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Weekly News From VSEA!
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Week In Action Newsletter
April 3, 2020

HEROES EVERY DAY

VSEA is again sending heartfelt thanks to every state employee, working on-site or off, for continuing to provide critical services to Vermonters during this very difficult time. Special shout out this week to Department of Labor employees, who have been working tirelessly to process a slew of unemployment claims. But we know VSEA members working in health care, corrections, law enforcement, economic services, child protection, DMV, AOT and a host of other services are working equally as hard to keep Vermont working. 
Not A VSEA Member?
Learn More or Sign Up Online!
Upcoming Leave Plan?
VSEA leaders and staff talked again this morning with members of the Administration, but we're sorry to report that there is still no agreed-to plan in place to govern employee leave after the current leave agreement expires on Monday. Like many of you, VSEA isn't happy about this, and VSEA leaders and staff are promising to continue pressing hard for an answer from the Administration, today and through the weekend, if necessary.

VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard is thanking members and retirees for responding to yesterday's email and Facebook post, urging members to call the Administration to demand some kind of leave plan moving forward. Howard says the calls and messages were noticed and acknowledged. 

Rest assured, as soon as there is an answer to the leave question, VSEA will be letting members know ASAP.

Later today and throughout the weekend, please continue to check your email, VSEA's website, and your union's FacebookTwitter, and Instagram pages for an update, if there is one. 

Send Us A Photo!

These photos of Vermont State Police "essential staff keeping Vermonters safe from our dispatch centers" were submitted recently and we're very happy to share. Thanks for your service during these difficult times VSP employees, and thanks to VSEA member Michelle Hunt for emailing the photos!
VSEA's Communications team is again soliciting 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

Working Link To View The State's Employee Coronavirus Leave FAQ

Note: WIA is running this story again because the link included last week was broken. Apologies. 

The Department of Human Resources has provided a frequently asked question (FAQ) document to VSEA, which attempts to answer a host of inquiries about how employees should report leave during the coronavirus crisis. VSEA members should print this document out and use it as a resource in the days and weeks ahead. 

Employee Coronavirus FAQ (PDF)

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.

Two Youth Escape From New Facility, Less Than A Week After VSEA Woodside Members Questioned Facility's Security 

Last week, WIA included a story about the State deciding, seemingly out of nowhere, to immediately convert the state's sole facility to house at-risk youth, Woodside Rehabilitation Center, into a COVID-19 treatment facility.

The State announced that it was moving Woodside operations to a facility in St. Albans that the Woodside workers instantly flagged as problematic in a host of ways; primarily voicing their concerns about the building's lack of security, which included unlocked windows, unsecured doors, and no alarms.

Sadly, it took less than a week for two youths being housed at the new facility in St. Albans to escape; one twice and one still missing.

From an April 1 VTDigger story about the escapes:

The two escaped from the facility in recent days, according to Steve Howard, the executive director of the Vermont State Employees’ Association, which represents workers at the facility.

Howard said that the temporary facility lacks security infrastructure, including locks on windows and alarms on doors.

“It looks like it was a doctors’ office or something,” Howard said of the St. Albans facility. “There’s no security, there’s no locks, the doors are glass. It’s not at all what the courts thought these kids needed.”


&
 

[DCF Commissioner Ken] Schatz [told lawmakers on] Wednesday that the current temporary site for the Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center in St. Albans isn’t working out and the search is on for a new location.

The St. Albans facility is not a secure detention facility, but instead is termed a staff-secure site, according to Schatz.

“Frankly, we’re looking for another facility because we did think that we would be able to lock the doors and put alarms on the windows,” Schatz said. “But the landlord indicated we were not able to, so we’re quickly looking for a secure facility to stand up for this purpose.”


Note: Not trying to sound like a broken record anymore, but frontline state employees have to start being consulted from the outset to avoid these kinds of avoidable and potentially dangerous decisions by officials and lawmakers.

Second Corrections Employee Tests Positive For Coronavirus 

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

VTDigger reports April 1 that a less than a week after the first Vermont Corrections employee tested positive for the coronavirus at the Newport prison, a new report of a second employee contracting coronavirus surfaced this week at the St. Albans prison. 

From the story:

In the latest case, the Corrections Department said in a statement that the staff person, who had “limited” contact with inmates, was last in the facility on Wednesday, March 25, and did not have symptoms at that time. 

The department, according to the statement, with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Vermont Department of Health is working to identify contacts that the staff member had at the facility.

“Guidance recommends that people who came into contact within 48 hours of showing symptoms should be quarantined,” the statement read. “There was no contact within the facility in the 48-hour window, as the staff did not exhibit symptoms until March 29 and has not been in the facility since March 25.” 


In the story, VSEA executive Director Steve Howard renews VSEA's call for more personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline Corrections workers, and all state employees on the frontlines of this fight.

“Now that it’s two different facilities, it’s going to spread and we’re going to have to do everything we can to prevent that,” Howard said. “I know they are stockpiling that stuff but we want to make that equipment as available as possible.” 

VSEA is making sure to include the safety and health of the union's corrections members in any and all discussions with state, department and agency leaders about ensuing adequate protection and resources for state employees.   

Note: Big thanks to every VSEA Corrections member for keeping Vermonters safe during this crisis. Keep yourselves safe as well.

VSEA Vets' Home Members Very Concerned After Recent Coronavirus Deaths At Holyoke (Mass.) Soldiers' Home 

VSEA members working at the Vermont Veterans' Home in Bennington say they are scared and concerned about their safety and their residents' safety after learning about a high number of recent deaths at a Massachusetts veterans' facility.  

From a 3/31 New England Public Radio story:

As many as 11 residents of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home have died in recent days — potentially all from COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

That’s led to an abrupt change of leadership at the residential, nursing and outpatient facility for veterans run by the state of Massachusetts. 

News of the outbreak has shocked local officials, and appears to have caught state officials off guard, as well.

"To think that the governor, the secretary and administration didn't know what was going on as a state run facility, it's disconcerting," said state Rep. Aaron Vega of Holyoke, who said he heard a rumor about what was happening from a staff member at the home.


Many frontline VSEA Veterans' Home workers say what happened in Holyoke when the coronavirus hit heightens their fear that VVH management is not prepared, nor is it properly preparing the workers and residents. The VSEA members are voicing their concerns with one another on a private Facebook group, and a majority of the posts reflect the frontline workers' genuine worry for their residents' health, their health and the health of their families. Donations of homemade masks are thankfully being distributed throughout the facility, but the workers know they too will need the much-coveted N95 masks, in the event of an outbreak.

Note: The latest reports are that 15 Holyoke residents have now died from Covid-19. 

See Also:

Essential & Need Childcare? Fill Out This Form!

DHR informed VSEA last week 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

Employee Child Care Reimbursement Extended Until July 15 

VSEA's Child & Elder Care Committee asked WIA to let members know 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.   

Quote Of
The Week!

 

"We feel it does warrant temporary hazard pay. One of the side effects of the virus is death."


A Hawaiian Transportation worker identified only as Kekaualua, in a letter he wrote this week to management. As reported in Honolulu Civl Beat.  
Talking Points:

Sign The UVM Nurses' Online Petition!

Just a friendly reminder to please sign this important petition!

VSEA's Council Facebook page recently posted a link to an online petition, created by nurses working at the University of Vermont Medical Center and titled, Protect and Support our Front Line Healthcare Providers.

Add Your Signature To The Petition

AFGE Files Lawsuit To Compel Federal Government To Award C-19 Workers Hazard Pay 

The Washington Post reports this week on a lawsuit recently filed by the American Federation of Government Employees' (AFGE) Union to secure hazard pay for federal corrections officers, agriculture and veterans' affairs workers it represents. 

“Each day front-line federal employees willingly risk their health and their families’ health to provide critical services to the American people. It is our hope that the government does right by these employees and pays them the hazardous duty pay they’ve earned,” said AFGE President Everett Kelley. 

Maine State Employees Seek Better Protections For Frontline Workers. Transportation Workers Very Concerned. 

The Bangor Daily News posted a story this week about growing concerns from frontline Maine state employees about inadequate coronavirus protections. 

“People are concerned,” says Tom Feeley, general counsel to the Maine Service Employees Union, which represents more than 12,000 state workers. “People don’t feel safe.”

The union asked the state to send all “nonessential” employees home two weeks ago, saying such a move would protect state workers and reduce the likelihood of transmission among first responders and public health workers. The state has since encouraged more to telecommute, while departments have put in precautions to protect workers still on the job.

But state agencies have run into some of the problems that many Mainers are seeing in their daily lives, such as shortages of sanitation supplies. Paradoxically, transportation workers said workplace changes aimed at encouraging social distancing made it difficult for them to do parts of their jobs while falling short of protecting them against the virus.

This Week:
Upcoming Leave Plan?

Send Us A Photo!

Working Link To View The State'sEmployee Coronavirus Leave FAQ

Two Youth Escape From New Facility, Less Than A Week After VSEA Woodside Members Questioned Facility's Security

Second Corrections Employee Tests Positive For Coronavirus
  • Another Reminder That Corrections Employees Working 24/7 To Keep Us Safe During This Crisis Also Need Adequate Protection From Virus

VSEA Vets' Home Members Very Concerned After Recent Coronavirus Deaths At Holyoke (Mass.) Soldiers' Home

Essential & Need Childcare? Fill Out This Form!

Employee Child Care Reimbursement Extended Until July 15
Talking Points:
Sign The UVM Nurses' Online Petition!

AFGE Files Lawsuit To Compel Federal Government To Award C-19 Workers Hazard Pay

Maine State Employees Seek Better Protections For Frontline Workers. Transportation Workers Very Concerned.
Calendar:
Due to Coronavirus, all VSEA meetings are canceled until further notice.
Important Reminders:
Sign The VSEA Petition To Ensure VVH & VPCH Workers Have Essential Protective Equipment

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

Bolton Valley 2020-2021 Partner Pass Program For VSEA Members!

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!
Sign The VSEA Petition To Ensure VVH & VPCH Workers Have Essential Protective Equipment

VSEA was asked by members working at the Vermont Veterans' Home and the Vermont Psychiatric Care Facility to generate a petition to engage VSEA members, retirees and the public in a campaign to ensure workers at these critical healthcare facilities have the protective equipment they need, if, and when, the coronavirus presents in their facility. Right now, the workers say they don't have the equipment they need and that guidance from management is muddled, if at all. Answers are also in short supply.

This is what it has come to Vermonters. Please help these dedicated and brave workers on the frontlines of this crisis by signing their petition, which reads:

I Support VSEA Frontline Health Care Workers!

We, the undersigned, call on Vermont's congressional delegation, state lawmakers and the Scott Administration to immediately address the coronavirus-related equipment and communication concerns of frontline health care workers, working at the Vermont Veterans' Home and Vermont Psychiatric Care Facility. These workers must immediately have the protective equipment they require (i.e. N95 masks) and management must be talking with frontline workers and working with them to provide the best care possible to Vermonters during this health care crisis.


You can sign the petition online here!

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, including:

  • 2020 Legislative Session Reports;
     
  • 2020 Legislative Session Agenda;
     
  • Find/Contact Your Legislator;
     
  • Virtual Vermont State House Tour;
     
  • Become A VTPAC Member; and
     
  • 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.
Bolton Valley
2020-2021 Partner Pass Program For VSEA Members
Offer Ends April 6!
WIA was asked by Bolton Valley Group Sales Manager, Eric Davis, to include the following in this week's newsletter:
Buy next year’s season pass now and:
  1. Get the lowest price of the year AND...
     
  2. Ski & Ride the rest of this season FREE!!! That’s right, if you buy next year’s pass now, you can join us for the rest of this season on next season’s pass!
Learn more or purchase passes here!
Please contact me with any questions.
Eric Davis
Group Sales Manager
edavis@boltonvalley.com
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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