May 30, 2008


The Federation General Government Bargaining Team held its latest negotiations with management Tuesday and Wednesday (May 28 and 29) in Lacey.

During caucus time, a subcommittee reviewed the results of the bargaining priorities survey members completed and mailed back.

The results were amazing.

• The team expected to get the standard response of about 1 percent to 2 percent returns. Instead, nearly 20 percent of General Government members took the time to mark their top priorities—a total of 5,375.

• Of those, several thousand took the additional time to write out other comments and suggestions on everything from bullying to workload to salary survey to problems with bad management. Those thousands of comments will be especially helpful to the team as they get into bargaining the tough issues.

• In addition, dozens more surveys came in from worksite meetings and from the Federation website.

The team wanted to pass along to all members who participated in the survey their strong appreciation for the guidance you’ve provided with these surveys and the comments you’ve provided.

Apparently, many of you feel the same way. Here’s what one DSHS survey taker wrote:

“This is the first time I’ve seen something like this (the survey) and I’ve been with WFSE for 23 years. I really appreciate it. Thanks!”

Watch your mail in a week or so for a special bargaining update with more details on the survey and what you said to the team through your comments.

The team found that 199 of you included comments about your retirement benefits. But under law, retirement benefits are one area that can’t be bargained. They remain a legislative budget issue. However, Federation President Carol Dotlich told the bargaining team yesterday she is forwarding those comments and suggestions to the union’s Retirement Committee for review and possible action. So your suggestions can’t be on the bargaining table, but they may end up as legislative proposals.

As a reminder, the General Government Bargaining Team has a contractual obligation under Article 39.12 to honor confidentiality in negotiations. But overall, bargaining is moving along. Good progress is still being made. Your team is working hard. They caucused until 10 o’clock Tuesday night. They will be spending even more time in caucus outside of scheduled bargaining dates to work on counterproposals to bring back to management.

In addition to the surveys, the other big help you’re providing is job actions:

•Local 1326 staged job actions in Yakima Tuesday with L&I, Agriculture and Ecology members and Wednesday in Sunnyside.

• Local 443 brought more support directly to the bargaining team Thursday.

• And Local 843 held its latest job action Monday in Seattle.

That’s when a group of Seattle DSHS Local 843 members took to the streets around Seattle’s Key Arena May 27 to build support for a strong contract.

Local 843 member Romy Garcia told co-workers that their bargaining team was working hard for a fair contract, decent pay and affordable health care.

Not so long ago, he said, state employees couldn’t bargain for these things.

“It was like begging in the sense that we have to wait for the crumbs to fall off the table,” Garcia told his co-workers.

Another Local 843 member, John Birnel, who sat on the first General Government Bargaining Team in 2004, explained how bargaining works and urged his co-workers to support the team “so if they need us in a big way we’re here to help.”

May 16, 2008


DSHS Children’s Services workers often get blamed when something goes wrong in high-visibility “critical incidents.”

But in a commendable joint effort, the union and DSHS management in Region 5 (Pierce and Kitsap counties) have started joint trainings on protocols to follow in critical incidents.

“After the outcry from our members that followed the recent critical incidents, management and the union worked hard in our union-management communication committees to come up with a way to address the needs of the staff in Region 5,” WFSE/AFSCME Field Representative Amy Achilles said.

The joint training covers protocol, management’s roles and responsibilities, the peer support program, the rules around public disclosure and the role of WFSE/AFSCME in helping members through a critical incident.

The first joint training took place May 9 in Bremerton.

Two sessions were scheduled May 21 in Tacoma.

“One member told us that it was amazing to see management and the union joining together to provide the staff with the information they need following a critical incident,” Achilles said.


Eastern Washington University Local 931 members have asked the EWU Board of Trustees to remove a top manager from supervising staff or students in the wake of an outrageous “permissive bullying” incident last month that left an employee humiliated and co-workers shocked.

The top manager at Eastern Washington University’s Career Services department handed out a ceramic “F” to an employee at an April 2 staff meeting and branded him a failure in front of co-workers.

It seemed like something you’d see on the TV show “The Office.” But it was all too real to the employees, members of Local 931.

The recipient of the “F” was Hispanic. The singling out of that employee for ridicule seemed like a throwback to a less-enlightened time when minorities routinely faced such on-the-job harassment.

“Let us be reminded that diversity with discrimination is meaningless,” Local 931 President Mary Jo Van Bemmel told trustees May 9.

Van Bemmel and about 20 other members showed up at the trustees’ meeting on the Cheney campus in their red Local 931 shirts.

Van Bemmel said everyone deserves a second chance. But after a “climate review” investigation, the offending manager is now being given another chance “to once again humiliate and belittle students and staff, as before,” Van Bemmel said.

“Today, we respectfully ask the Board of Trustees to see that this individual is not allowed to manage or supervise staff or students…,” Van Bemmel said. “Permissive bullying of staff and students is not right.”

She pleaded with the trustees to tell EWU administrators “that hiring employees from diverse backgrounds is not a defense for then abusing them publicly.”

The trustees responded they felt the incident had been resolved.

But the union will pursue other avenues of justice.

“We will be working with the affected employees on Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints and the local members will discuss other steps to take,” said WFSE/AFSCME Field Representative Rick Nesbitt.


The union and the state this week reached a settlement agreement that resolves the pay dispute involving vocational services consultants (VSCs) in the Department of Labor and Industries.

Under the agreement, the VSCs will be paid the difference in salary they received on Aug. 16, 2007, and the salary they got on Nov. 9, 2007.

The agreement settles the unfair labor practice complaint brought by the Federation Feb. 1.

The dispute centered on alleged bad-faith bargaining over special raises funded by the Legislature in 2007. The agency originally requested higher raises, but backed off in bargaining.

The agreement took effect May 14.


Department of Early Learning members got their contract rights restored Wednesday (May 14) when the Federation won certification as the union for the approximately 148 non-supervisors and 17 supervisors.

The Early Learning workers’ contract rights were supposed to follow them when the new agency in 2006 when the new agency was carved out of the Department of Social and Health Services and Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development.

But through a drawn-out battle over interpretation of what the Legislature had intended, the Early Learning workers had their contract rights essentially taken away.

Instead of dragging the tussle out even further, the Early Learning workers with the help of Federation activists and staff started from scratch and collected signed authorization cards.

And the Public Employment Relations Commission on Tuesday determined that the union had met the “cross-check tally” requirement with more than 70 percent of the non-supervisors and supervisors signing authorization cards. With that, PERC certified the Federation as the exclusive bargaining representative in the Department of Early Learning.

The certification had an immediate impact at the General Government bargaining table. Early Learning representative Marsha Ballentine (Local 53) took her seat as a full-fledged member of the bargaining team. An Early Learning representative will join the management bargaining team as well. Both sides committed to making the necessary updates to the contract to reflect the new Early Learning bargaining units.

May 14, 2008


A judge today struck down the state’s contracting out rules issued by the state Department of General Administration in a lawsuit brought by the Federation.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Wickham ruled that GA exceeded its authority when it issued the offensive rules in 2006.

Today’s court decision in favor of the Federation backs up the union’s claim that GA exceeded the power given to it by the Legislature when it wrote restrictive rules about which employees could offer alternatives to contracting out or bid for projects.

The Legislature in 2002 said employees whose positions or work would be “displaced” would be allowed to offer alternatives. But the GA rules struck down today by Judge Wickham would have restricted that opportunity only to employees who lose their jobs or who would be reassigned.

“This ruling combined with the recent unfair labor practice victories over cottage remodeling work at Lakeland Village and clutch repair work in the Department of Transportation signal a new day for Federation members in the area of contracting out,” said the union’s Contract Compliance Director Jeanine Livingston.


The Federation has filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the University of Washington over the status of employees the UW calls specimen laboratory technicians.

The union tags the UW for refusing to bargain in good faith over the salary and classification of the affected employees.

The Federation filed the complaint with the Public Employment Relations Commission April 30.

May 4, 2008

Join the "Health Care for America Now!" campaign

AFSCME and all of labor have created an intensive campaign to win real health care reform at the national level—no matter who our new president will be.

Health Care is important to our members. Though the overall employee premium share has recently stabilized, our members have lost significant ground since 1993. The problems of those without healthcare in Washington State and across the country continue to compound both healthcare access and cost issues.

After working on this issue at both the International Union and Council levels for many years, we are convinced there is only one way to achieve universal coverage.

The only way to pass national health care is for our members and for the American people to get their hair on fire about health care.

For 80 eighty years, U.S. Presidents – both Democrat and Republican – have tried to pass one form or another of national health care. President Obama, President Clinton, and certainly not President McCain cannot pass national health care because they think it is the right thing to do.

The drug companies, the hospital associations, the medical equipment industry, and the American Medical Association, to name a few actors, will be out in force to stop any push for national health care.

We need a tsunami of public opinion at the grass roots level to rise up and overwhelm the Beltway lobbyists.

Our members are ready. Even the business community is concerned about how health care cuts into their operating costs and profits. It is time to ignite this flame and make a huge difference for our members and for all people across this country.


Join the Health Care Campaign. We need everyone to engage in this comprehensive health care campaign as soon as possible.

You'll be working closely with AFSCME and the AFL-CIO to make sure the new President has a mandate on health care.

WFSE Field Staff will be out in May presenting Health Care Campaign presentations and asking YOU to become an activist. There are many ways you can participate, so - please - register as an activist today!


You'll be contacted about activities and ways you can help.
After you're registered,
TAKE ACTION. Sign a letter to Senator Cantwell.


Phase 1: Letters to Senator Cantwell

Why? The Senator sits on the Finance Committee and it’s very important that we get this issue flagged by her early on. Any health care bill that moves forward has the potential to be marked up in this very important committee (Finance) and we need her to hear our message to “stand firm.”

WFSE is collecting letters throughout the month of May and will present them, in mass, to Senator Cantwell. You can help.

Download, Print, sign and return to WFSE this letter to Senator Cantwell. Share copies with your co-workers and friends. Then bundle them and send them to us here at

WFSE HQ, 1212 Jefferson St SE, Olympia WA 98501

- OR -

Use our Action Center to submit your letter to Senator Cantwell online.

You Can Make a Difference! |

Address 1212 Jefferson St SE, Olympia WA 98501
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Remembering the 524

Western State Hospital Local 793 members marked Workers Memorial Day 2008 with a solemn commemoration Monday on the grounds of the mental health facility in Lakewood. They placed 524 targets on the lawn in front of the Administration Building to signify the 524 co-workers assaulted on the job at WSH in the past year.

“This is a tribute to the 524 whose quality of life has forever been changed,” WFSE/AFSCME President Carol Dotlich told the crowd of about 150.

Rep. Steve Conway, chair of the state House Commerce and Labor Committee, called Western State Hospital “the most dangerous worksite in the state.” He said lawmakers would continue to attack the “unacceptable” situation that leads to employee assaults, including mandating safe employee-to-staff ratios.

Rep. Troy Kelley said the 524 targets that stretched across the lawn reminded him of the old Army saying about never leaving a soldier behind. “I have a feeling we’ve left some workers behind and that’s unacceptable,” Kelley said.

The members concluded the ceremony by walking up and down the rows of 524 targets. “It’s a longer walk than you thought,” Dotlich said.

DSHS guilty of Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) over contracting out at Lakeland Village

The full Public Employment Relations Commission has overturned its own hearing examiner and ruled that the Department of Social and Health Services did in fact commit an unfair labor practice when it contracted out cottage remodeling work at Lakeland Village in Medical Lake in 2004. That action took work away from Local 573 members in DSHS Consolidated Support Services. PERC’s April 25 decision orders DSHS to bargain with the Federation over the decision to contract out bargaining unit work.