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Weekly News From VSEA!
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Week In Action Newsletter
April 17, 2020
Sign of the times. The Vermont Veterans Home posted this picture on Wednesday of a Department of Health team (state employees!!) outside the Vermont Veterans' Home in Bennington, where they were testing hundreds of veterans and staff for coronavirus. Thanks to VDH and all state employees for your continued dedicated service during this crisis. 
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DHR Issues New Guidance Documents For Employees Requesting Coronavirus Leave

VSEA has received a new batch of documents this week from the Department of Human Resources; each pertaining to employees who are requesting leave as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard advised members in an email this week to read through each document, and if you have a question(s), reach out directly to the Department of Human Resources for initial guidance. Click here to find a listing of DHR representatives by agency and department. If, after talking with DHR, you still have a question(s), then contact your VSEA Union Representative

Depending on your settings, the links below will open a PDF in your web browser or download the PDF to your computer or device:
  1. Updated Frequently Asked Questions
     
  2. Timesheet Coding Instructions
     
  3. Documentation Required To Support a Leave Request
     
  4. Leave Request Form

VSEA Judiciary Unit Reaches Tentative Agreement On New Contract

Late last Friday, VSEA's Judicial Unit Bargaining Team reached tentative agreement on a new contract with the Courts, ending eight months of sometimes tough negotiations with the Court Administrator's Office--for now. The tentative agreement now goes to the Judiciary Unit membership for a ratification vote, which is expected to be be conducted in the coming weeks.  

VSEA Judiciary Unit Chairperson Margaret Crowley told members in an email this week that "the financial package mirrors the agreements reached with the Executive Branch, with some meaningful progress achieved on [several Unit-specific issues]. 

News Of VVH Employee Contracting C19 Sparks 
Facility-Wide Testing (Finally!) 

VSEA members working at the Vermont Veterans' Home (VVH) in Bennington have been lobbying the State and lawmakers for weeks to conduct facility-wide coronavirus testing. The employees' goal has been to prevent an outbreak like the one at the Solider's Home in Holyoke, Mass., where close to 40 residents have died from the virus. VVH workers believed now was the time to test because there were no reported cases to date, but that all changed late last Friday, when a VSEA tip prompted the Bennington Banner to break a story about a VVH employee contracting the virus--way back on March 15!    

From the Banner story:

The Veterans' Home administrators shared the information for the first time Friday after the Banner called to confirm the positive test, which was revealed by the Vermont State Employees' Association.

[VVH Administrator Melissa] Jackson said the notification procedure followed guidelines from the state health department and the Centers for Disease Control, and that publicizing the positive COVID-19 test was at the facility's discretion. She said people who had had contact with the employee were informed.


The story also notes that VSEA VVH members were assisted in their testing campaign, which included a petition, by Bennington's two senators. 

Vermont state senators Brian Campion and Dick Sears expressed support for the VSEA's recommendation in a letter sent to Gov. Phil Scott's office Friday evening. In the letter, they asked Scott to help ensure that all residents and staff are tested.

"Testing is the only way to ensure those who are infected are isolated and promptly treated," the senators wrote, underscoring that all 28 inmates who tested positive for COVID-19 Thursday at the St. Albans state correctional facility displayed no symptoms prior to being tested.


Testing Begins!

After the Banner revealed that a worker had contracted the virus, VSEA members turned up the heat on their internal and public campaign for facility-wide testing, aided by their state senators. Thankfully, their voices were finally heard, and the State announced on Monday that it would begin testing hundreds of VVH residents and employees on Wednesday.

From a 4/15 Banner story:

"[VSEA Executive Director Steve] Howard hailed the testing underway at the facility as a win for the union and its members. VSEA was the first organization to publicly call for universal testing at the home, saying it would prevent a situation similar to the Soldiers' Home in Holyoke, Mass., where at least 28 residents died after testing positive for the coronavirus."

Note: VSEA is working to ensure that VVH members who were not able to be tested on Wednesday will be tested. Once the results come back, WIA will be sharing them with VSEA members. Let's hope it's zero!

Vets' Tests All Come Back Negative!!!

In a bit of good news, this morning, the Bennington Banner reports that the results for all the Vermont Veterans' home residents who were tested have come back negative. 

From the story: 

Some 105 residents got tested for COVID-19 on Monday and Tuesday, and all tested negative for the novel coronavirus disease.

The facility received the results around 9 p.m. Wednesday, Jackson said. The remainder of the home's 122 residents — 17 people — decided not to take the voluntary test. 

Of its approximately 200 employees, 129 opted to be tested on Tuesday. Because of health information privacy laws, the employees' test results will be sent to their primary care provider.

See Also:

Numbers
Up After 
Facility-Wide Coronavirus Testing At Northwest State Correctional Facility

Another Reminder That Corrections Employees Working 24/7 To Keep Us Safe During This Crisis Also Need Adequate Protection From Virus

A few days after announcing an alarming number of inmates and Corrections employees at the NW State Correctional Facility in Swanton had tested positive for coronavirus, State officials updated the numbers this week, raising the number of inmates from 28 to 32 and the number of employees from 8 to 16. 

Press:

Chancellor Sounding Alarm About State Colleges' Financial
Losses Due To Coronavirus 

The Vermont State Colleges' pretty grim financial outlook prior to the coronavirus outbreak is now being made even worse, now that Vermont's college campuses are empty to protect students, faculty and the public.

VTDigger reports this week that VSC Chancellor Jeb Spaulding recently informed  his trustees "that between refunded room and board fees, added sick leave costs, and canceled events, the system was taking a roughly $11 million hit this fiscal year." He added that VSC system would be receiving $6 million from the federal government, but it still leaves a large hole in the budget; one that cannot be easily filled.

From the story:

[VSC] System leaders are trying to plan for at least a 10% decline in enrollment and “looking at all our options,” according to Spaulding. That will almost certainly include reductions in personnel. The chancellor’s office has already cut four positions.

Spaulding on Saturday also said shuttering a campus was “one of the options” system leaders were considering, but he emphasized doing so would be a last resort.

“We’re not predicting that’s going to happen, but we can’t rule that out,” he said. Trustees could make a decision as soon as Monday, when they are set to meet via Zoom to consider Spaulding’s recommendations.


Note: This news creates even larger problems for VSEA's VSC Unit Bargaining Team, who are currently in negotiations now with the Chancellor on a successor agreement. 

This Just In: VSC Shuttering Three Vermont Campuses!

VTDigger is reporting today that Vermont State Colleges' Chancellor Jeb Spaulding will be recommending a plan to VSC trustees next week to close down Northern Vermont University, which has campuses in Lyndon and Johnson, and consolidate Vermont Technical College’s operations onto its Williston campus. VTC would close its Randolph Center campus and deliver its programming via new low-residency, regional delivery and distance learning modalities. More than 500 employees will lose their jobs and three counties will take huge economic hits. ​

CALL TO ACTION!

VSC Chancellor Jeb Spaulding will be presenting a recommendation to the VSC Board of Trustees next Tuesday to shutter three campuses, including Northern Vermont University at Lyndon and Johnson, and the VTC campus in Randolph. Spaulding’s recommendation to the Board on April 20, if accepted, will result in the loss of approximately 500 jobs; some of these being the jobs of your VSEA brothers and sisters, who work on all three campuses.

Please show your support for these VSEA members by leaving a comment on a “Public Comment” page, created for the April 20 VSC Board meeting. Oppose this plan and remind that this decision will result in significant job loss, reduce access to higher education and economically devastate the Vermont communities where the campuses are located. 

 

Also!

Progress On New Mental Health Facilities Stalled By Coronavirus Crisis 

VTDigger reports this week that the coronavirus crisis has halted construction on two projects meant to add psychiatric beds and reduce strain on the Vermont's mental health system. One of the projects is cited at the Central Vermont Medical Center (25 additional beds) and the other at the Brattleboro Retreat (12 additional beds). 

Note: What these delays mean for VSEA members working at the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital in Berlin remains unclear. 

Send Us A Photo!

VSEA members mask up at the Caledonia County Courthouse, while Windham County Superior Court workers emulate the Brady Bunch. Thanks to all VSEA Judiciary Unit members for your service during this crisis. 
VSEA's Communications team continues to solicit photos of you, or you and your colleagues (practicing safe distancing, of course), serving on the frontlines of the coronavirus crisis. 

"We understand this is a very difficult time for many Vermont state employees, both professionally and personally, and that photo taking is probably the last thing on many members' minds," says VSEA Communications Director Doug Gibson. "But if you see an opportunity for a photo, please share it with us, and we'll put it up on VSEA's social media platforms to remind people of the men and women who are serving Vermonters every day on the frontlines, fighting this coronavirus outbreak. Thanks in advance!"

Share your photo of VSEA members on the frontlines by emailing dgibson@vsea.org

Vermont National Guard Posts Nice Video, Thanking Essential Workers

Shortly after WIA published last week, the Vermont National Guard posted a nice video to its Facebook page, thanking essential employees for their service during the coronavirus crisis. 

The post reads: 

"The Vermont National Guard would like to thank all essential workers for their dedication and sacrifice! Without you, we couldn't do what we do to serve our community and country!"

VSEA shared the post, and you can view it on Facebook here.

Quote Of
The Week!

 

"This has been a long and difficult bargaining process, made worse by the Judicial Branch’s flat-out refusal to bargain over money, and insistence that the Unit merely accept whatever was negotiated in the Executive Branch."


VSEA Judiciary Unit Chairperson Margaret Crowley, voicing the Unit Bargaining Team's frustration with the Courts' continued refusal to negotiate about Unit members' wages, separate and apart from what the Executive Branch received. Crowley explains that the Team asked to talk about wages back in September 2019, when the two sides first sat down at the table, but were repeatedly stonewalled by management.  
Talking Points:

States Begin To Worry About Budgets, Post-Crisis

Governing posted a story this week, titled, Plummeting Tax Revenues Will Put Governors in Tough Budget Situations, and, while its an all-hands-on-deck effort right now to fight coronavirus (as it should be), there will hopefully soon be an end to the crisis, which, as the article explains, is when a new and awful reality will most certainly set in on America's governors. 

From the story:

Today, as governors continue to provide leadership on the coronavirus crisis they are about to confront a second crisis, as their state’s fiscal positions will rapidly deteriorate. In my view, it will be as bad as the Great Recession of 2008 to 2009 and its aftermath.

&


There are five key components in understanding the seriousness of the challenge to states and their governors. They reflect the complex interplay between the federal and state levels of government, commercial activity and a state’s need for money to operate and provide services:
  • Rainy day funds will quickly evaporate;
  • Revenues will collapse;
  • Medicaid spending will explode;
  • Governors will cut spending and increase taxes; and
  • Federal action will be required.

Culinary Union Reports 98% Of Its Members Are Out Of Work

VOX posted a story this week about Unite Here, the international parent of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 in Las Vegas, reporting that 98 percent of its 307,000 members are out of work due to the coronavirus crisis. In Las Vegas, the union represents about 60,000 members and says that around 6,000 workers have already used the union’s home delivery of meals and drive-thru to find food.
This Week:
DHR Issues New Guidance Documents For Employees Requesting Coronavirus Leave

VSEA Judiciary Unit Reaches Tentative Agreement On New Contract

News Of VVH Employee Contracting C19 Sparks Facility-Wide Testing (Finally!)
Numbers Up After Facility-Wide Coronavirus Testing At Northwest State Correctional Facility

Chancellor Sounding Alarm About State Colleges' Financial Losses Due To Coronavirus
Progress On New Mental Health Facilities Stalled By Coronavirus Crisis

Send Us A Photo!

Vermont National Guard Posts Nice Video, Thanking Essential Workers
Talking Points:
States Begin To Worry About Budgets, Post-Crisis

Culinary Union Reports 98% Of Its Members Are Out Of Work
Calendar:
Due to Coronavirus, all VSEA meetings are canceled until further notice.
Important Reminders:
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!

AFLAC Insurance Enrollment: Sign Up Through VSEA!

VSEA Legislative Team Online Updates

2020 VSEA Scholarship Application Available Now!

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!
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!
After a very successful membership-recruitment initiative this past winter, VSEA is excited to announce a new membership drive for the next quarter!

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
 

Help Spread The Word!
Download, distribute and post this flyer in your worksite! Thanks! 
(Opens/ downloads a PDF)

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:
It’s a good idea to keep your coverage up to date to reflect current income and family needs. Your disability policy does not increase as your salary does.

If you would like to schedule an appointment
please use this link.
 

The appointment is done over the phone and computer. I will call you on the day and time you select.

I have linked our brochure with other benefits that are available. (Opens/ downloads a PDF)

Please let me know if you have further questions.

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


View More VSEA Insurance Benefits

You must be a full dues-paying member of VSEA or a VSEA retiree to be eligible for this benefit. If you are not currently a VSEA member, you can sign up online.
VSEA Legislative Team Online 
Updates
Note: The State House is closed to the public during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

VSEA's legislative team at the State House has been emailing and posting updates from the State House.  

Most Recent Update:
Feb. 28 
Legislative Update


Interested VSEA members can find more information about the 2020 legislative session by visiting VSEA's 2020 Session Online Hub. Here you will find a collection of resources, reports, and tools to help VSEA members navigate the Vermont Legislative Session. VSEA Legislative Committee Profile. The hub will be updated with new information as it becomes available.

2020 VSEA Scholarship Application Available Now!

The VSEA Awards/ Scholarship Committee is currently soliciting applications from students seeking financial assistance in the pursuit of post-secondary educational goals.

The Committee will announce the recipients of the scholarships at the June Council Meeting.

View/download the 2020 VSEA Scholarship Application.

Deadline: 4:30 p.m. on May 8, 2020

Note: Depending on your settings, the link above will open a PDF in your web browser or download the PDF to your computer or device. If you have any questions please email vsea@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.​

Learn More On VSEA.org

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