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Week In Action Newsletter
May 1, 2020
Since the 1880's, May Day (a.k.a. International Workers' Day) has been a day for working people worldwide to rise up collectively to demand action on issues of workplace injustice. At the time of the first May Day, labor movements around the world were fighting for fair work accommodations like eight-hour workdays and unions. This year, many May Day rallies will be about providing better protection to workers on the frontlines, battling the coronavirus pandemic. 
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VSEA
Judiciary Unit Unanimously Ratifies New Contract

VSEA's Elections, Rules and Nominating Committee has certified the results of recent voting by VSEA Judiciary Unit members on a new contract, and the vote was unanimous to ratify. Good news, but VSEA Judiciary Unit Chairperson Margaret Crowley explains how the coronavirus crisis did play a role in this round of negotiations. 

"This was another difficult bargaining session with the Judiciary," Crowley tells WIA. "For the third round of bargaining in a row, they resisted our Team's multiple requests to negotiate in a timely manner on the issues of compensation and other monetary matters, so we ended up at fact-finding yet again. 
Unfortunately, right before our first fact-finding session, we had to change our strategy due to the onset of the Covid 19 crisis. The stress and uncertainty of the crisis was too great, and our Team team felt sooner was better than later to try to get the greatest financial gains for our members." She adds,  "The Team did make some gains for our members by adding an additional personal day that is not tied to sick leave, as well as negotiating a significant increase to our Employee Development Fund.

VSC Chancellor Resigns. Fight Now Begins To Ensure VSC's Future 

Saying he did not expect Vermonters' strong opposition to his recent proposal to shutter three Vermont State Colleges' (VSC) campuses, VSC Chancellor Jeb Spaulding tendered his resignation this week to the VSC Board of Trustees. His abrupt departure comes a week after spirited protests, social media campaigns and constant vocal, written and visual pressure caused the Chancellor to withdraw his proposal, but the damage had already been done. 

"Clearly the process leading to my recommendations, later withdrawn, has not turned out the way I would've hoped. I take full responsibly and apologize to those that were hurt," Spaulding told the VSC Board Wednesday during an online meeting. "I’d become more of a liability than an asset to the Vermont state colleges system. My ability to be an effective chancellor has eroded and I don’t believe that can be repaired quickly."

The Board voted to appoint VSC General Counsel Sophie Zdatny to serve as interim Chancellor at its meeting Wednesday night. She will serve until the board finds a permanent replacement for Spaulding. A majority of the posts to a Facebook page, created to organize against Spaulding's proposal and lobby for funding for the VSC system, are not positive about the Board's decision. 

Time To Turn Up
The Heat!


The next step in the collective campaign to save our state colleges is to call and email your lawmakers and the Governor with this message: 
 
“Please provide bridge funding to the Vermont State Colleges to keep them all open and operating.” 
 

Equally important, after you send the message, please reach out to anyone you might know who is fighting along with VSEA to prevent these closures to ask them to send the same message to their lawmakers and the Governor. Please share social media posts (FacebookTwitterInstagram) and messages on your profiles to help get the word out. If you are on Facebook please join this group. Post messages of support for Vermont's colleges on Front Porch Forum. Lastly, if you have not already, sign this growing petition that now has over 47,000 signatures.

Thanks in advance for your help. We are all in this fight together and if we keep the pressure on we will succeed in securing a bright future for all of our VSC campuses.

Notice Of Upcoming VSEA Board Elections 

An email was sent today to all VSEA members, informing you about upcoming elections for VSEA Board of Trustees' seats. Each post requires a petition from interested candidates, but due to the coronavirus crisis, the VSEA Board will be deciding at its May 5 meeting how collect signatures, given the current lack of personal interaction with colleagues for most. Look for a follow-up email with details.

In advance, here are the Board seats up for election. If you are able to safely gather signatures, each Board seat mentioned below links to PDF petitions: Note: Depending on your settings, the links above will open PDFs in your web browser or download the PDFs to your computer or device.

Learn more about how your union is structured online.

If you have a question about your eligibility, please email VSEA Organizing Director Amy Kinsell at akinsell@vsea.org. 

VSEA Warns: Employee's Who Fail To Comply With Mask Directive Could Be Disciplined

During these very uncertain times, VSEA is receiving reports of state employees who are ignoring a directive from your supervisor to wear a protective mask while at work. Please be aware that, if you are an employee who is defying 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.  

Workers Memorial Day Takes On Special Meaning This Year

April 28 was Workers' Memorial Day; a day for Americans to remember workers who have died on the job. The day had special significance this year, as millions of frontline workers are fighting coronavirus on numerous fronts, all the while using whatever equipment and resources are available to protect themselves. Already, workers have died, and more needs to be down now to ensure this number doesn't rise. 

Learn more about Workers' Memorial Day

Vermont Game Warden Earns Top Honor

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife's Facebook page featured a post this week about VSEA member and Senior Game Warden Robert Currier being awarded the NAWEOA (North American Wildlife Enforcement Officer's Association) Officer of the Year award for 2020.

According to the post, the award is about as high an honor that can be bestowed on a Game Warden. This international panel receives nominations from the United States and Canada and choosing the annual winner is no simple task.

Here's a summary included in the nomination that was submitted for Currier:

“Robert has become an outstanding all-around game warden. He handles all complaints in a timely manner and with a professional demeanor. Robert is physically fit and scores superior on each physical fitness assessment. Robert is a very competent, determined, and successful investigator, this is proven by the quantity and quality of big game cases in 2019. Although, rank does not make you a leader, Robert has become a warden that others look to for assistance as well as look up to, not only in the Northwest District, but statewide. Day to day, he proves that he is a true professional. “

Note: Congratulations Senior Warden Currier! Thanks for your service.

2020 VSEA Scholarship Application Deadline Is Next Friday!

The VSEA Awards/ Scholarship 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 May Council Meeting.

View/download the 2020 VSEA Scholarship Application.

Deadline: 4:30 p.m. on May 8, 2020

Quote Of
The Week!

 

"People who think that this budget is going to be able to fund everything as we’ve experienced it in recent years. It’s not going to be the case."


Vermont Senate Appropriations Chairperson Jane Kitchel, responding in a VTDigger story this week to a bleak economic forecast delivered to lawmakers by the legislature's chief economist, warning that tough decisions on future State spending lie ahead. 
Talking Points:

Petition Posts To Lobby Congress To  Include An "Essential Workers Bill Of Rights" In Next COVID-19 Relief Package

Daily Kos has posted a online petition / letter for state employees and other essential workers to sign, urging the U.S. Congress to include an "Essential Workers Bill of Rights" in its next relief package to help protect frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

From the petition / letter post:
 

Countless essential workers—including doctors, nurses, home care and other health workers, grocery and drug store employees, domestic workers, food service workers, government employees, janitorial staff, farm workers, delivery drivers, warehouse workers, transportation workers, transit workers, and child care workers—are putting their lives on the line without proper job protections, safety equipment, or sufficient compensation. 

Workers have been given scraps of relief here and there since COVID-19 began to spread in the United States: some face masks here, a one-time stimulus check there. That is not nearly enough.


Sign The Letter / Petition

Coronavirus Claims Lives Of More Than 70 Veterans At Holyoke, MA, Soldiers Home

Thought to be the deadliest coronavirus outbreak at any health care facility in the United States, the death toll at the Holyoke, Mass., Solider's Home rose this week to more than 70 veterans. In addition, 81 staff have tested positive for the virus. According to a story yesterday posted to Mass Live , an investigation is being launched into management's handling of the outbreak, once is was discovered on March 21. 

“We insist these investigations be thorough, transparent and blind to anything but the factual truth of what happened," writes Jeff Najarian, commander of the Massachusetts department of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in a statement. "Those heroes who have passed and those who are still suffering deserve nothing less.” He called the situation at the home "devastating."

"While we understand the current pandemic is caused by a highly infectious disease, we cannot help but question the circumstances surrounding so many deaths at one home in such a short period of time."

Note: Kudos to the VSEA members at the Vermont Veterans Home, who organized and mobilized early on in this crisis to try to prevent a tragedy like the one at the Soldier's Home. 

Workers At Some Of America's Largest Companies Call For May Day Strike Over Unsafe Working Conditions

Multiple news outlets are reporting on the planned strike in many of America's larger companies over poor and unsafe working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

From a CBS News article:

"Labor organizers at Amazon, its groceries subsidiary Whole Foods, Instacart and Target-owned Shipt have said they plan to walk out on May 1, a holiday commonly celebrated internationally as a day to honor workers. Their demands, while diverse, include an expansion of paid sick leave, access to personal protective equipment, better pay and enforcement of social distancing in the workplace.


"It's a matter of life and death," said Christian Smalls, a former Amazon worker who organized a walkout at the company's Staten Island, New York, warehouse in March and subsequently was fired. The dismissal caught the notice of New York elected officials, who accused the company of illegal retaliation. Amazon maintains that it fired Smalls for failing to comply with its social-distancing guidelines."

More from Jacobin Magazine: "Workers at Amazon, Whole Foods, Instacart, and Target Are on Strike and Need Your Solidarity"

This Week:
VSEA Judiciary Unit Unanimously Ratifies New Contract

VSC Chancellor Resigns. Fight Now Begins To Ensure VSC's Future
Notice Of Upcoming VSEA Board Elections

VSEA Warns: Employee's Who Fail To Comply With Mask Directive Could Be Disciplined

Workers Memorial Day Takes On Special Meaning This Year

Vermont Game Warden Earns Top Honor

2020 VSEA Scholarship Application Deadline Is Next Friday!

Quote Of The Week!
Talking Points:
Petition Posts To Lobby Congress To  Include An "Essential Workers Bill Of Rights" In Next COVID-19 Relief Package

Coronavirus Claims Lives Of More Than 70 Veterans At Holyoke, MA, Soldiers Home

Workers At Some Of America's Largest Companies Call For May Day Strike Over Unsafe Working Conditions
Calendar:
Due to Coronavirus, all VSEA meetings are canceled until further notice.
Important Reminders:
Its' Open Enrollment Time For VSEA’s Popular Delta Dental Supplemental Plan

Employee Child Care Reimbursement Extended Until July 15

Have You Completed The VSEA PPE Survey Yet?

Essential & Need Childcare? Fill Out This Form!

Does Your Worksite Need Hand Sanitizer?

Please Sign These VSEA Petitions!

VSEA's Spring Membership Drive!

VSEA Retirement Security Fact Sheet

What You Should Know About The Anti-Worker Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court Ruling
VSEA Video Archive:
Told You're Being Investigated? Watch This Video!

Keynote Speaker At VSEA's Annual Meeting

75 Years Strong!
VSEA 2019 Annual Meeting Photo Slideshow


"I'm Sticking With My Union!" – John Vorder Bruegge

More on YouTube
Thank you for reading Week In Action!
Its' Open Enrollment Time For VSEA’s Popular Delta Dental
Supplemental Plan 
VSEA members should have received an email this week, informing you that it is once again open enrollment time for VSEA members who are not currently enrolled in your union’s very popular Northeast Delta Dental Supplemental Program. The VSEA supplemental program is designed to enhance your current State-provided dental insurance benefit. 

This enrollment period is also when members already in the program can amend their number of dependents also using the program, if this number has changed in the past year.

The deadline to enroll in the supplemental dental plan, or amend your current plan, is Friday, May 15, 2020.  

If you are currently enrolled in the plan but are not making any changes, you do not have to do anything.

Learn More About VSEA’s Insurance Benefits on VSEA.org
Employee 
Child Care Reimbursement Extended Until
July 15 
VSEA's Child & Elder Care Committee asked WIA to remind members that, due to the federal and state income tax deadlines being extended to July 15, the State's employee child care reimbursement program is also extending its enrollment deadline to July 15.

Please note that this is an annual negotiated benefit and not a special benefit resulting from coronavirus outbreak.  

Here's more about the benefit:

This program offers financial assistance to Vermont State employees for their work-related child care expenses. The funds are made available through labor/management agreements with the State of Vermont. This initiative is the result of employee surveys and feedback on child care and child care assistance.

To learn more about the child care benefit and who is eligible, please click here. A form to enroll can also be found here.  
Have You Completed The VSEA PPE Survey Yet?
VSEA continues to ask all members to complete a short survey on your need and access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and what your current levels are at, if at all. The response, to date, has been great, but if you haven't yet taken the survey, please take the online survey.

Thanks to all the members who have completed the survey. Your input is appreciated and is critical to VSEA's efforts to help point the State to where the most for PPE need is. 
Essential & Need Childcare? Fill Out This Form!
DHR informed VSEA that essential personnel needing childcare during this crisis should fill out the online form below.

Let’s Grow Kids and the Child Care Referral Service will then try to match employees-in-need with the care that is the most appropriate and available.   

Online Form
Does Your Worksite Need Hand Sanitizer?
BGS let VSEA know that it is making locally made hand sanitizer available to frontline state employees whose worksite is in need. A pallet was delivered recently to BGS from Caledonia Spirits with more coming soon from St. Johnsbury Distillery.

Any employee whose worksite needs hand sanitizer should submit a request by filling out the form found in the upper right-hand corner of this page, under "Latest News."
You must be a registered state employee user to enter site. 

Thanks BGS and thanks Caledonia Spirits and St. Johnsbury Distillery.
Please Sign These VSEA Petitions!
"I Support VSEA Frontline Health Care Workers!" Sign the petition online here!

"I Support Protecting Vermont Veterans & Their Caregivers At The Vermont Veterans' Home!" Sign the petition online here!

Thanks for your support!
VSEA's Spring Membership Drive!
Never forget that ongoing recruitment is vital to the strength of your union! 
  • Members who recruit TWO members will receive a VSEA insulated travel mug;
     
  • Members who recruit FIVE new members will receive a dues holiday for a month; and
     
  • Members who recruit TEN new members will receive a check for $50!
Every time you recruit a new member between now and May 31, your name is entered into a drawing. Four names will be pulled at random and winners will receive a check for $100!

Just be sure your recruits include your name in the "Recruited by" section of the VSEA Membership Application.

Need a quick reference to help with your recruiting? You can view an informational webpage with some recruitment tips and advice here.

If you have any questions or want a list of non-members in your area, please contact VSEA Director of Operations and Organizing Amy Kinsell by email: 
akinsell@vsea.org
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.
What You Should Know About The Anti-Worker Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court Ruling

If you haven’t already, begin educating yourself today about what the Janus decision means—or supplement what you know already. Please also inform your co-workers about this Janus page and talk with them about what you learned and remind them of the importance of a union in their everyday life. You could make a difference. Every study shows that nothing is more effective than member-to-member communication.​

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