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Weekly News From VSEA!
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Week In Action Newsletter
September 18, 2020
Screenshots from last Saturday's VSEA Annual Meeting, via Zoom. Pictured are (top left, clockwise): Parliamentarian Terry Macaig, Clerk Josh Cox, President Aimee Towne, outgoing President Dave Bellini, State Treasurer Beth Pearce, and General Counsel Tim Belcher. 
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VSEA 76th Annual Meeting Wraps

Newly elected VSEA President Aimee Towne gaveled in her first VSEA Annual Meeting last Saturday, and it was successful, even though this was VSEA's first-ever Annual Meeting to be conducted via Zoom. The new format came with some technological issues, which presented some small challenges, but, in the end, the union's business was accomplished and its priorities for the fall, winter, and into 2021, clarified.

State Treasurer Beth Pearce opened the meeting with a warning about VSEA's pension plan (see WIA story below) and she was followed by President Towne and outgoing President Dave Bellini, who each voiced a call to action not only to protect pensions but also to fight privatization, ensure proper PPE is being provided to workers, vote for worker-friendly candidates in upcoming state and federal elections, stop union infighting and promote unity, and, most importantly, get active in VSEA.

VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard also addressed meeting attendees, echoing a lot of what Towne and Bellini said, but also talking in detail about the legislative process and urging members and retirees to be actively engaged in the process this year, particularly given the number of fights that could be on the horizon, especially concerning the state budget. 

After hearing from Howard, VSEA Treasurer, Jackie Hickerson, presented a draft operating budget for FY2021, and it was passed. Next up were proposed bylaw changes. 

The following bylaw amendments were debated and approved at this year's Annual Meeting:

  • Bylaw A - Creation and allocation of designated funds, financed by budget surplus - PASSED*;
     
  • Bylaw B - Amended language governing VSEA committees & official reps - PASSED;
     
  • Bylaw C - Clarifying parliamentary authority - PASSED;
     
  • Bylaw D - Removal of gendered pronouns from VSEA bylaws - PASSED; and
     
  • Bylaw E - Addition of retirees to VSEA committees - PASSED.

VSEA's State Colleges Unit also passed a bylaw change, concerning Unit elections, moving forward. 

* Rejected by the VSEA Council 

 

New Dues Structure Passed
Implements In July 2021 

 

Last year, VSEA reconstituted its Dues Study Committee, appointing Board member Dr. Leslie Matthews to chair the committee. After much deliberation and debate in the past months, committee members came to Annual Meeting with a sliding-scale dues proposal, and Annual Meeting attendees voted to adopt it.  

The new dues structure will start with workers' first full paychecks in July 2021. Dues will be based on 0.83% of an employee's pay, with a minimum of $16 and a maximum of $19. 

More to come on this, as more details are fleshed out. Dr. Matthews did create a visual presentation to explain the change, and WIA will be sharing it with members soon. 

State Treasurer Cautions VSEA Members To Ready For A Pension Fight

At last Saturday's VSEA Annual Meeting, VSEA members participating were greeted by State Treasurer Beth Pearce, and she cautioned state employees to begin preparing (again) for a renewed attack soon on state employees' defined benefit pension plan. Actually, Vermont's own pension Chicken Little, David Coates, has never stopped his now decade-long campaign to convince lawmakers to implement a 401K plan for new hires to state government. Mind you, the last time VSEA checked, a majority of exempt state employees (read: not VSEA members}, when given a choice, chose a defined benefit pension plan.

Pearce did stress that she is unsure right now what action(s) state employees could be asked to make to shore up the pension fund, but she warned it could include a call for employees to increase your contribution. Pearce promised to keep us informed, and she vowed to continue to fight alongside VSEA members to protect your pension.

Here's a May 2012 quote from Pearce about that year's pension fight that still resonates today:

“The state is a large employer, as are schools. And those people in retirement are going to need reliable and adequate income to buy goods and services. Those services they buy … are an economic driver for the state and important for the long-term prosperity of Vermont.”

See Also:

State Changes Course; Now Supports Year-Two Contract Funding  

VSEA Labor Relations Director Gary Hoadley sent an email this week to members covered under Executive Branch contracts, letting folks know that the State recently sent a letter to VSEA saying it is now committed to support full funding of the second year of the Executive Branch contracts. This is a positive development, given the State was saying just a few weeks ago that it wanted to renegotiate year two. 

Read State's Letter To VSEA 

In his email this week, Hoadley writes, "The letter of agreement between the VSEA and the Administration on September 10, 2020 solidifies the understanding of SELRA related to the funding of collective bargaining agreements and the required process if funding is insufficient."

Note: All that's left now is for the Legislature to allocate the money necessary to fully fund year two of the Executive Branch contracts, which cover a large majority of the VSEA membership. Keep you eyes on VSEA's website, social media and WIA for any and all funding updates. 

State Updates Employees On Flu Clinics

With flu season fast approaching, AHS Chief Operations Officer Dawn O'Toole emailed state employees this week with a preliminary overview of how this year's clinics will operate in this year of coronavirus.

In case you missed the email, here is what O'Toole wrote:
  • The state will hold employee flu clinics this year and a communication will be sent to all state employees soon;
     
  • The schedule and locations will be different due to the pandemic. Most clinics will be run from AOT garages and buildings throughout the state; 
     
  • COVID restrictions and preventive measures will be implemented and that may require a cap on how many employees can be vaccinated at each clinic;
     
  • Clinics will be open to all active and temporary employees. Contractors and dependents are not eligible to attend these clinics. Retirees will also not be allowed to attend; and
     
  • BCBSVT through the state and most insurances cover the flu shot at 100%. Many local pharmacies are taking appointments for flu shots if you don’t want to wait.
Newly elected VSEA President Aimee Towne is urging all state employees to take advantage of this negotiated benefit. Keep an eye out for the AHS email that will hopefully provide state employees with concrete details about how, when, and where this year's clinics will operate. 

Can't Afford Housing Due To COVID-19 Hardship? VT State Housing Authority Might Be Able To Help  

VSEA members working at the Vermont State Housing Authority asked WIA to remind members, your family and your friends who are having difficulty affording their current housing due to a COVID-19 hardship about a program in place to possibly help.

There are CARES Act funds available, but only for a limited time, so it's important for anybody who needs help to get in touch right now with the Vermont State Housing Authority. Ask about rental grants or contact the Vermont Housing Finance Agency for mortgage and property tax grants. VSHA is emphasizing that here are a lot of people who are "eligible," beyond the usual financial range, and that the VSHA program has no income restrictions for applying. 

VSHA Flyer: COVID-19 Housing Payment Programs
Upcoming Meeting:
Springfield Chapter Meeting
Thursday, September 24 
5:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. 
Via Zoom

Please RSVP online

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Just Announced! Sugarbush Kicking Off 2020-2021 Corporate Pass Program!

VSEA Members Eligible For Discounts!

Rates are available thru October 28, 2020!

View/download the full flyer here.
View/download the FAQ here.
Note: Depending on your settings, the links above will open PDFs in your web browser or download the PDF to your computer or device. If you have any questions please email vsea@vsea.org.

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Quote Of The Week!

 

"Why do VSEA members choose to be active or inactive?"


Question posed by newly elected VSEA President Aimee Towne in an email she sent this week to all VSEA members, asking them to complete a short survey designed to provide her with a little insight into what motivates members to get involved and active. 

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Talking Points:

Solidarity!

View larger image.

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Opinion Piece Asks: Did You Think About State Workers On Labor Day?

In an opinion piece published September 14 in the Concord Monitor, SEA / SEIU Local 1984 President Rich Gulla asks readers, "Did You Think About State Workers On Labor Day?"

Gulla writes:

"Labor Day 2020 was like no other. We are still in a pandemic, and for more than six months our state employees have put themselves and their families at risk to take care of you, your family, and the community. These employees deliver services so you can have groceries, secure roads, public safety, and health care. They’ve processed your unemployment checks. They’ve put themselves in harm’s way because they understand that you depend on them."

&

"Workers deserve that clarity, power, and solidarity now more than ever. As we reflect on the recent holiday weekend, let us say “thank you” to our workers, both past and present. And, let us all remember to vote on Nov. 3 for leaders who will support the working class, not denigrate it."

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Safety & Security Division Reminds About Being Prepared

Note: This information was submitted to WIA by the State's Safety & Security Office, and we're happy to share.

The annual National Preparedness Month campaign, sponsored by Ready.gov, is now underway. 
 
National Preparedness Month is recognized each September to promote family and community disaster planning now and throughout the year. As our nation continues to respond to COVID-19, there is no better time to be involved this September. The theme this year is “Disasters Don’t Wait. Make Your Plan Today”.
 
Week 3:  Sept 13 – 19 Prepare for Disasters: Know the risk of disasters in your area and update your Continuity of Operations (COOP) Plans. Learn what disasters and hazards could affect your area, how to get VT Alerts, and where you would go if your building or you and your family need to evacuate.

To learn more about COOP plans, contact Kristen LaJeunesse or visit our website: https://bgs.vermont.gov/security/COOP

Stay tuned for tips on how to prepare your coworkers and family next week! 

State Safety & Security
6 Baldwin Street, Suite 312
Montpelier, VT 05633-2101
(802) 828-0777  bgs.vermont.gov/security

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This Week:

VSEA 76th Annual Meeting Wraps


State Treasurer Cautions VSEA Members To Ready For A Pension Fight

State Changes Course; Now Supports Year-Two Contract Funding

State Updates Employees On Flu Clinics

Can't Afford Housing Due To COVID-19 Hardship? VT State Housing Authority Might Be Able To Help

Just Announced! Sugarbush Kicking Off 2020-2021 Corporate Pass Program!

Quote Of The Week!

Talking Point:
Solidarity With Our Local Nurses!

Opinion Piece Asks: Did You Think About State Workers On Labor Day?

Safety & Security Division Reminds About Being Prepared
Important Reminders:
VSEA Vets' Home Members Again Asking For Your Help. Sign The Petition!!

National AFL-CIO Creates Website For "Workers Impacted by COVID-19"

Employees Who Fail To Comply With Mask Directive Could Be Disciplined

VSEA Advantage Discount Program

Told You're Being Investigated?
Watch This Video!


VSEA Retirement Security Fact Sheet

Getting Ready To Retire? Retired Already? Join The VSEA Retired Members’ Chapter!
Thank you for reading Week In Action!
VSEA Vets' Home Members Again Asking For Your Help. Sign The Petition!!
VSEA members working at the Vermont Veterans' Home in Bennington are again asking all members and retirees to sign an online petition that calls on the Administration and the VVH Board of Trustees to remove VVH CEO Melissa Jackson, after she recently failed to self-quarantine after a two-day work trip to D.C.

Sign The VSEA Petition Online
National AFL-CIO Creates Website For "Workers Impacted by COVID-19"

A reminder that the national AFL-CIO has created a website to help workers impacted by COVID-19 find the resources they might need, such as:

  • Resources and benefits to help replace lost wages;
     
  • Eligibility requirements for emergency paid leave;
     
  • Housing and food assistance programs; and 
     
  • Health insurance and public health services and guidance.
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.
VSEA Advantage Discount Program
Did you know the average VSEA member can save hundreds of dollars a year by taking advantage of some of the Member-Only benefits offered through your union?

Learn more about the VSEA Advantage Discount Program
Told You're Being Investigated? Watch This Video!
Please take a few minutes on a break to watch the video, and know that the information being relayed could very well save your job someday. Remember, as a VSEA member, you are entitled to no-cost representation in investigatory meetings that may lead to discipline. Non-members, however, must now pay a rate of $250 to $350 per-hour for the same level of representation!

More: Know Your Union Rights
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.
Getting Ready To Retire? Retired Already? Join The VSEA Retired Members’ Chapter!

Long-time VSEA activist and leader Terry Lefebvre is asking VSEA members getting ready to retire to join the VSEA Retirees’ Chapter to continue to be an active and engaged union member, even in retirement. Lefebvre also appeals to VSEA members to talk up the co-workers they know who might be preparing to retire. If you already belong to the Retired Members’ Chapter, a big thanks to you.

Learn More Here About The VSEA Retired Members’ Chapter
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