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Weekly News From VSEA!
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Week In Action Newsletter
April 10, 2020
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VSEA Sends Letter To Governor, Calling For Immediate Coronavirus Testing At All 24/7 Facilities

VSEA President Dave Bellini sent the following letter this morning to the Governor:

Speaking for the thousands of Vermont state employees currently working on our state's frontlines in the fight against the coronavirus, I want to first thank you for working with VSEA members to ensure we are treated fairly during this crisis. Second, however, I want to let you know that employees, especially those working in 24/7 facilities, are, frankly, scared right now that a person, co-worker, patient or resident in their facility could have the virus, and they might not even know it. 

On behalf of every VSEA member working tirelessly today in one of Vermont's 24/7 state facilities to keep Vermonters healthy and safe, VSEA calls on you today to immediately mandate coronavirus testing for every employee, inmate, resident or patient currently working or housed in a Vermont 24/7 facility. We think you will agree that addressing this now could help prevent a serious problem down the road. 


Ed Note: The Administration was asked about VSEA's letter below at a press conference today and responded that it would only be testing in facilities where there is a known positive case. Choosing to be reactive, as opposed to proactive, especially with Vermonters' health in jeopardy, is unacceptable. 

Facility-Wide Coronavirus Testing At Northwest State Correctional Facility Reveals Alarming Number Of Positives

Another Reminder That Corrections Employees Working 24/7 To Keep Us Safe During This Crisis Also Need Adequate Protection From Virus

Several news outlets are reporting today on the completion yesterday of facility-wide testing for coronavirus at the NW State Correctional Facility in Swanton and the alarming number of new positives identified in the testing process. In addition to the three NW corrections employees who tested positive prior to facility-wide testing, sadly, the process identified that five more employees have contracted the disease. An additional 28 inmates also tested positive yesterday. 

Read DOC's 4/9 Statement About NW State Test Results

In a VTDigger story about the testing at NW, VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard announces that VSEA will be sending a letter to the Governor (see WIA story above) urging the testing of all inmates and staff in facilities across the state’s corrections system.

Widespread testing, Howard explains, “gives you at least the information you need to actually seriously contain it.”

He adds that he hoped such widespread testing would have occurred earlier.

Related: 

VSEA & State Reach Agreement On New Extended Coronavirus Leave Policy Through May 9.

Also Agree To Additional Pay For Employees In 24/7 Facilities & Those In Direct Contact w/Public

It was down to the wire, but, finally, after a lot of discussion and back and forth, VSEA's Bargaining Team members reached an agreement late last Sunday evening to extend the paid leave period for workers; a necessity resulting from the current coronavirus crisis. The leave plan in place was set to expire on Monday, April 6, so it did come down to the wire.  

VSEA 4/5 statement on agreement:

VSEA and the State of Vermont have reached an agreement through May 9, 2020, to augment the Federal Emergency Family and Medical Leave Act to provide state employees in the Executive Branch Bargaining Units with 5 weeks of leave paid at 100% of salary for a COVID-19 qualifying condition.

VSEA is pleased that the [State] recognized state employees who are at increased risk as a result of performing essential state services in 24/7 facilities or AHS departments that have direct contact with the public.

Here is a brief summary of the agreement:

  • Agreement is effective April 6, 2020 until May 9, 2020;
     
  • Provides for another 200 hours (5 weeks) of 100% paid sick leave for employees that are sick or have an underlying condition related to COVID19;
     
  • Provides for another 200 hours (5 weeks) of 100% paid family leave for those that must care for a family member because of school and childcare closings;
     
  • 20% Premium Pay on an hour for hour basis for hours actually worked by employees who are assigned to work in COVID19 positive facilities or are required to work directly with a COVID19 positive individual;
     
  • Payment of a $1.50/hour premium for actual hours worked for employees:

    a.) Working in the AHS 24/7 Facilities – Correctional Facilities, VPCH/MTCR, the Juvenile Rehabilitation Center formally known as Woodside; the DOC P&P Offices; and VVH

    b.) Other AHS employees who have direct, in person, face to face contact with a member of the public

    c.) Vermont State Police Lieutenants who have direct, in person, face-to-face contact with a member of the public;
     
  • Carry over of unused earned Compensatory Time for an additional Year (July 2021);
     
  • Carry over of unused Supervisory Personal Leave for an additional year (July 2021); and
     
  • Leave used under this agreement will not affect Personal Leave accrual.

Any of the above provisions may be extended by mutual agreement of the Parties.

If you have questions about the agreement, please contact your VSEA Union Representative.

Please continue to monitor your email, VSEA's website, and your union's FacebookTwitter, and Instagram pages for updates

Petition Calls On State To Immediately Test All Veterans' Home Residents & Staff For
COVID-19

Please Sign Today!

Reportedly, due to a slow response by management at the Solider's Home in Holyoke, Mass., more than 20 residents have already died from the coronavirus and at least 18 staff have tested positive. Couple that with all signs pointing to nursing homes as being hot zones for coronavirus outbreaks, and​ it's easy to see why VSEA members working 24/7 at the Vermont Veterans' Home asked their union to post an online petition to call on the Scott Administration to direct Vermont Veterans' Home (VVH) Administrator Melissa Jackson to immediately test VVH residents and all staff for COVID-19.

Sign Online

Thanks for your support!

See Also:

Have You Completed The VSEA PPE Survey Yet?

On Wednesday, VSEA emailed all members, asking you 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. 

Send Us A Photo!

DVHA Program Integrity Analyst Sawyer Joecks has been working out of his basement for two weeks now, and he says he's been wearing his VSEA gear each day. Thanks for your service during this crisis Sawyer.
VSEA's Communications team is again soliciting photos of you, or you and your colleagues (practicing safe distancing, of course), serving on the frontlines of the coronavirus crisis. 

"We understand this is a very difficult time for many Vermont state employees, both professionally and personally, and that photo taking is probably the last thing on many members' minds," says VSEA Communications Director Doug Gibson. "But if you see an opportunity for a photo, please share it with us, and we'll put it up on VSEA's social media platforms to remind people of the men and women who are serving Vermonters every day on the frontlines, fighting this coronavirus outbreak. Thanks in advance!"

Share your photo of VSEA members on the frontlines by emailing dgibson@vsea.org

Woodside Moving... Again

Staff & Youth Moving To What Was Supposed To A Temporary DMH Step-Down Facility In Middlesex

Following the escape last week of two youth from a facility in St. Albans, where the Scott Administration and lawmakers (and, sadly, some youth advocates) decided two weeks ago to send Vermont at-risk youth, they have decided that the replacement for Woodside will now be the recently vacated temporary Middlesex DMH Step-Down Facility.

Mind you, VSEA Woodside workers and union leaders lambasted the move to St. Albans from the outset, citing a lack of security as a chief complaint. Now the workers are being asked to uproot again and head to Middlesex. Big thanks to the Woodside frontline staff for hanging in there to try to ensure Vermont's at-risk youth are safe--or as safe as possible, given how quickly staff is being asked to adapt.

DCF press release about the move

Does Your Worksite Need Hand Sanitizer?

BGS let VSEA know this week that it is making locally made hand sanitizer available to frontline state employees whose worksite is in need. A pallet was delivered this week 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.

Treasurer Reassures Retirees

In a Seven Days story this week about the impact of the coronavirus crisis on Vermont's state budget (not a pretty picture), State Treasurer Beth Pearce seeks to reassure state employee retirees that their checks are not in jeopardy.

"The [pension funds are] gonna take some hits, and there's gonna be some volatility in the markets continuing," Pearce says. "But we're long-term investors. We see things in a 30-year horizon. We have more than enough money, I want to assure retirees, to pay retirement bills."

Essential & Need Childcare? Fill Out This Form!

DHR informed VSEA last week 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

Quote Of
The Week!

 

"I want to let you know that employees, especially those working in 24/7 facilities, are, frankly, scared right now that a person, co-worker, patient or resident in their facility could have the virus, and they might not even know it."


VSEA President Dave Bellini, in a letter he sent this morning to the Governor, calling for immediate coronavirus testing in all Vermont 24/7 facilities.  
Talking Points:

VSEA Game Warden To The Rescue!

VTDigger and several other Vermont publications published a press release this week, generated by the Fish & Wildlife Department, detailing how VSEA Game Warden Kelly Price recently rescued a grandmother and her 12-year-old grandson, who got lost while hiking on the Black Mountain trail system in Dummerston. 

From the release:

The concerned friends drove to the trailhead and honked their horn, which was not heard by the lost hikers.

Friends contacted Vermont State Police who then contacted local Game Warden Kelly Price.  Price, with an extensive knowledge of the terrain, exchanged photos and text messages with Stone, using landmarks and global positioning system coordinates to find their approximate location.  Knowing he was close, Price then blew his whistle, which was heard by the grandson. Price located the two and brought them back down the mountain safely where they were greeted warmly by friends and neighbors.


“I credit [the grandmother's] right attitude, proper assessment of her situation and inclination to ask for help to the successful outcome of this extraction,” said Price. “We want to remind folks to put away their pride and know when to seek assistance before their circumstances and our ability to rescue them becomes hindered due to reduced visibility and cold temperatures at night.”

Note: Well done Warden Price!

NY Could Delay Contractual Wage Increases, Angering Frontline Workers

Spectrum News published a disturbing story yesterday about New York state officials now moving to delay the implementation of contractual raises for 90 days. New York CSEA’s contract calls for a 2 percent raise that would take effect in mid-April.

“It’s inexcusable to require our workers to literally face death to ensure the state keeps running and then turn around and deny those very workers their much-deserved raise in this time of crisis,” said CSEA President Mary Sullivan.

“People are failing to recognize the value of our state workers during this crisis and what they are going through to keep providing public services throughout the state. We literally have workers sleeping in their workplaces to make sure essential services are delivered around the clock.”

Michael Powers, the president of the state’s corrections officers union, called the move a “slap in the face.”

“Our members are working day and night and are subject to some of the most dangerous conditions in the state,” Powers said. “With hundreds of our members testing positive for COVID-19 and hundreds more quarantined, the risks are real.”

This Week:
VSEA Sends Letter To Governor, Calling For Immediate Coronavirus Testing At All 24/7 Facilities

Facility-Wide Coronavirus Testing At Northwest State Correctional Facility Reveals Alarming Number Of Positives

VSEA & State Reach Agreement On New Extended Coronavirus Leave Policy Through May 9
  • Also Agree To Additional Pay For Employees In 24/7 Facilities & Those In Direct Contact w/Public

Petition Calls On State To Immediately Test All Veterans' Home Residents & Staff For COVID-19. Please Sign Today!

Have You Completed The VSEA PPE Survey Yet?

Woodside Moving... Again

Does Your Worksite Need Hand Sanitizer?

Treasurer Reassures Retirees

Essential & Need Childcare? Fill Out This Form!
Talking Points:
VSEA Game Warden To The Rescue!

NY Could Delay Contractual Wage Increases, Angering Frontline Workers
Calendar:
Due to Coronavirus, all VSEA meetings are canceled until further notice.
Important Reminders:
Sign The VSEA Petition To Ensure VVH & VPCH Workers Have Essential Protective Equipment

VSEA's Spring Membership Drive!

AFLAC Insurance Enrollment: Sign Up Through VSEA!

VSEA Legislative Team Online Updates

2020 VSEA Scholarship Application Available Now!

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!
Sign The VSEA Petition To Ensure VVH & VPCH Workers Have Essential Protective Equipment

VSEA was asked by members working at the Vermont Veterans' Home and the Vermont Psychiatric Care Facility to generate a petition to engage VSEA members, retirees and the public in a campaign to ensure workers at these critical healthcare facilities have the protective equipment they need, if, and when, the coronavirus presents in their facility. Right now, the workers say they don't have the equipment they need and that guidance from management is muddled, if at all. Answers are also in short supply.

This is what it has come to Vermonters. Please help these dedicated and brave workers on the frontlines of this crisis by signing their petition, which reads:

I Support VSEA Frontline Health Care Workers!

We, the undersigned, call on Vermont's congressional delegation, state lawmakers and the Scott Administration to immediately address the coronavirus-related equipment and communication concerns of frontline health care workers, working at the Vermont Veterans' Home and Vermont Psychiatric Care Facility. These workers must immediately have the protective equipment they require (i.e. N95 masks) and management must be talking with frontline workers and working with them to provide the best care possible to Vermonters during this health care crisis.


You can sign the petition online here!

VSEA's Spring Membership Drive!
After a very successful membership-recruitment initiative this past winter, VSEA is excited to announce a new membership drive for the next quarter!

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
 

Help Spread The Word!
Download, distribute and post this flyer in your worksite! Thanks! 
(Opens/ downloads a PDF)

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:
It’s a good idea to keep your coverage up to date to reflect current income and family needs. Your disability policy does not increase as your salary does.

If you would like to schedule an appointment
please use this link.
 

The appointment is done over the phone and computer. I will call you on the day and time you select.

I have linked our brochure with other benefits that are available. (Opens/ downloads a PDF)

Please let me know if you have further questions.

Joanne Woodcock
VSEA Benefits Administrator
888-510-4467
Joanne@vseainsurance.com


View More VSEA Insurance Benefits

You must be a full dues-paying member of VSEA or a VSEA retiree to be eligible for this benefit. If you are not currently a VSEA member, you can sign up online.
VSEA Legislative Team Online 
Updates
Note: The State House is closed to the public during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

VSEA's legislative team at the State House has been emailing and posting updates from the State House.  

Most Recent Update:
Feb. 28 
Legislative Update


Interested VSEA members can find more information about the 2020 legislative session by visiting VSEA's 2020 Session Online Hub. Here you will find a collection of resources, reports, and tools to help VSEA members navigate the Vermont Legislative Session, including:

  • 2020 Legislative Session Reports;
     
  • 2020 Legislative Session Agenda;
     
  • Find/Contact Your Legislator;
     
  • Virtual Vermont State House Tour;
     
  • Become A VTPAC Member; and
     
  • VSEA Legislative Committee Profile.

The hub will be updated with new information as it becomes available.

2020 VSEA Scholarship Application Available Now!

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 June Council Meeting.

View/download the 2020 VSEA Scholarship Application.

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

Note: Depending on your settings, the link above will open a PDF in your web browser or download the PDF to your computer or device. If you have any questions please email vsea@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.​

Learn More On VSEA.org

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