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Weekly News From VSEA!
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Week In Action Newsletter
April 24, 2020
Tina, a nurse belonging to the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) was just one of hundreds who participated in A Monday protest of VSC Chancellor Jeb Spaulding's proposal to close three VSC campuses. VSEA is thanking Tina and everyone else who protested on Monday, or who has contacted VSC Board members, their lawmakers or the Governor to voice opposition to the proposal and urge funding of the VSC system.       
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Big Win In Campaign To Save Vermont's State Colleges, But Fight's Not Over

A big win came this week for VSEA and other groups organizing hard against a proposal floated initially last Friday by Vermont State Colleges' (VSC) Chancellor Jeb Spaulding to close three VSC campuses; Northern Vermont University, both the Lyndon and Johnson campuses, and the Vermont Tech campus in Randolph Center. On Wednesday, Spaulding withdrew his proposal, largely due to the activism and voices of thousands of Vermonters opposed to his ill-advised proposal.

Read Chancellor's Statement To Withdraw Proposal

The week started with the VSC Board deciding to cancel a vote on the Spaulding proposal and then, Wednesday morning, Spaulding put out his statement, saying he was withdrawing his proposal. Spaulding's decision could be partly due to the hundreds of Vermonters, including several VSEA members and staff, who conducted a spirited car parade on Monday in front of the building in Montpelier where the VSC Board was meeting with the Chancellor. Also, last Sunday, Lt. Governor David Zuckerman helped the cause by holding a widely publicized press conference to make his strong case against Spaulding's proposal. And then there was the powerful testimony offered directly to the VSC Board by current and past students at two meetings this week. A popular Facebook page was also created to highlight the "Save VSC" campaign, and a petition is still circulating with thousands of signatures opposing the proposal.

And while this was a big win for so many, VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard cautioned members in a Wednesday email that a serious VSC funding issue still exists, and "[While] congratulations for winning this round are definitely in order, we now have to take the next step in this campaign to save our state colleges, which 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." Bridge funding is a one-time funding allocation from the State to keep the VSC functioning while a path forward can be determined; one that doesn't require the closure of three VSC campuses.   

So, if you haven't already contacted your lawmakers or the Governor with the message above, please do so as soon as possible. Equally important, please reach out to anyone you might know who is fighting along with VSEA to prevent these closures and ask them to send this same message to their lawmakers and the Governor. Please share social media posts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) 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 45,000 signatures.

Support For VSC Comes From Vermont Congressional Delegation & Top State Lawmakers

As thousands of Vermonters were voicing their opposition this week to Chancellor Spaulding's proposal, members of Vermont's congressional delegation were also issuing statements of opposition, including: Vermont Senate Pro Tem Tim Ashe and House Speaker Mitzi Johnson sent this letter:

VPR Looks At How Corrections Is Addressing COVID-19 Inside Facilities

Probation & Parole Employees' Contribution Also Highlighted

VPR recently posted a 15-minute story, titled, How Are Vermont Prisons Handling COVID-19?, and here's an excerpt: 

"[DOC Commissioner James] Baker hasn’t budged on one thing [VSEA Executive Director Steve] Howard and the union are agitating for: universal testing of every staffer and inmate in every prison. Presently, they won’t do that until someone inside has symptoms, gets tested, and comes up positive. So far, that has only happened at Northwest State, in Franklin County.

Nevertheless, the one thing Howard says he wants you to walk away from this story knowing is this:

“When people try to generalize about correctional officers,” he says, he hopes they remember that “throughout this crisis, these people walked away from their families and put their lives in danger once again to make sure that the community was safe.”
 

Listen or Read Full Story

VSEA Corrections Member Talks With WPTZ About Being Diagnosed With COVID-19

VSEA member Matthew Engels, a shift supervisor at the Northwest State Correctional Facility, spent some time with WPTZ last Friday, talking with a reporter about what life is like since being one of a dozen workers at NW to recently test positive for coronavirus. 

Watch the Full Interview

Judiciary Unit Contract Ratification Ballots Are Out!

VSEA Judiciary Unit members should have received an electronic contract ratification ballot yesterday, April 23, via email. If you don't recall seeing an email containing your ballot, please check your Spam folder before contacting headquarters or your Unit Chair.  

Unit members who requested paper ballots will receive it in the U.S. mail shortly.

The balloting will close on April 30.
On Wednesday, the nation celebrated "Administrative Professionals Day," and VSEA thanked all its members working as administrative professionals across Vermont for their service--either from an office or home--and wished them a happy day. Thank you for your service during these extraordinary times. 

Send Us A Photo!

Cheating a little here. This is a photo from a recent VPR story of Burlington Probation and Parole employees Maria Godleski, left, and Glenn Boyde filling bottles with hand sanitizer for use in correctional facilities.
VSEA's Communications team continues to solicit 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

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

Reminder: 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.  

Quote Of
The Week!

 

"Our Board of Trustees heard loud and clear from thousands of students, employees, communities, and the State’s elected leadership and determined that my recommendations would be damaging on many levels and would not be acceptable."


Line from VSC Chancellor Jeb Spaulding's Wednesday statement to withdraw his proposal to shutter three Vermont State College campuses. 
Talking Points:

Vermont UPS Workers Rally Around Co-Worker Fired For Whistleblowing About COVID-19 Concerns 

Photo: VTDigger 
VTDigger reports this week on United Parcel Service (UPS) workers demonstrating on Wednesday to support a colleague, who says she was fired "after raising COVID-19 safety concerns at the facility in St. Johnsbury where she worked."

From the story:
 

Marge Harvey, who has worked with UPS since 1987, said she was fired on April 10 from her job at the UPS facility in St. Johnsbury. She has since filed complaints at both the federal and state level with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration. She said she is seeking to get her job back.
 

Workers at UPS distribution centers in Vermont held protests outside some of the company’s six facilities Wednesday morning, including ones in Williston and Berlin that each drew about a dozen workers.

Outside the Williston facility, one UPS worker, Scott Carpenter, held a sign reading in big letters, “Reinstate Marge Harvey Now!!!. In the lower right  corner of the sign was smaller lettering reading, “What Can Brown Do? Reinstate Marge!”

Harvey, who lives in St. Johnsbury, said in an interview Wednesday that she started raising concerns about COVID-19 safety issues in early March, upset about the lack of personal protective equipment, no soap in the bathrooms, and no guidelines for social distancing.


Note: Solidarity Sister Harvey. We support the calls for your immediate reinstatement.

Nurses Conduct Protest In Front Of White House For More PPE

Multiple news outlets reported this week on a protest by National Nurses Union members in front of the White House in Washington, DC., rallying together to call for more personal protection equipment (PPE) to keep health care workers safe.

"We are here because our colleagues are dying," one nurse who participated in Tuesday's demonstration told MSNBC. "I think that right now people think of us as heroes, but we're feeling like martyrs. We're feeling like we're being left on the battlefield with nothing."
 

"We're tired of being treated as if we are expendable," NNU president Deborah Burger told the Washington Post. "If we are killed in this pandemic, there won't be anybody to take care of the rest of the sick people that are going to come. Everybody says they love nurses, they want to protect us," she adds, "but we still don't have the safety gear that we need."

This Week:
Big Win In Campaign To Save Vermont's State Colleges, But Fight's Not Over
VPR Looks At How Corrections Is Addressing COVID-19 Inside Facilities

VSEA Corrections Member Talks With WPTZ About Being Diagnosed With
COVID-19


Judiciary Unit Contract Ratification Ballots Are Out!

Administrative Professionals Day

Send Us A Photo!

Its' Open Enrollment Time For VSEA’s Popular Delta Dental Supplemental Plan

Reminder: Employee Child Care Reimbursement Extended Until July 15
Talking Points:
Vermont UPS Workers Rally Around
Co-Worker Fired For Whistleblowing About COVID-19 Concerns


Nurses Conduct Protest In Front Of White House For More PPE
Calendar:
Due to Coronavirus, all VSEA meetings are canceled until further notice.
Important Reminders:
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 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!
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!
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)

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. 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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