November 25, 2008


“Budget crisis has state workers on edge” is how one newspaper headline put it.

With last week’s announcement of the projected $5.1 billion budget deficit for 2009-2011, politicians and pundits are talking about the need for budget cuts, including layoffs.

For the record, the Federation is urging the governor and legislators to avoid layoffs as harmful to any economic recovery -- “the worst anti-stimulus package you can have,” is how Federation Executive Director Greg Devereux has put it.

We believe talk of layoffs is premature—we should look at creative ways to scale back spending before making the economy worse by putting more workers on the unemployment rolls.

Many of you have already submitted creative budget ideas through our “Sensible Solutions 2009” web feature. Go to and click on the “Sensible Solutions 2009” icon to send in your idea.

And to ease any uncertainty if any layoffs big or small materialize, we soon will have updated information on our website about what a layoff is and what your rights and protections are.

The governor says layoffs may be necessary, as a “last resort.”

“I don’t want to—it will be a last resort, but candidly I don’t see any other way to make the kind of cuts that we do to meet that kind of deficit,” Gov. Chris Gregoire told KOMO TV Nov. 20.

But it’s not all gloomy. Economic stimulus packages at the federal and state levels offer hope. President-elect Barack Obama today announced a massive federal economic stimulus package that will total anywhere from $500 billion to $700 billion. Here’s what the Associated Press reported today:

His economic team in place, Obama has tasked his aides with assembling an ambitious measure to not only swiftly pump money into the battered economy, but also create 2.5 million new jobs, send a tax cut to the poor and middle class, and make massive government investments in energy-saving and other technologies designed to pay for themselves in the long run.

And Federation members are getting out the word that resorting to layoffs and not funding your negotiated pay raises are the wrong way to go. Government should be used as a tool to prime the economy and help those harmed by the downturn get back on their feet. The deficit cannot be balanced on the backs of state employees.

Here’s a good synopsis of both sides of the debate that ran in the Spokane Spokesman-Review on Nov. 24 (following is an excerpt):

The largest state workers union, the Washington Federation of State Employees, argues against job cuts. It represents about 40,000 of the state's more than 100,000 employees.

"We believe, as some economists believe, that the worst thing to do during an economic downturn is to lay off, especially public employees," said Tim Welch, the union's spokesman. Demand for state services rises in tough times, he said. And in an economy reliant on consumer spending, he said, keeping people on the job is a good idea.

"The problem with state government is everyone doesn't look at it as comparable to Microsoft or Boeing," Welch said. "They look at it as something that needs to be cut. But a worker is a worker is a worker."

A similar argument is being made by Gregoire, who's one of many governors calling for an influx of federal dollars to pay for construction projects and create jobs.

"We don't want people to lose hope," Welch said. "Government can step up and give hope by creating jobs, and that will help us recover."

Others question whether cash-strapped taxpayers can continue to foot the bill.

Yes, many state workers provide important services, said Jason Mercier, with the conservative Washington Policy Center.

"But the taxpayers are not sending money to Olympia to provide employment," he said. "They're sending it to provide a service. And if that service is no longer necessary or funded, then that position should not be continued."

Union-negotiated cost-of-living increases for state workers, Mercier said, will cost $352 million more over the next two years. Similar increases for non-employees who are still paid by the state, such as home health care workers, add $169 million more.

Most would get a 2 percent cost-of-living increase in each of the next two years. But even before last week's news that the budget shortfall is far worse than expected, Gregoire was floating the idea that unions may be forced to choose between keeping those increases or keeping jobs.

Welch argues it's a false choice.

"We think these were modest pay raises that could be sustained in a down economic year," he said. "Two (percent) and two is not giving away the farm."

A far better idea, he said, would be to scrutinize the state's dozens of tax breaks, some dating back to the Great Depression. Some are clearly good ideas, he said, like the tax exemption on food. Other tax breaks, however, may be costing the state too much to continue.

"Folks have had a moratorium on paying that tax," he said. "And we think that in tough times, folks who've had those breaks should maybe pay their fair share."

Some lawmakers, notably Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, make a similar argument.

"I think we will absolutely be looking at current tax breaks," she said.

For workers, the picture will get a little clearer in mid-December, when the governor will propose a budget for the next two years. Lawmakers have until next spring to come up with a final version.


The report on social workers’ workloads mandated earlier this year by the Legislature is due out soon. This caps the work of the special DSHS ad hoc committee on which Federation members participated.

While the report is not yet out, we know in general it will identify specific tasks that could be performed by job classes other than the case-carrying social workers. In a few cases, the report may recommend contracting.

We’ll need your help once the report comes out and we look to the 2009 Legislature for solutions. We’ve set up a “CA Social Worker Workload Blog” on our website at This will help in the discussion. The blog already has a lot of helpful background. When the workload report is released, you’ll find it there, too.

One big piece of news, according to Jeanine Livingston, the Federation’s contract compliance director:

“We did get agreement at the Oct. 30 union-management communications committee to continue the workload ad hoc committee for another year. We will use that as a vehicle to continue to push for relief for our social workers.”

And, Livingston warns, we need to counter expected moves from the private sector to take away the work of bargaining unit social workers. “Input from our members is critical to our success,” she said, urging social worker members to use the CA Social Worker Blog.


Workers in one small Washington State University unit have finally won WFSE/AFSCME as their union—three months after the vote.

The latest result came Nov. 20 after the Public Employment Relations Commission ruled on a challenged ballot that could have affected the outcome in the WSU Instrument Shop election.

But PERC Executive Director Cathleen Callahan ruled the ballot would not be counted.

That meant the Aug. 13 vote of 3-2 for WFSE/AFSCME would stand.

As we told you at the time, nearly 72 percent of workers in another unit -- the WSU Maintenance, Utilities and Construction Services Bargaining Unit -- signed authorization cards for WFSE/AFSCME. PERC in August certified WFSE/AFSCME as their union. That unit has 142 workers.


The University of Washington has been found guilty of an unfair labor practice for refusing to provide information the union requested in a discipline case involving a Skilled Trades member.

The ruling from the Public Employment Relations Commission came Nov. 21. The UW had waited more than three months to file its answer to a separate ULP complaint filed by the Federation in December 2007.

November 19, 2008


The state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council this morning said this state’s projected deficit will grow to $5 billion in the 2009-2011 budget cycle.

The council also announced the national economic downturn has officially put Washington into a deficit in the current biennium. Up to now, we still had a surplus.

The bulk of the revenue downturn comes from less consumer spending.

“No one is buying cars or houses,” chief forecaster Arun Raha said.

A hiring freeze and other measures taken by the governor have helped reduce the impact of the projected deficit. But at $5 billion, the projected deficit will cause more calls for cuts.

State budget director Victor Moore said, “We’re going to have to find some cuts in the current biennium.” Council member Sen. Joseph Zarelli called for a supplemental budget in the first week of the legislative session in January to cut the current budget.

The council said the need for a federal and state economic stimulus package are critical.

All this means there will be increased pressure to take a meat ax to the budget. There will be talk of layoffs, program cuts and not funding the pay raises, benefits and other economic parts of your just-ratified contracts.

So we need to be creative and show lawmakers where we can make surgical cuts. As Federation Executive Director Greg Devereux told National Public Radio this week: “Layoffs are the worst anti-stimulus program you can actually have.”

You may know of possible spending cuts—big and small—that could be proposed. If you do, go submit your ideas directly to WFSE Executive Director, Greg Devereux. Or, share your suggestions, comments here.

Watch these hotlines, website and the union newspaper for more updates.

November 5, 2008


The University of Washington is offering release time and even interpreters for members who go to the UW’s Employee Assistance Service to deal with the tragic death last week of co-worker Insoo Chun.

Chun, a custodian and Local 1488 member, died Oct. 30 after apparently dousing himself with gasoline and setting himself on fire in Red Square. His name was released to the media.

Local 1488 members are stunned and saddened by his death. The UW is encouraging members trying to deal with the tragedy to visit Employee Advisory Services. The UW will provide release time. Members who need an interpreter can get one.


The third-party administrator is in place, the formula for disbursement has been calculated—but the Federation is still waiting for a final piece of information from the state in the $1 million settlement of the DD case resource management lawsuit.

As you recall, the goal was to get the settlement checks to the 360 affected DD case resource managers by the end of the year.

These are the folks affected by the Federation lawsuit filed in December 2005. The settlement came in August 2007. The Legislature funded it in March 2008 and the courts OK’d the settlement that same month.

The DD case resource managers filed the pay equity lawsuit to bring them in line with social workers. They perform similar work.

******* UPDATE******** 12/9/08


It’s taking a little longer to get technical issues resolved in the payout of the DD case resource manager settlement.

But it’s worth the time so none of the recipients of the $1 million settlement is shorted.

To recap, the settlement was OK’d by the Legislature and the courts last year to settle the pay equity lawsuit. The case resource managers were doing work comparable to that done by social workers, but not getting paid for it.

Since then, the settlement money has been transferred, the third-party administrator has been chosen and the formula for disbursement finalized.

However, the key information from the Department of Personnel on recipients, including work history that would determine how much of the settlement each would get, had several discrepancies that we have to challenge them on.

There are discrepancies affecting about 10 percent of the case resource managers entitled to the settlement. We do not want anyone to be shorted because of DOP’s errors.

When the settlement checks finally go out, they will include what each recipient is entitled to, plus their share of interest on the $1 million since it was deposited in the bank.

We’ll keep you updated.


We've put a link on our website at to a blog where those affected by the proposed changes to social worker job classes can comment on the proposed draft social service case worker job classes.

The proposed reclassification came out of contract negotiations. The Federation and state couldn't come to agreement then, but agreed to a process to keep working in hopes of reaching an acceptable reclassification package.

The proposal affects more than 879 DSHS social workers, DD outstation managers, DD case resource managers and DD administrator 1s.

The Social Worker Reclassification Blog allows you to review all the current and proposed draft job specifications and then leave your comments online. This will help the committee of General Government Bargaining Team members and social workers working with the Department of Personnel, the Labor Relations Office and DSHS on an acceptable package.

By the way, the contract set up a similar process for several other classes (list below) that may be in need of adjustments. As those discussions start and proceed, we'll have similar resources available to guide your union representatives.

Those other job classes (in the memorandum of understanding tied to the General Government contract):

    Financial Services Specialist 3, 4, and 5
    Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor 1, 2, 3, and 4
    Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor
    Quality Control Specialist
    Community Corrections Officer 1, 2, and 3
    Community Corrections Specialist
    Cook 1, 2, and 3
    Equipment Technician 2, 3, and 4
    Dietician 1 and 2
    Psychiatric Social Worker 1, 2, and 3