June 26, 2009

Printed copies of the 2009-2011 contracts for General Government and Higher Education Coalition are on the way; download online copies now

2009-2011 contracts for General Government and Higher Education Coalition bargaining unit employees are in print production now and a printed copy will be distributed to employees at the end of July. Under the contract, the employer is required to provide each employee with a printed copy of the contract and to post it online.

Printed copies are generally ready for distribution on the first day of the contract (July 1, 2009), but because of the need to re-negotiate aspects of the contracts and the additional ratification process, the contracts were not available for printing in time for a July 1 distribution.

PDF copies of the “print-ready” contracts are available to employees now at WFSE.org > Contract Center.

Print-ready versions are also being posted on LRO’s web.

PEBB poised to approve 2010 design plans that result in increased health care costs to state employees

While the budget crisis played out dramatically during the legislative session, the nuts and bolts of budget cuts are now working their way into policy and programs. At the Health Care Authority, the PEB board has been considering design plans for 2010 that fit the new budget levels.

The PEB board is faced with providing programs within a 0% trend, or what’s known as flat line funding. At the June 24th meeting, the board reviewed recommendations of plans that meet the budget goal but also include changes to benefits and increases of out of pocket (OOP) costs to employees.

“Benefit changes are not unexpected, but the increases are depressing and will have far reaching impacts to state employees,” WFSE Executive Director Greg Devereux told the board members. “The recommended increases to out of pocket expenses are extremely high and may have a tremendous impact on utilization of services. We need to pay attention to what this does to the workforce. State employment has always been a trade off between wages and benefits, and now, we’re trading both.”

Under the recently ratified 2009-2011 contracts, the employee premium contribution remains at 12%. Depending on your plan selection, this could mean a reduction of monthly premiums.

The plans have not yet been adopted, but here’s a peek at the recommended monthly premium rates for state employees:

The real changes are in the design of the plans. The bulk of the cost increases to state employees will be felt at the point of service. All plans, with the exception of Kaiser Classic, will now have annual deductibles. Depending on the plan, deductibles will increase to a range from $250-$2000 for individuals and $750-$4000 for families. Out of pocket (OOP) maximums are also increasing, in some plans from $750 to $2000 for individuals.

“This is onerous on state employees,” commented Greg Devereux. “We do expect to make up ground in a better economic climate. State employees are already 13% - across the board – behind the private sector in wages and traditionally make this up in benefits. We plan to make this up in the future, when the recession recedes.”

In the meantime, employees can try to mitigate some of their out of pocket (OOP) costs by selecting the plan that best fits their health care needs when open enrollment begins in October. The charts below highlight the changes being recommended for each plan:

New and increased deductibles and out of pocket costs for services make selecting the right plan more critical. You can learn more about strategies to selecting a health care plan that best fits your utilization of services in the PEBB enrollment guide.

The PEBB continues to work out the final details and is scheduled to meeting again on July 8, and again on July 15 to vote on approving the plans.


June 25, 2009

Thousands to rally for health care reform

June 24, 2009

In what is expected to be the largest rally supporting national health care reform in American history, 2,000 AFSCME members are expected to join thousands of other union members and their allies from across the nation this Thursday on Capitol Hill for National Health Care Reform Rally and Lobby Day.

The need to improve America’s health care system is critical. More than 47 million Americans lack health insurance coverage, and the cost of going to the emergency room is passed along to those who are covered. Meanwhile, health care companies continue to rake it in: Profits at 10 of the country’s largest publicly traded health insurance companies rose 428 percent from 2000 to 2007, according to Health Care for America Now! (HCAN), organizer of the rally.

AFSCME is a founding member of HCAN, a national grassroots campaign to win quality, affordable health care for all, that represents a collective 30 million people nationwide.

After the rally, which starts at 11:30 a.m. at Upper Senate Park, participants will attend “town hall” meetings and lobby lawmakers. Their goal: build public support for a new national health care system that provides people with the option of keeping their current private insurance plan if they’ve got one they like, or selecting a public health insurance option that guarantees affordable coverage (and eliminates the private insurer middleman). Learn more on the HCAN website.

June 24, 2009

Understanding the effect of deferring the state's contributions

The Legislature ordered the deferral of $448.6 million in the state’s contributions to pensions as a way to save money in the recession-affected budget. The money stayed in the General Fund for other items.

But it’s important to stress that the deferred payments cannot and will not affect current state workers’ constitutionally protected pension benefits. It will not affect individual benefits. However, the potential downside is that the long-term lack of funding will force pressure to create additional state pension plans that may be less fair.

The state has deferred pension payments in the past. But it’s a double-edged sword.

In the long run, it’s fiscally imprudent to eliminate current funding of pension benefits. In effect, you either pay now or pay much more later. But in the short term, removing the pension funding means that the number of layoffs is lower than it could have been.

Moreover, in the short-term, employee PERS 2 contribution rates will also go down. On July 1, the contribution rate for PERS 2 members will go from 5.45 percent to 3.89 percent (the rate for PERS 1 members is fixed by statute at 6 percent).

But what goes down, must go up. We will probably see rates rise in a few years as the state tries to make up the difference from what it deferred this biennium.

PERC determines Psychology Associates are represented by WFSE

The Psychology Associates assigned to the Community Justice Centers in Seattle and Spokane have been found by PERC to be within the WFSE community corrections bargaining unit, and that they have a community of interest with the employees in that unit. DOC created these positions in early 2008 and treated them as unrepresented. The Teamsters, who represent the Psychology Associates in the Institutions, filed a representation petition to represent them.

WFSE intervened and successfully argued that these positions should have been placed in the Community Corrections bargaining unit from the beginning. PERC found that DOC had relied on an outdated bargaining unit description, and that these employees primarily work in the Community Justice Centers, serve on teams made up of Community Corrections members and share a community of interest with WFSE’s DOC bargaining unit. The order was issued on June 19, 2009.

June 18, 2009

Revenue forecasts better than expected?

It’s all relative, but it appears that the state’s June revenue forecast released today is better than expected.

It forecasts an additional $297 million in lost revenue in the next budget cycle. Some had predicted revenues would dip up to $1 billion more.

The state’s budget director Victor Moore told the state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council that the administration will look at an additional 2 percent in cuts to keep the General Fund in the black. He said that means a cap on hiring and other “program efficiencies and reductions.”

We will know in the coming days and weeks how this plays out.

But as council director Arun Raha said, “It increasingly appears that we are finally approaching the end of this ‘Great Recession.’”

June 17, 2009

General Government Contract Ratified

The re-negotiated General Government contract covering 30,000 Federation-represented state employees has been ratified, 3,884-369. There were 19 invalid ballots.

The vote count wrapped up today (June 17) at Federation headquarters in Olympia.

Mail ballots from the remaining Higher Education Coalition campuses will be counted next, followed by Washington State University. Two coalition campuses have already held onsite voting. The latest: Everett Community College, where members ratified the contract 70-0 on June 16. Western Washington University ratified 111-14 on June 10.

To recap, EWU BU I (92-18), EWU BU II (10-0), and UW Police Management (6-1) all ratified earlier.

The University of Washington contract is still in mediation.

Important Notice/Reminder for Labor and Industries Bargaining Unit Employees

From Joe Nilsson:

The notice and form for nominations for L&I Office Safety Committee members was mailed out to all L&I BU employees May 29. The deadline for making nominations was 5 p.m. on June 12. Some of you expressed a concern that you didn’t receive the notice and form. To address that issue, please be advised that the deadline for making nominations has been extended to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, June 23.

To make a nomination, you may contact Mary Donnelly, WFSE staff, at 1-800-562-6002 or via email at mary@wfse.org. When making a nomination please provide the nominee's name and work location. Be sure to confirm with the nominee(s) that he/she will serve if elected.

If there are the same number of nominees as there are positions available for a specific office (or floor in Headquarters) those individuals will be declared elected. If there are more nominees than positions for a specific committee (or floor in Headquarters), an election will be held and ballots will be mailed by Friday, June 26.

June 16, 2009

Howard Ocobock laid to rest with full military honors

Hundreds gathered in Yakima Monday (June 15) to pay their respects to Howard Ocobock, the Federation's vice president, who died June 6.

More than half the attendees were Federation members from all across the state.

After a moving funeral service, Ocobock was laid to rest at Keith and Keith Cemetery with full military honors conducted by William Wharton Post No. 379 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Ocobock served 30 years in the United States Navy, National Guard and Naval Reserve.

At the funeral service, Federation President Carol Dotlich and Executive Director Greg Devereux were called on to give Ocobock a union tribute.

Dotlich noted the tattoo Ocobock got when Federation members accepted and met his challenge to reach 10 percent membership in the PEOPLE program.

"He's an AFSCME man through and through and now he sports proof of that for eternity," Dotlich said.

Devereux praised Ocobock for his big heart and devotion to Federation members.

"Seemingly without effort, Howard set the bar so high for what a vice president should be that his successors will have to work hard to attain that level," Devereux said. "It was a simple formula: Put the members first in all things, help the president in every way possible and don't think about yourself. A simple formula, a successful formula, but not easy to replicate."

Ocobock passed away June 6 in Longview after a courageous battle against cancer. He retired in March after 27 years as an equipment mechanic for the Department of Transportation in Yakima, where he became active in Local 1326. He was a past president of the local, as well as shop steward and Policy Committee delegate. In 1994, the Transportation Policy Committee first elected him to the Executive Board. He also served on all three General Government bargaining teams. In 2004, he was elected to the first of his three terms as vice president. And in 2006, he became a regional vice president for the Washington State Labor Council.

"We miss you Howard, thank you for your time with us," Devereux said in his eulogy.

Read messages posted at http://wfsec28-howard.blogspot.com.

Senator Cantwell Health Care Call-in Day Wednesday (June 17)

The United States Senate Finance Committee is putting together a health care reform bill as we speak. But private insurance companies are aggressively trying to block the option of a public health insurance plan. They don't want any competition or threat to their profits.

One of our senators, Sen. Maria Cantwell, sits on the Finance Committee. But she hasn't come out in support of a public health insurance plan. We need the choice of a public plan that will help contain costs, increase competition and provide us all with options for quality, affordable health care.

Call Sen. Cantwell June 17 and ask her to support the choice of a public health insurance plan. Call 1-888-460-0813.

Demands to Bargain on Layoffs Mean Wide Impact Bargaining

As expected, the Federation is filing demands to bargain with several agencies over the impacts of proposed layoffs. The goal is to mitigate budget cuts and reduce the number of Federation-represented state employees who actually have to lose their job.

Agencies have notified the Federation of some 259 layoff notices so far, including in the Department of Social and Health Services, Department of Natural Resources, Department of Fish and Wildlife, Parks, Department of Health and Department of Labor and Industries. Of those, several have gotten other options and will not lose their jobs.

The union has filed numerous demands to bargain impacts of proposed reductions. Included: Closure of Unit 2 at Pine Lodge Corrections Center for Women in Medical Lake, affecting 30 staff; proposed elimination of the Enhanced Parole program in DSHS Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration; reductions at Maple Lane School, Green Hill School and Echo Glen Children's Center (JRA); closure of a living unit at Rainier School; "organizational" changes at Fircrest School; expedited closure of Ward S-3 at Western State Hospital; among many others.

"We are filing demands to bargain everywhere to fight layoffs in every venue," Federation Executive Director Greg Devereux said.

Watch for details throughout the summer.

DD Case Resource Manager Settlement Update

It's been frustrating, but word from the third-party administrator for the DD case resource manager settlement is that the checks should be coming by the end of the June.

The latest holdup has been getting technical calculations from the Department of Retirement Systems.

The settlement checks come from the $1 million settlement from the pay equity lawsuit affecting some 360 DD case resource managers.

The settlement was OK'd by the Legislature and the courts in 2007. The case resource managers were doing work comparable to that done by social workers, but not getting paid for it.

EWU, WWU, UW Police Management ratify contracts

Members in four onsite votes held so far have each ratified their re-negotiated contracts for these tough economic times.

The latest are the two bargaining units at Eastern Washington University. In onsite balloting Monday (June 15), EWU Bargaining Unit I voted to ratify on a vote of 92-18. Bargaining Unit II voted 10-0 to ratify.

Members at Western Washington University in Bellingham ratified the re-negotiated Higher Education Coalition contract that will cover them. The vote was 111-14. Onsite balloting took place June 10.

The members of the UW Police Management Bargaining Unit ratified their re-negotiated 2009-2011 contract 6-1. Onsite balloting took place June 10.

The last onsite balloting takes place today at Everett Community College.

All other units voted by mail. Ballots were returned by June 12. The General Government ballot count is now in progress, with the time-consuming task of checking the thousands of ballots against the membership list. That vote count will be followed later this week by tallies of the remaining Higher Education Coalition campus bargaining units and Washington State University.

The University of Washington contract is still in mediation.

June 11, 2009

Bargaining Updates: UWPM & WWU ratify contracts

  • The members of the UW Police Management Bargaining Unit ratified their re-negotiated 2009-2011 contract on vote of 6-1. Onsite balloting took place June 10.
  • Members at Western Washington University in Bellingham have ratified the re-negotiated Higher Education Coalition contract that will cover them. The vote was 111-14. Onsite balloting took place June 10.

June 9, 2009

Services pending for Howard Ocobock, WFSE/AFSCME's VP

To recap Sunday’s message, services are pending for Howard Ocobock, the longtime Department of Transportation member activist out of Yakima Local 1326 and WFSE/AFSCME’s vice president since 2004. Howard, 61, died Saturday night (June 6) at home in Longview after a battle with cancer.

The 27-year DOT member just recently retired as an equipment technician 3.

Ocobock, also a regional vice president of the Washington State Labor Council, battled his disease with dignity and grace while carrying out his duties as vice president. He visited just a little more than two weeks ago with Department of Corrections members who had just won a vote to keep their union and contract.

He will be remembered for his long service as a Local 1326 officer, WFSE/AFSCME Statewide Executive Board member, Transportation Policy Committee delegate and General Government Bargaining Team member. As vice president, Howard traveled the state to support members in job actions and other activities.

Check the link here for service information. There you can now view photos of Howard and leave your remembrances.

Here are some of the comments left on that blog already:

“My hunch is where ever we go after we die Howard is busy making friends with everyone and organizing to make it a better place.”

“I hope you are in a good place and no longer suffering. I will miss you.”

Reminder: Natural Resources Task Force meets this Saturday in SeaTac

A meeting to form the Federation’s Natural Resources Task Force to deal with possible state consolidation of services and agencies is this Saturday.

That meeting will follow the Natural Resources Policy Committee meeting at about 2 p.m., this Saturday, June 13, in the Grand 1 Ballroom at the SeaTac Doubletree Hotel.

At issue is a proviso in the 2009-2011 state budget (Section 907 of HB 1244) that directs the governor to convene a work group to “identify consolidation opportunities to improve service delivery and reduce costs” in natural resources agencies. A report is due Sept. 1.

Policy Committee delegates and alternates from Natural Resources agencies (or one like Health that might have some ties to natural resources) are encouraged to attend.

The Natural Resources agencies include the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Ecology, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Parks and Recreation Commission and the Recreation and Conservation Office.

Budget Updates

As we get more information on potential layoffs and reductions brought on by the recession-affected budget, we will get information out.

Remember, all impacts of proposed layoffs must be bargained. That’s where your contract can mitigate impacts. And that process can also save many jobs.

The DSHS Statewide Union-Management Communications Committee met May 19 and got an overview of the situation there. The agency pegged the number of cuts at 500 positions. But UMCC at other levels can get a better fix on those numbers and our hope is they do not end up that high.

For instance, the DSHS Juvenile Rehabilitation Statewide Union-Management Communications Committee met June 3. Cuts on the table appear to be in the 10s, not 100s. Demands to bargain have been filed at each of the four JRA institutions to preserve the rights of members targeted for layoffs.

On JRA Probation and Parole, it’s hoped that most of the 41 positions targeted for layoff with the elimination of the Enhanced Parole Program can be saved through a new “Re-Entry Program.” But in JRA, the big cloud hanging over everything is the budget proviso calling for a possible elimination of 250 beds.

Steering Committee forming to keep ahead of Child Welfare Services Privatization Project

A teleconference of members in DSHS Child Welfare Services took place June 6 to get out front on the legislatively mandated privatization pilot projects. The Federation is forming a steering committee to assist with our representation on the Transformation Design Committee.

If you’re interested, e-mail Jeanine Livingston at jeaninel@wfse.org. A secure CWS Privatization blog has been set up; to request an invite to join, go to www.wfse.org > blogs > CWS Privatization Blog. Use the request invite link.

Once confirmed, you'll receive an email from WFSEc28.

Check out the LGBTQI blog for June Pride events

The Federation’s LGBTQI Committee has produced a blog listing all this month’s Pride events around the state. To view it, go to http://wfsec28-lgbtqi.blogspot.com/.

You can also get to it by going to the main Federation website at www.wfse.org and clicking on the link to all WFSE/AFSCME blogs.

June 7, 2009

BULLETIN: Union mourns Howard Ocobock, WFSE/AFSCME's VP

Howard Ocobock, the longtime Department of Transportation member activist out of Yakima Local 1326 and WFSE/AFSCME’s vice president since 2004, died Saturday night at home in Longview after a battle with cancer.

Ocobock, also a regional vice president of the Washington State Labor Council, battled his disease with dignity and grace while carrying out his duties as vice president. He visited just a little more than two weeks ago with Department of Corrections members who had just won a vote to keep their union and contract.

He will be remembered for his long service as a Local 1326 officer, WFSE/AFSCME Statewide Executive Board member, Transportation Policy Committee delegate and General Government Bargaining Team member. As vice president, Howard traveled the state to support members in job actions and other activities.

Services and other arrangements are pending.

We've set up a site where you can view photos and leave remembrances.

June 5, 2009

Flawed DOC assessment tool focus of story on NPR today

WFSE member Ton Johnson comments in today's story by NPR about the assessment tool used by DOC employees.  Listen here.

June 2, 2009

Massive "Health Care for All" Rallies Spark New Round in Fight for National Health Care

Last Saturday's massive "Health Care for All" rally in downtown Seattle has sparked renewed efforts to win national health care reform as several good-and bad-proposals make their way through the U.S. Congress.

Some 3,500 Federation and other marchers took part in the event.

Meanwhile, several dueling plans have hit Congress, according to the Federation Legislative and Political Action Department.

The House version is expected to head to the floor by July 31. The Senate is looking to get its version through by early August. The August recess will be spent hammering out differences between the two versions.

The House plan appears to include a public health insurance option. Sen. Ted Kennedy's version in Senate committee appears on the right track.

However, a small group of senators on the Senate Finance Committee, which will introduce its own version of reform later this month, is trying to forge a bipartisan compromise that would "trigger" a public health insurance plan only if the private insurance companies don't clean up their act first. If that plan succeeds, it would be a poison pill that kills health care reform.

In the coming weeks and months, watch for letters and online action directed at Sen. Maria Cantwell to strongly oppose the "trigger" plan and instead support Sen. Charles Schumer's proposal to include a public health insurance option in the Finance Committee's bill.

Go to www.wfse.org > Action Center to take action now.

Speaking Out for State Employees

WFSE/AFSCME President Carol Dotlich at the Mainstream Republic Conference in the Tri-Cities speaking on the experience of being characterized as "greedy state employees" by the press during the recent legislative session.



AFL-CIO President Sweeney speaks about the AFSCME members of Washington and their ability to deal with the state's economic situation. This interview was during the meeting of the G20 in London.