Brattleboro Chapter “Hiking For The Homeless”
Meet at Base of Wantastiquet, Hinsdale
VSEA Member Spotlight
WIA will periodically be spotlighting VSEA members who are going the extra mile for their union and for their co-workers. If you have a co-worker you‘d like to nominate, please send the VSEA member’s name, where s/he works and a few reasons why this person is receiving your nomination to VSEA Communications Director Doug Gibson at email@example.com.
Is Your Office Freezing?
File A BRIN Report!
Faced with the inevitable reality that freezing temperatures sometimes mean freezing offices, VSEA is asking members to share the following negotiated policy with your colleagues:
Vermont Policy Governing Air Quality & Temperature
The State will respond promptly to complaints about air quality in existing State-owned and leased buildings, including air testing when appropriate. The State will consider reasonable corrective measures when indoor workplace temperatures are less than sixty-five (65) degrees or more than eighty-five (85) degrees. Air quality standards for newly constructed or newly leased buildings shall be subject for consideration/recommendation by the Safety and Health Maintenance Committee.
If your office temperature is less than 65 degrees, let the State know immediately by filing a Building Related Issue Notification Form, or BRIN Form, which can be found here. Members are also urged to contact your agency’s or department’s Human Resources’ contact.
VSEA Retirees’ Chapter Looking To Fill Vacant Trustee Seat On Executive Committee.
VSEA’s Retirees’ Chapter is looking to fill a Trustee vacancy in District 6, which is Windham and Windsor Counties. Former District 6 Trustee Nancy Robinson was elected VSEA-RC Vice President at the Chapter’s Annual Meeting in August.
All VSEA “lifetime members” whose Chapter dues are current through FY15 are eligible to occupy the seat. To express interest, please email Retirees’ Chapter President Joanie Maclay at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The deadline to submit your name is
October 1, 2014.
VSEA Wants Member Input On Website Redesign!
In the coming months, VSEA’s Communications team will be devoting time to redesigning the VSEA website, making it cleaner and more user friendly. In advance of sitting down to begin the redesign process, VSEA’s Communications team is asking members to please take a few minutes to complete an online survey about VSEA’s current site and about what members want in a new site. VSEA is also interested in learning what websites appeal to you and why, and what websites aren’t so appealing and why.
Bolton Valley Announces Discounted Season Passes For VSEA Members
For the second 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, 2014, 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.
VSEA issued the following press release on September 25:
The Vermont State Employees’ Association (VSEA) is announcing that the union filed a petition today with the Vermont Labor Relations Board to represent nearly 800 staff at the University of Vermont. VSEA is seeking to unionize the Clerical, Technical and Specialized Unit, meaning primarily the administrative staff, research and laboratory technicians, research assistants and business support generalists.
In late 2013, United Staff partnered with VSEA to reenergize organizing efforts, both on campus and across the state in the UVM Extension offices. United Staff is a nearly decade-old group of UVM staff who have long sought to build an independent union for hundreds of staff at UVM.
“After a failed drive in 2012 by the VT-NEA, fellow members of United Staff knew that in order to responsibly move forward, it was important to find a way to balance the desire for independence with the desire for additional support from an external organization,” explained 20-year UVM employee Kathy Carolin. “We are confident in our choice to join VSEA.”
Janis Henderson, the Chair of VSEA’s Vermont State Colleges’ Unit was excited about the UVM announcement, saying, “This is an extremely important moment for staff at UVM and for all VSEA members. We are excited at the prospect of UVM staff joining VSEA so they will have the same opportunity as we do and to be recognized as equals with the UVM Administration and collectively bargain over all major decisions that impact their professions.”
UVM staff member Marilyn Eldred works in the university’s Physics Department and explained her reasons for supporting joining VSEA.
“I’m interested in working in partnership with the top Administration of UVM to ensure that UVM continues with good practices and that staff have a real voice in making improvements. Recent talk of ‘cost sharing,’ a potential reduction in benefits, and ongoing budget crises are key factors that make me nervous about the stability of our compensation and benefits. As a union, we will sit down with the UVM Administration and work together to negotiate a fair contract to determine our salaries, benefits, and working conditions.”
Press Conference Kicks Off Election
VSEA President Shelley Martin joined with United Staff leaders and student and community supporters for a press conference this afternoon on the UVM campus to educate the press about why a union is needed for the clerical, technical and specialized staff. Martin directed her remarks to VSEA’s new direction and desire to empower more and more Vermont workers.
“Our union is growing both in strength and size, and VSEA leadership is committed to doing whatever it takes to bring VSEA representation to this very deserving group of employees,” Martin said. “UVM staff members deserve to be paid a decent salary, enjoy adequate health care coverage, retire with dignity and be treated with dignity and respect while at work. VSEA looks forward to welcoming these workers to our growing family.”
U.S. DOL Rules Corrections Must Furnish CSSII’s With Retroactive Pay
VSEA’s legal team reports this week that the U.S. Department of Labor has ruled that the State’s Department of Human Resources has been incorrectly defining Correctional Services Specialist II’s as “exempt” from the Fair Labor Standards Act. The State has agreed to retroactively pay any hours worked by qualifying VSEA members as overtime. Going forward, the State will pay CSS II's overtime as defined by the collective bargaining agreement.
VSEA Contingent Joins Hundreds Of Thousands To Participate In “People’s Climate March”
The following was written by VSEA Organizer Tim Boyle, who was part of the union’s contingent:
This past weekend, nine VSEA members and headquarters staff joined more than 400,000 others in New York City to participate in the People’s Climate March; the largest direct action in history to combat inaction on global climate change. The majority of VSEA’s contingent arrived in the city on Friday, spending that evening and Saturday engaging with other union, environmental, and social justice activists in a series of discussions, forums, and plenaries; all focused on renewed concerns about the climate crisis and alternate ways to effectively address it. Most discussions included panels of labor union leaders and rank-and-file activists, and VSEA participants were struck by organized labor’s level of involvement to combat climate change, viewing labor being at the table as a very encouraging development, especially when governments and communities are contemplating or taking climate action. VSEA members were also able to actively participate in brainstorming sessions to develop sustainable solutions to climate change that will both improve union relations and provide green jobs in the future.
On Sunday, VSEA’s contingent walked with thousands of other labor union members near the front of a miles-long column in the People’s Climate March. The march was sponsored in part by more than 75 labor unions, including the Vermont AFT and AFL-CIO Labor Council. The sheer size of the crowd marching was enough to cause several parts of Manhattan to close, primarily from Central Park to Times Square. Mid-march, VSEA’s contingent was pleased to run into and be joined by longtime VSEA activist Tony Smith, who was marching in his green VSEA t-shirt with other Vermont labor activists. VSEA marchers also had the pleasure to stumble upon two more familiar Vermonters while completing the route. Senator Bernie Sanders was spotted and came by to greet the VSEA contingent, and, after the march, Middlebury College Professor and 350.org founder Bill McKibben also crossed paths with VSEA.
VSEA leader Katelyn Chase was one of the VSEA members who traveled to NYC for the march. She helped coordinate VSEA’s involvement and was very excited to participate.
"VSEA stood in solidarity with 400,000 others belonging to labor unions, environmental advocacy groups, faith-based groups and many more,” says Chase. “Workers were there to show world leaders that labor does—and will—have a strong presence in the movement to achieve climate justice.” She adds, “As state workers, we bear the brunt of the problems resulting from natural disasters. It’s up to us to hold corporations accountable for their actions, especially those that result in dangerous pollution of our environment. Being involved in a union is the most effective way for our collective voices to be heard. I am proud my union stepped up to endorse the People’s Climate March, and I am enthusiastic about the groundwork we are beginning to lay out across Vermont to move the ball forward towards climate justice."
VSEA Board Wants Your Question For The State’s Top Official?
As part of its formal endorsement process, VSEA is actively soliciting one question from members to the State’s top official. VSEA’s Board of Trustees will be meeting soon with this official to conduct a comprehensive interview, and, in advance, they would like to see what your question would be.
If you have a burning question, please send it to VSEA Communications Director Doug Gibson at email@example.com and write “My Question” in the subject line.
We can’t guarantee your question will be asked, but we’ll do our best. Please refrain from submitting questions containing subject matter not related to state employees, your worksites or your ability to adequately deliver services to Vermonters. Thanks!
Hard copies of seven recently ratified VSEA Unit contracts are currently being printed and will be mailed to members in the next few weeks. Members belonging to VSEA’s Non-Management, Supervisory, Corrections, Defender General, Judiciary and State Colleges’ Units should keep an eye on your mailbox for your personal copy of your Unit’s newly ratified contract. Your new contract can also be found electronically by using the VSEA App, which is available for download in both I-phone and Android platforms.
Brattleboro Chapter “Hiking For The Homeless” On October 4
VSEA Brattleboro Chapter President Robin Rieske is inviting Chapter members to join her and others on October 4 to “Hike for the Homeless.” Rieske and other VSEA hikers are meeting at 9:30 a.m. at the base of Wantastiquet in Hinsdale. All proceeds from the hike will benefit the Morningside Shelter.
“If you are able to come and wear your VSEA shirt, that would be great,” Rieske told members in an email this week. “We’ll accept any and all donations and present what is collected to the shelter, on behalf of the Brattleboro Chapter.”
Rieske is asking VSEA Brattleboro Chapter members who can’t make the hike to please consider supporting “this great cause” by dropping a check off to her at the Brattleboro Vermont Department of Health by Friday, October 3. You can also mail a donation to: Robin Rieske, 94 Hillcrest Terrace, Brattleboro, VT 05301. Make checks payable to Morningside Shelter.
Since February 2014, recent UVM graduate Cecile Reuge (a.k.a. “Ceci”) has been on the ground daily with VSEA at her alma mater, working as an organizing intern and helping members of United Staff get closer and closer to achieving the VSEA representation they desire and deserve. Reuge’s hard work and dedication were key to United Staff being able to file for an election on September 25, and, just recently, VSEA acknowledged her efforts by offering her a full-time organizing position with the union.
"I am pleased to be working for an independent, statewide union that seeks to build power through member leadership and solidarity,” Reuge tells WIA. “In addition, I am thrilled to be joining a team of seasoned professionals in the labor movement. I look forward to working with members and staff to continue to grow and strengthen this union."
Reuge is no stranger to labor unions and other organizations fighting for social and economic justice. While in school, she worked for groups that allowed her to advocate for justice for her fellow students, farmers, low-income and rural Americans and at-risk teens. She was also involved with several groups promoting healthy and sustainable food production, but the bulk of Reuge’s advocacy was for labor groups, including UVM’s Student-Labor Action Project, UVM Students Stand Up and the Vermont Workers’ Centers’ “Healthcare is a Human Right Campaign.”
VT Workers’ Center Hosting Series Of “People’s Forums On Human Rights & The Economy”
In advance of the fast-approaching election season, the Vermont Workers’ Center is hosting a series of “People’s Forums on Human Rights and the Economy,” where it hopes concerned workers and other Vermonters will come to share stories about the “interconnected crises in our communities, and how Vermont movements for climate justice, disability and workers’ rights, education, healthcare and a people’s budget are teaming up to collectively advance a vision for citizens and our planet.” The forums will also challenge candidates to explain how, if elected, they intend to follow through to ensure their community’s needs are met.
Here is the forum schedule, times and places:
Oct: 7: Montpelier High School Cafeteria, Montpelier
October 7 @ 6:30 p.m.
Oct 9: Integrated Arts Academy, Burlington
October 9 @ 6 p.m.
Oct 13: Mt. Abraham High School, Bristol
October 13 @ 6 p.m.
Oct 14: Albert D. Lawton Intermediate School, Essex
October 14 @ 6 p.m.
Oct 14: Marlboro Graduate Center, Room 2E, Brattleboro
October 14 @ 6 p.m.
Oct 15: People's Academy Cafeteria, Morrisville
October 15 @ 6:30 p.m.
Oct 15: St. Peters Church, Bennington
October 15 @ 6:30 p.m.
Oct 16: Franklin Co. Senior Center, St. Albans
October 16 @ 6 p.m.
Oct 16: St. Johnsbury School Gym, St. Johnsbury
October 16 @ 6 p.m.
Oct 16: Hartford High School, WRJ
October 16 @ 6:30 p.m.
Americans Underestimate Just How Large The Pay Gap Is Between CEOs & Workers
The Harvard Business School has released a new study that reveals an alarming number of Americans have no idea how much more the average CEO earns than the average worker. According to the findings, most Americans believe CEOs earn 30 times more than the average worker, but the reality is CEOs are earning, on average, 350 times more. The study’s authors write, “Americans drastically underestimated the gap in actual income between CEOs and unskilled workers.” The study also points out that the gap in America is unlike any other gap worldwide, reminding that “the average Fortune 500 CEO in the United States makes more than $12 million dollars per year, which is nearly $5 million more than the amount for top CEOs in Switzerland, where the second highest paid CEOs live.” One thing the study does say Americans share with the rest of the world is “a collective disdain for pay inequality,” finding that people of all ages, education levels and income brackets believe that low-skilled workers are getting paid too little and high-skilled workers are getting paid too much.