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Week In Action Newsletter
May 22, 2020

This Memorial Day, VSEA Remembers Those Who Sacrificed Everything​

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State's "Skinny" Budget Calls For 8% Cut 

State employees in Vermont and nationwide are rightfully being hailed for their dedication and courage during this unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, but, this week, the State is rewarding employees with an announcement that its "skinny budget" includes cuts to most agencies and departments. What this means for agencies and departments is still very unclear, as no specific cut proposals were provided.  

The State's modified, “skinny,” budget proposal will cover the first three months of fiscal year 2021, which begins July 1, 2020. The thinking is the State, lawmakers and economists will have a clearer economic picture at the end of the three-month period.

From a May 20 Seven Days story about State's budget announcement:

According to the latest forecasts, the state now expects to collect $378 million less next fiscal year than it anticipated before the outbreak — a 15.3 percent reduction. That's 9.6 percent less than the state will collect this fiscal year.

To make up for the loss, the administration wants most agencies and departments that receive General Fund dollars to spend just 23 percent of this year's budgeted funding in the first quarter of the next fiscal year. That works out to an annualized cut of 8 percent.

Rep. Mary Hooper (D-Montpelier) noted that many agencies would be squeezed because they would have to absorb union-negotiated pay increases while spending 8 percent less. She pointed in particular to the Department of Corrections and the Department of Public Safety, which must maintain around-the-clock services and can't simply do less. "So this is going to be a real challenge," she said.

VTDigger Story: [State] Calls for 8% Spending Cuts in ‘Skinny’ Budget Bill

VSEA Strategic Analyst's Budget Overview 

In response to the State's announcement of the 8% cut, VSEA Strategic Analyst Adam Norton has penned an overview of what happened and what it could mean for VSEA members. 

VSEA Analysis of State's Budget Announcement  

COVID-19 Agreement Extended Until June 6

Today, the State and the VSEA's Non-Management, Corrections, and Supervisory Units agreed 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 extending the agreement thru June 6.

Youth Escapes Prompt Move Back To Woodside

As soon as the State announced several weeks ago that it was uprooting at-risk youth and staff from the Woodside Youth Rehabilitation Center in Colchester to move the whole operation to St. Albans, VSEA members and leaders began sounding the alarm about how wrongheaded the decision was. Turns out the frontline Woodside workers and VSEA were right.

After a youth escaped from the St. Albans facility, the State then moved the whole operation to Middlesex (again ignoring Woodside workers and VSEA's strong warning against), where another escape happened, this time coupled with a threat from the escapee against staff.

The threat was so serious that a sheriff was posted outside the Middlesex facility, so, as WIA was being emailed last Friday, staff was relieved to learn that the State had decided to move them back to Woodside. Weeks ago, State officials abruptly announced they were converting Woodside to be a COVID-19 treatment facility, but the conversion never happened. 

Recent Woodside Press:

VSEA VSC Unit Chair Pens Letter To Editor

Photo: NVU Basement Medicine Student Newspaper

In an effort to glean more information about the economic fallout to local communities if several Vermont State Colleges (VSC) are closed, VSEA VSC Unit Chair Sandra Noyes penned the following letter to the editor that appeared this week in both the Times Argus and the Brattleboro Reformer:

I was really glad the plan to close three Vermont State College (VSC) campuses was loudly and strongly rejected by the VSC Board of Trustees and by a large majority of the VSC community, which I am proud to call my family. Equally important, Vermonters stood with us in this important fight to save our state colleges, and I want to thank you for your support, but I also want to ask a favor of supportive local business owners in our colleges' host communities and in the surrounding communities.

Throughout this fight, I spoke with a lot of local business owners, and many, like me, were very worried about Vermonters losing access to an affordable education, but, more important, they were worried about their future livelihoods if the students, faculty, support staff, etc. are gone.

If you are a small business owner who depends on any one of our state colleges to remain open, I'd like to hear from you, via email. I would like know what the economic impact would be to your business if the college near you were to close. I'd also like to hear from business owners who employ VSC students and/or alumni. How many do you employ and how long have you been doing it? 

Thanks, in advance for your responses and help. You can email me at

Sandra JC Noyes 
VSEA Vermont State Colleges Unit Chair 

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 Seeks To Unite 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

Thank you and I hope you stay well and safe.

Best regards,

Joanne Woodcock
VSEA Benefits Administrator

Quote Of
The Week!


"I wish I could say this is surprising, but I knew the State employees would get the shaft in this."

Comment left on a VSEA Facebook post this week about the State's announcement of an addtional 8% budget cut to agencies and departments in its "skinny budget" proposal, almost across the board. 
Talking Points:

VT AFT President's Commentary Calls For Increased Investment In Vermont
Nursing Programs

Bonus: Would Help Breath Some New Life Into VT State Colleges

Several media outlets recently published an excellent commentary, penned by AFT Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals President Deb Snell and titled "Invest in the State's Nursing Programs."  Snell works as an RN in the Medical Intensive Care Unit at UVM Medical Center.

From the piece:

One of the short-sighted solutions to the nursing shortage is the proposal for Vermont to join the multi-state nurse licensure compact. This plan makes it easier for nurses to travel from state to state but does nothing to address the underlying shortage of nurses and the costs to our health care system.

One of the major drivers of hospital costs is the reliance on expensive, out-of-state traveling nurses instead of training and retaining nurses in our communities.

Instead of joining the multi-state nurse licensure compact, which encourages Vermont nurses to travel to Texas, Texas nurses to travel to California and California nurses to Vermont, we could invest in educating and graduating nurses in Vermont.

In Vermont, we graduate fewer than 300 nurses every year from Castleton University, Vermont Technical College and the University of Vermont. We need about 10 times that number to replace nurses who are leaving the profession due to retirement and burnout. Because we have so few educational slots, many Vermont students have to leave the state to get their nursing degrees — and once they leave, they are less likely to return.

As we look to the future, we could double, triple or quadruple the number of nurses that Vermont graduates from its public institutions of higher education if the Legislature and the governor choose to make the investment. 

These investments could include expanding the existing programs at Castleton University, Vermont Technical College and the University of Vermont.

AFL-CIO Sues Federal OSHA, Seeking Worker Protection Standards

The Hill was one of multiple media outlets. reporting this week on the national AFL-CIO filing 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.

“It’s truly a sad day in America when working people must sue the organization tasked with protecting our health and safety,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement. “But we’ve been left no choice. Millions are infected and nearly 90,000 have died, so it’s beyond urgent that action is taken to protect workers who risk our lives daily to respond to this public health emergency. If the [federal government) refuses to act, we must compel them to.”

The petition also 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.

Minnesota State Workers Fighting To Ensure They Receive Negotiated Raises 

Workday Minnesota reports this week that state workers held a virtual press conference last Saturday night to sound the alarm about the state Senate's refusal to vote on employees' recently negotiated pay raises. The House approved the raises. As feared, some MN political leaders are now hemming and hawing about the raises due to massive budget deficits due to COVID crisis, but to employees' credit, they are calling them out publicly.

Quotes from Saturday night's presser:

“We are asked time and time again to take pay cuts and pay freezes when times get tough. Why are the budgets always balanced on the backs of people? The working people, instead of asking some of our largest employers in the state to pay their fair share. Especially at times like this now we’re not asking for much. We’re asking for a fair shake.”

“I think what you’ve heard today is about the enormous sacrifices that state employees are already making to keep the state running. The pay increases that are part of these contracts have already been budgeted. This is not an addition to the state budget. The overall impact on the state budget in comparison to the kinds of deficits we’re looking at are relatively minor."

Sadly, this is also an issue in Connecticut.

Note: Stay vigilant VSEA!!!

The Economic Reality Facing All 50 States

The group, Institute On Taxation and Economic Policy posted a comprehensive overview this week of the actual economic reality confronting states nationwide due to the COVID-19 crisis, titling it, State Revenue Crisis Getting Clearer…and Scarier

Here is the report's introduction:

State policymakers are navigating incredibly uncertain waters these days as they attempt to get a firmer grasp on the scale of their revenue crises, identify painful budget cuts they may have to make in response, and look for ways to raise tax revenues coming from the households and corporations still bringing in large incomes and profits amid the pandemic—all while hoping that additional federal aid and greater flexibility in how they can use federal CARES Act funds will help relieve some of these difficult decisions.
Thank you for reading
Week In Action!
This Week:
State's "Skinny" Budget Calls For 8% Cut

COVID-19 Agreement Extended Until June 6

Youth Escapes Prompt Move Back To Woodside

VSEA VSC Unit Chair Pens Letter To Editor

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

National Group Seeks To Unite Mask Makers

AFLAC Insurance Enrollment: Sign Up Through VSEA!

Quote Of The Week!
Talking Points:
VT AFT President's Commentary Calls For Increased Investment In Vermont Nursing Programs
National AFL-CIO Sues Federal OSHA, Seeking Worker Protection Standards

Minnesota State Workers Fighting To Ensure They Receive Negotiated Raises

The Economic Reality Facing All 50 States
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

Green Up Day Is Saturday, May 30!

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, 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
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.
Green Up Day Is Saturday, May 30!

May 30 marks 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 participating, 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

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. 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!
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:
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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