Training: The Grievance
VTrans Training Center
1716 U.S. Rte. 2
Berlin 9:00 a.m.
Quote of The Week!
"This doesn’t seem like a good directive.”
VSEA President Dave Bellini, responding in a press release to a legislative directive to the Judiciary in H. 490 to cut security spending at each Vermont courthouse by 3 percent. VSEA and the Judiciary mutually agreed this week that security actually needs to be increased at each courthouse.
Capital Commuters News: November 2015
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!!
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 email@example.com
or by phone at 802-828-2804.
Clinics held October 1 thru November 5, 2015.
Tired Of Waiting For Action, VSEA Issues Press Release Calling For Improved Courthouse Security
VSEA Judiciary members who sit on the labor side of the table during labor/management meetings have been discussing the issue of courthouse security for years now, and these ongoing discussions helped prompt the drafting of a report on courthouse security by a national firm that was delivered to lawmakers in January 2015.
To date, most of the report’s recommendations have not been acted upon, and last week’s brutal incident at the Costello Courthouse was a tragic reminder why courthouse workers say they need to be. In an effort to try and spur some action, VSEA issued the following press release on October 26:
“Vermont State Employees Association (VSEA) members who work in Vermont courthouses statewide have been working with their union for years to sound the alarm about potential security issues inside our state’s courthouses. Their concerns were validated in January 2015, when 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,” one of which was the Costello Courthouse in Burlington. To date, the Judiciary has not acted on many of the report’s recommendations, primarily; VSEA members are told, because there is no money.
‘The excuse that there is no money to provide better security at the Costello Courthouse and other courthouses, or to put measures in place to better protect frontline social workers while at work, is not acceptable to VSEA members or, frankly, to the public,’ explains VSEA President Dave Bellini. ‘Last legislative session, in response to our Governor’s request for anyone to submit ideas to find some money, VSEA members made several suggestions to generate new revenue, and state employees now want the State and lawmakers to revisit these ideas and apply some of this revenue to ensuring workers and the public are as safe as can be at all times.’ He added that workers tell him the Legislature further complicated the Judiciary’s security problem earlier this year, when lawmakers instructed senior assistant judges in H. 490 to recommend proposals to the Court Administrator by November 2015 to cut each court’s security budget by an additional 3 percent. “This doesn’t seem like a good directive,” Bellini said.
VSEA Judiciary Unit Chair Margaret Crowley echoed Bellini’s security concerns, saying, “The incident last week 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. VSEA members agree with Matt Riven, who wrote in his January summary to the legislature that, ‘It is no longer acceptable—if it ever was—to assume that violent incidents such as have occurred elsewhere in the United States could never happen in Vermont.’ Now, seven months later, there’s the tragic killing of a social worker and a brutal rape at the Costello Courthouse. Mr. Riven is right. These kinds of incidents are no longer acceptable. The time to act is now.”
Want Instantaneous Push Notifications From Your Union?
Download The VSEAUnite App
With the 2016 legislative session fast approaching, VSEA is excited to be employing a new push notification tool to message members faster about important hearings, meetings, testimony, events and other union matters. Any member who has already downloaded the VSEAUnite App does not to do anything, but if you haven’t downloaded the free App yet, you can do so very easily.
VSEA’s Communications team is stressing that it will not be overloading members’ phones with push notifications. Members will also have the option to easily turn off the notifications, if the volume of notifications ever becomes an issue.
“We’ll be working in the coming weeks and months to increase the number of VSEA members using the VSEAUnite App, with an emphasis on getting a few users from each work site,” explains Communications Director Doug Gibson. “We’ll be aiming to limit the notifications to just information that is important to the entire VSEA membership, as opposed to Chapter- or Unit-specific messages, which, for the time being, will continue to be sent to members via email message.”
VSEAUnite is available for most mobile devices, including iPhone and Android. Once you download the App, you simply register with your name and your VSEA bargaining unit and location. VSEAUnite then allows you to view your Unit’s contract, find contact information for your nearest VSEA steward (to report contract infractions), see a calendar of upcoming VSEA events and read the latest news about working people to hit the wires.
The download is free, so your union hopes all VSEA iPhone, Android and other mobile users will download it today!
State Adds Alternatives To The List Of Possible Relocation Sites For Barre DCF Workers
Last week’s WIA had a story about VSEA staff meeting with ANR and ESD workers at the McFarland State Office Building in Barre to discuss a proposal by the State to move the workers out of that building and into the space at the City Place Building currently occupied by the Barre DCF office and its workers. Workers at McFarland raised real concerns to VSEA about the costs associated with retrofitting new space for them at City Place, and they worried about vehicle and testing equipment storage. However, the McFarland workers were unified in their hope that the State will find the DCF workers an alternative location to work that doesn’t require the retrofitting costs that the ANR offices would. At the time of meeting last week, the City Place to McFarland move was the only option on the table, but what a difference a week makes.
VSEA and the DCF and ANR workers learned through an October 26 story on VtDiggerthat the State had decided on its own over the weekend to expand to pool of possible relocation sites from one to five, including several options within Barre Courthouse. Costs were associated with each of the proposals, however the costs were not itemized or explained. Instead, it is a spreadsheet with generic dollar figure totals attached to categories like “Fit-Up Costs.”
In the story, Deputy Secretary of the Administration Michael Clasen tells Digger that his boss, Justin Johnson, will be making a final decision on where the DCF workers will move in the next couple of weeks. ANR Secretary Deb Markowitz says in the story that she personally supports ANR workers moving to help their DCF colleagues, but her opinion about the move—not about helping the DCF workers—does not jibe with the frontline ANR workers VSEA talked with last week. In addition, emails from ANR workers that VSEA obtained in a public records request also contain very specific reasons from them about why the move would be very costly.
VSEA met with Barre DCF workers this week about a potential move, and they appreciated the outreach from their union, having received little information to date from management they said. There was definitely a consensus among the workers at the meeting that they do want to move to work space, primarily due to the trauma they experienced at City Place on August 7. VSEA will continue to help facilitate the DCF workers’ move to ensure that it is done in a logical and smart way.
Editorial Advocates Legislative Support For Frontline DCF Social Workers
Terrific editorial in the October 26 Times Argus/Rutland Herald, titled "On The Front Lines," in which the writer advocates for additional, necessary resources for frontline DCF Social Workers. Here’s a couple of snippets:
"That we have a corps of people willing to take on this job is something we should be grateful for. Also, we ought to recognize that they need support. After two children who had been under the supervision of DCF were murdered two years ago, the department underwent a searching examination that found, among other things, that the department was understaffed. [The State] pledged to add personnel, but understaffing remains a problem."
"DCF needs more manpower. It is on the front lines, and to leave it there unsupported by reinforcements would be unconscionable."
Vermont State Parks Host More Than 1 Million Visitors!
Most In 27 Years!
VSEA sent congratulations this week this week to its members working for the Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation for all they did to help to ensure that the more than 1 million visitors to Vermont parks this year had a great experience and will be returning for years to come.
“Vermont’s parks haven’t seen these kinds of numbers in 27 years, and the workers are a big reason for that success,” VSEA President Dave Bellini tells WIA. “Congratulations to the entire department.”
In an October 29 Rutland Herald story about the 1 million visitor mark being hit, DFPR Commissioner Michael Snyder reports that state park attendance has been growing steadily over the last several, and he attributes the uptick to park staff.
“Game wardens have been patrolling Vermont’s land and waters for more than a century, keeping one of the state’s most sacred traditions — hunting — in check. That requires issuing tickets and making arrests, but everyone, including the hunters they crack down on, benefits from their greater goal: sustaining native fish and game.Vermont’s three dozen wardens are trained and ranked as cops and have all the same law-enforcement powers. Like other officers, they carry guns and pepper spray. But the similarities end there: Each field game warden covers roughly 300 square miles — usually alone and often at night. In addition to catching poachers, they put down rabid raccoons, dispose of roadkill, extract bear teeth, arrest people for snowmobiling under the influence and help state troopers track down missing people.”
At the end of the story, Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Louis Porter pays Game Wardens probably the highest compliment they can receive, explaining to the reporter that "There is probably no group that appreciates the wardens’ work as much as anglers, hunters and trappers."
The October 29 Times Argus published the following editorial about the need for State officials and lawmakers to address Vermont’s budget deficit in a way that better determines the needs of Vermonters prior to making cuts and also includes new ways to raise the revenue required to meet these needs.
"In hard-nosed political terms, this debate is about power. Raising revenues has its own implications for justice; ever higher taxes may create their own injustice. And in raw political terms, some people don’t want to pay higher taxes, no matter what.
But a full understanding of what is just cannot be achieved without a full understanding of the struggles of Vermonters. Protecting the tax privileges of the wealthy should not be the priority that determines the state budget."
The Vermonters who use the public services provided by VSEA members agree with that last line!
NLRB’s New Union Election Rules Speeding Up The Process
Politico’s “Morning Shift” page reports on October 28 that six months after the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) implementation of what its opponents call an “ambush election” rule, union elections are happening twice as fast. An NLRB PowerPoint presentation shows that the median time between the filing of an election petition and an NLRB-directed union election is now 32 days, down from 67 days during the same period in 2014.
Between an election petition and the pre-election hearing the median was nine days, down from 13. Elections held after an agreement with the employer took a median of 23 days, down from 37; and
Between the filing of a petition and certification of an election the median was 35 days, down from 49.
Workers’ Center Hosting “Building Activism In Our Unions” Workshop
Tomorrow, Saturday, October 31, the Vermont Workers’ Center is hosting a workshop on how to build activism in your union. The workshop begins at 10:00 a.m. at the VWC office, located at 294 Winooski Avenue in Burlington. It’s scheduled to end at 2:00 p.m.
According to a Facebook posting about the workshop, “Dan Clawson, an activist with the Massachusetts Teachers Association, will lead a discussion on how to organize grievance campaigns and direct action in our workplaces. A variety of local union members, including custodial workers at St. Michael’s College, state workers, UVM professors, and nurses and UVM Medical Center, will join the discussion to share stories of success, as well as the challenges they face.”
State Treasurer Informs Retirees There Will Be No Cost-Of-Living Increase In 2016
The following was emailed this week to VSEA retirees, but in case you missed it:
To: Retired Employees From: Laurie Lanphear, Director of Retirement Operations, Office of the State Treasurer Date: October 26, 2015 RE: 2016 Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA)
There will be no cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in January of 2016 for beneficiaries (retirees) of the three public retirement systems in Vermont. State law requires this determination to be based on the Northeast Region CPI U as of June 30, 2015, which was 0%.
The office of the Attorney General has reviewed the statutory provisions and has advised that without an increase or decrease in the CPI U, Vermont law does not allow for any decrease or increase in retirement allowances.
VSEA Insurance Representative At Vets’ Home Next Week
VSEA Insurance Representative Joanne Woodcock will be at the Veterans’ Home three days next week to talk with interested VSEA members about member-only insurance benefits.
November 3, 4 & 5
325 North St.
12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
If you work at another site in Bennington and are unable to come to the Vet’s Home, you can call 802-485-4820 for a Thursday or Friday morning appointment.
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.
Discount Bolton Valley Season Pass Deadline Is October 31!
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.