Recent Posts

Judiciary, VSEA reach agreement

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Judiciary and the Vermont State Employees Association have reached a tentative agreement on a new labor contract after nearly a year of tense negotiations. The two sides announced the deal Wednesday, which still requires ratification by the VSEA’s judiciary bargaining unit. The two sides agreed not to release details on the proposed agreement until the 170-member bargaining unit backs it. The agreement, reached after about 11 months of negotiations, comes on the heels of a fact-finder’s report and even an attempt at mediation by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. The Maine-based fact-finder, Michael Ryan, recommended that docket clerks and court officers receive an immediate wage review by a third party. Continue Reading →

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VSEA’s legislative committee backs Galbraith, Zuckerman

MONTPELIER — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Galbraith and Sen. David Zuckerman, a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, have the early advantage in netting endorsements from the Vermont State Employees Association after the union’s legislative committee voted to recommend them to the Board of Trustees and the full membership. The union’s 23-member legislative committee voted Tuesday to recommend Galbraith, a former diplomat and state senator from Windham County, for governor in the Democratic primary over Matt Dunne and Sue Minter. Sen. David Zuckerman, who represents Chittenden County as a Progressive and Democrat, was selected by the panel for lieutenant governor over House Speaker Shap Smith and Burlington Rep. Kesha ram. The committee’s recommendation is the first step in the union’s new endorsement process. The VSEA’s full membership of about 5,500 state workers now has until June 6 to vote in a non-binding online straw poll, which will help the union’s Board of Trustees select candidates to be endorsed by the group, according to VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard. Continue Reading →

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VSEA, Democratic candidates call for funding labor contract

MONTPELIER — The Vermont State Employees Association and the three Democratic candidates for governor are calling on lawmakers to fully fund a new labor contract for state workers recommended by the Vermont Labor Relations Board, but Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin says it is too costly. The VSEA and the candidates — Matt Dunne, Sue Minter and Peter Galbraith — held a State House news conference Wednesday calling on the Legislature to include a 2 percent salary increase for state workers in the 2017 fiscal year state budget and a 2.25 percent increase in the 2018 fiscal year budget. That increase was recommended by the Vermont Labor Relations Board Tuesday in a 3 to 2 split decision over the Shumlin administration’s proposal for a 1 percent increase in 2017 and a 1.25 percent increase in 2018. VSEA President Dave Bellini said Wednesday the union has been seeking a fair contract through collective bargaining since last August that respects state employees. “You show respect and support by putting your money where your mouth is — funding our contracts, our retirements, making investments in safety for the hardworking Vermonters who are state employees,” he said. Continue Reading →

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VSEA prevails with the Vermont Labor Relations Board

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Labor Relations Board ruled in a split decision Tuesday in favor of the Vermont State Employees Association in its contract dispute with the Shumlin administration. Both parties agreed to seek a two-year labor contract to succeed the current deal that is set to expire on June 30. The two sides had difficulty agreeing to terms, however, and reached in impasse. A deal was still elusive after mediation efforts, resulting in the appointment of a mutually agreed upon fact finder who held two hearings in January. Both sides submitted their last best offers to the Vermont Labor Relations Board last month and it was tasked with choosing between them. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Lara’s Legacy

lancing through my morning paper the other day, an entry in the “police log” caught my eye, and not in a good way. It read “A woman threatened to ‘go all Jody Herring’ on a Department for Children and Families caseworker.” It was a harsh reminder of how important VSEA’s current campaign to enhance on-the-job safety for DCF workers is. But this group of workers is not alone. VSEA members working in the Employment Services Division, Office of Child Support, Probation and Parole, Corrections and other agencies and departments throughout state government have also told their union that they would like improved on-the-job safety. VSEA members recognize that our request for increased worker safety protections will cost money, but another Lara Sobel tragedy is something no one wants, and, judging by the newspaper entry I told you about (and other scary incidents workers have been told me about), time is particularly of the essence here. Continue Reading →

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VSEA presents security requests

MONTPELIER — The Vermont State Employees Association is calling for a cap on case loads for social workers and added security measures in the wake of the slaying of a Department for Children and Families worker in August. Nancy Lynch, a legislative specialist for the VSEA, and Trissie Casanova, a social worker and chairwoman of the group’s Labor Management Committee, presented the union’s proposals to the Joint Legislative Child Protection Oversight Committee Wednesday morning. Worker safety has been a major concern for state workers following the August slaying of Lara Sobel, who was gunned down in the parking lot outside a DCF office in Barre. Casanova told the panel that VSEA wants to cap case loads for social workers at no more than 15 per worker. In addition, the union wants to limit investigations per worker to no more than 17 at a time and have one administrative assistant for every 12 social workers. Continue Reading →

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VSEA’s Howard under fire from within

MONTPELIER — A unionized group of staffers for the Vermont State Employees Association has voted to express “no confidence” in Executive Director Steve Howard as internal conflicts continue to brew inside the union. The Staff Alliance, which represents about 20 staff members within the VSEA, recently voted on whether they support Howard, according to a letter from the Staff Alliance to union leaders and members that was obtained by the Vermont Press Bureau. “Having the benefit of fifteen months of experience working under the leadership of Director Howard, Staff Alliance is now prepared to share our professional judgment. Following serious deliberation, the Staff Alliance has voted overwhelmingly to cast a vote of no confidence in the leadership of VSEA’s Executive Director,” the letter states. “This is not a decision we take lightly, however it is our mutual belief that the current level of distrust between Staff and Management, under the direction of Director Howard, is unsustainable and detrimental to the membership at-large.”

The letter includes a litany of accusations against Howard, a former Democratic state representative from Rutland and the former chairman of the Vermont Democratic Party. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin pushes back against candidates’ criticism

MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin is likely to serve as the target for both Republican and Democratic candidates looking to replace him, but the governor’s office appears ready to push back on critiques of his management during his three terms in office. Republican Bruce Lisman, who launched his gubernatorial campaign on Monday, launched a blistering critique of Shumlin’s governorship. He faulted Shumlin, who announced in June he would not seek a fourth term, for a state budget that grows 5 percent annually while revenues grow at 3 percent. Lisman, a former Wall Street executive, said he would cap state spending at 2 percent per year, but did not lay out a plan for where he would cut spending. And he said local communities “are powerless to resist large scale wind and solar installations,” while calling for a two-year moratorium on such projects. Continue Reading →

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State employee union holding strong to 5-percent salary increase

MONTPELIER — The Vermont State Employees Association is walking back a claim that it offered an alternative proposal during recent labor negotiations with the state. The union has declared an impasse in its contract negotiations for approximately 3,000 state workers and has called for an outside mediator; in response, Gov. Peter Shumlin issued a statement claiming the union has not budged from its initial proposal of of a 5 percent cost of living increase, a claim refuted Wednesday by union Executive Director Steve Howard. Howard said that, prior to walking away from the table Tuesday, labor negotiators had proposed a cost of living increase of 2 percent, a statement contradicted Thursday by Maribeth Spellman, commissioner of the state Department of Human Resources. “I was really surprised to see what Steve Howard said because it’s not true,” Spellman said. “At no time did the VSEA move off of their proposal of 5 percent a year, and if he is proposing 2 percent, that is news for us.”

On Thursday, Howard acknowledged his statement regarding the 2 percent proposal was incorrect. Continue Reading →

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Labor talks between VSEA and administration collapse

MONTPELIER – Negotiations between state workers and the Shumlin administration have broken down and are heading to mediation, according to the employees’ union. More than two months of weekly negotiations between the state and the Vermont State Employees Association have resulted in a stalemate and will require a mediator, according to union president Steve Howard. “It is clear labor and management cannot find a middle ground and we need to bring in an outside mediator,” Howard said of negotiations for the approximately 3,000 employees that compose the non-management bargaining unit of the union. The negotiations, which began in early August, have been rocky, with, at one point, state workers taking to the streets in protest when the state canceled one of the regularly scheduled negotiation meetings. Howard said the two sides have made little progress toward a compromise. Continue Reading →

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