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Week In Action Newsletter
June 5, 2020
VSEA members and staff remotely provided pro-Pay Act testimony this week to members of the House Government Operations Committee
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VSEA Members Will Receive Negotiated July 1 Pay Increase

State's Paid Leave Deal With VSEA On Hold

VTDigger reports this week on an announcement from the State that, come July 1, exempt employees will have their pay increase frozen, but VSEA members will receive their negotiated pay increase. However, the State also informed VSEA it would not be implementing a paid leave proposal that was agreed to by both parties in the most recent round of negotiations.

From the VTDigger story:

Steve Howard, the executive director of the union, said that the [State]'s ongoing support for the contract signals that [it] believes “all state employees are essential employees.”

But Howard said that state employees still want to see a paid family leave program next year, however, and that the [State] has an “obligation” to put it in place.

“We were happy to accept their proposal, it was their proposal,” Howard said of the paid family leave program. “And we are going to work with them to see that state employees receive that benefit.”

VSEA Members Testify On Pay Act

Several VSEA members testified Tuesday, via Zoom, to the House Government Operations Committee; each making a strong case for full funding of the Pay Act.

Big thanks to the following VSEA members for your testimony:

  • Margaret Crowley (Judiciary)
  • Steffen Flibotte (Corrections)
  • Alexis Hoyt (RN, Vets' Home)
  • Justin Jiron (State Attorneys' Office)
  • Lt. Barbara Kessler (DPS, VSP)
  • Robert Stone (DPS, Asst. State Fire Marshal)

What Is The "Pay Act"

If you're unsure what the Pay Act is exactly, here's a quick primer:

Every two years, legislation called the Pay Act is introduced to determine what level of funding the collective bargaining agreements between VSEA and the State receive. This bill begins its journey in the House Government Operations Committee. The Act is one of VSEA’s top legislative priorities each biennium. While the State is legally obligated to honor any contracts negotiated with the Union, the legislature has been known to underfund these agreements and ask departments and agencies to use vacancy savings to make up the difference – this is commonly referred to as “eating the Pay Act.” In a utopian world, departments and agencies could absorb these costs by leaving positions unfilled throughout state government, but the recession(s), pandemic, etc., means these savings are in short supply.

Thanks to the members who testified this week.

Watch VSEA Member Pay Act Testimony Online

VSEA Board Passes Three Resolutions Of Note This Week

VSEA's Board of Trustees met this week, via Zoom, and the body passed three resolutions of note for VSEA to fulfill, including:
  1. Issue a formal statement on death of George Floyd, which happened on Wednesday. It reads: "VSEA stands in solidarity with George Floyd’s family. We demand justice for George Floyd. We demand an end to unnecessary violence at the hands of police who have sworn to serve and protect. Our union stands with the Black Lives Matter movement."
  2. Issue a press statement of support for workers at the Brattleboro Retreatwhich also happened on Wednesday. It reads: "The Vermont State Employees' Association's (VSEA) Board of Trustees voted yesterday to issue a statement of support for the beleaguered workforce at the Brattleboro Retreat, who continue to struggle with a hostile employer, who they allege is repeatedly violating their fundamental employee rights. VSEA is also disturbed by a new report that union president Sy Creamer was fired Monday, and VSEA stands ready to help Creamer in any way it can, as she launches her justified fight for reinstatement. VSEA is also sending solidarity to every Brattleboro Retreat​ UNAP member, as they prepare to picket the Retreat tomorrow to demand the reinstatement of their president."
  3. Promote a June 9 picket by AFSCME Local 1343 Burlington City workers, which posted to VSEA's Facebook page on Tuesday. View picket's official Facebook page

Reminder: May 5, 2020 Board of Trustees Meeting Minutes Posted

Read/download the minutes online.
(Login required)

BGS Posts New Form To Report Workplace Incidents

BGS Office of State Safety and Security Director William McSalis asked VSEA to let members know that there is a new link for state employees to report workplace incidents of all types.

"BGS' new 'Safety and Security Incident Report (SSIR)' was developed in house, and we believe that the new system is easier to use for the employee making the report," explains McSalis. "It also and provides greater functionality for our Threat Investigators and Administrators."   

McSalis adds that employees experiencing difficulty, or who or have questions or concerns, should contact the State Safety and Security Duty Officer for assistance, 24/7, at (802) 828-0777.

New BGS Incident Report Form

VSEA Members Urged To Complete
Experience Survey 

VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard sent an email to members on Wednesday, which included a link to a short, three-question survey about how the COVID-19 crisis is impacting your professional and personal life, both negatively and positively. Your feedback is important and will help VSEA formulate bargaining and legislative strategies to better aid state employees during this current crisis or any future pandemics.  
Take The Survey Online!

COVID-19 Delays State's Corrections Investigation

Seven Days reports this week that the State has suspended its investigation into allegations of wrongdoing at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility due to safety concerns related to the coronavirus outbreak. 

"It has been suspended and as soon as we have an opportunity to open up our facilities again it will be reestablished," Secretary of Human Services Mike Smith tells Seven Days. "It hasn't been forgotten."

Here's how VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard responded in December 2019 to news of the State's investigation at Chittenden:

“I would describe [Smith’s idea] as premature and a little sensational at the moment,” adding that there are hundreds of corrections officers and supervisors who are “upstanding, respectable” employees, “and to paint them all with a broad brush because of allegations against a few people seems to be unfair.” However, Howard added his members welcomed the broader review of Vermont’s prisons. “We have been for many years trying to call attention to what we see as a chaotic environment at many correctional facilities across the state."  

Not Funny! Motorist Throws Large Pickle At AOT Member 

Multiple news outlets aired a story this week about VSEA 30-plus-year AOT member Carl Hoffman, who was vehicle spotting at the time, having a "large pickle" thrown at him from a passing car for no apparent reason. Hoffman told officers responding to the scene that the projectile "caused him injury."  

From a June 2 Bennington Banner story:

Vermont State Police charged Christoph Herrmannsdoerfer, 34, with simple assault after he reportedly threw an object out of a moving vehicle, striking a state employee working by the roadside.

The object was "later determined to be a large pickle," according to the state police. The pickle struck Carl Hoffman, 59, of the Agency of Transportation, "causing him pain," Trooper Raymond Witkowski said in a release.

Hoffman didn't suffer any injuries, Witkowski told the Banner, though his shoes got splattered with pickle juice.

When police later spoke to Herrmannsdoerfer, he couldn't explain why he threw the pickle at Hoffman, Witkowski said. There's also no indication the two men knew each other or that the incident was connected to any dispute.

Hoffman, part of a crew monitoring the entry of out-of-state cars into Vermont, wasn't on duty on Tuesday; colleagues said he'd taken the day off.

State police said troopers were dispatched to the border crossing along Route 7 shortly before 6 p.m. Monday, when they received a report that a VTrans employee on site had been assaulted.

Note: While this is indeed an unusual event, it is not funny, as we have now learned that any kind of projectile thrown from a moving vehicle can cause injury to an AOT worker or, in fact, any person hit by the object. 

DCF Commissioner Retiring 

Outgoing DCF Commissioner Ken Schatz addresses a 2015 somber vigil for DCF Social Worker Lara Sobel, who a client tragically murdered outside the Barre DCF office. 
After five years at the helm, Seven Days reports Thursday that DCF Commissioner Ken Schatz has announced that he is retiring from state government and will be replaced by DCF Deputy Commissioner Sean Brown.  

"I've really learned a lot from the people that I've worked with, families I've come into contact with and other professionals," Schatz says. "And I feel very good about the work we've done together to support children and families in Vermont."

Revamped VSEA Website
Is Live!

VSEA's Communications Department is pleased to report that long-overdue maintenance on your union's website has been completed, and the site is now live.

"Members, retirees and visitors to the revamped site will notice it has a slightly different look and that the site's functionality is improved, especially on mobile devices," explains VSEA Communications Specialist Kris Lizzari. "We understand there is still some fine-tuning to do, so members and retirees experiencing issues with the site should contact the VSEA Communications Department. Also share any corrections to posted information you may discover."  

Lizzari adds that members can now register for new VSEA website accounts. as well as access the online VSEA Advantage Discount Program.

Quote Of
The Week!


"Who knows where the areas would be of reduction, because there were no proposed reductions by the governor. The Legislature has to do its work and just not leave carte blanche reductions for the administration to have, without us weighing in."

Vermont House Appropriations Committee Chair Kitty Toll (D-Danville), commenting in a VTDigger story this week about Toll's committee deciding against including the State's proposed additional 8% cut to agencies and departments in the "skinny" budget proposal passed out of committee.    
Talking Points:

AFSCME Burlington City Workers Conducting Picket On Tuesday

VSEA's Board of Trustees is encouraging members and retires to attend a Tuesday, June 9, AFSCME/AFL-CIO picket in Burlington to protest the Burlington Mayor's demand for city employees, including essential workers, to open their contracts to discuss economic concessions, or face layoffs.

The picket begins at 3:30 p.m., and picketers are meeting at the Burlington DPW, 645 Pine Street, practicing safe social distancing.

VSEA's Board is encouraging members and retirees who are able to attend, with a mask, of course. Wear a VSEA shirt or carry a sign.

View picket's official Facebook page

Colorado Senate Passes Bill To Grant State Workers Collective Bargaining Rights 

The Colorado Partnership For Quality Jobs and Services Act, HB-1153, passed the Colorado Senate this week.

The bill would allow state employees to collectively bargain on pay, benefits and terms of employment.

“Right now, the unfortunate reality is that 1 in 5 Colorado’s state jobs remain unfilled, forcing state employees to work multiple jobs and unconventional hours,” said bill sponsor Senate President Leroy Garcia, Democrat who represents Pueblo. “With this legislation, workers will have the ability to negotiate and get some well-earned relief — giving them the opportunity to have their voices heard.”

HB-1153 requires the state of Colorado to participate in good faith during the bargaining and partnership processes.

The bill now goes back to the House for final consideration of Senate amendments.

Thank you for reading
Week In Action!
This Week:
VSEA Members Will Receive Negotiated July 1 Pay Increase

VSEA Members Testify On Pay Act VSEA Board Passes Three Resolutions Of Note This Week
BGS Posts New Form To Report Workplace Incidents

VSEA Members Urged To Complete COVID-19 Experience Survey

COVID-19 Delays State's Corrections Investigation

Not Funny! Motorist Throws Large Pickle At AOT Member

DCF Commissioner Retiring

Revamped VSEA Website Is Live!

Quote Of The Week!
Talking Points:
AFSCME Burlington City Workers Conducting Picket On Tuesday

Colorado Senate Passes Bill To Grant State Workers Collective Bargaining Rights
Next VSEA Board of Trustees' Meeting:
  • Tuesday, July 7
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, all other VSEA meetings are canceled until further notice.
Important Reminders:
Campaign To Save Vermont's State Colleges Continues! Keep The Heat On!

Employees Who Fail To Comply With Mask Directive Could Be Disciplined

Employee Child Care Reimbursement Extended Until July 15

Essential & Need Childcare? Fill Out This Form!

AFLAC Insurance Enrollment: Sign Up Through VSEA!

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!
Campaign To Save Vermont's State Colleges Continues!

Keep The Heat On!

VSEA, the AFT and other unions are continuing to urge members and retirees to participate in the next step in a collective campaign to save Vermont's 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.” 

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 nearly 48,000 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.

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.
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.  
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
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 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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