December 23, 2009

Legislators need to hear from you - and so do media

This is the last scheduled hotline message of 2009, so in between holiday festivities with friends and families, take a moment to prepare yourself mentally for a tough 2010 legislative session.

Messages to legislators:

You know from previous hotline messages the kinds of cuts being proposed in the governor’s “Book 1” all-cuts supplemental budget. She says she’ll come back in January with a Book 2 budget with new revenue and closed tax loopholes to mitigate the proposed cuts.

  • We need to continue to let legislators know the need for the Book 2 approach.
  • Call 1-800-562-6000 and give legislators the message:
Support a Book 2 budget that:

  • generates new revenue;
  • suspends targeted tax breaks;
  • and asks us where to find common sense efficiencies to protect public safety and quality services.
  • We need a budget that does no more harm and preserves the quality of life in Washington.
Resources for you:

This week, you’ll be getting your copy of the December union newspaper, the Washington State Employee, with more details on the budget situation. It includes a full directory of legislators, with their direct phone lines and e-mail addresses.

Also, look for updated resources and calls to action on our website at

Messages to media:

We need your help to counter anti-state employee editorials and letters to the editor.

Among the responses that have already run is Federation Executive Director Greg Devereux’s rebuttal to an editorial in the Tacoma News Tribune that blamed the economic mess on the misguided assumption you were unwilling to make sacrifices at the bargaining table—when the truth was you’ve sacrificed more than $1 billion in pay raises, health benefits, pension payments and jobs (through layoffs). To read Devereux’s response, see the link on our website at or go directly to the TNT at:

If  you see nasty editorials or letters that need rebutting, let us know at

Or write your own letter to the editor or respond if an online response box or blog is available. Each newspaper has a box on its editorial page explaining how to submit letters to the editor, how long and where to send or e-mail them. Typically, length must be no more than 200 to 250 words. For instance, The Olympian and the Tacoma News Tribune have a 250-word limit, while the Seattle Times, the Spokane Spokesman-Review and the Bellingham Herald limit letters to 200 words.

Come to Olympia:

Members are wasting no time bringing their message directly to legislators, in meetings in legislative districts and even to key legislators’ offices in Olympia. A delegation from Ahtanum View Corrections Center in Yakima (below) came to the Capitol Monday with the message about why AVCC should not be closed.

 The key is to have a constant presence in Olympia throughout the 60-day session that starts Jan. 11. To schedule your own lobby day, contact April Sims at 1-800-562-6002 or e-mail

A number of lobby days have already been set: Jan. 18, Martin Luther King Jr. Day; Jan. 21, Conservative Caucus; Parks, Jan. 27; Next Wave, Jan. 29; and Public Employees/Revenue Lobby Day and Rally, Feb. 15 (Presidents’ Day).  
  • Register online here to attend one of these lobby days or choose your own date.

December 19, 2009

Union's response to attacks on you - in TNT

WFSE/AFSCME Executive Director Greg Devereux's "Viewpoint" guest column rebutting Wednesday's anti-state employee editorial in the Tacoma News Tribune ran in today's TNT.

Read it here.

(NOTE: Yes, the TNT edited the piece to misspell Devereux's last name.)

December 15, 2009

There he goes again; Senator Zarelli goes after step increases

Like autumn's falling leaves, Sen. Joseph Zarelli's perennial attack on your step increases has returned again for what seems like the umpteenth time.

Step increases are not pay raises. They are salary. They are part of the pay the state promises its employees when they come to work for the state.

Step increases in fact are an actuarial accounting tool that saves the state money. By phasing in pay over the first six years or so of a state worker's employment, the state saves from having to pay the full salary from Day 1. With the normal turnover of state employees, the state is never paying full salary for all its workers.

One way to think of it is step increases give the state a discount on paying its employees.

So these misguided perennial attacks on step increases and health benefits and more of what you get as a state employee deflect from the real issues.

Sen. Zarelli can cut your step increases, but that's no guarantee that will reverse the cuts to public safety in Community Corrections, or bolster the juvenile rehabilitation continuum of care, or stop the disabled and mentally ill from being summarily ejected from caring campuses like Frances Haddon Morgan Center or Rainier School or the PALS program at Western State Hospital.

So, we need to say to Sen. Zarelli and the rest of his colleagues in the Legislature, both Democrats and Republicans, move off the phony issue of step increases and instead support a Book 2 budget that:
  • generates new revenue;
  • suspends targeted tax breaks;
  • and asks us where to find common sense efficiencies to protect public safety and quality services.
  • We need a budget that does no more harm and preserves the quality of life in Washington.
Call 1-800-562-6000 and give legislators that message.

Rainier School meeting - site change!

Sen. Pam Roach has organized a major community meeting in Buckley tomorrow to support Rainier School, which is targeted for closure in the governor's supplemental budget. The site has been changed to Buckley City Hall in the city council chambers/senior center. So the Rainier School community meeting is 3 p.m., tomorrow, Dec. 16, at Buckley City Hall.

December 11, 2009

Overlooked in budget rollout: closure of Ahtanum View and Pine Lodge would be done outside of Legislative budget process

One of the overlooked secrets in this week's budget rollout is that the Department of Corrections actually intends to close Ahtanum View Corrections Center and Pine Lodge Corrections Center for Women independent of what the Legislature does on the budget.

DOC intends to close Ahtanum View, in Yakima in March 2010, just three months away! Those elderly and medically fragile inmates would move to Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell.

Pine Lodge in Medical Lake would close in May 2010. The plan is for the inmates to be shipped across the state to Mission Creek in Belfair.

These expedited closures go beyond what the recent consultants report recommended. The Legislature ordered that report so it could review options. But DOC plans to move ahead before the Legislature has even weighed in.

DOC rationalizes that it can save $20.7 million by acting now. Waiting for the Legislature to act, assuming lawmakers would go along, would "sacrifice" $1.6 million.

This is not acceptable. The Legislature should review the closure plan as part of the supplemental budget process. And lawmakers should review them in the context of possible revenue increases and closing of tax loopholes aimed at preserving the quality services provided by institutions, including Pine Lodge and Ahtanum View.

So, call legislators at 1-800-562-6000 and urge them to demand that they review the closure plan for Ahtanum View Corrections Center and Pine Lodge Corrections Center for Women before DOC unilaterally acts.

Meanwhile, members at both institutions are continuing their mobilization. We won't tip our hand here, but stay tuned for details.

December 9, 2009

SPECIAL UPDATE: Governor's all-cuts supplemental budget plan brutal; coalition opposes


    This is a special update of the Federation Hotline on Wednesday, Dec. 9.

   The governor today unveiled her constitutionally required supplemental budget with only existing revenue.
    It is a budget balanced on the backs of quality services and state employee families.

    It’s unacceptable and now we have to fight for an alternative budget that generates new revenue, closes some of the tens of billions in tax loopholes and asks Federation members on the front lines common sense ways to save money.

Even the Governor admits it’s an unacceptable budget and she will propose a “Book 2” budget once the Legislature convenes in January.

“I do not support this budget. ... for me it is unjust,” the Governor said.

The Governor said her “Book 2” budget in January will be a combination of revenue increases, closing tax loop holes and exemptions, and cuts.

So it’s not the end of the story. But while the governor can propose a “Book 2”alternative budget, that doesn’t mean the Legislature will go along. In fact, we fully expect lawmakers to propose even more drastic cuts. Already, Senate Republicans are talking about taking away your step increases.

The Governor finds some $850 million in budgeting techniques to help fill the expected $2.6 billion to $2.7 billion deficit. That leaves about a $1.8 billion deficit to fill under current projections.

So, here is where we stand in the “Book 1” all-cuts budget unveiled by the governor today:

• Cuts to your health benefits. Your current 12 percent of premium costs would remain, but with less money going into overall funding, you’d pay 12 percent of higher costs. Also, the governor’s all-cuts plan calls for higher deductibles, office visit fees and other point-of-service costs in 2011.

• Closing Frances Haddon Morgan Center in Bremerton by 2011, and closing Rainier School by 2014 - with one cottage at Rainier closing this biennium. In Developmental Disabilities, there would be an expansion of the successful State-Operated Living Alternative (SOLA) program, but not enough to offset reductions in the residential habilitation center program.

• Closing Ahtanum View Corrections Center in Yakima, which cares for elderly and seriously ill inmates, and Pine Lodge Corrections Center in Medical Lake.

• In Juvenile Rehabilitation, the governor proposes no institution closures but instead closures of cottages and elimination of beds at Naselle Youth Camp, Maple Lane and Green Hill Schools. The recent consultants report warned against any reductions. Under the Governor’s proposal, Naselle Youth Camp would be reduced to 53 residents; Maple Lane School would have one cottage cut; and Green Hill School would have two cottages closed.  The budget also assumes lower risk assessments to move more residents from institutions to group homes.

• Elimination of the Basic Health Plan and General Assistance-Unemployable, among others and “suspension” of the interpreters program in DSHS. The already poorly treated interpreters have been organizing for a union with the Federation.

• A cut of $100 million in higher education.

• A cut of 1,527 state employee positions, of which about 40% would be represented by the Federation.

• Some cuts in Community Corrections that still have to be analyzed.


To recap:

The governor issued her first version of the 2010 Supplemental Budget (“Book 1”) Dec. 9. It is an all-cuts budget, as required by law. But come January she will also issue a second version of the budget (“Book 2”) that lays out a plan for legislators to raise revenue.

Call to action:

Call 1-800-562-6000. Tell your legislators to support a Book 2 budget that:
• generates new revenue;
• suspends targeted tax breaks;
• and asks us where to find common sense efficiencies.
• We need a budget that does no more harm and preserves the quality of life in Washington.


December 8, 2009

Budget delayed a day

In deference to today's memorial service in Tacoma for the four slain Lakewood police officers, Gov. Chris Gregoire has delayed the unveiling of her 2010 supplemental budget proposal until tomorrow, Dec. 9. Call late Wednesday for a special update.

Reform I: Natural Resource agencies will share, but no mergers or consolidations in Governor's Reform Plan

Common sense prevailed and the final report on reforming natural resource agencies and the governor's resulting executive order do not include possible mergers or consolidations-ideas that had been floated since September.
The Federation's Natural Resources Task Force will keep an eye on what happens now after the Dec. 2 release of the report on transforming the delivery of natural resource services.

The changes that will come involve streamlining permitting, appeals and ending duplication in agency review processes. Several agencies will work together to integrate efforts to improve tourism and outdoor recreation. The Department of Natural Resources will provide maintenance and other services-except conservation management and land use policy--for 840,000 acres of land owned by the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The six-month review involved agencies like Ecology, Fish and Wildlife, Parks and Recreation, Agriculture, Natural Resources and others.

While the governor rejected the costly and inefficient ideas to merge agencies, it doesn't mean the Legislature might not initiate some of those strategies.

That's why the WFSE/AFSCME Natural Resources Task Force has to remain vigilant, said its chair, Scott Mallery, an Ecology member in Spokane and member of Local 1221.

Read the press release here.

Reform II: Commerce, Information Services

The governor also announced plans Dec. 3 to reform certain functions involving the Department of Commerce and Department of Information Services.

The recommendations for Commerce include a list of proposed priorities, program consolidation and transfer of duties (mostly from Commerce to other agencies). For instance, emergency food assistance would move to DSHS, Agriculture and General Administration. Several housing programs would move to DSHS. Forensics sciences improvement would shift to the Washington State Patrol and the State Building Code Council would go to Labor and Industries.

Information Services would take over e-mail and server management for all agencies.

And 17 boards and commissions, most advisory boards for state prisons, would be eliminated.

But we have to be vigilant. Whenever there's talk of consolidation, the possibility of contracting out raises its ugly head.

The Commerce recommendations call for "increasing private community partnerships."

So there's a lot to watch out for in terms of safeguarding jobs and quality services.

Read the Commerce report here.

First results of WFSE/AFSCME initiated Washington Management Service transparency bill previewed

There weren't a lot of details, but a legislative committee got its first preview of the mandatory annual reporting on the size of the Washington Management Service and exempt service and the size and cost of any bonuses they receive.

The House State Government and Tribal Affairs Committee on Dec. 4 got an update on the progress of those reports required by House Bill 2049, the 2009 law initiated by the Federation.

"Our participation in this legislation has been motivated by our frustration in trying to obtain data from all agencies about the growth of WMS/exempt personnel and the benefits they receive compared to our members," Federation Lobbyist Matt Zuvich told the panel. "To date, it has been a black box with a secret key we were not privy to.

"We have only been given a preview of the DOP (Department of Personnel) report, and have not had an opportunity to scrub it thoroughly. Initially, I would tell you that it looks like we may be moving in the right direction. We are excited about that."

Big turnout at forum to save Maple Lane school, other JRA facilities

More than 100 Local 1926 members and community supporters turned out for the Dec. 4 forum to save Maple Lane School-and other juvenile rehabilitation facilities expected to be offered up by the Legislature.

A consultants report mandated by the 2009 Legislature reluctantly called for the closure of Maple Lane School in south Thurston County, which houses about 190 juveniles and employs about 250 people.

Maple Lane School Local 1926 sponsored the forum. One major focus was rejecting "wedge efforts" to pit one community with a JRA facility against another. All four JRA facilities (Maple Lane, Green Hill School in Chehalis, Naselle Youth Camp and Echo Glen Children's Center in Snoqualmie) are vital parts of the continuum of care.

"It's a team and each has a role to play-and if you take one part away, you mess the whole thing up," Local 1926 President Chad Raish said.

"We get pitted against each other and it's tough," he said. "It wears on you. And it's tough to be a state worker. You hear the gloom and doom. And it affects us, but also the surrounding communities."

Legislators from both parties backed Maple Lane and all JRA facilities.

"You perform a vital role in our community and I want you to continue to do that," Sen. Dan Swecker, R-20th Dist. said.

"We've made investments, you've made the facility world-class, the study was flawed," Rep. Richard DeBolt, R-20th Dist. said. DeBolt is House minority leader.

Closing Maple Lane and sending the young offenders elsewhere is not an option, said Rep. Gary Alexander, R-20th Dist. Alexander is the top Republican on the budget-writing House Ways and Means Committee.

"The investments we've already made are significant," Alexander said. "The populations are so different. It simply doesn't make sense as a safety issue."

"You're a model across the country," said Rep. Tami Green, D-28th Dist.

Park Aides say YES to WFSE/AFSCME!

Park aides, a vital part of our state parks and recreation system, have chosen the Federation and will now become part of the existing Parks and Recreation Bargaining Unit.

A majority of the unit signed authorization cards for the Federation in the official "cross-check" tally conducted by the Public Employment Relations Commission Dec. 3.

Renton Technical College bargaining update

The bargaining team at Renton Technical College, which negotiates under a different law than for all other Federation members, has made good progress after their fifth session at the table.

Five more bargaining days have been set through January: Dec. 16, Jan. 5, Jan. 13, Jan. 20 and Jan. 26.

So far both sides have signed off on ground rules, the performance evaluation article, a memorandum of understanding for an "all employee in-service day" and a first-ever union-management communications committee article.

The team is now working on articles on professional development and layoff and recall.

December 3, 2009

Commerce report released

Defining Commerce: Next Steps in Our Mission to Grow and Improve Jobs A Report to the Governor and Legislature in Accordance with EHB 2242 (Chapter 565, Laws of 2009)

December 1, 2009

Governor set to unveil 2010 supplemental budget proposal December 8

The governor is scheduled to release her proposed 2010 Supplemental Budget proposal Dec. 8. By law, it must be balanced. So brace yourself for an all-cuts plan that will be brutal as the budget deficit has grown another $2.7 billion to $11.7 billion.

But that won't be the end of the story. There is a growing movement that the cuts already made earlier this year have gone too far. We've cut to the bone. Any more cuts are a tragedy waiting to happen.

Most believe that before the legislative session starts Jan. 11, the governor will issue a "Book 2" budget. This would be an alternative to an all-cuts budget.

So expect bad news Dec. 8. But then it's our job to create better news, and support a Book 2 budget that avoids deep cuts that will ruin the quality of life in this state.

Once the governor unveils her legally required all-cuts, balanced budget Dec. 8, it will be time to send a message to legislators that enough is enough.

This will be a time for innovative solutions-with shared sacrifices.

Because you've already sacrificed more than $1 billion in lost pay raises, higher health costs, layoffs and pension funding.

There is another way:
Generate new revenue.

Finding new revenue makes more sense than the drastic cuts needed to close the new budget gap. For instance, the state could close the Department of Corrections and cut all funding for the University of Washington and Washington State University--and still not get to $2.7 billion in savings.

End or temporarily suspend big tax breaks.

We sacrificed $98.5 billion in revenue for tax breaks the past two years. Some are good and fair and should remain untouched -- like the sales tax exemption on food. But the Department of Revenue has identified $14.8 billion in tax breaks that could easily be repealed or suspended.
Even a temporary suspension of a fraction of those tax breaks makes more sense than balancing the budget on the backs of the vulnerable, public safety and state employee families.

Ask US where to save.
You've already sacrificed through layoffs and higher workloads to balance the budget. It makes more sense to ask us where to save, like trimming the Washington Management Service. Why make us pay even more for health insurance? Why wipe out whole programs vital to public safety, higher education and care for the most vulnerable? We need to continue looking for common sense efficiencies.
What now?

To recap:

The governor will issue a first version of the 2010 Supplemental Budget Dec. 8. It will be an all-cuts budget, as required by law. But it's likely she will also issue a second version of the budget ("Book 2") that lays out a plan for legislators to raise revenue.

Call to action:

Call 1-800-562-6000. Tell your legislators to support a Book 2 budget that:
  • generates new revenue;
  • suspends targeted tax breaks;
  • and asks us where to find common sense efficiencies.
  • We need a budget that does no more harm and preserves the quality of life in Washington.

Ahtahum View Corrections Center members picket to save jobs and public safety, protest closure plan

Dozens of Ahtanum View Corrections Center and Local 1326 members staged a peaceful picket at the corner of North 40th and Summitview in Yakima Monday to save local jobs and protest a consultant's recommendation to close the unique facility caring for elderly and ill inmates.

At an impromptu rally, Ahtanum View member David Niles said the move to close the facility is pennywise and pound-foolish.

"Introducing these offenders into institutions with other offenders will create an environment far less humane than the model that currently exists," Niles said.

"Ahtanum View Corrections Center is an ADA facility. It will cost millions of dollars to our taxpayers in this depressed economy to replicate at another facility."

Sad Times

As we mourn the deaths of four brave public employees, the four Lakewood police officers ambushed and murdered Sunday, we remember two Federation members:
  • Michael Nelson, a former member of the WFSE/AFSCME Executive Board and longtime activist with Local 931 at Eastern Washington University, died Sunday afternoon after a long battle with cancer, according to the local's Tom McArthur. Nelson passed away about 5:30 p.m. at his home, surrounded by friends and family. Mike was also a former Local 931 president and served on the Higher Education Policy Committee, the Grievance Committee and the Finance Committee. Final arrangements are pending. The entire Federation family extends its condolences to Mike's family and Local 931.
  • Neal Richards, the Local 1556 DOT member killed on the job Nov. 19 after being struck by a falling branch, was laid to rest Saturday (Nov. 28) after the hearse carrying his body led a miles-long motorcade of DOT, Washington State Patrol, PUD and other vehicles driven by those who knew and respected him.
The motorcade stretched from the Drennan & Ford Funeral Home in Port Angeles to the Sequim View Cemetery some 16 miles away in Sequim.

Along the route, members of the public stopped to pay their respects, including two firefighters from the local fire department who parked their emergency vehicles, with red lights flashing, outside their station as the motorcade passed.

At the cemetery, the Rev. Art Morlin said final prayers over Richards's casket as hundreds, many wearing DOT orange armbands, gathered to say a final goodbye.
DOT's David Dye read letters of condolence from Gov. Chris Gregoire and DOT Secretary Paula Hammond.

Mourners then trekked back to the Port Angeles Elk Lodge for a memorial service and reception where they shared special remembrances.