December 29, 2008

Lawsuit over negotiated pay raises discussesd on Dave Ross today.

WFSE/AFSCME spokesman, Tim Welch, joined the Dave Ross Show today on KIRO710 to talk about the lawsuit.

Tim Welch explained, "the point of the lawsuit is - a win would be - that a request goes to the legislature and the legislature has a free and fair debate over funding or not, no obligation on the legislature, they can vote it up or down. If they vote it down, we just go back to negotiations.

"We are very realistic and we realize we may not come out of here with the 2% that we negotiated, but we really believe that there's honest disagreement among friends here and we really want to get the issue to the legislature.

"We have the highest regard for the Governor. We could just spend time in campaign mode and throw grenades at her and call her names, but we just decided to have someone outside our group decide it and that's why we're asking the courts to decide."

Dave Ross asked, "You want this debated by the legislature? What would the nature of the debate be? There's only a certain amount of of money in the pot and actually the budget she proposes assumes about a billion dollars in federal stimulus money - a tremendous amount of money. What's the debate?"

"It's the principle. We have an obligation under the law to defend the law and bargaining.

"They were at the table - they agreed to the contract and to us that implied that they were going to make the request - not say you have to fund it - but make the request and get it to the legislature so the legislature can debate it back and forth.

"I think when we get to the March revenue forecast, it's probably going to be a very sobering event. And part of the promise of collective bargaining - and a lot of the support of the sponsors at the time - was not only that we get something out of it but that we have an obligation to give as well. And we want to have a forum where we can bring ideas to save money as well."

Dave Ross asked, "I thought that was a part of the Priorities of Government process - that you were consulted and that if you have any ideas for saving money, that would be included in the budget."

"We weren't consulted, because we don't have a formal way, a seat at the table in the Priorities of Government process. Our formal seat is at the bargaining table."

Listen to the full interview and listener questions here.

December 23, 2008

WFSE/AFSCME sues governor over negotiated pay raises

The Washington Federation of State Employees/AFSCME today sued Gov. Chris Gregoire for not including a funding request in her budget proposal for the pay raises negotiated between the union and her office.

The lawsuit charges the governor, her budget director, Victor Moore, and the state with breach of contract and committing an unfair labor practice for bad-faith bargaining.

The lawsuit asks Thurston County Superior Court to compel the governor to submit a request to the Legislature to fund the pay raises and other economic parts of the five contracts negotiated by the Federation. The pacts cover 30,000 General Government workers and 10,000 employees at 12 community colleges and all four-year universities and The Evergreen State College.

The Legislature would still have the final say about funding the economic parts of the contract or rejecting them. Rejection sends the contracts back to the bargaining table.

The governor in her Dec. 18 budget roll out invoked a clause in the 2002 collective bargaining law and omitted funding for the negotiated pay raises and other economics. She said her Office of Financial Management had not certified the contracts as financially feasible.

(She did include funding for the negotiated health insurance package with premium shares staying at 12 percent.)

All of the Federation contracts were ratified by members and submitted to OFM by the Oct. 1 deadline set in law.

“Both parties agreed to the terms of that agreement, with the express or implied understanding that by this agreement, the director of OFM was committing to certify that the contractual commitments were financially feasible for the state…,” the lawsuit says.

“By the late summer of 2008, the defendants were well aware of and in fact had discussions with WFSE representatives about the downturn in the economy and the worsening economic conditions. These were reasons the financial aspects of the 2009-2011 (contracts)…were the lowest ever negotiated by the parties.”

Rep. Brendan Williams, D-Olympia, joined the lawsuit to challenge the idea that the financial feasibility clause in the 2002 law prohibits the 2009 Legislature from approving legislation funding the Federation’s contracts. “One Legislature (the 2002 Legislature) cannot enact a statute that prevents a future Legislature (the 2009 Legislature) from exercising its law-making power,” the lawsuit says.


For some reason, the governor did not reveal she wants to close Pine Lodge Corrections Center for Women in Medical Lake where members of Local 782 work.

It only became apparent late last week after internal memos went out to staff that Gov. Gregoire wants to close Pine Lodge and shift the inmates to Larch Mountain north of Vancouver.

Why the secrecy over Pine Lodge? Who knows.

We do know that Pine Lodge on Dec. 10 passed its latest accreditation audit with flying colors. It scored 100 percent on mandatory standards from the American Correctional Association.

Here’s what state prisons director Dick Morgan said just 11 days ago: “This accreditation score is a significant accomplishment for Pine Lodge. ACA accreditation is the gold standard for management of prisons and demonstrates to the community that Pine Lodge is a safe and well-run facility.”

So, put saving Pine Lodge at the top of our budget priority call to action list, along with the governor’s proposed closure of Naselle Youth Camp and Yakima Valley School.

It’s never too early to mobilize. Call your legislators and the governor at 1-800-562-6000 and tell them to save Pine Lodge Corrections Center for Women. As we get past the holidays and into the days before the start of the legislative session Jan. 12, we will have many more calls to action.

December 18, 2008


UPDATED 12:30 PM (see below)

This is special update of the Federation Hotline at about 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 18.

The governor’s proposed operating budget unveiled this morning (Dec. 18) is brutal on state employees and the services they provide.

In these tough fiscal times, everything was supposed to be on the table—including possible revenue increases and cutting some of the state’s $54 billion in tax loopholes and tax breaks.

So we’ll start with the call to action before the grim details:

Call your legislators at 1-800-562-6000 and urge them to find sensible solutions to the budget deficit that put everything on the table, not just on the backs of state employees and the services we provide. That means revenue increases and closing some of the state’s $54 billion in tax loopholes.

We’ll have an online call to action along those lines later today.

While the governor’s budget is grim, you must keep it in perspective. The Legislature usually ignores what the governor submits. So our focus has to be on the Legislature to step up and lead the way for sensible solutions to the deficit. The Legislature convenes Jan. 12.

On the governor’s proposal here’s what we know:
  • The governor would invoke a little-known clause in the collective bargaining law allowing her to suspend negotiated pay raises if her budget office is unable to certify that there are funds to pay for them. That is what she has done. That means it will be back to the bargaining table to re-negotiate. She does propose honoring the negotiated funding of your health benefits—with the 12 percent premium share intact.

  • She proposes cutting contributions into the retirement system—a cut of 46.8 percent. Her budget documents aren’t clear on how that would come about, but it’s a significant cut.

  • She proposes cutting 4,000 state jobs. How many are vacancies and how many would mean actual people losing a job is not clear in her budget plan.

  • She proposes a number of closures:

  • Closure of Naselle Youth Camp, a juvenile rehabilitation facility with about 110 youthful offenders.

  • Closure of Yakima Valley School, a facility in Selah for about 100 developmentally disabled residents.

  • Closure of 13 state parks to be determined by the State Parks Commission in addition to winter closures at many parks.

  • The governor said she would close seven fish hatcheries, but her budget documents only specify two proposed closures: Bellingham and Palmer Ponds.

  • In Community Corrections, elimination of supervision of misdemeanants, discontinuation of community supervision for low-risk offenders (except for sex offenders and violent offenders) and setting of community custody sentence lengths at 12 months.

  • The governor also would eliminate grants to individuals in the General Assistance-Unemployable program.
Our determination to fight for sensible solutions in the Legislature instead of the governor’s plan is being conveyed to administration and legislative leaders and the media.

“Our biggest concern is that everything should be on the table and that includes tax loopholes and revenue enhancements,” Federation Executive Director Greg Devereux said. “If the economic parts of our negotiated contracts that were ratified two months ago can be suspended, why can’t a campaign pledge on no revenue increases be retracted?”

Devereux said the impact of 4,000 state employee layoffs will be worse for the economy and set off a “downward spiral.” Contrast that with revenue enhancements spread across 5 million Washington citizens.

“We can’t cut our way out of this deficit,” he said.

The 567 tax loopholes and tax breaks totaling $54 billion should be scrutinized and some repealed to save jobs and services, Devereux said.

Some 147 of those were enacted just since 2001, he said.

“It always falls on state employees (to balance the budget),” Devereux said. “Why can’t some exemptions be rolled back?”

That’s it for now. If other details come in, we will update this hotline.

Now the focus turns to the Legislature, where the real budget decisions will be made.

Watch the Governor's Press Conference

December 16, 2008


Members at the Department of Ecology didn't think hundreds of thousands of dollars being paid out to mid-level managers made sense in a time of growing budget deficits.

So they filed a public disclosure request on the salaries, bonuses and other special pay given to Washington Management Service managers in their agency from 1999 to 2007.

The data proved their hunch was right.

In the eight years between 1999 and 2007, line-level staff received pay raises totaling 27.8 percent, while the total for Washington Management Service employees was 41.9 percent. With compounding, that's about a 15 percent differential between management and non-management staff.

The special management pay comes from "growth and development" raises and bonuses, none of which are available to line-level workers. Any pay increases for line-level workers come from what they negotiate with the state through their contract.

Throughout the agency the amount spent on (growth and development pay) for managers was $492,496 last January. Cash bonuses were also awarded in the amount of $39,346 to specific individuals while the economy was tanking.

"We believe these management bonuses should be eliminated," said Greg Devereux, executive director of the Washington Federation of State Employees. "It's a way to find revenue in these tough times to preserve quality services in Ecology and other agencies."

The Ecology WMS Salary Report (Ecology BU Bulletin 12/2008) appears below and on

The union will initiate similar analyses in other agencies as a way to trim the budget while minimizing the need for layoffs and other cuts in public services.

The Washington Management Service was created in 1993 as a separate personnel system within the executive branch of state government. But it grew from about 445 when it started to a high of about 5,300 in 2005. After a cut of 1,000 management positions ordered by Gov. Chris Gregoire in 2005, it's believed WMS now stands at about 4,000 positions.

There have been several unsuccessful legislative attempts in recent years to trim the size of the Washington Management Service.

WFSE Ecology Bargaining Unit Bulletin - December 2008
Salary Comparison
– Some employees are “more equal” than others

Have you wondered how compensation works for the managers in the Washington Management Service (WMS) in the agency? Union activists and stewards in the bargaining unit wondered too, considering how hard we’ve had to fight for cost of living increases (COLAs).

After making requests for WMS salary information WFSE filed a public disclosure request (PDR) on our behalf to find out about the compensation, including bonuses, paid to Ecology’s WMS managers over the eight year period from 1999 through 2007. The PDR was filed to answer two questions:

1. What was the total compensation of WMS managers including salary raises (also termed growth and development or G&D), COLAS, and bonuses (recognition payments or lump sum awards); and

2. How did increases in WMS compensation compare with salary increases for Ecology staff?

Compensation for Managers

Types of monetary compensation given to WMS managers fall into three categories. G&D increases are awarded based on performance. COLAs are granted by the legislature and by contrast are given to non-union employees across the board. Finally, bonuses, or lump sum payments, are also granted based on performance considerations.

The information provided was disturbing not only in regard to bonuses paid, but also to the salary increases given to managers.

As can be seen from Table 1 Ecology managers did very well from 1999 through 2007. Managers received no salary increases or bonuses in 2003, but received increasingly larger compensation awards in other years over time. The added compounding effect of yearly raises effectively increased the average salary over the eight years by 46.2%.

The average arithmetic G&D increase for WMS during that period was 3.04% giving an average total increase of 24.2%. With compounding over eight years taken into account, the net increase in growth and development compensation from 1999 to 2007 was 27.1%.

The average legislative COLA over the same period, also given to WMS managers, was 17.7%. With compounding over six years (no COLAs were given in 2001 and 2002) the net increase in compensation from just COLAs was 19.1%. The actual compensation between 1999 and 2007, therefore, increased by 46.2%.

Bonuses or lump sum rewards (not included in Table 1) became common starting in 2003, however bonuses are not given to every manager in any given year. The average bonus paid out to WMS managers during 2004 through 2007 was $1,521. Based on a salary of $80,000/year a $1500 bonus would add approximately 1.5% to 2% to the total compensation for the year.

[Refer to SLIDE 16 above]

Compensation for Classified Staff

Ecology staff salaries have, on average, not kept up with WMS salaries. The breakdown of Ecology staff salary increases including, COLAs, and, where applicable, catch-up pay, the L-step increase and the 2007 health care rebate for mid-range (3-level) staff is shown in Table 2 below.

[Refer to SLIDE 21 above]

The average arithmetic mean salary increase for Ecology staff is 27.8%. The actual increase with compounding over six years is 31.2%.

The fact that salaries for some Ecology staff classifications have increased by over 30% is a positive outcome of collective bargaining. Unfortunately, salaries for the environmental specialist and environmental planner classes, which comprise over a third of Ecology staff, have not kept pace as shown in the chart below. The gap between managers and this large group has grown even wider.


To make a meaningful comparison of compensation between WMS and classified staff it helps to use averages and to compound the increases to reflect the real impacts of increases. WMS bonuses are left out of this comparison due to the variability that complicates the analysis, however you can keep in mind that bonuses are above and beyond the numbers given.

With compounding, the actual differential between WMS and Ecology staff increased to 15%. This means WMS received 15% more in compensation than classified staff over the same time period.

Impacts of the System

No one who works in state government begrudges other employees when they seek to improve their compensation. However when you look at the numbers and the trends, it appears that as a group managers have been acting entirely in self-interest by granting each other raises and bonuses. Are managers that much more valuable than the employees who do the work upon which their increases are based?

The sheer number of managers who received a compensation increase shows that such increases have become routine. Yet the criteria in the WMS Guidelines and Handbook have not changed; increases should be based on either the demonstrated growth of the manager in their position or for outstanding performance above and beyond normal expectations. Are managers truly gifted, laden with MBAs and MPAs, as described in the WMS guidelines?

Funding for WMS Compensation

According to an untitled, draft memo from the former Employee Services director, Joy St. Germaine, additional legislative appropriations for employee salary increases are not given. According to the memo, OFM expects salary increases to be covered by vacancy savings.

In Ecology’s case this also includes unused travel budget, allocated unused training, unpurchased equipment, and left over contracts and grant funds. Managers then develop a spending plan which, if kept under the allocations, leaves funds to pay for bonuses and G&D increases.Although this funding approach may work well for manager’s salaries it directly and negatively impacts Ecology staff by reducing funding for promotions, training, travel and project work. In turn, the denial of training and travel opportunities limits professional development, and in some cases prevents employees from getting the job done. The cost of leaving funded positions vacant also takes a toll on staff that must absorb the workload in most cases while the position goes unfilled.

Having just emerged from an informal reduction in force in the Water Quality Program, doubt is further cast on the integrity of the WMS compensation process as a reward for performance. Underestimating revenue flow from permit fees, and inattention to expenditures resulted in the program going into the red and almost led to the layoff of a number of WQ staff. Managers in the WQ program received G&D increases and bonuses in January of 2008, along with the rest of the agency, while their program’s budget crisis was taking form.
Throughout the agency the amount spent on G&D for managers was $492,496 last January. Cash bonuses were also awarded in the amount of $39,346 to specific individuals while the economy was tanking.

During the kind of difficult economic times that the state is presently experiencing we expect managers will work collaboratively with us to mitigate the impacts of reduced revenue streams. If the lack of money forces Ecology to cut back on staff advancement opportunities or in staff reductions, WMS managers must share in the pain or be willing to sacrifice the significant gains they provided themselves over the past eight years. Why must classified staff bear the burden of layoffs or lack of promotional and professional development opportunities?

The WMS system essentially places managers, and the budget planners (also WMS) who work for them, in a situation where their interests are aligned toward political outcomes. It is our managers that will be called to deal with the budget crisis and to formulate staffing plans if there will be a reduction in force. Because we are divided by a separate and not equal system of compensation, we are not “all in the same boat.” How can we trust the process and the managers in charge of it if our interests are not aligned?

What we’ve done so far

When the PDR information was first analyzed last summer the importance of the data was immediately evident. The contract bargaining team was provided copies, and used the information in last minute negotiations last summer. WFSE executive director Greg Devereaux and elected president Carol Dotlich provided Governor Gregoire with copies as well as to individuals within OFM during pre-contract discussions. Greg and Carol continue to pursue the issues of fundamental compensation inequities in their regular discussions with the Governor, and are pursuing similar PDR requests at other agencies to evaluate the issue statewide.

[Refer to SLIDE 23 above]

The powerpoint was also provided to representatives from Ecology’s management, and we offered to meet with director Jay Manning to explain our analysis and discuss its implications. So far our offers to meet with him have been declined.

What’s next?

One of the most concerning aspects of funding for WMS bonuses and salary increases is the veil of secrecy that has been placed over the entire process. Unlike salary information for classified staff WMS salaries and bonuses are not published, nor is any information provided regarding their bonuses. The foundation of good government is transparency; in how it operates to make decisions and how it manages money. It should not have been necessary to resort to public disclosure to obtain this information. As a start we are advocating the public posting of manager compensation increases.

If there is a reduction in force, formal or informal, the union must be notified and provided the opportunity to bargain over the impacts. We will need to call on individual members to help with the bargaining process, and volunteers to serve on teams to meet with our managers.

Please consider stepping forward to help the bargaining unit represent your interests as Ecology is faced with the budget crisis.

Download pdf of the Ecology BU Bulletin 2008


The governor releases her budget proposal Thursday (Dec. 18). By law, she must propose a balanced budget. With a potential $5 billion deficit in the 2009-2011 biennium, her budget plan will be brutal. Big cuts will be proposed.

Federation President Carol Dotlich is urging members, thought to keep an eye on the big picture.

"When you see that budget, I don't want you to overreact to it," Dotlich told members and Spokane-area legislators at Local 1221's pre-session banquet Dec. 11.

"I don't want you to be panicked. I want you to be determined."

Dotlich said the governor's budget is the start, not the end, of the budget process. The Legislature will have the final say.

But as we told you last week, the Legislature and the governor in the end don't have to approve a balanced budget. There can be some red ink for the sake of preserving quality services. Some are talking about a ballot measure to raise revenue.

So when the governor unveils her budget, remember it's not the final word. Far from it.
Dotlich urged members to continue submitting "Sensible Solutions" to the budget crisis. And she urged members to write their members of Congress and President-elect Obama to support a federal economic stimulus package to help our state.

"We're going to try our best to fill that state budget hole with federal dollars," she said.

Go to to submit "Sensible Solutions" and send a message to Congress and President-elect Obama.

Other creative ideas are percolating:

  • Legislative leaders like Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown support rolling back some of the $53 billion in tax breaks the state gives away each biennium. That's right, $53 BILLION. That's right--the state gives up nearly twice as much potential revenue as it spends every two years. Many are good, like the sales tax exemption on food. But many are old, outdated and unfair. Rolling back just 10 percent of those tax breaks, tax loopholes and tax giveaways would cover the deficit.
  • And Speaker of the House Frank Chopp said the deficit problem is not that bad. He told a Tri-Cities audience that not spending $2 billion in authorized but unspent funds could take a big slice out of the deficit.
  • And, as you can imagine, there are some unwise solutions being proposed as well.
    That's why Dotlich urged the Spokane audience and all Federation members to push for a federal economic stimulus package and submit "Sensible Solutions."

    "We can do this together," she said. "We are 40,000 strong. There isn't anything we can't tackle and win."

    Remember, the solution to the budget crisis and our overall economic recession will be creative ideas to create and keep jobs-including state jobs-and finding the revenue to preserve quality services the people of this state need in these tough times.

    December 9, 2008


    Gov. Chris Gregoire unveils her 2009-2011 budget Dec. 18, according to The Olympian.

    She is required by law to propose a balanced budget. That’s why she said her plan will be brutal.

    But you might be interested to know what the media is saying. Passing a balanced budget is not a legal or constitutional requirement. So the governor under the state Budget and Accounting Act must “propose” a balance budget. But neither the Legislature nor the governor must approve one. This fiscal version of “Mythbusters” is leading some to call for borrowing through bonding to help pay off the projected $5.1 billion deficit.

    That’s because many economists and historians say slashing budgets and laying off employees is the absolute wrong thing to do in the kind of severe recession we’re in. Even President Elect Barack Obama has said economic recovery trumps the deficit.

    History also shows that the slash and burn method of dealing with a recession and deficits is disastrous. Professor James N. Gregory, director of the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies at the University of Washington, wrote in the Seattle Times Dec. 5 that state government should step in with spending to maintain services and keep jobs.

    During the Great Depression in 1931, then-Gov. Roland Hartley vetoed economic stimulus measures in favor of a balanced budget and no revenue increases.

    Writes Gregory:

    That year, economic activity declined more sharply in Seattle than in cities that practiced countercyclical spending, such as San Francisco. By late 1931, unemployment in Seattle was close to 25 percent and thousands were hungry and homeless. A giant encampment had begun to spread across the empty lots near Alaskan Way. Residents named it Hooverville, after the president they blamed for the crisis.

    Gov. Christine Gregoire and the Legislature are on track to repeat the mistakes of 1931. Committed to balancing the state budget as required by current law, the governor has already ordered state agencies to cut more than $590 million and is proposing to slash another $5 billion to $6 billion in the next budget cycle.

    That will destroy as many as 20,000 jobs, adding to the state's escalating unemployment problem. It will mean drastic cutbacks in health and social services just when they are most needed. It will mean that college applicants will be turned away, hurting young people and further burdening the job market. It will damage, perhaps permanently, our universities and other institutions vital to the future of Washington. This is not what we need at this perilous juncture.

    Note that Gregory wrote this piece still using the now busted myth that Washington law requires a balanced budget.

    Still, he says, the governor and Legislature must show flexibility in 2009:

    The governor and the Legislature must find a way to keep from escalating the job losses. They must find a way to avoid massive layoffs of state workers. They must avoid devastating cuts to higher education and needed programs and services. They must find a way to act with common sense in the next legislative session. To do otherwise would be inexcusable.

    Meanwhile, the governor is meeting with several different groups, including labor, to try to find innovative solutions to the economic downturn. One keystone of that is a federal economic stimulus package.

    You can help. We have a link on our website so you can send a message urging our two U.S. senators and your U.S. House member to support a federal stimulus package that helps Washington state that:

    • Raises FMAP (Federal Medical Assistant Percentage) without strings, allowing governors to determine how best to use them.

    • Includes temporary flexible block grant assistance to allow state and local governments to provide vital public services.

    • Includes S-SHIP dollars to continue children’s healthcare.

    • Increases food stamp funding.

    • Increases unemployment funds and extend them for two years.

    • Blocks earmarks—funds that arrive early produce the best results.

    Go to and look for the “Invest in Washington” link in the “Action Center.”

    Also, we have a letter-writing campaign at the grassroots level to generate as many letters as possible in support of a federal economic stimulus package by the Jan. 12 start of the Legislature. Watch for them. And keep up-to-date on other developments at


    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.

    December 3, 2008


    President-elect Barack Obama and the new Congress appear headed toward an economic stimulus package for states and workers. Some 387 economists, including several Nobel laureates, back that effort.

    Today, governors met with Obama in Philadelphia to discuss help to financially strapped states.

    Gov. Chris Gregoire pressed the new president for an economic stimulus package.

    “Today, I asked President-elect Obama to propose a stimulus package that would provide Americans a steady paycheck, not a one time ‘bonus’ check,” she announced after meeting the president-elect.

    AFSCME is urging increased federal funds for state Medicaid programs to stabilize state budgets and to help jumpstart the economy.

    AFSCME is also calling for “counter-cyclical flexible grants.” These block grants would enable state and local governments to continue to provide public services.

    In a related development, the governor has appointed Federation Executive Director Greg Devereux to a special task force on Washington’s fiscal crisis. That special panel meets for the first time Thursday (Dec. 4).

    Also expect some budget news to come out of this week’s pre-session legislative hearings in Olympia.