Weekly News From VSEA!
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Week In Action Newsletter
June 12, 2020
VSEA Is Congratulating This Year's Scholarship Winners! 
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VSEA Labor Relations Director's Update On Status Of
COVID-19 Agreement 

While the VSEA remains agreeable to extending the COVID-19 Side-Letter Agreement that began on April 6, 2020, the State, unfortunately, has respectfully declined your union’s offer. The Administration has made it clear that it is not agreeable to extending the terms and conditions of the COVID-19 Side-Letter Agreement that expired on June 6, 2020. Also unfortunate is the Administration’s decision to end the Side Letter's premium-pay provision for the state employees who are providing care and essential services on the frontlines of this crisis. As I said, the Administration's decision is really unfortunate, however, I want to remind you that, while the Side-Letter Agreement did provide enhanced benefits in addition to federal regulations, some state employees may still have remaining leave entitlements under the:
  • ​​Families First Coronavirus Relief Act;
  • Emergency Paid Sick Leave;
  • Expanded Family Medical Leave, and 
  • Your Unit Collective Bargaining Agreement.
VSEA members are encouraged to explore your options with your department or agency HR representatives, and to ask them for more information on your status now that the COVID-19 Side-Letter Agreement is expired and to inquire about any remaining options.

HR Representative Locator

Pay Act Clears First Hurdle In Legislative Process

Photo: VTDigger

Members of the House Government Operations Committee voted 7-3-1 Tuesday to act on a motion made by Rep. Bob Hooper (pictured here, leaning forward) to move the Pay Act out of committee favorably.

The Act, which funds state employees' negotiated pay increase, now moves to the House Appropriations Committee. If passed there, it then goes to the House floor for debate and a vote.

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.

Watch VSEA Member Pay Act Testimony From June 2

VSEA 2020 Scholarship Winners! 

COVID-19 Crisis Cancels Annual Luncheon To Celebrate Winners

The COVID-19 crisis forced the VSEA Council to cancel its most recent meeting at Castleton University. Sadly, this is the meeting each year where the Council hosts a special luncheon to honor the winners of a VSEA scholarship, presenting each winner with a check, certificate and some VSEA-themed items. More important, the luncheon is an opportunity for the Council and members of VSEA's Awards and Scholarships Committee, who selected the winners, to personally applaud each, as well as their accomplishments and future goals. But not to be this year, like so many things.

Congratulations to this year's VSEA 2020 Scholarship winners, who are in alphabetical order:

Taylor Abbott

Taylor is the daughter of VSEA member Karen Abbott; a Grants Manager with the Agency of Education. Taylor has already been accepted to three universities, including Castleton, where she will be pursuing a bachelor's degree in science, eventually wanting to enter the field of nursing as a registered nurse. Taylor writes in her scholarship essay:

"With all that is going on in the world right now, the need for nurses has never been more apparent. Healthcare worker are selflessly dedicating their lives to help those affected by COVID-19. Their commitment has reassured my desire and need to become a nurse. After graduation in 2022, my goal is to work as a Registered Nurse here in Vermont. Doing this will allow me to give back to the community that raised me." 

Meghan Rae Curran

Meghan is the daughter of VSEA member Thomas Curran; an Investigator Supervisor with the Vermont Department of Liquor and Lottery's Enforcement Division. Meghan is currently enrolled at the Universities of Vermont, where she is pursuing a bachelor's degree in science, eventually wanting to enter the field of nursing as a registered nurse. Jaden writes in her scholarship ​essay:

"My time volunteering at (Rutland Regional Medical Center) has made me passionate about patient care and has opened my eyes to a wide variety of opportunities I can pursue in the healthcare field. ​I have had so many interactions with nurses, and seeing how passionate they are has influenced me to receive my BSN-RN degree. I hope to become an emergency room travel nurse."

Nicholas Daigle

Nicholas is an active VSEA member who works as a Probation Officer with the Department of Corrections. Nicholas has been attending the Community College of Vermont, and he will hopefully soon begin studies at Northern Vermont University, where he will pursue a degree in psychology. Timothy writes in his scholarship essay: ​

"I have worked for the Vermont Department of Corrections since I was 17 years old. I started my career as a temporary correctional officer in Rutland. I eventually was given a full-time correctional officer position. I was later promoted to a correctional officer 2, then a community corrections officer, and most recently a probation officer. Ultimately, my goal will be to obtain my masters in psychology to better assist the population I serve." 

Jaden Emily Sanborn

Jaden is the daughter of VSEA member Nicholas Burnham; a Work Crew Leader with the Department of Corrections. Jaden is currently enrolled at Paul Smith's College, where she is pursuing a degree in disaster management and response. Jaden writes in her scholarship ​essay:

"When I first began the transfer process to Paul Smith’s College, I intended on studying forestry once again, but in the same week that I applied they released a brand-new major called Disaster Management and Response. Something inside me immediately lit up and I knew that this was the career path that I was intended to take. As some people say it takes a certain kind of person to run into danger while others are typically running away, and I feel that I am one of those people who can step up in order to ensure the safety of those around me.​"

Two Reports Issued On Funding Required For Continued VSC Operation

Several new outlets post stories this week on two reports being presented to lawmakers on on the amount of money needed to provide adequate "bridge funding" to the Vermont State Colleges (VSC) to keep all the campuses open and operating.

From a VTDigger story:

The Vermont State Colleges could face operating deficits anywhere from $19 million to $46 million next year as the pandemic further depresses enrollment. That’s according to a pair of reports commissioned by lawmakers to help them decide how much to give the system to get it through next year.

The analyses were conducted by Vermont State Treasurer Beth Pearce and James Page, an education consultant and the former chancellor of the University of Maine system. Lawmakers requested the reports, which were released separately late Monday and Tuesday, after the system’s former chancellor proposed an explosively controversial plan to close three state college campuses for good in the wake of the coronavirus.

Note: A coalition of groups, including VSEA, are organizing to convince lawmakers to allocate $30 million in bridge funding.

VSEA Analysis Of VSC Reports

Read VSEA Strategic Analyst Adam Norton's summary of the VSC funding reports, which he developed in coordination with the Vermont AFT.

Testing Finds No New Cases Of COVID-19 In Vermont's Prisons--Staff Or Inmates

VSEA is welcoming news this week that at the last of six prisons in Vermont to undergo mass testing of inmates and staff, which was Southern State, there were no new cases of COVID-19 found.

Vermont's other five correctional facilities had previously undergone mass testing of staff and inmates at a rate of one prison a week. That earlier mass testing at four of those prisons — Northern State in Newport, Chittenden Regional in South Burlington, Marble Valley Regional in Rutland, and Northeast Correctional Complex in St. Johnsbury — also revealed no positive tests for Covid-19 among the inmates or staff.

VTDigger: Vermont's Prisons Appear To Be COVID Free

Contract Extension Ballots Out To State Colleges' Unit Members

VSEA State Colleges' Unit Chair Sandra Noyes is reminding members in the Unit that an agreement was recently reached between the Unit's Bargaining Team and the Chancellor's Office to extend the workers' current contract's terms and conditions for an additional year. The agreement is subject to approval by a ratification vote by VSC Unit members, and a “50% plus 1” vote result is required. If ratified, the side letter extension agreement would go into effect on July 1, 2020.

The deadline for VSC members to vote on extension is June 26, 2020.

Extension discussions were prompted by the COVID-19 crisis, as well as the chaos created by ex-Chancellor Jeb Spaulding's recent, ill-advised proposal to shutter three VSC campuses. 

RFR Requests Due To VSEA
By July 1!

If you’re a group of VSEA members considering filing a class-action request for reclassification, remember that you must:
  • Tell VSEA by July 1; and
  • Submit paperwork to VSEA by August 1
VSEA’s Executive Branch collective-bargaining agreements require that all class-action RFRs must be filed within a certain window, following July 1 in any given year—and the window differs depending on Unit-specific contract language. The State will not even entertain RFRs that did not receive prior VSEA approval. The VSEA Board of Trustees adopted a new policy to ensure that VSEA has time to properly evaluate class-action RFRs before they are submitted to the State. This deadline was needed because some RFRs are still being submitted right before the deadline, which prevented VSEA from making sure that the RFR protected all members’ rights. 

The Board’s policy requires any member(s) who want to submit a class-action RFR to VSEA for review and approval must provide notice to VSEA of their intention to file a class-action RFR on or before July 1 in any given year. A copy of the proposed class-action RFR must then be submitted to VSEA before August 1 in any given year. All class-action RFR’s received at VSEA after August —or those submitted directly to the State Classification division without notice and consultation with VSEA—will not be “recognized” and/or “signed off” on by the union.​

New "Purchasing Power" Benefit Offered To VSEA Members

In times when paying with cash or credit is challenging, Purchasing Power is here for you with a program you can trust. Get what you need now, and pay overtime – right from your paycheck.​

View the Program PDF
Depending on your settings, the link above will open a PDF in your web browser or download the PDF to your computer
or device.

Quote Of
The Week!


"The voices of educators must be heard as we develop what schools will look like when we reopen. But we cannot reopen schools until the health and safety of students, educators, and parents are assured."

Vermont-NEA President Don Tinney, responding in a press release this week to an announcement by the State early in the week that students are expected to return to classrooms this fall for in-person instruction. Tinney is chairing a task force of educators, and he is angry the task force was not consulted as part of the State's decision process. The NEA is demanding a seat at the table, and should have one.   
Talking Points:

AFSCME Burlington City Workers Stage Picket

Hundreds of union members and their supporters staged a car picket around Burlington City Hall on Tuesday to protest the Mayor's demand for city employees, including essential workers, to open their contracts to discuss economic concessions, or face layoffs. The workers are members of AFSCME Local 1343. 

"It's all about essential staffing, It's about not opening up contracts, it's about not laying off," AFSCME Local 1343 President Damion Gilbert says in a WCAX story about the picket. "We feel that Vermont, Burlington -- they've laid off enough people." He adds in a WPTZ story, "We’re really working hard and doing our part. We really didn’t feel that it was necessarily fair to even open up the contract and take any increases away."

VTDiggerAt Rooftop Rally, Unions Call On Burlington Mayor To Not Cut Jobs

Photo: VTDigger

EPI Issues Bleak Jobs Forecast If States Don't Receive Federal Funding 

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) recently hosted a bipartisan panel of economists, who called upon policymakers to pass significant federal aid for state and local governments in coming months. The panel’s judgement was unanimous that federal aid for state and local governments is crucial for helping the economy mount a rapid recovery from the current crisis. 

Here are some takeaways from the panel:
  • If policymakers do nothing at the federal level to address these shortfalls, the United States could end 2021 with 5.3 million fewer jobs, with losses in every state;
  • Further, if Congress passes some level of aid that is insufficient—less than $1 trillionthey will needlessly guarantee a significant job gap by the end of 2021;
    • If they pass $500 billion of aid over that time, the jobs gap will likely be roughly 2.6 million. If they pass $300 billion of aid, the jobs gap will likely be roughly 3.7 million.
  • While empirical estimates of the shortfall should guide policymakers’ thinking, they can (and actually should) avoid putting a firm sticker price on state and local aid by tying this aid to economic conditions. If the economy recovers faster than the forecasts driving the $1 trillion estimated shortfall indicate will happen, then less aid would be needed. If instead recovery lagged, more would be needed; and
  • Filling in the estimated shortfalls would merely return state and local governments to their pre-crisis fiscal status quo. But the unique features of the current economic shock will put greater demands on public services than existed before the crisis. To go beyond macroeconomic stabilization and promote the general welfare, even more federal aid to these governments is likely needed.

North Carolina Nurses Prepare For Historic Vote To Unionize

Labor Notes and Facing South recently post a story about nurses at the Mission Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, preparing for an "historic" vote for unionization in in the country’s second least unionized state.

“If it happens in North Carolina, it can happen anywhere,” says Trish Stevenson, an emergency room nurse at Mission.

The union drive pits workers against HCA Healthcare, the nation’s largest hospital corporation with 184 hospitals in the United States and the United Kingdom. In February 2019, HCA paid $1.5 billion for Mission and six other nonprofit hospitals in the bucolic mountains of western North Carolina.

NNU currently represents about 10,000 nurses at 19 HCA facilities across the country. The union drive at Mission is NNU’s largest campaign ever undertaken in North Carolina.

Thank you for reading
Week In Action!
This Week:
VSEA Labor Relations Director's Update On Status Of COVID-19 Agreement

Pay Act Clears First Hurdle In Legislative Process
VSEA 2020 Scholarship Winners!

Two Reports Issued On Funding Required For Continued VSC Operation
Testing Finds No New Cases Of COVID-19 In Vermont's Prisons--Staff Or Inmates

Contract Extension Ballots Out To State Colleges' Unit Members

Class-Action RFR Requests Due To VSEA By July 1!

Quote Of The Week!

New "Purchasing Power" Benefit Offered To VSEA Members
Talking Points:
AFSCME Burlington City Workers Stage Picket

EPI Issues Bleak Jobs Forecast If States Don't Receive Federal Funding

North Carolina Nurses Prepare For Historic Vote To Unionize
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:
BGS Posts New Form To Report Workplace Incidents

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

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!
BGS Posts New Form To 
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
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.  
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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