September 29, 2009

Appeals Court Sides with Federation, Strikes Down Contracting Out Rules

The state Court of Appeals has agreed with the Federation and struck down three of the state's contracting out rules.

The court upheld the 2008 ruling made by a Thurston County Superior Court judge on the lawsuit against the rules filed by the Federation.

The rules came from the Department of General Administration.

But the appeals court said GA exceeded its authority when it wrote the 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 appeals court ruled those rules restricted the opportunity only to employees who lose their jobs or who would be reassigned.

The state may appeal to the state Supreme Court.

WFSE/AFSCME State Convention This Weekend

The Federation's biennial state convention is this weekend. You can get pre-convention details on our website at > Convention 2009.  Check there for details during the weekend and after.

September 22, 2009

Member Outrage Triggers Possible Changes After Escape, Capture of Eastern State Hospital Criminally Insane Murderer

Members in mental health have united in sharing the public's outrage over the escape of an Eastern State Hospital criminally insane murderer during a "field trip" to the Spokane County Fair Sept. 17.

Before we do that recap, the latest: The union and DSHS on Sunday agreed to a member task force for the purpose of reviewing and revising forensic unit policies and procedures at Eastern State Hospital and Western State Hospital.

Now, the detailed recap:

When state officials and media outlets started the typical scapegoating of Federation members given an impossible job, Eastern State Hospital members struck back.

Working with the state union, they released the following statement on Sept. 18:

The line workers at Eastern State Hospital share the public's outrage over the escape of Phillip A. Paul at the Spokane County Interstate Fair on Thursday.

In the Phillip Paul incident, the hospital workers on the scene at the fair, as they were instructed to do, notified their chain of command within two to three minutes of discovering Paul's escape. It was the administration in Medical Lake that waited some two hours to notify law enforcement authorities.

The ward workers, members of Local 782 of the Washington Federation of State Employees, have repeatedly over the years opposed the administration policies and practices that allow the kinds of "field trips" like the one Paul took to the fair. They believe he was an extreme escape risk and the administration should never have allowed him on the field trip. The workers have unsuccessfully fought to stop the outings for murderers, rapists and pedophiles committed to the hospital as criminally insane.

Media outlets across the country carried the members' concerns, running stories with headlines like this: "Wash. Union says it warned about field trip danger." Greg Davis, an Eastern State Hospital worker and president of Local 782 in Medical Lake, appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America" Monday morning (Sept. 21).

The Spokane Spokesman-Review reported Sept. 18:

The forensic ward, known as "2 South 1" is inhabited by mental patients who have been determined by the courts to be not guilty of serious crimes by reason of insanity, or people judged to be incapable of assisting in their own defense.

"He was not the only murderer at the fair yesterday," said Greg Davis, president of Washington Federation of State Employees, Local 782, which represents Eastern State Hospital workers.

Davis said hospital workers "have repeatedly over the years opposed administration policies and practices that allow the kinds of field trips like the one Paul took to the fair."

The union local president said hospital workers accompanying the patients on the field trip notified their superiors at the hospital "within two to three minutes" of discovering Paul's escape.

"It was the administration in Medical Lake that waited some two hours to notify law enforcement authorities," Davis said....

Davis, the local union representative, said that field trips to such public events as fairs, baseball games, circuses and the Ice Capades routinely include "murderers, rapists and pedophiles committed to the hospital as criminally insane."...

"Several of my members were surprised that Mr. Paul was approved to go to the fair," Davis said. Wilson, head of the hospital, said Paul had been "a fairly model patient." But court documents dated Sept. 4 show the judge overseeing Paul's case continues to harbor reservations over his progress, concluding that Paul still represents "a threat to public safety, because, regardless of the reasons, his condition has deteriorated."

Meanwhile, reporters in Western Washington began wondering if the same concerns existed at Western State Hospital in Lakewood. There followed another series of reports about gaps there. Here's part of the story that appeared on KOMO TV in Seattle:

At Western State Hospital in Lakewood, security guards and mental health workers say the answer is easy: Paul should never have been allowed on a field trip in the first place.

They say no one should be allowed out of the criminal side of the hospital without first consulting them.

"I think the message is that it's a grievous mistake not to engage the workers who actually do the hands-on work," said Carol Dotlich, president of the Washington Federation of State Employees

Last week, at Western, a resident of the criminal unit managed to walk out of the locked facility, but was later found at a nearby mall.

The union says both escapes come at a time the state is cutting security positions -- three from Western's force of 25.

"It was a perfect example of staff being distracted by a manager and one of the supervisors being gone to a layoff briefing of all things; how ironic," said hospital union president Craig Gibelyou.

The bottom line is safe places to work and safe communities. Maybe now the bosses will listen.

Phillip Paul was recaptured Sunday near Goldendale. He's back at Eastern State Hospital.

State Task Force on Child Welfare Privatization Pilots Meets

The state Transformation Design Committee, the formal name for the task force on the legislatively mandated two pilot privatization projects in Child Welfare Services, met Sept. 16 and 17.

The committee dealt with many technical issues. But red flags went up again when DSHS Secretary Susan Dreyfus addressed the task force. She said she'd gotten the governor's approval to "be bold" and "innovative" with her intentions to "increase capacities in the communities" and "incorporate greater stakeholder input." Reading between the lines, that was taken by some to mean the state is interested in privatizing more of DSHS Children's Administration than just the two pilot demonstration sites in Child Welfare Services.

That has led to an urgent meeting of the Federation's TDC Steering Committee to continue working on "next step strategies." That meeting will be held during the Federation's state convention next week. The meeting will be 11 a.m., Friday, Oct. 2, at the SeaTac Doubletree Hotel in the Cascade 13 room.

Renton Tecnical College Bargaining Update

Members at Renton Technical College, which negotiates under a different collective bargaining law than other state employees represented by the Federation, have set bargaining dates.

The RTC team recently completed a two-day training on Interest-Based Bargaining (IBB). The first bargaining session took place last night, Sept. 21. They agreed on ground rules and set bargaining dates through December: Oct. 12 and 22; Nov. 2 and 16; and Dec. 3 and 15.

September 21, 2009

Criminally Insane Killer Captured

The Washington Federation of State Employees today released the following statement on Friday, September 18th:
The line workers at Eastern State Hospital share the public’s outrage over the escape of Phillip A. Paul at the Spokane County Interstate Fair on Thursday.

In the Phillip Paul incident, the hospital workers on the scene at the fair, as they were instructed to do, notified their chain of command within two to three minutes of discovering Paul’s escape. It was the administration in Medical Lake that waited some two hours to notify law enforcement authorities.

The ward workers, members of Local 782 of the Washington Federation of State Employees, have repeatedly over the years opposed the administration policies and practices that allow the kinds of “field trips” like the one Paul took to the fair. They believe he was an extreme escape risk and the administration should never have allowed him on the field trip. The workers have unsuccessfully fought to stop the outings for murderers, rapists and pedophiles committed to the hospital as criminally insane.

Local 782 President, Greg Davis, comments on ABC's Good Morning America about Paul's attendance at on field trip, escape and capture.

Criminally Insane Killer Captured

September 16, 2009

WFSE/AFSCME has 'serious concerns' about appointment of new DSHS assistant secretary for Children's Administration

WFSE/AFSCME has serious concerns about the appointment today of Denise Revels Robinson as assistant secretary for DSHS Children’s Administration. Time will tell if it’s the best decision for the children of Washington state.

Revels Robinson headed the troubled Milwaukee Child Welfare System in Wisconsin.

DSHS Secretary Susan Dreyfus announced Revels Robinson’s appointment today.

The full DSHS press release is attached here.

Follow the story here on The Olympian blog.

September 15, 2009

DOC Announces Restructure of Community Corrections Division

Your Corrections Union-Management Communications team got a preview Sept. 10, but the Department of Corrections yesterday (Sept. 14) rolled out its proposed restructure sparked by budget cuts and new reduced sentencing laws.

We've said it before and we'll say it again: These cuts impact not only jobs but they compromise public safety. Our Community Corrections members said throughout the session and continue to say this. We only hope we don't have a tragedy that proves the error of this path the Legislature and administration has taken.

The cuts to staff will take place from this Friday through the end of the year. The Federation and its Community Corrections team have so far mitigated the cuts and will continue bargaining impacts and offering alternatives in the interim. But a cut is a cut is a cut.

But having said that, here are the facts of what DOC is proposing on restructuring Community Corrections:
  • Previously, it appeared that 500-plus individuals might be impacted. The data shared in recent days shows considerably less, but the numbers are still over 200 layoffs. Many of those may be vacant, temporary and other positions and the actual number of employees forced out will be considerably less than what the Legislature estimated. But whether it's hundreds of cuts or only dozens, the impact of any cut in Community Corrections will be felt.

  • DOC is using the workload matrix to determine the cuts they believe are necessary. The decrease in offenders supervised is caused by sentencing changes (shorter terms) as well as policy changes regarding the type of offenders supervised based on risk and the reclassification of offenders.

  • The agency plans to eliminate vacancies, non-permanents, probationary, and trial service positions that will not become permanent by Oct. 1, 2009.
The changes set to take effect this Friday (Sept 18):
  • Eliminate all vacant Matrix positions unless the position elimination drops the section below Matrix staffing levels;
  • Return permanent staff in temporary appointments to their permanent positions;
  • End all temporary Community Corrections officer appointments in King and Pierce counties;
  • End all probationary CCO appointments in King and Pierce counties unless the probationary employee will achieve permanent status on or before Oct. 1, 2009;
  • End all temporary support staff appointments.
  • End all probationary support staff appointments unless the probationary employee will achieve permanent status on or before Oct. 1.
The changes set to take effect Nov. 15:
  • Lay off permanent support staff necessary to reach Matrix staffing levels (about 33 positions). DOC has vacant positions in these job classes available as layoff options.

  • Lay off all Community Corrections assistant positions that are funded through the Matrix (about 36 positions).
The changes set to take effect Jan. 1:
  • Eliminate Re-Entry Specialist positions (about 26 positions).
There is hope that after the decline seen since the sentencing change and reclassification of offenders with the risk model that there will be a leveling and perhaps an increase in the population.

Federation Natural Resources Task Force Needs Your Feedback on State's Reform Ideas

As you may know, the Legislature ordered the governor to convene a work group of natural resource agencies to "identify consolidation opportunities to improve service delivery and reduce costs."

That subcabinet group released a set of ideas yesterday, Sept. 14, and is now seeking public comment.

The Federation's internal Natural Resources Task Force also needs to hear from you so we can present your perspective to the administration. By tomorrow (Wednesday, Sept. 16), you will be able to submit comments and feedback on our website. You'll go to and look for the "flash" display at the bottom of the main page. Or you can go to > WFSE Blogs and More > Natural Resources Policy Committee blog.

There, you'll be able to view state documents detailing the ideas and you can link to an online survey. Your Natural Resources Task Force will then compile your comments and present them to the governor and public lands commissioner. They need to hear from you by Oct. 5.

The Federation task force includes representatives from several natural resource agencies, including Ecology, Parks and Recreation, Fish and Wildlife, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Health. It met Sept. 11 to go over a preliminary matrix of ideas. They got a briefing from John Mankowski, the governor's natural resource liaison. And they talked to Marty Brown, director of the governor's legislative affairs office.

The ideas rolled out yesterday are just that. They are not recommendations. They are not options. Many contradict each other. Many are cost-prohibitive. Think of them as food for thought.

But take them seriously. You must weigh in on them. Take the time to log on, read the documents and take the survey and submit your comments.

The ideas are grouped into four broad categories: organizational, with ideas ranging from consolidation into two agencies to inter-agency collaboration in the current structure; sharing services and resources, with emphasis on data, financial and law enforcement services; improving permitting; and streamlining the quasi-judicial hearings process.

September 12, 2009

A notice to all Community Corrections Officers (CCO), Specialists (CCS), and Assistants (CCA):

You may have heard about this if you work for the Department of Corrections.

The U.S. Department of Labor is investigating uncompensated overtime between the dates of Sept. 16, 2005, and Sept. 15, 2007.

This may be of interest to you if you believe you worked more than 40 hours of ANY week during that 2-year period without compensation.

If you’re interested in testifying, contact investigator Roberta Sondgeroth at the US DOL at (206) 398-8038 ASAP.

There are laws and a contract to protect you from any feared retaliation. Please pass this information on to anyone who may be affected.

September 9, 2009

E-Recruiting Ends - well, sort of . . .

We hate to say we told you so. But the state has abandoned its faulty E-recruiting system after sinking some $6 million into it.

Most agencies never posted jobs there and only 40 percent of new employees were hired through the system, according to a KPLU radio news report.

Ah, but bad ideas never truly die.

The state will get out of the e-recruiting business and instead turn it over to a private contractor.

Ginny Dale of the state Department of Personnel told KPLU: "We've been using the system for three years and rather than continuing to invest and try (to) improve it, we're going to move in a different direction and go with a hosted provider."

So, to recap, E-recruiting didn't work at the cost of millions of dollars so the state will contract it out to a private company that knows even less about state employees and state government at a cost of more millions of dollars.

They won't pull the plug on a failed system to recruit state employees but they will pull the plug on pay raises meant to retain good state employees. Makes perfect sense, doesn't it?

Important Date Change! November Policy Committee Meetings Moved to Nov. 21

If you're a Policy Committee delegate or alternate, please note that the November meetings originally scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 14, have been moved to the following Saturday, Nov. 21, at the SeaTac Airport Hilton. The change came to avoid a conflict with the AFSCME Public Safety Congress.

The Nov. 21 Policy Committees are important because that's when delegates to the nine respective committees will elect their representatives to the Federation's Statewide Executive Board.

And all you Huskies and Cougars out there, don't fret: Luckily the annual Apple Cup between the UW and WSU has also been moved from Nov. 21 to Nov. 28 to accommodate a national television audience. So there's still no conflict between the Policy Committee meeting and that annual rivalry.

Health Care Actions This Week

Today, AFSCME will send an e-mail blast to members urging them to call Congress to urge our representatives to hold firm on a public health insurance option. This comes the same day President Obama addresses the nation on health care reform in a 5 p.m. PT address to a joint session of Congress.

Tomorrow, you can take part in an exclusive strategy call on health care reform with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The call is tomorrow, Thursday, Sept. 10, at 3:15 p.m. PT. Space is limited. To RSVP for the call, please e-mail Roma Farrar-Smith at with your full name and local number.

September 2, 2009

Board OKs Bargaining Structure for 2011-2013 Negotiations

The latest contract just kicked in, but preparation for negotiations on the next, 2011-2013 contracts has begun with a focus on regaining some of the more than $1 billion in economic sacrifices made by WFSE/AFSCME members in 2009.

The union will also advocate for supplemental bargaining. The procedure adopted by the WFSE/AFSCME Executive Board Aug. 30 sets that foundation.

Supplemental issues are those affecting employees in one bargaining unit or agency or institution or other subgroup, not necessarily the general membership.

And for the first time members can directly submit ideas for the new collective bargaining agreement.

WFSE/AFSCME members will be able to submit contract proposal ideas directly to the union. Locals, policy committees, the Statewide Executive Board and the union executive director can still submit proposals.

Contract proposal forms and statewide bargaining team nomination forms will be mailed out by Sept. 10. The bargaining structure and nomination and election procedure will be published in the September Washington State Employee newspaper out about that same time.

Contract proposals must be in by Oct. 31. Nominations for the respective bargaining teams must be in by Oct. 5.

Ballots listing nominees for the respective bargaining teams will go in the mail the week of Oct. 22.

You’ll also be able to log on to the Federation website to download the bargaining structure, nomination procedures, contract proposal forms and nomination forms. Watch for a new link in the coming days (Bargaining 2011-2013).

The WFSE/AFSCME Executive Committee and Collective Bargaining Committee were to meet Sept. 10 to craft nomination and election procedures for the smaller supplemental bargaining teams.

Actual bargaining is likely to start in the late winter or early spring of 2010.

Key Gainsharing Lawsuit Hearing Set for Oct. 30

The legal wheels continue to move on the union’s lawsuit to overturn the Legislature’s 2007 decision to end gainsharing for PERS 3 and PERS 1 retirement system members.

A summary judgment hearing has been scheduled for Oct. 30 in King County Superior Court.

A new trial date has been set for Dec. 1. However, that date could change depending on what happens in the summary judgment hearing process, including any appeals. > Legal Center > Gainsharing

Natural Resources Task Force to Meet Sept. 11

The union’s Natural Resources Task Force will meet Sept. 11 to continue its watchdog work as the state continues its legislatively mandated study of consolidating natural resource services.

The task force includes members from Ecology, Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife, Parks and Recreation and several other agencies that perform natural resource services.

The Legislature this year ordered the governor to convene a workgroup to recommend consolidations.

The WFSE/AFSCME Natural Resources Task Force will meet to review the state’s research, develop a strategy to get member feedback and craft any sensible alternatives. > BU Blogs.

IT Shared Services Group Meets

The union's work group following the state's information technology shared services initiative met Sept. 1.

The Legislature asked that the IT functions in agencies be brought under the umbrella of the Department of Information Services when it made sense.

The WFSE/AFSCME workgroup on IT shared services wants to make sure the interests of IT workers and public services don't suffer.

Bargaining blogs are accessible at > BU Blogs

Supplemental Bargaining Moving in DOC

The supplemental bargaining process has started for Department of Corrections members over some agency-specific issues that couldn't be negotiated in the current, 2009-2011 contract.

This spring's unsuccessful decertification effort froze bargaining on DOC-specific issues.

The DOC Supplemental Bargaining Team met Aug. 27 and is set to meet again Sept. 17.

Stay up to date at > WFSE Blogs > Corrections BU.

Major Health Insurance Reform Rally Thursday

All union members in the Puget Sound area are urged to rally for quality universal health care coverage at the "Stand Up for Health Insurance Reform" rally at 6 p.m., tomorrow, Thursday, Sept. 3, in Seattle's downtown Westlake Park. Speakers will include U.S. Congressman Jim McDermott.

As Congress prepares to reconvene, this is our opportunity to make a clear statement to our delegation, to the rest of Congress and to President Barack Obama that we want to finish what they started by reforming our health insurance system. Thursday's rally is one of a series of national events on Sept. 3.