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Weekly News From VSEA!
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Week In Action Newsletter
January 29, 2021
Important VSEA Pension Meeting!
Wednesday, February 3 at 6:00 p.m., via Zoom 
Not A VSEA Member? Learn More or Sign Up Online!

Board Schedules  Important Pension Meeting For Wednesday

The VSEA Board of Trustees is meeting on Wednesday evening to begin the process of reviewing the results of a Board-initiated pension survey that, already, more than 1,250 VSEA members have completed. The February 3 Board meeting begins at 6:00 p.m.

VSEA President Aimee Towne emailed members this week about the February 3 meeting, writing, "This is a very important meeting, as your Board will be sharing the results of a recent survey of members to determine how folks felt about proposed changes to the state employee pension plan. ​​Thanks to more than 1,200 of you completing the survey, the Board has a lot of input to aid our discussion, and, by the end of Wednesday night's meeting, I am hopeful we can mutually agree on a path forward, based in large part on the survey responses and the meeting input we receive."

Because the Board will be on a tight schedule on Wednesday, members and retirees are welcome log in to listen, but we will not be calling on members or retirees to speak.

The Zoom information was sent to all VSEA members this week. If you would like to request the Zoom information, please email vsea@vsea.org.

Background Information 

Because of recent changes to actuarial projections, the valuation of the unfunded portion of the fund has increased dramatically. As a result, the Retirement Board directed Treasurer Beth Pearce to recommend changes to the legislature, targeted at reductions in the retirement system’s unfunded liability. More information about the proposed changes to your pension fund can be found here.

Read VSEA's addendum to the Treasurer's report.

Pension Survey Deadline Is Monday, February 1


Members who have not already completed the VSEA pension survey have until 4:30 p.m., Monday, February 1.
Take The VSEA Pension Survey

VSEA Launches Private Facebook Group Dedicated To Pension Discussion

 

VSEA launched a new Facebook group this afternoon for members-in-good-standing to join to see the latest posts from VSEA members statewide and VSEA headquarters on the issue of the state employee pension plan and the Treasurer’s proposed plan. It’s a hub for eligible VSEA members and retirees to go to learn what’s going on or to share what you know–and how you feel–about any and all developments.
 

The page is now live and VSEA members and retirees in good standing are invited to join today. Join on Facebook here!

Monday's VPR VTEdition Topic Is Pensions


VSEA members and retirees are encouraged to tune into VPR's Vermont Edition on Monday at noon for a discussion on state employee and teacher pensions. VSEA President Aimee Towne will be joined live by a representative(s) of the VtNEA.

The show takes calls and emails, so phone in or write if there's a point you want to make or a question you want to ask. Learn more here!

Governor Delivers 2022 Budget Address. Pay Act Fully Funded!

The Governor delivered his 2022 budget address on Tuesday afternoon, and here are some of the items he touched on that are important to VSEA members:
  1. A need to address the "pension crisis" was mentioned twice, but no details about how the State envisions doing that. Governor said he is open to talking; 
     
  2. A one-time $20 million funding injection is included to the Vermont State Colleges, with a strict directive to examine restructuring;
     
  3. A proposal to provide body cams to Corrections Officers; and
     
  4. A proposal to consolidate DCF's Child Development Division.
One thing the Governor did not mention in his address was the State agreeing to fully fund the Pay Act, which means year two of the contract is funded!​

VSEA Strategic Analyst Adam Norton has prepared a more comprehensive report about the budget address, and members are invited to read it here.

VSEA Requests VDH Commissioner To Intervene To Improve Resident / Employee COVID Protection At Vets' Home--Before It's Too Late

VSEA President Aimee Towne sent a letter this week to Vermont Department of Health Commissioner, Dr. Mark Levine, seeking his intervention at the Vermont Veterans' Home, where frontline VSEA members report a host of issues they say are jeopardizing resident and employee COVID-19 health and safety.

Read Letter

The four areas where employees say they need help are to:
  • Improve communication between management and staff;
     
  • Clarify when COVID-19 testing is being provided to staff;
     
  • Provide and adhere to a consistent "contact tracing" policy; and
     
  • Put a hold on allowing residents to be transported to appointments, etc, in the communities surrounding the VVH.
Note: Workers are especially concerned right now and are asking for the membership's help to ensure State officials are doing everything possible to keep Vermont's veterans--and the men and women who care for them daily--healthy and safe.

VSEA Zoom Meetings With
Lawmakers  

The pandemic has forced VSEA's Legislative Committee to recast the popular VSEA legislative dinners, where members and retirees educate lawmakers about specific issues, as online issue meetings with lawmakers, via Zoom.   

All meetings are from 5:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. 

Here is this year's meeting schedule:
  • Thursday, February 4
    Topic: Safety & Security (emphasis on DCF Family Services)
    Zoom Link 
     
  • Thursday, February 11
    Topic: Retirement
    Zoom Link
     
  • Thursday, February 18
    Topic: Staffing (DOC/AOT)
    Zoom Link 
     
  • Thursday, February, 25
    Topic: Privatization
    Zoom Link 
View the full VSEA calendar online!
Chapter Meetings Notice:
Newport / Island Pond Chapter Meeting & Special Election
Thursday, February 4
4:30 p.m. 
Kingdom Brewery & Pizza
Private Room
353 Coburn Hill Rd.
Newport
More Information

To RSVP or ask question(s):
Karen Marchant
kmarch9060@gmail.com


Central Vermont Chapter Meeting & Special Election
Thursday, February 4

5:30 p.m. 
Via Zoom 
More Information


Question(s):
Danielle Warner
dawarner@vsea.org


White River Junction Chapter Meeting & Special Election
Tuesday, February 23

5:30 p.m. 
Via Zoom 
More Information


Question(s):
David Oppenheimer
doppenheimer@vsea.org

Quote Of The Week!

 

"I'm the last one to want to see our pensions get in the way of adequately funding the services needed by our communities. But I am not willing to sit back and ride the race to the bottom. We can afford to fund services and our pension fund.


VSEA Second Vice President Dr. Leslie Matthews, in a comment left on a post to VSEA's new "VSEA Unite! Pensions" Facebook group
Talking Points:
Non-VSEA specific stories that may be of interest to VSEA members.

Congressional Amendment, If Passed, Would Take Money Out Politics 


When the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Citizens United in 2010, it opened the floodgates for corporations and anti-union organizations to spend untold billions (trillions, zillions?) to influence politics and elections. There was no way unions or other social and economic justice groups could match the dollars being invested by corporate America--and the supporters of Citizens United knew it. Now, there is a renewed effort on Congress to pass an amendment to overturn Citizens United.

From a post to citizens.org:

“Money in politics impacts every major issue facing our nation" says Ben Jealous, president of People for the American Way. "Supreme Court cases like Citizens United have allowed unlimited outside political spending, and without an amendment to the Constitution we will be left fighting an uphill battle against powerful special interests with bottomless bank accounts. Whether it’s confronting economic inequality or fighting for access to health care and education, big money is able to buy outsized influence in our democracy."

Read Full Post

Union Membership On The Rise In Midst Of Pandemic

New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that union membership increased in 2020. According to the BLS, union membership jumped to 10.8%, about .5% higher than in 2019.

Although the percentage went up, the amount of union members in the workforce actually dropped by 321,000, or 2.2% from 2019. However, this drop was less than the number of non-union workers who left the workforce either through retirement or losing their jobs due to the pandemic. That number was 9.6 million or 6.7% of the non-union workforce.

The public sector continues to be the strongest area for unions with 34.8% of workers being organized. In the private sector, 6.3% are members of a union. In 2020 the industries with the highest union membership rate included protective service operations like law enforcement where 36.6% were organized, then education, training, and library occupations where 35.9% were union members. Unionization rates were lowest in farming, fishing, and forestry occupations (2.6%); sales and related occupations (3.2%); and fo­­od preparation and serving related occupations (3.4%).

In 2020 the union advantage in pay continued with non-union workers making just 84% of what union workers make. This averaged out to an average non-union salary of $958 a week vs. $1,144 for union members.

Important Reminders:

VSEA Creates Q&A About State Employees Possibly Moving To OneCare  

In response to a slew of VSEA member and retiree questions about a recent report that state employees could be moved into OneCare Vermont, members of VSEA's Benefits Advisory Committee have produced a Q&A to hopefully address many of the questions and concerns.

VSEA BAC's OneCare Q&A

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 Street 401(k)-style plans. Learn more about the differences between defined benefit pension plans and defined contribution pension plans (a.k.a. 401K) here.

2021 Council Meeting Dates

VSEA First Vice President Margaret Crowley has scheduled this year's VSEA Council meetings for the following dates:
  • Wednesday, March 10 
    (Lobby Day);

     
  • Friday, June 11; and
     
  • Friday, September 10 (the Friday before Annual Meeting)
Crowley notes that the March and June meetings are scheduled to be held by Zoom. The September meeting venue will be determined by the status of the pandemic and the guidance of the Vermont Department of Health.

Are You A VSEA Council Member? Join the VSEA Council Facebook group here!

VSEA Legislative Department Posts First Update

VSEA's Legislative Committee and Legislative Specialist Tom Abdelnour have posted the first legislative update of the 2021 session, which promises to be a very busy one for VSEA members. 

VSEA members and retirees are encouraged to keep up with what's going on at the State House by reading each update from now until the session's end. 

Read Latest VSEA Legislative Update Here

View The VSEA Legislative Session Online Hub

2021 VSEA Scholarship Application Available Now!

The VSEA Awards/Scholarships Committee is currently soliciting applications from students seeking financial assistance in the pursuit of post-secondary educational goals.

The Committee will announce the recipients of the scholarships at the June Council Meeting.

Deadline: 4:30 p.m. on May 7, 2021

Learn more or view/download the 2021 VSEA Scholarship Application

AFLAC Insurance Enrollment: Sign Up
Through VSEA!

VSEA Benefits Administrator, Joanne Woodcock, sent an email recently outlining ALFAC insurance benefits available to VSEA members. If you did not receive the email or if you would like to see it again, you can view it online here.

If you have any questions or if you'd like to schedule an appointment please contact Joanne Woodcock, VSEA Benefits Administrator, 888-510-4467 or Joanne@vseainsurance.com

Download Your Contract On VSEA.org!

The current contracts for the Executive Branch Units, Defender General Unit, Housing Authority Unit, State’s Attorneys’ Office Unit, and Judiciary Unit are posted online to VSEA.org.

View/Download Your Contract
This Week:
Board Schedules Important Pension Meeting For Wednesday Governor Delivers 2022 Budget Address. Pay Act Fully Funded!

VSEA Requests VDH Commissioner To Intervene To Improve Resident / Employee COVID Protection At Vets' Home--Before It's Too Late

VSEA Zoom Meetings With Lawmakers
Chapter Meeting Notices:
Quote Of The Week!
Talking Points:
Congressional Amendment, If Passed, Would Take Money Out Politics

Union Membership On The Rise In Midst Of Pandemic
Important Reminders:
VSEA Creates Q&A About State Employees Possibly Moving To OneCare

VSEA Retirement Security Fact Sheet

Council Meeting Dates

VSEA Legislative Department Posts First Update

2021 VSEA Scholarship Application Available Now!

AFLAC Insurance Enrollment: Sign Up Through VSEA!

View/Download Your Contract on VSEA.org
Thank you for reading Week In Action!
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Check out the WIA online archive
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
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
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
Need To Update Your Contact Information
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Don't Have
A VSEA
Union Card? 

Request A Green VSEA Union Card


Have You Been Threatened
At Work? 

Send A Threat Report To VSEA


Are You A
Council Member?

Join the VSEA Council Facebook group here!


Are You A
Chapter President?

Join the VSEA Chapter Presidents 
Facebook
group here!



Are You A
Steward?

Join the VSEA Steward Facebook
group here!
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