Weekly News From VSEA!
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Week In Action Newsletter
July 31, 2020
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Annual Meeting Now By Zoom Only!

Given the continued uncertainty around COVID-19 and where Vermont will be in early September, the VSEA Board of Trustees voted this week to abandon the idea of trying to safely conduct the union's 76th Annual Meeting at Jay Peak Resort. Instead, the Board decided to conduct this year's meeting, via Zoom.

VSEA members will soon be emailed Annual Meeting registration material to participate in the Zoom meeting, including instructions on how the meeting will work on September 12.  

This is an important Annual Meeting, as there's plenty to get done, including:
  • Vote on operating budget;
  • Vote on bylaw change proposals;
  • Vet Legislative Committee political endorsements;
  • Possible dues discussion;
  • Strategize around current campaign to secure year-two contract funding;
  • Strategize around campaign to protect state employees during the COVID pandemic; and
  • Strategize about ways to continue to grow VSEA's membership into 2021. 

VOTE! Vermont Primary Is August 11!

A friendly reminder to VSEA members and retirees who have not voted in the Vermont primary, to head to your polling place on Tuesday. August 11, to cast your ballot. 

Also, if you have not yet completed the census, please do so. If Vermonters don't respond, our state stands to lose federal dollars due to underreporting. 


Reminder: VSEA Primary Election Endorsements

As VSEA members prepare to go to the polls on August 11, or mail in their ballot beforehand, VSEA is announcing its endorsed candidates for the primary election and urging members and retirees to cast your vote for these candidates. 

This list has been vetted and approved by VSEA's Legislative Committee, the VSEA Council, and the VSEA Board.
View VSEA 2020 Primary Election Endorsements

See You Next Year. State Extends Remote-Work Policy Through December 31!

State employees received a memo yesterday from the DHR Commissioner, informing employees, who are able, that they will continue to work remotely through December 31, 2020.

Read Remote-Work Extension Memo.

VTDigger published a story late yesterday about the State's extension, which includes a reaction to the news from VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard, who comments:

Howard said he appreciates that the administration has given employees a timeline for how long remote work will continue, especially as experts are predicting a second wave may come in the fall.

But, Howard said if the administration is recognizing that parents and families will need more flexibility in the fall for school reopening, they should also agree to a deal with the VSEA to extend the state’s Covid-19 leave program.

Up until about a month ago, Howard said, the state allowed employees to use the federal 12-week Covid-19 medical leave program to cover child care or other family needs at 100% salary replacement.

That deal between the union and the Scott administration has expired, and the VSEA is hoping to reinstall the program through negotiations with the administration in the coming weeks.

“I hope they agree to more flexibility or a more realistic view of what is actually needed,” Howard said. 

VSEA Board of Trustees Election Results  

VSEA’s Election, Rules and Nominating Committee certified the results this week of a recent election to fill four seats on the VSEA Board of Trustees.

The winners are: 

  • Emily Harris - Engagement Section Chief at Vermont Emergency Management - Montpelier 


  • Jon Bruce – Corrections Services Specialist II - Newport


  • Chris Frappier – Investigator - Burlington

District 4 – Franklin / Grand Isle / Chittenden / Addison:

  • Roy Catella – Correctional Facility Shift Supervisor - South Burlington

Note: VSEA is congratulating the winners; all of whom officially assume their new duties on October 1, 2020. 

Council Members Urged To Complete Surveys

VSEA First Vice President Aimee Towne sent an email on August 4 to all Council members, asking them to complete a short survey about the July 31 Council meeting. The input from Council members in this particular survey is especially important because the Council's July 31 meeting was VSEA's first large-scale Zoom-format meeting, and now that the VSEA Board has opted for a Zoom-only Annual Meeting format, Council member's feedback is helpful in determining best Zoom practices for not only the upcoming Annual Meeting but also the September 11 Council meeting.

If you're a VSEA Council member who doesn't recall seeing Aimee's August 4 email containing a link to the survey, please email her at or give a call at 802-793-4754.

NMU Bargaining Team & Executive Committee Looking To Fill Vacancies

VSEA's Non-Management Unit (NMU) is actively looking for Unit members to fill three current vacancies on the NMU Bargaining Team and a current vacancy on the NMU Executive Committee. 

Here are the current vacancies, the NMU is looking to fill right now:

  • ​​Bargaining Team (Dept./Agency) - Transportation; 
  • Bargaining Team (Dept./Agency) - Health Services & Labs;
  • Bargaining Team Clerk; and
  • Executive Committee Member.

NMU Chair Bob Stone is urging Unit members interested in being appointed to one of these vacancies to send an email/letter of interest.

The NMU Executive Committee will review emails / letters of interest and make appointments to the vacancies.

If you are an NMU member who is interested in serving on the Bargaining Team or the Executive Committee, please send an email/ letter indicating why you want to be considered for appointment. Please include where you work, how long you have been a state employee and a VSEA member and why you feel you are qualified to be appointed. Only emails / letters received by the close of business on Friday, August 14, 2020 will be considered.  Your letter can be emailed to NMU Chair Bob Stone (* or you can mail it to:

Bob Stone, Chair
Non-Management Unit
155 State St.
Montpelier, VT 05602​

*Please note: the previously listed email address,, is incorrect. Please email letters to
We apologize for the error.

Chapter Annual Meeting Schedule To Date

In advance of VSEA's Annual Meeting in September, VSEA Chapters are mandated to hold their own annual meetings. WIA will be posting these meetings and dates as they are received.

Here are the meetings scheduled to date:

  • Bennington Chapter 
    Tuesday, August 11
    5:30 p.m.
    Via Zoom
  • White River Junction
    Wednesday, August 12
    11:30 a.m.
    Via Zoom
  • Brattleboro Chapter
    Wednesday, August 12
    5:30 p.m.
    Via Zoom
  • Springfield Chapter 
    Thursday, August 13
    4:45 p.m.
    Via Zoom
  • NEK / St. Johnsbury Chapter 
    Wednesday, August 19
    5:00 p.m. 
    Via Zoom
  • Newport / Island Pond Chapter
    Thursday, August 20
    4:30 p.m.
    Kingdom Brewery|
    353 Coburn Hill Road
  • Barre Chapter 
    Wednesday, August 26
    5:30 p.m. 
    Via Zoom

Zoom log-in information and additional meeting details will be emailed, prior to each meeting.

VSEA Issues Press Release Announcing President Bellini's Retirement 

As reported in last week's WIA, VSEA President Dave Bellini has announced his pending retirement from state government and immediate resignation as president, wanting to allow enough time for a fair and open election to succeed him. 

On Monday, VSEA issued the following press release:

At [the July 31] VSEA Council meeting (via Zoom), VSEA President Dave Bellini began his scheduled remarks to the body with the surprising announcement that he was retiring from state government before the end of the calendar year and was stepping down as the union’s president, effective immediately. Bellini, who was elected to a third term as president in September 2019, told Council members he wanted to leave enough time left on his term to have an election open to all 6,100 members.  

“As I told the Council on Friday, even though I am retiring, I am not going anywhere, and I will always be around to support active and retired state employees in current fights and whatever issues that come  up—and we all know there's always more to do,” says Bellini, a long-time Vermont Corrections employee. “I’ve been in state government for 42 years and involved in VSEA since day one. I look forward to supporting VSEA in any way I can." 

He continues, "Wages, working conditions, a good health plan and a pension don’t just happen. They have to be fought for, and the fight never ends. State employees win through collective power. We weathered the Janus decision and rebounded with record membership. We got the arbitration bill passed. The budget is balanced. And the state employees' health plan is on rock-solid financial footing."
He adds, “I would like to thank the Department of Corrections for letting me to work the way I wanted to work the past 35 years. I haven’t had to put on long pants in decades. I also want to thank the state of Vermont for always being a good employer and for allowing me the flexibility I needed to be both an effective state employee and an effective union leader.”   
Because Bellini is leaving his post with more than a year left in his term, VSEA will soon be conducting a special election to determine the union’s next president, as mandated by VSEA election rules. Bellini told the Council that VSEA First Vice President Aimee Towne would be serving as interim president until the special election concludes.
“I have worked side-by-side with Dave Bellini for many years, both at the State House and at VSEA headquarters, and while I know the entire VSEA family is sad about Dave’s decision to retire, I think we all completely understand, especially given the energy he puts in day in and day out to ensure state employees and retirees are being compensated fairly and treated with dignity and respect while at work,” says VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard. “He has graciously offered his help and expertise, and I know I will be calling him often.”
So You Want To Be VSEA's Next President? 

Dave Bellini's retirement means VSEA must now conduct a special election to determine his replacement as VSEA president. 
The are two ways to place your name into nomination
  • ​Submit a paper petition (attached) with 25 signatures to VSEA HQ. Download the paper petition here: VSEA Candidate Petition: President 2020 PDF; or
  • Submit electronically. It's a two-step process that begins by emailing with your interest in being on the ballot, followed by you soliciting 25 members to email, providing your name, their name, their EE numbers and a short statement of support for your name on the ballot. 
The deadline for either the paper or electronic option is Monday, August 24, at 4:30 p.m.

Quote Of
The Week!


"I haven’t had to put on long pants in decades."

Retiring VSEA President Dave Bellini, thanking the Department of Corrections in a press release for "letting me to work the way I wanted to work the past 35 years."

VSEA Vets' Home Members Launch Petition To Oust CEO Due To Failure To Quarantine

VSEA members working at the Vermont Veterans Home (VVH) are furious about a decision by VVH CEO Melissa Jackson to not quarantine herself after returning from a recent, two-day trip to Washington, D.C., where, in addition to being named president of the National Association of State Veterans Homes (NASVH) she was also testifying on Capitol Hill on the vulnerability of Vets Homes in a COVID pandemic. Mind you, this is the person in charge of the VVH and who almost assuredly saw and heard what happened at the Mt. Holyoke Vets Home in Massachusetts and at other nursing homes across the nation.

In response to the allegation, VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard sent this letter to Jackson on July 31.

Read Howard's Letter

The press also got wind of Jackson's decision to not quarantine.

“I tried to ensure that I followed the guidelines for essential travel and should have started my quarantine on Thursday instead of going into the office,” Jackson says in a VTDigger story this week about her decision. “I apologize for my poor judgment.”

The State's Communications person is quoted in a Bennington Banner story this week about Jackson's failure to lead, saying, "The governor has been briefed on the VSEA letter and the situation. Based on what we know, while it appears the executive director might have used better judgment when entering the facility's administrative offices after returning from work-related essential travel, it also appears she followed COVID health-and-safety protocols. With that in mind, the governor is not sure it warrants her removal but certainly deserves additional discussion about the need for added vigilance and extra care and precautions around vulnerable populations."


More Than 150 Vermont Inmates Test Positive For COVID At Mississippi Private Prison

There's been lots of stories written this week about the Department of Corrections (DOC) announcement that that more than 150 Vermont inmates tested positive for COVID-19 at a CoreCivic prison in Mississippi, where they have been warehoused since 2018. The DOC's knee-jerk response was to announce that it was sending some staff down there to get a lay of the land to make sure CoreCivic is following protocols. 

It should not be an epiphany for State officials and DOC leaders that "hey, maybe CoreCivic isn't a such a good company" falls flat with many VSEA members, who have been advising the State to break its ties with CoreCivic for years. As proof, here's a WIA story from 2018, when the State was signing the contract to move Vermont inmates from a bad situation at a private prison in Pennsylvania to a CoreCivic prison in Mississippi:

While Windsor Sits Empty, Vermont DOC Decides To Ship Inmates To CoreCivic Facility In Mississippi

VSEA President Dave Bellini was one of the first this week to blast a decision last Friday by DOC officials to transfer Vermont inmates from a Pennsylvania prison with acknowledged problems to a Mississippi prison, operated by CoreCivic. This as Mississippi media is reporting that the state’s correctional system experienced 16 inmate fatalities in just the month of August 2018, and that the FBI will be asked to investigate.

Vermont DOC’s decision to move inmates to Mississippi also drew the public ire of the Vermont ACLU and the Manchester Journal, which penned an editorial this week, titled “Mississippi Is The Wrong Choice.” Like VSEA, both also took strong issue with the Vermont DOC contracting with CoreCivic, which was formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA.

From the Manchester Journal’s Editorial:

“Their latest stay, at Pennsylvania’s State Correctional Institute at Camp Hill, has gone so poorly that the state terminated its contract early, due to concerns from prisoners about overly restrictive conditions and poor treatment. Three Vermont inmates died at Camp Hill last year, including a man whose lung cancer went untreated, and a fourth died earlier this month, in circumstances that remain under investigation.

Now is reporting that the state is going to address those concerns — by sending those inmates to a private for-profit prison in Mississippi.

VTDigger reported that the Department of Corrections said it finalized negotiations with one of two facilities on Aug. 27 and plans to move the inmates in October, but has declined to say where the prisoners would move, citing a state statute regarding contracts.

But no one has denied the report that they’re headed for Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility, either.

The old bromide about doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results applies here, and we are straining for logical explanations as to why this insanity should continue.

If prisons in Michigan and Kentucky were too far away for visits from family and loved ones, then how does Mississippi make any sense?

If the state was dissatisfied with medical care at Camp Hill, then why would it send inmates to a facility that’s been cited as lacking by one of its out-of-state clients? reported that recent audits from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation were critical of the quality of medical care at Tallahatchie.

Then, there’s the moral bankruptcy of doing business with a for-profit prison company such as CoreCivic, which owns and operates Tallahatchie.”

Note: VSEA continues to advocate bringing all Vermont inmates back in state, especially with possible housing space sitting empty in Windsor. Why continue to send Vermont dollars out of state to Mississippi, Kentucky, Oklahoma, etc.? Why not create jobs for Vermonters? Why not put more of our tax dollars into our local Vermont economies?

We Remember. 

Five years ago, the entire VSEA family and Vermont were rocked by the tragic murder of Social Worker Lara Sobel by a client right outside the Barre State Office Building where she worked. 

Please take a minute today to remember Lara, but also please think about getting more involved in VSEA's ongoing campaign to ensure all Vermont state employees have safe and healthy workplaces. 
This Week:

Annual Meeting Now By Zoom Only!

VOTE! Vermont Primary Is August 11!

Reminder: VSEA Primary Election Endorsements

See You Next Year. State Extends Remote-Work Policy Through December 31!

VSEA Board of Trustees Election Results

Council Members Urged To Complete Surveys

NMU Bargaining Team & Executive Committee Looking To Fill Vacancies

Chapter Annual Meeting Schedule To Date

VSEA Issues Press Release Announcing President Bellini's Retirement

Quote Of The Week!

VSEA Vets' Home Members Launch Petition To Oust CEO Due To Failure To Quarantine

More Than 150 Vermont Inmates Test Positive For COVID At Mississippi Private Prison

We Remember
Lara Sobel

August 11
Bennington Chapter Annual Meeting
via Zoom

August 12
White River Jct. Chapter Annual Meeting
via Zoom

August 12
Brattleboro Chapter Annual Meeting
via Zoom

August 13
Safety & Health Maintenance Committee Meeting
via Microsoft Teams

August 13
Springfield Chapter Annual Meeting
via Zoom
Full VSEA Calendar
Important Reminders:
National AFL-CIO Creates Website For "Workers Impacted by COVID-19"

Employees Who Fail To Comply With Mask Directive Could Be Disciplined

VSEA Has Partnered With Travelers: See How Much You Can Save On Auto and Home Insurance

New "Purchasing Power" Benefit Offered To VSEA Members

AFLAC Insurance Enrollment: Sign Up Through VSEA!

VSEA Advantage Discount Program

Told You're Being Investigated?
Watch This Video!

VSEA Retirement Security Fact Sheet

Getting Ready To Retire? Retired Already? Join The VSEA Retired Members’ Chapter!
Thank you for reading Week In Action!
National AFL-CIO Creates Website For "Workers Impacted by COVID-19"

A reminder that the national AFL-CIO has created a website to help workers impacted by COVID-19 find the resources they might need, such as:

  • Resources and benefits to help replace lost wages;
  • Eligibility requirements for emergency paid leave;
  • Housing and food assistance programs; and 
  • Health insurance and public health services and guidance.
Reminder: Employees Who Fail To 
Comply With Mask Directive Could Be Disciplined
During these very uncertain times, VSEA is reminding state employees not to ignore a directive from your supervisor to wear a protective mask while at work. Remember, if you defy your supervisor's mask directive, you may face allegations of insubordination, which could result in management taking disciplinary action against you.    

VSEA is strongly advising all employees to comply with the mask directive, to protect your health and the health of your co-workers.
VSEA Has Partnered With Travelers: See How Much You Can Save On Auto and Home Insurance
As a member of the Vermont State Employees Association (VSEA), you could save on auto, home, and renters insurance with Travelers. Here are just a few advantages.
New "Purchasing Power" Benefit Offered To VSEA Members
In times when paying with cash or credit is challenging, Purchasing Power is here for you with a program you can trust. Get what you need now, and pay overtime – right from your paycheck.​

View the Program PDF

Depending on your settings, the link above will open a PDF in your web browser or download the PDF to your computer
or device.
AFLAC Insurance Enrollment:
Sign Up Through VSEA!
WIA was asked by VSEA Benefits Administrator, Joanne Woodcock, to include the following in this week's newsletter:
Dear Friends,

During these uncertain times, it has never been more important than now to protect your income.

Did you know that as a VSEA member, you are eligible for guaranteed issued disability with AFLAC through the convenience of payroll deduction! The State does not offer short term disability insurance other than accrued sick time.

If you would like to discuss this valuable VSEA member benefit in more detail, please call me or make an appointment using this link.

I will call you on the day and time you select. Please be in front of a computer at the time of your appointment.

There are many advantages to VSEA membership. Please check them out at

Thank you and I hope you stay well and safe.

Best regards,
Joanne Woodcock
VSEA Benefits Administrator
VSEA Advantage Discount Program
Did you know the average VSEA member can save hundreds of dollars a year by taking advantage of some of the Member-Only benefits offered through your union?

Learn more about the VSEA Advantage Discount Program
Told You're Being Investigated? Watch This Video!
Please take a few minutes on a break to watch the video, and know that the information being relayed could very well save your job someday. Remember, as a VSEA member, you are entitled to no-cost representation in investigatory meetings that may lead to discipline. Non-members, however, must now pay a rate of $250 to $350 per-hour for the same level of representation!

More: Know Your Union Rights
VSEA Retirement Security Fact Sheet
Did you know? Defined benefit plans are safer and more reliable for Vermont's retirees & are cheaper for taxpayers than risky, Wall St 401(k)-style plans. Learn more about the differences between defined benefit pension plans and defined contribution pension plans (a.k.a. 401K) here.
Getting Ready To Retire? Retired Already? Join The VSEA Retired Members’ Chapter!

Long-time VSEA activist and leader Terry Lefebvre is asking VSEA members getting ready to retire to join the VSEA Retirees’ Chapter to continue to be an active and engaged union member, even in retirement. Lefebvre also appeals to VSEA members to talk up the co-workers they know who might be preparing to retire. If you already belong to the Retired Members’ Chapter, a big thanks to you.

Learn More Here About The VSEA Retired Members’ Chapter
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Thank you for reading
Week In Action!
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