Alliance For Retired Americans’ Annual Conference
Training: Health & Safety Issues
VTrans Training Center
1716 U.S. Rte. 302
VSEA Informational Meeting on
Barre Building Move
Barre FSD Office – Barre City Place
Attendance Open to All Non-Management and Supervisory Employees of Family Services
Lunch and Refreshments Provided
12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Bennington Chapter Meeting
Bennington Rescue Squad Building
120 McKinley St.
Board Of Trustees’ Meeting
Deadline To Purchase 2015/16 Bolton Valley Ski Passes
Buy Union-Made Halloween Treats!
Just in case you haven’t stocked up yet. From the AFL-CIO’s Union Plus Program page:
“When those little ghosts and goblins come collecting on Halloween, make sure you have a full supply of union-made-in-America treats for them like Jelly Belly’s candy corn. Here’s a brief list of choices of candy products made by members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM); snack foods by members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW); or fruit and nuts from members of the United Farm Workers of America (UFW).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
or by phone at 802-828-2804.
Clinics held October 1 thru November 5, 2015.
DCF Social Worker Goes To State House To Sound Alarm About Worker Safety.
Threats Coming In At An Alarming Rate
When DCF Social Worker Kara Haynes (photo above: left) took the chair on October 20 to testify about worker safety to the legislature’s Joint Legislative Child Protection Oversight Committee, she knew she was representing hundreds of her colleagues, and she wanted to do well. She did—very well.
Haynes used her time to lament the legislature’s delay in responding to workers’ well-documented concerns about doing home visits alone, and she warned that caseloads are now higher than ever, explaining how high caseloads are “inextricably linked” to safety. Haynes also shared how she and her colleagues began meeting informally early in 2015 to talk with each other about security concerns and how the workers’ “tragically and horrifically” predicted that someone would be seriously injured in a parking lot.
DCF Commissioner Ken Schatz also delivered chilling testimony about the large number of threats being made against social workers in recent months, saying that since the Sobel tragedy, there have been 85 threats against DCF workers, and 73 have targeted Family Services Division workers. Like Haynes, Schatz said he too is very concerned about the current caseloads most DCF Family Services Division workers are carrying today.
Thankfully, this week’s hearing received a good amount of press, as this issue is very important and something needs to happen in the upcoming legislative session to ensure frontline DCF social workers are able to do their job protecting vulnerable children, free of concern about their own personal safety.
Gubernatorial Candidate Blasts State’s Response To NMU Bargaining Team’s Declaration Of Impasse!
One gubernatorial candidate wasted little time blasting the State’s decision last week to go to the press with a statement intended to pollute the bargaining environment by disclosing cherry-picked numbers that do not fairly represent the actual back and forth discussions that also occurred in bargaining.
In a Friday radio interview with the Vermont Press Bureau, the gubernatorial candidate was asked about the State’s decision to go public after the NMU Team dared to declare "impasse," which they have every legal right to do.
Here’s some of what the candidate told the interviewer:
"We need to work with our partners; the VSEA. I was really disappointed in the shot across the bow that the [State] sent to the VSEA this week. I thought it was not healthy, and I thought it was disrespectful. We need to see [VSEA members] as partners in addressing the challenges, and not adversaries. Let’s work to solve these problems at the bargaining table and not in the press. The approach [the State] is taking is problematic."
Note: VSEA appreciates this candidate’s support. Your union will share other candidate’s impressions of the State’s actions last week, if they choose to make them public.
Angered By This Action Of The State? All The More Reason To Sign The VSEA 2015 Contract Respect & Dignity Petition!
VSEA members who are angry about last week’s actions by the State, and its ill-advised release of sensitive bargaining information, are urged to help send a strong message to the State and lawmakers about state employee respect and dignity by signing your union’s “2015 Contract: Respect & Dignity” petition. The petition calls for good-faith bargaining, an end to 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 1,000 signatures on the petition, but we need more!
State Hospital Workers Meet With Management To Discuss A Host Of Issues
Three VSEA leaders at the Green Mountain Psychiatric Care Facility met with management on October 20 to discuss a host of issues that staff are grappling with on an almost daily basis. These issues included:
Mandated OT and the Mandate List;
Traveling Nurse Ratio (50% right now, most from out of state);
Potential New Hires;
Pay Grade 23 OT Discrepancy (some positions receive OT, others do not);
Nurse Market-Factor Study (due early 2015)
Turnover Rates For All Positions;
Potential For Discipline If Refuse Mandated OT;
Gender-Specific Staffing Issues; and
Management did promise to provide the workers with several pieces of requested information, and there was a good exchange of ideas and approaches that will continue to be discussed at future meetings. Of note, the GMPCF is currently fully operational, after months of a wing being closed, but workers say adequate staffing continues to be a drag on the facility.
Labor Board Strengthens Judiciary Unit’s Right To Early Bargaining, But Denies ULP
The Vermont Labor Relations Board ruled last Friday to dismiss the VSEA Judiciary Unit’s unfair labor practice (ULP) charge against management for failing to bargain. The Judiciary workers filed their ULP on July 23, charging that the Judiciary Branch had refused a request by frontline workers to reschedule the date to begin bargaining a successor agreement from late winter (anywhere from December to February) to August 2015. The workers’ allege that the Judiciary’s usual late-winter start hamstrings them in bargaining because management has already submitted its yearly funding request to lawmakers. All Executive Branch VSEA Bargaining Teams have been bargaining since early August.
“The Labor Board dinged us on a technicality relating to the timing of our initial ULP filing, and not on its merits, so we didn’t waste any time, and we re-filed our request to bargain on Monday,” VSEA Judiciary Unit Chair Margaret Crowley explains to WIA. “We are again attempting to get the Judiciary Branch to come to the table now, and we remain confident our case will help make this happen, sooner not later.” Crowley adds that the Judiciary workers also included a petition with their request that had a majority of the workers’ names on it. The petition calls for the Branch to bargain now.
As justification for the workers’ right to request a date switch, VSEA is citing language contained in the Judicial Employees Labor Relations Act, which reads:
3 VSA §1036 (c)
The Act further provides as follows:
(e) An agreement shall terminate at the expiration of its specified term. Upon request of either party, negotiations for a new agreement to take effect upon the expiration of the preceding agreement shall be commenced at any time during the year preceding the expiration date of the agreement. Negotiation may be commenced at any time before that time with the consent of both parties.
Note: WIA will keep readers updated on the progress of the Judiciary workers’ recently re-filed request to bargain.
Rumors Of Move Prompts VSEA Meeting With ANR & ESD Workers At McFarland State Office Building
VSEA’s Executive Director and other staff were at the McFarland State Office Building in Barre on October 21 to meet with frontline ANR and District 5 Environmental Commission workers about a rumor that the State is considering moving them to the City Place Building in Barre. The move is being contemplated to address the fears of frontline DCF social workers in Barre, after the tragic killing of their colleague, Lara Sobel. To date, VSEA has not met formally with the DCF workers to gauge how they are feeling about a possible move, but that meeting is expected to happen next week.
Every ANR worker who attended the VSEA meeting was clear that they completely understand why the Barre DCF workers might want to move out of City Place, but they did question the fiscal logic of deconstructing two “wet labs” and then retrofitting them in new office space, and they have concerns about the parking of their ANR vehicles and about the storage of their testing equipment and other items. Most in the room wondered why another less costly site couldn’t be found, because no one disagreed that if the DCF workers want out, they should be out.
VSEA promised the ANR workers to file a public records request with the State, seeking documents that show the costs associated with the City Place to McFarland Building move being considered. To date, the costs have never been divulged, but workers are being told there will be a savings, and they would like to know how this savings is being achieved. VSEA will also be setting up meetings for the impacted ANR and D.5 Environmental Commission workers to talk directly with State officials about the move and their
concerns about it.
VSEA Informational Meeting on Barre Building Move
Wednesday, October 28
12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Barre FSD Office – Barre City Place
Attendance Open to All Non-Management and Supervisory Employees of Family Services
Lunch and Refreshments Provided
Alliance For Retired Americans Hosting Annual Conference On October 24
The Vermont Chapter of the Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA) is holding its annual conference on Saturday, October 24 from 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Aldrich Public Library in Barre. This year’s conference theme is “Benefits at Risk,” and featured speakers include the co-author of Social Security Works, Nancy Altman, Public Assets Institute’s Paul Cillo and ARA Executive Director Rich Fiesta.
The VT ARA Chapter will also be conducting officer elections, as part of the day’s business.
There is a $15 registration fee, and conference materials and lunch are included. Pay at the door is okay. Scholarships are available to cover cost.
State’s Retirement Incentive Falls Short Of Goal. AOT Hit Hardest
VTDigger and other news outlets reported this week that the State’s retirement incentive found only 221 takers, or 79 eligible state employees less than the 300 anticipated. The State had expected 300 retiring state employees to generate some $2.5 million in savings, and it has yet to determine if just 221 workers retiring will achieve this level of savings.
“Being at less than 300 is a problem,” Secretary of the Administration Justin Johnson tells Digger, “but I think the actual funding sources of the people leaving is better than we expected.”
Of the 221 state employees taking the incentive, the majority are AOT workers, which will impact the Agency hard. AOT Secretary Chris Cole explains that, to achieve required savings, the Agency was already sitting on 60 to 70 vacancies. Now nearly 50 more vacancies will be heaped on top of those, with only a quarter of these being backfilled. However, as Cole explains, it’s not up to the actual Agency head to make the call.
“It really depends upon the Secretary of the Administration and the decisions he has to make about which positions need to be rehired,” Cole tells Digger.
VSEA Members Asked To Question New Committee’s Charge & Monitor Its Activity
VSEA is alerting members that a new committee has been formed at the State House, and it’s called the Committee on Government Restructuring; a phrase that should cause most state workers’ ears to perk up because it could mean the committee was established to find “more service and job cuts.” What’s disconcerting also about the committee is that it is staffed by two private-sector heads and a former legislator, none of whom would appear to be in tune with the current needs of state government. The committee’s charge is to offer recommendations on how Vermont’s government should be structured to become more efficient. On the committee are Vermont Foodbank CEO John Sayles, Vermont Council on Rural Development Director Paul Costello and former Bennington lawmaker Jeff Wilson. The committee has already missed its initial deadline to submit its first report, which was October 15. That report is now due on November 17.
On October 27, the committee is meeting to discuss the progress of its report, and take public comment on something, but VSEA is not sure what. Worse, the meeting is taking place during working hours, so the ability for the public to attend and comment is extremely limited. For any interested VSEA members or retirees who are actually able to attend the committee’s meeting, it begins at 1:30 p.m. in the Ethan Allen Room at the State House. The meeting is scheduled to run until 4:00 p.m., and public comment is fifth on the agenda. Please let WIA know what you hear!
Deadline Approaching To Purchase Discounted Bolton Valley Season Passes
The last day to purchase discounted season passes to the Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Bolton, Vt., is October 31, 2015. VSEA members 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.
The following was submitted to Week In Action by Capital Commuters:
On behalf of the Go! Vermont team, we hope you enjoyed the beautiful fall colors. As the leaves disappear and we prepare for cold weather, you might be concerned about winter driving. As a Capital Commuter you can relax. We’re here to help you plan ahead and choose to commute smart. Are you all set?
Easing the winter driving tensions takes more than being aware, it takes doing. Go! Vermont is here to help you carpool, take transit, vanpool, walk and bike and how to explore your options?
On November 18th at noon VTrans, 3rd Floor, Room 313, we’re hosting a commuting and networking meeting. Bring your lunch, share and learn. Enjoy cookies by NECI and be entered to win freebies including tickets to Jay Peak Resort. We look forward to seeing you on the 18th. Please spread the word and bring a friend!!