question that needs to be asked was, ‘are there any anticipated expenditures that are not reflected in your budget request as you’re presenting it to us?’”
Speaker Shap Smith echoes Kitchel’s sentiment and adds that he believes the Legislature’s lack of staffing may have contributed to him and other lawmakers not learning about the State’s intended omission, explaining, “It does point to a challenge within the process, which is that the Legislature is under-staffed and under-resourced, and to a certain extent we are reliant on the [State] for providing us with the information that helps us build the budget.”
Note: No indication yet of how the State intends to cover the new $8 million budget shortfall, but, as always, state employees will have to be on guard.
LiveWell Vermont & Benefits Presents The 2015 Flu Program & Open Enrollment!
WIA is including at the request of State Employees’ Wellness Plan:
Protect yourself, your co-workers and those you love. Influenza can be a very serious disease, particularly to the young, the old and those with chronic health conditions. Get vaccinated every year!
LiveWell Vermont has partnered with ClearChoiceMD and is offering quadrivalent vaccine at all 2015 flu clinics! Clinics are open to all active, retired and temporary Vermont State employees, including employees of VSEA, the Historical Society and Arts Council.
If you can’t make one of our clinics, or are looking for a vaccine for a spouse/partner and/or adult dependent, you can now go to any pharmacy that accepts Express Scripts (the State pharmacy vendor) and your shot is 100% covered. Questions? Contact Maura O’Brien, Program Coordinator at email@example.com or by phone at 802-828-2804.
VSEA Insurance Representative In Newport Next Week
VSEA Insurance Representative Joanne Woodcock will be in Newport next week at the following locations to talk with interested VSEA members about member-only insurance benefits.
October 7 and 8
Northern State Regional Correctional Facility
2559 Glen Road
12:00 to 4:00
State Office Building
100 Mineral Street
12:00 to 3:00
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.