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Weekly News From VSEA!
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Week In Action Newsletter
May 29, 2020
Throwback to 2007, when Vermont would allow state employees release time from work each Green Up Day to go out and help with clean up efforts. This group of state employees is pictured, reporting for duty at the Middlesex AOT garage. Tomorrow marks Green Up Day's 50th anniversary. 
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SAO Employees Reach Tentative Agreement On First-Ever Union Contract!

In some welcome good news, employees working in State’s Attorney’s Offices (SAO) across Vermont will soon be voting for the first time ever on a tentative contract agreement that the workers' Bargaining Team reached this week with the SAO. 

On Wednesday night, VSEA Labor Relations Director Gary Hoadley sent a message to SAO employees in the Unit that a tentative agreement had been reached. 

If ratified, the two-year contract would become effective on July 1, 2020, and expire on June 30, 2022. SAO Unit members are being sent an email that includes a copy of the tentative contract settlement and a summary sheet with specific highlights, along with instructions for electronic voting. Ratification requires membership approval of “50% plus 1” of the eligible SAO members voting on the tentative agreement.

“Back in December 2018, VSEA committed to helping the SAO employees get the wages, benefits and working conditions they want and deserve," VSEA President Dave Bellini tells WIA. "Big congratulations to them and their Bargaining Team on staying strong and finally getting us to where we are today, which is the SAO employees getting to vote on a first-ever contract. Great work all around." 

Tomorrow Is Green Up Day! 

Tomorrow marks Vermont Green Up Day's 50th anniversary, and VSEA is encouraging members to participate, practicing social distancing, of course, which should not be an issue with this activity, as people can be safely spaced.

This year, Green Up Day provides an opportunity for VSEA members to get outside, get some fresh air and perform great civic duty by cleaning up miles of Vermont roads.

VSEA Board member and Brattleboro Chapter President Robin Rieske will be up bright and early tomorrow to participate, saying, "Green Up Day provides a sense of commitment to where we live and to each other. It is about healthy surroundings, and it is about connecting our communities with a goal for common greatness. Green Up is a well-loved event that will bring some normalcy to our communities and will help contribute to the physical, social and mental health of Vermonters as much as their Green Up activities will help beautify our state."

Green Up Day Bag Pickup Locations & More Information

Reminder! COVID-19 Agreement Extended Until June 6

Just a reminder that the State and the VSEA's Non-Management, Corrections, and Supervisory Units agreed last Friday to extend the terms of the current COVID-19 Side Letter Agreement of April 5, 2020, by one additional pay period to remain in effect until Saturday, June 6, 2020.

Vermont's Judiciary Branch is also extended its agreement thru June 6.

VSEA Members Urged To Complete
COVID-19
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!

VSEA Strategic Analyst Talks Budget On WDEV's Equal Time Radio  

Equal Time Radio with Traven, which airs every Tuesday on WDEV, invited VSEA Strategic Analyst Adam Norton to be a guest on this week's show, where Norton provided the host with an overview of Vermont's coming budget storm and some of the anticipated fallout. Norton also offered up some ways to address the budget deficit that don't involve cutting state services or positions, and he addressed the Vermont State Colleges' current funding crisis.  

Listen Online!

Norton's Analysis of State's Budget Announcement

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 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.

National Group Continues To Seek Mask Makers 

Reminiscent of a World War 2-style public mobilization. the national coalition, MasksNOW, reached out recently to VSEA to request help recruiting Vermonters to sew masks to help in America's (and the world's) fight against COVID-19. 

Here's how the coalition describes its mission on its website:

The Masks Now Coalition is a grassroots movement of volunteers and their groups, led by nineteen organizers directing over 11,000 volunteers who banded together in response to the urgent national shortage of masks brought on by the novel coronavirus outbreak in America.

We’ve got volunteers in every state, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico ready to answer the call from over 1,100 organizations including more than 350 hospitals in 42 states which have made public appeals for homesewn masks.

In an effort to help curb medical supply shortages as we battle COVID-19, we are requesting sewists to make masks and other supplies for use by patients, healthcare workers, at-risk community members, and essential workers, including postal workers, grocery store workers, manufacturing personnel, and more.

That’s why we’re looking for volunteers to sew masks and handle the logistics of distribution in every state, DC, and Puerto Rico.


Note: The coalition is also providing masks to those in need

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 www.vsea.org.

Thank you and I hope you stay well and safe.

Best regards,
Joanne

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

Quote Of
The Week!

 

"It’s not uncommon when one of our young Vermonters takes a driver’s exam for them to bring their whole family. How do we manage to protect the public as well as our employees in that situation?"


Vermont DMV Commissioner Wanda Minoli, commenting in a VTDigger story today about the DMV beginning to make re-opening plans. Minoli offered no specifics on what protections will be offered to the public and employees, saying she was meeting with the State this weekend to try to finalize a plan. 
Talking Points:

California Prepared To Reassign State Employees To Be COVID Contact Tracers 

Governing posted a story this week, titled, Volunteer or Be Reassigned to Virus Response, which reports on efforts by Gov. Gavin Newsom's administration to recruit 10,000 COVID Contact Tracers.

To date, the state has recruited just 950 Contact Tracers, which prompted Newsom this week to directly ask state employees to volunteer to be reassigned to be a tracer. If Newsom can't get the number of tracers desired, an administration spokesperson reminded that the state has the authority to reassign state employees to the work.   

“Our expectation is that state employees will continue to volunteer for contact tracing because they understand the critical nature of this effort and recognize that public service involves stepping up for our fellow Californians during an emergency or disaster,” the spokesperson said in an email. “During any statewide emergency, and in the case of slowing the spread of COVID-19 to protect public health, state workers can be reassigned as disaster services workers to assist with response and recovery efforts.”

Feds Push Back Against
COVID-19 Worker Protection Standard

Last week, the national AFL-CIO filed a petition to compel the federal Labor Department to issue an emergency temporary standard that would offer stronger protection for U.S. workers against the coronavirus as states begin to reopen. This week, LAW360 reported on the the federal Labor Secretary response.

"At OSHA … we've been putting out extensive guidance for businesses and workers on the measures that we and the [Centers for Disease Control And Prevention] believe are necessary for a safe workplace," the Secretary said. "There have been some asking us to issue a mandatory rule. We have not seen that that would be of any incremental value on top of the guidance we've provided and on top of the significant enforcement authority we already have in cases where employers aren't doing what needs to be done to protect those workers who return."

The AFL-CIO's petition notes that OSHA’s personal protective equipment standard, which includes direction on masks and eye covers, leaves decisions to mandate usage and to supply them to workers up to employers.

Commentary Makes Three Arguments For States Getting Help From The Feds

A commentary that posted to Governing this week by former National Governors Association Executive Director Raymond Scheppach, that calls on state and local leaders to apply even greater pressure to gain passage of legislation to provide federal aid to states and local municipalities.

The author argues that: 
  • The economy will not recover anytime soon without such assistance;
  • Good partners help each other; and
  • There are two precedents that worked well. Both in 2003 and 2009, Congress recognized that it needed to assist states in order to offset their proposed budget cuts and tax increases and to stabilize the economy.
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Week In Action!
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This Week:
SAO Employees Reach Tentative Agreement On First-Ever Union Contract!

Tomorrow Is Green Up Day!

Reminder! COVID-19 Agreement Extended Until June 6

VSEA Members Urged To Complete
COVID-19
Experience Survey


VSEA Strategic Analyst Talks Budget On WDEV's Equal Time Radio

Campaign To Save Vermont's State Colleges Continues! Keep The Heat On!

National Group Continues To Seek Mask Makers

AFLAC Insurance Enrollment: Sign Up Through VSEA!

Quote Of The Week!
Talking Points:
California Prepared To Reassign State Employees To Be COVID Contact Tracers

Feds Push Back Against COVID-19 Worker Protection Standard

Commentary Makes Three Arguments For States Getting Help From The Feds
Calendar:
Due to Coronavirus, all VSEA meetings are canceled until further notice.
Important Reminders:
Board Approves Online Petition Signature Gathering For Members Wanting To Run For Board Seat

Employees Who Fail To Comply With Mask Directive Could Be Disciplined

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!
Reminder: Board Approves Online 
Petition Signature Gathering For Members Wanting To Run For Board Seat 
The VSEA Board of Trustees recently made a decision about how members interested in running for a Board seat this year can collect required petition signatures in the age of COVID-19.

Here are the options the Board approved: 

If safely able, a member-candidate can still collect 25 physical petition signatures from VSEA full-fledged members; or

Participate in a modified petition process to allowing member-candidates to submit their interest in running for a Board seat to VSEA, via email, by June 1, 2020. The firm, Simply Voting, will then send out an electronic petition to all VSEA members. The electronic petition will list the names of all the candidates who submitted a request or self-nomination electronically. In order to qualify for the ballot, the member-candidate must receive at least 25 “votes” / electronic signatures from full-fledged members on his or her petition. An official ballot will then be sent to members who belong to the specific Unit or Chapter where there's a race. The candidate who gets the most votes wins. Again, the deadline for members to an send an email to vsea@vsea.org, stating your desire to have you name placed on an electronic petition, is June 1.

Here again, are the Board seats up for election. If you are able to safely gather signatures from your colleagues, 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
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.
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. 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.
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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