December 15, 2010

Governor unveils proposed budget that cuts, cuts, cuts

Saying she had no choice in this time of $5.7 billion deficit, Gov. Chris Gregoire this morning unveiled a budget she said she hates and in places “isn’t even moral.”

But whatever the reasons, the blunt impact is it will add permanent layoffs to a total of 10,000 by the end of the next biennium (1,800 more on top of the 8,200 layoffs in the current biennium).

Her budget would drastically trim state services:
  • In Juvenile Rehabilitation, closing Maple Lane School by June 30, 2011, releasing more non-violent and low-risk youthful offenders, and reducing juvenile parole services, including increasing caseloads from 1 to 20 to 1 to 25. Total jobs cut: 88.
  • In Mental Health, maintaining the Oct. 1, 2010 Western State Hospital ward closure by reducing clinical staff associated with that ward, reducing costs at Eastern State Hospital and the ESH Consolidated Support Services, for a total Mental Health employee cut of 117 positions. 
  • In Developmental Disabilities, Frances Haddon Morgan Center would close June 30, 2011, and Yakima Valley School in June 2013. Total DD jobs cut: 173.
  • In Corrections, staff positions would be eliminated and several areas of supervision cut, including less electronic home monitoring of sex offenders.
  • In Parks, the state would cut all funding and rely on users to pay a use a fee. If the user fees don't generate enough revenue, the agency can close, transfer or mothball parks.
The agreement also factors in the 3 percent temporary salary reduction in the tentative contract agreement announced yesterday. The governor corrected the savings she announced yesterday. The real amount is $330 million not the $269 million she announced.

In a side issue, the governor made it clear she will not re-open the current contract and try to cut pay any more between now and June. "Enough is enough. I'm not going to go back to state employees," she said. "I don't know how we expect them to work their hearts out if we break their back. There comes a point where they are so demoralized they can't do the job. And I feel we're at a breaking point to be perfectly honest."

This is not the final word. Her budget now goes to the Legislature. You can expect a fight from the Federation.

Important correction about yesterday's HOTLINE


In yesterday's HOTLINE message on the tentative contract agreement in General Government, we erred in describing one aspect of the temporary salary reduction of 3 percent and the accompanying temporary salary reduction leave of 5.2 hours a month.

We incorrectly stated the temporary salary reduction leave was unpaid leave. It is not.

In fact, it would be paid leave you could bank up. The resulting savings to payroll costs still works out to 3 percent, generating the $330 million in savings the governor referred to. As we said, we will have a detailed summary on all parts of the contract in advance of the ratification vote.

December 14, 2010

Tentative agreement reached on General Government contract

The Federation and the governor’s office today reached tentative agreement on the 2011-2013 General Government contract.

The agreement came at 4 p.m. at the Thurston County Fairgrounds in Lacey and was publicly announced at a joint press conference with Gov. Chris Gregoire in her office at 4:45.

The agreement does call for more employee sacrifices in the form of what can best be described as a “pre-paid furlough plan.” All employees would have a temporary pay cut of 3 percent from July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2013. In return, employees would get paid (corrected 12/15/10) time off equal to 5.2 hours a month – equivalent to the 3 percent pay reduction. Employees would have great flexibility in when they can use this paid (corrected 12/15/10) “Temporary Salary Reduction” leave.

It also includes the recent 15 percent health care settlement.

The agreement also preserves step increases, call back pay and assignment pay – all of which the state originally wanted to freeze or cut.

And there were no takeaways and only improvements in non-economic, working condition articles.

Ratification arrangements are being made for Federation members to vote on the tentative agreement. We are working to get final contract articles online so you can start reviewing the agreement in advance of ratification.

As with the Dec. 2 health benefits funding agreement, the General Government contract is a bittersweet agreement in these tough economic times. In short, it plays defense against calls for even deeper sacrifices from state employees.

Your team faced the difficult choice of negotiating an agreement that mitigated those temporary sacrifices or having no agreement and allowing sometimes-hostile legislators to impose even deeper cuts to your economic well-being.

The primary goals going into negotiations were preserving health care costs at affordable levels and avoiding permanent layoffs, said Federation Executive Director Greg Devereux.

And realizing further sacrifices would be proposed in the wake of September’s and November’s disappointing revenue forecasts, your bargaining team was interested in something other than the chaotic and unfair furlough plan in place since July.

Under the temporary salary reduction plan, employees earning less than $2,500 a month full-time equivalent salary or $30,000 a year would be exempt from the 3 percent cuts (and of course would not receive Temporary Salary Reduction Leave).

The 3 percent reduction does not apply to overtime or for cashouts of vacation leave and sick leave.

The agreement also includes a “trigger” that if state revenues increase 3 percent in the November 2012 revenue forecast, then the temporary salary reduction would drop to 2 percent on Jan. 1, 2013 and the temporary salary reduction leave would go proportionately to 3.5 hours a month.

The temporary salary reduction agreement will generate an estimated $269.4 million over the next two years to help balance the $5.7 billion deficit.

“I’m very proud of the dedicated state employees that I represent,” Federation President Carol Dotlich said during the press conference. “Standing here today, I can tell you that when times were good they worked their full-time jobs and volunteered in the community doing many of the jobs no one else would have done….

“Facing the gravity of the situation that we face in Washington state today, I’m proud to tell you that they care first about the citizens of the state of Washington and they ask only that be allowed to provide affordable health care for their families and a way to live in this economy as well.

“I’m very proud of the sacrifices they’ve made to date and I want you to know that you will not find a more dedicated and committed work force than you have in the Washington Federation of State Employee members that you have employed today.”

Gregoire defended state employees from critics who say they haven’t sacrificed enough.

“They’ve given their fair share and then some,” Gregoire said.

When asked if the Legislature tries to impose more furloughs on top of the 3 percent temporary salary reduction, the governor said:

“I’ll fight them. This is a sacrifice I haven’t seen done by anybody else….These people have done all that I can ask them to do.”

The governor said the temporary salary reduction is more fair than the current furlough plan because it will cover 90 percent of state employees, not the roughly 25 percent under the current scheme.

The governor is also asking the citizen’s commission that sets state elected officials’ salaries to cut that pay by 3 percent in the spirit of shared sacrifice.

On the compensation article, Article 42, the 3 percent temporary salary reduction would not apply to compensation for overtime, cashouts or benefits.

You might wonder how temporary salary reduction (TSR) leave would work under the tentative agreement.

The TSR leave has no cash value as we said. Balances would need to be used by July 1, 2013. However, employees would be able to carry forward up to 16 hours of TSR leave that must be used by Sept. 1, 2013.

TSR leave must be requested and scheduled according to the same vacation leave scheduling requirements in the contract’s Article 11 on Vacation Leave.

TSR leave would be used before either vacation or sick leave (unless by doing so the employee would exceed the vacation leave maximum in the contract).

TSR leave may be used alone or in conjunction with other leave. It cannot be donated as shared leave.

One note: This agreement is for July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2013. The Federation and the governor now join in pushing for funding for the agreement from the 2011 Legislature. The administration and union will jointly seek legislation so there is no loss of retirement benefits from the temporary 3 percent pay cut.

The agreement on the temporary pay reductions was the lesser of many evils. Many politicians are calling for much worse cuts, including making you pay 30 percent for health premiums (your health agreement is 15 percent), giving up pay with no trade offs in the form of leave, cutting all step increases and sick leave cashout, widespread contracting out, among other harsh attacks on the economic security of state employees and their families. Republicans are calling for you to give up 2.5 percent from now through June; Democrats are not.

Newspaper editorials hammer the governor and legislators to take more from you. They blame you for any cuts to human services if you don’t give in. Here’s what the Tacoma News Tribune wrote Dec. 10: “Critical state services will be lost unless state workers swallow more hurt, both in this and the next biennium. That may not be fair, given the hits they’ve already taken, but it’s a brutal reality. Recessions aren’t fair to anyone.”

The Seattle Times on Dec. 7 declared war on state employees: “As of today, we begin a call for a change in the 85-15 split, increasing the employee share.”

Given that ugly environment, your team decided it was better to have an agreement going into the legislative session than not.

The tentative agreement you’ll vote on also includes the health care agreement and a number of improvements to the other 52 contract articles. On the non-economic working condition articles, the team succeeded in getting agreements with no takeaways.

Others article included in the overall tentative agreement:
  • The health care article negotiated Dec. 2 by the Federation-led Health Care Coalition. It moves off the state’s original push for you to pay 26 percent of your premiums to 15 percent (up from the current 12 percent). It also keeps deductibles, co-pays and other out-of-pocket costs at current, 2010 levels, that despite what the Seattle Times editorial board would have you believe, went up dramatically earlier this year. The 15 percent premium shares would take place in 2012 and 2013 (2011 premium rates are already set and covered by the current 12 percent contract provision).
  • Major improvements to articles on hiring and appointments, hours of work, better transfer language, preserving personal leave days, discipline, layoff and recall, among others.
  • In Article 39, Union Activities, new language will allow the use of e-mail by union officers and stewards for the purposes of contract administration with affected members. The team considers this a significant gain.
  • In Article 3, Bid System, the new language will add the Department of Veterans Affairs to the agencies where employees will be able to bid by location in addition to shift and days off.
  •  In Article 47, Workplace Behavior, what we often refer to as the anti-bullying article, an employee’s options to challenge inappropriate workplace actions would be expanded to include the ability to file grievances within an agency. Current contract language doesn’t allow any grievances over inappropriate workplace behavior.
There are many more improvements to non-economic articles that will be highlighted in future mailings and summaries. Look for them.

One final word. Your General Government Bargaining Team worked long hours since last spring, including six of the past seven work days. They worked into the early morning hours to fight to mitigate the compensation cuts everyone knew were coming and to offset those with improved language in working conditions articles. They were smart, they were tenacious, they were patient and they were strategic. And they kept members always in the forefront of their deliberations.

That’s it for now. We’ll have another special hotline tomorrow after the governor unveils her budget plan.

Gregoire announces agency consolidation plan

The governor this morning announced a plan to consolidate several agencies into existing or new agencies. The administration will ask the Legislature to approve the plan, along with language protecting your bargaining unit rights and contract protections.

Here’s what the governor proposed:
  • A new Department of Enterprise Services, to include all or parts of the current Department of Information Services, Department of General Administration, the State Printer, the Department of Personnel and Office of Financial Management.
  • Office of Civil Rights to include the current Human Rights Commission, the Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises and the commissions on African-American Affairs, Hispanic Affairs and Asian Pacific-American Affairs.
  • The Department of Natural Resources would now include the Department of Archaeology and Historical Preservation.
  • A new Department of Conservation and Recreation would include the State Parks and Recreation Commission, the Recreation and Conservation Office, the Department of Fish and Wildlife and law enforcement duties now performed by the Department of Natural Resources.
  • The Department of Ecology would now include the Columbia River Gorge Commission, the Pollution Liability Insurance Agency and the Reclaimed Water Program now in the Department of Health.
  • The Department of Agriculture would now include the State Conservation Commission.
She said she would also eliminate 36 boards and commissions and 351 gubernatorial appointments.

The consolidations would yield $30 million and a cut of 125 positions.

“We must build a new state government,” the governor said.


WFSE/AFSCME opposes two of Governor's propsed pension reform changes

The Federation on Monday went on the record opposing Gov. Chris Gregoire’s plan to cut automatic cost-of-living adjustments for PERS 1 retirees and to end early retirement provisions – retirement before age 65 – for new state hires in the other pension plans.

The Legislature must approve the changes, too.

On the PERS 1 cuts, Federation Executive Director Greg Devereux told the Associated Press:
“To take it away from pensioners now seems unfair. To simply eliminate them seems a little drastic.”
The union also opposes ending early retirement incentives for future employees.

The governor has another press conference Tuesday morning on another change to state government.

We’ll let you know. She unveils her budget Wednesday.

December 13, 2010

Special session gives hint of sobering week, months ahead

This is a relatively long message to give you context about what’s ahead this week. This coming week will set the stage for the next few months. And we don’t want to sugarcoat anything and have you be surprised when you see the next anti-state employee editorial or dismal budget news on TV.

First, Saturday’s special session of the Legislature made some $700 million in new cuts for the rest of the budget year through June 30, 2011. Many of them were cuts already taking place, like the additional furloughs in the Department of Social and Health Services.

The problem: The state says there is simply no money to cover the deficit. The Rainy Day Fund is gone. There is no federal stimulus money. Passage of Initiative 1053 makes it virtually impossible to raise new revenue. Defeat of the pop and bottled water tax cut millions in revenue. And there are few one-time gimmicks that can easily dig the state out of its whole.

So the governor and Legislature say they must cut, cut, cut even where they’ve already cut to the bone and into the marrow. Programs and agencies are on the chopping block. And of course state payroll costs.

But you already knew that. You understand the gravity of the state’s budget mess. You didn’t cause it, but you’re trying to save quality state services all the while fighting off attacks on the economic well being of you and your families.

And we’ll keep saying it until we’re blue in the face: State employee sacrifices have been significant and it’s time for the state to look in the right places to cut.

That message was delivered for the umpteenth time Saturday in a hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee on HB 3225, the $700 million cuts bill.

“Contrary to what you read in the editorial pages, this package of cuts, like the last two rounds of cuts, features real economic sacrifices by state employees,” said Dennis Eagle, the Federation’s director of legislative and political action.

“Federation members on average earn $42,000 a year and it is these people who are being subjected to wage reductions, furloughs, layoffs and out-of-pocket health care costs that have increased by 100 percent.

Eagle said the Employment Security Department reports that 4,900 former state employees are collecting unemployment insurance “and this package will increase that number."

“If the editorial writers were something other than propagandists, they would offer up their own loopholes to help (resolve) the economic crisis. Closing the loophole for newspaper publishers would surely restore much of the Disability Lifeline cuts you’re considering here today.

“More likely they’ll continue to call for more sacrifices by people other than themselves.

“State employees are real people who do important jobs under difficult circumstances and I just hope to live to see the day when the people who really created The Great Recession are asked to sacrifice as well.”

Here are examples of some wrong-headed editorials:
Let’s hope the facts Eagle laid out aren’t again sacrificed in this debate.

We say all this to prepare you for what will be a sobering week. The governor unveils her budget plan for 2011-2013 on Wednesday, followed Friday by the plan to cut another $400 million not covered in Saturday’s special session.

Four of the Federation’s bargaining teams meet early this week. The General Government and The Evergreen State College bargaining teams meet Monday, followed Wednesday by the Community College Coalition and Western Washington University teams. The budget situation looms over those talks as it has for the past eight months.


December 11, 2010

General Government bargaining makes major headway after week of bargaining

After bargaining four of the past five days, your General Government Bargaining Team has reached tentative agreement with the state on all but six of the contract’s 54 articles.

The team returns to the table Monday.

The General Government team reached tentative agreement this week on the following articles in the 2011-2013 contract:
Article 3 – Bid System
Article 4 – Hiring and Appointments
Article 11 – Vacation Leave
Article 22 – Drug and Alcohol Free Workplace
Article 26 – Housing
Article 39 – Union Activities
Article 52 – Printing of Agreement
Article 53 – Term of Agreement
Seven appendices and three memoranda of understanding
The six articles left on the table are:
Article 6 – Hours of Work
Article 9 – Licensure and Certification
Article 17 – Miscellaneous Paid Leaves
Article 27 – Discipline
Article 34 – Layoff and Recall
Article 42 – Compensation
Both sides have narrowed the differences remaining in those six articles.

  • The one-day special session of the Legislature is tomorrow (Saturday, Dec. 11) to deal with some of the budget cuts needed for the current biennium.
  • The governor is expected to unveil her budget plan for 2011-2013 next Wednesday, Dec. 15.

December 9, 2010

Maple Lane members swarm capitol to fight for juvenile rehab facility on the fast-track chopping block.

Some 50 Local 1926 members from Maple Lane School swarmed a pre-session legislative budget hearing Wednesday (Dec. 8) to urge rejection of the administration’s fast-track plan to close the juvenile rehabilitation facility in south Thurston County.

They picketed outside with “Save Maple Lane” signs before heading into the House Ways and Means Committee hearing.

Federation Lobbyist Matt Zuvich introduced them and had them stand to be recognized by the committee, noting that many had received “pink slips and layoff notices."

The union and a strong coalition of groups are fighting to the last breath to save Maple Lane – but in the short-term to stop the accelerated closure by the Department of Social and Health Services.

The agency now wants to ramp up the closure by two years to June 2011. That came because of the governor’s 6.3 percent across-the-board cuts.

But Brian McElfresh, a juvenile rehabilitation coordinator at Maple Lane, said the 6.3 percent cuts have been dumped on the school.

“As it stands, a fifth of the cuts in juvenile rehabilitation will be balanced on the back of Maple Lane,” McElfresh said.

“Maple Lane is a world class facility,” he said in urging a reversal of the overall closure decision.

But the sped-up closure plan is unwise and goes against the findings of the Legislature’s own study on facility closures, McElfresh said.

“We believe the Legislature should step in and put the brakes on the accelerated closure of Maple Lane brought on by the governor’s 6.3 percent across-the-board cuts,” he said. “It threatens youthful offenders and jeopardizes public safety….

“We think you should step in, defend the timetable you set last year and mitigate the harm that would be done by the sped-up closure of Maple Lane.”

Federation raises more concerns about the child welfare services privatization pilot project

The Federation took its continued concerns about what was supposed to be a pilot project to privatize DSHS Child Welfare Services in one region to a legislative oversight committee Wednesday (Dec. 8).

The union has voiced alarm at recent moves by DSHS that appear to extend the pilot or parts of the pilot statewide. That violates the law creating the pilot, 2SHB 2106.

The union took those concerns to the House Early Learning and Children’s Services Committee at a pre-session hearing Wednesday.

Ursula Petters, a social worker supervisor in Bremerton and a member of Local 1181, and Jeanine Livingston, the union’s contract compliance director, ticked off a number of potential problems with the request for proposals for phase 1 of the project.

Workload is one of the concerns, they said.

“Having only one family group meeting every 90 days on out-of-home placement is not acceptable,” Petters told the panel. “Permanency must be the focus from Day 1. Family group meetings with the social worker present need to occur at least monthly. Yet, this presents a new workload issue.

Wasting money in a time of a $5.7 billion budget deficit is another big concern.

“We are deeply concerned that the amount of money allocated to implement the proposed system is grossly inadequate to do all that the request for proposals prescribes to the master contracts,” Petters said. “With transportation, visitation, placement, housing, drug and alcohol treatment, expanding in-home treatment and services and adding staff – the master contracts will burn through these budgets in very short order – or alternatively not provide services when they’re needed.”

December 3, 2010

Health care article settlement reached

The Federation-led coalition of all state employee unions tonight reached tentative agreement on the health care benefits funding contract article that represents a victory in these tough economic times. But it will require more sacrifices – but not on the level the state originally proposed back in August.

Under the tentative agreement, your share of health care premiums for 2012 and 2013 would go from the current split of 88 percent paid by the state and 12 percent paid by the employee to 85/15. The 88/12 split remains for 2011.

Your team held tough and the governor’s team got the message and made significant movement off their original proposal to make you pay 26 percent and the state only 74 percent.

The state agreed to dip into two health fund reserve accounts to get to 85/15. Until now, they had not been willing to do that and insisted on the 74/26 plan.

The article now goes into all state employee contracts for 2011-2013. Negotiations on those master agreements are still in progress. If ratified, the premium changes would take place starting Jan. 1, 2012.

Also under the agreement, out-of-pocket costs for those in the Uniform Medical Plan would not change from current levels. It’s expected that Group Health and Kaiser would fall in line so those plans wouldn’t lose subscribers to the Uniform Plan.

While the health care agreement is a significant victory at a time when some politicians and editorial writers want you to pay upwards of 30 percent or more, the fact is this is an additional sacrifice. Going from 12 percent to 15 percent means the amount you pay for premiums will increase by 25 percent. But it’s not the 117 percent the governor originally proposed back in August.

Your Federation representatives on the Health Care Coalition stood strong and fought tooth and nail on Tuesday and again today (Dec. 2) to mitigate the damage as much as possible. The significant movement made off of 74/26 shows the results of their commitment.

The agreement came at about 5:20 p.m.

We expect the state as early as next week to come back to the General Government and perhaps other tables and propose additional wage cutbacks. We will wait to see what they have to propose. Republicans are pushing for a 2.5 percent across-the-board wage cut between now and July 1 alone.

All this comes because of the $5.2 billion deficit.

We’ll keep you posted.

November 19, 2010

Governor issues proclamation requesting unions return to bargaining table to help with deficit

Gov. Chris Gregoire tonight issued a proclamation requesting that all state employee unions immediately return to the bargaining table to help deal with the additional projected $385 million deficit problem announced today.

We have told the administration that we have never left the table – we bargained Tuesday and Wednesday and have four more dates before Christmas – so there’s no need to order us back to the table.

The governor apparently is triggering the part of the collective bargaining law that calls for negotiations to modify an agreement:

“If, after the compensation and fringe benefit provisions of an agreement are approved by the legislature, a significant revenue shortfall occurs resulting in reduced appropriations, as declared by proclamation of the Governor or by resolution of the legislature, both parties shall immediately enter into collective bargaining for a mutually agreed upon modification of the agreement.”

So she can call us back to the table – even though we never left -- but both parties have to agree to any modification of the contract.

So we already are bargaining, Federation members have submitted countless money-saving ideas through the union, through the governor’s “budget transformation” program and the program set up by Sen. Joe Zarelli and Sen. Margarita Prentice. And you don’t need to be reminded that in the past two years you’ve already sacrificed more than $1 billion in lost pay raises, furloughs, furlough-caused pay cuts, higher health costs, diverted pension funds, layoffs and the resulting workload increases. As one Federation member told the governor’s staff Wednesday during the health care job action, “We’ve taken it already in so many different ways.”

Indeed, we are the ones pushing the governor’s bargaining team to speed up the glacial pace of negotiations.
The governor’s move may be an attempt to head off calls for action in the wake of the lower state revenue forecast announced today. But we should also point out that her own budget director, Marty Brown, voted against accepting that forecast.

According to The Olympian: “It defies logic. The collections are close’’ to what were predicted in September, Brown told this morning’s meeting of the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council. “I just cannot see an almost $50 million-a-month drop from today to June 30.’’

We will keep you updated. But we wanted to let you know as soon as possible to give you some context if you hear about it on the street.

November 18, 2010

Message to Gregoire: Proposed 26% health premiums for 2012 and 2013 are a "state employee heath care tax burden" that would be "cruelest things the governor could do."

More than 100 Federation members from as far away as Pasco, Cheney and Spokane packed the halls of the state Capitol in Olympia yesterday (Nov. 17) to tell the governor “enough is enough” on her health care scheme.

They delivered more than 150 heart-wrenching letters from members telling of the economic hardships they’d face under her plan to make state employees pay 26 percent of their premiums in 2012 and 2013. The issue is stalled at the bargaining table.

Under figures provided by the state’s health care bargainers, an employee under the Uniform Medical Plan could end up paying $5,100 a year in premiums alone to cover their family.

If you looked at the governor’s proposed premiums for 2012 and 2013 as a “State Employee Health Care Tax,” that burden would slam those making less, like custodians and office assistants, while hardly inconveniencing those who make much more, like the governor and legislators.

For instance, a food service worker would pay 18 percent of his or her gross salary on premiums alone – before any other deductions.

So the message to the governor: We’ve been there for the state, defend us and save our health care.

“To have our people scapegoated and to have their health care taken from them in this way is perhaps the cruelest thing the governor could do,” Federation President Carol Dotlich told Marty Loesch, the governor’s director of external affairs, as the Federation members in AFSCME green shirts crowded into the governor’s conference room.

(Loesch said the governor was unable to meet with them in person because she had just been elected chair of the National Governors Association and was on the phone with the likes of Gov.-Elect Jerry Brown of California and Gov.-Elect Andrew Cuomo of New York.)

In the governor’s office and beforehand in a huge meeting room a floor below, Federation members said the proposed health care tax burden was just plain unfair.

“I believe state employees are being kicked when they’re down already,” said Nellie Reynolds, Local 931, Eastern Washington University, Cheney. “That’s not fair. It’s not right.

We’ve dedicated our lives to the public service, to this state. And I think that we deserve a decent health care for us and our families.”

Reynolds and others from Spokane-area locals brought hundreds of cut-out AFSCME green shirts with photos of those who couldn’t make the trip. Clipped to a string, they stretched the length of the huge Columbia Room.

“I’m here today to represent all those employees and telling the governor that she shouldn’t take the one benefit from state employees health care that should be afforded to all citizens at an affordable rate,” said Ginger Richardson, Local 308, Corrections, King county.

“We’ve had enough. We don’t need any more cuts to us. We’ve taken it already in so many different ways. Leave our health care alone.”

“These people I’m seeing are making $23,000 or so a year in income on top of all of their bills they’re struggling with already,” said Nathaniel Mountain, a custodian 1 with the Department of General Administration in Olympia and a member of Local 443. “I think it’s very hard and difficult for them to afford raising the health care cost.”

Mountain and other custodian 1s would face a State Employee Health Care Tax burden of 22 percent of their gross salary (UMP, full family coverage) under the governor’s plan.

Maureen Garrett, an office assistant 3 with the Department of Ecology in Lacey and a member of Local 443, said she has cut back on visits to the doctor “because I can’t afford 25 bucks a pop.”

“We need to keep our dignity,” she said. “We need respect. We don’t need to be cut down and being used because it’s easy to target state employees right now.”

Garrett and other office assistant 3s face a State Employee Health Care Tax burden of 15 percent of their gross salary (UMP, full family coverage) under the governor’s plan in 2013.

The Federation members gave wave after wave of compelling stories:

Charyn Niemeyer, a medical assistant specialist 3 with DSHS in Olympia and a member of Local 443, survived a heart attack on the job two years ago and survived with her health coverage. But it might be different under the increases proposed for 2012 and 2013.

She figured out her co-pays alone would be more than $60,000 – equal to two years of salary.

“My co-workers might as well leave me lay there on the floor and let me die,” Niemeyer said.
Melinda Murphy-Jones, a social worker 3 with DSHS in Tacoma and a member of Local 53, disputed the politicians’ view that the state employee health plan is a “Cadillac” plan.

“It’s ridiculous when a memo comes out from DSHS encouraging employees of DSHS who are earning lower wages to apply for Medicaid,” she said. “And they’re state employees? And we have the ‘gravy?’ We’re not quite sure where that gravy is or what the gravy is made of.”

Colleen Rice-Lozensky, a social worker 3 with DSHS in Seattle and a member of Local 843, pulled out prescription bottles of the several medications she needs to control her debilitating migraines and placed them on the governor’s conference table opposite Loesch, the governor’s aide.

“And if the cut comes to where my medicines are cut and I can’t afford these, I’m going to be going on (assistance) because that’s my only option and onto Social Security and Medicaid myself,” she said.

Dan D’Haem, a WorkFirst program specialist in Seattle and a member of Local 843, told of two co-workers on the edge of the cliff brought on by high health costs.

One co-worker, he said, “stops working at the welfare office and she goes immediately to a grocery store where she works another 40 hours every week. And she’s 50. And she’s been working for the state for her entire life.”
Another “is saving up money to be able to afford a bankruptcy attorney,” D’Haem said.

“We will do anything and everything in our power to ensure that our members at least have their health care, health care that they can afford,” Dotlich told the governor’s aides before the group left.

Loesch and Jim Justin, the governor’s legislative director, said they’d deliver the message to Gregoire.

Join the Health Care Action Team!

November 16, 2010

PEBB meeting cancelled, but that's not stopping us

The Public Employees Benefits Board cancelled its Nov. 17 meeting when they heard there might be more green shirts in the audience. But that’s not stopping us.

Join us instead tomorrow, Nov. 17, 1-3 p.m., at the state Capitol, in the Columbia Room on the first floor. We’ll talk about where we are in health care negotiations and perhaps take a little walk to an important elected official’s office.  [Learn more about the Health Care Action Team]

  • GENERAL GOVERNMENT. The General Government Bargaining Team returns to the table today and tomorrow.
  • CENTRAL WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY. The Nov. 19 bargaining for the CWU team has been cancelled at the request of the Labor Relations Office. It will be rescheduled. A bargaining date is set for Dec. 7.
  • THE EVERGREEN STATE COLLEGE. The TESC Bargaining Team negotiates Nov. 18.
  • UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON. UW contract mediation takes place Nov. 17 and 22.
  • COMMUNITY COLLEGE COALITION. In the past two sessions, the bargaining team for the coalition of 12 Community Colleges has reached tentative agreement on three more articles: 17 – Suspended Operations; 37 – Mandatory Subjects; and 39 – Seniority. Management refuses to budge on classifications/positions. Eighteen articles remain open. The team next bargains Dec. 15 at Clover Park Technical College.

November 10, 2010

L&I members take on quotas

A delegation of WFSE/AFSCME members from Labor and Industries met with the governor’s office Monday over the quota issue.

L&I management issued goals on enforcement activities, apparently even threatening discipline for failing to meet quotas.

This practice violates the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

So the L&I members appealed to the governor’s office, which listened and promised action. A report-back meeting is possible.

The members participating in the meeting were: Steve Halpain, Local 1221, Spokane; Beth Mason, Local 976, Seattle; Ronni Caudle, Local 976, Seattle; Mario Haynes, Local 53, Olympia; and Joe Michielli, Local 976, Seattle. They were joined by James Dannen, WFSE/AFSCME council representative, and Federation President Carol Dotlich.

Meanwhile, the members have designed signs and buttons and plan more job actions over the quota issue.

November 5, 2010

Agreement on DOC furloughs reached

The Federation’s DOC Supplemental Bargaining Team and the Department of Corrections late today signed a memorandum of understanding to deal with the impacts of the added furloughs from the governor’s 6.3 percent across-the-board cuts.

Under the agreement:
  • DOC employees already subject to the 10 furlough days imposed by the Legislature will take an additional eight hours (the equivalent of one day) of furlough time in May 2011.
  • All other DOC employees will take eight hours of furlough time each month from December 2010 to June 2011. That’s the equivalent of seven days.
  • DOC employees can take their furlough time in increments of no less than four hours at a time.
  • Both sides will work to set up a pool of Federation-represented employees willing to take voluntary furlough reductions in hours. DOC and the Federation will meet Dec. 6 to assess if there are enough volunteers to offset the future mandatory furloughs. “The first priority for relief from temporary layoffs will be the bargaining unit members taking an additional temporary layoff day in addition to the temporary layoff required in ESSB 6503 (the furlough law),” the agreement said. The furlough offsets would apply only to DOC employees represented by the Federation.
 The DOC furlough agreement was signed today by Sherri-Ann Burke of the Federation and Todd Dowler of DOC.

Those are the highlights. Read agreement here.

November 3, 2010

Account set up to take donations for ailing member Vonda Marcum

One of our members is in dire need.

Vonda Marcum, an office assistant 2 with the Department of Labor and Industries in Tumwater and a member of Local 443, has had a number of surgeries and has been off work from her state job and also a part-time job she had to make ends meet.

To help, the Washington State Employees Credit Union has set up a special account for donations to help Vonda with her medical bills and other financial hardships brought on by her serious medical condition.

If you would like to donate, go into any WSECU branch and ask to make a donation into the account called “Shared 2 Savings – Medical Bills” under Vonda Marcum’s name.

About election results...

There’s a lot we don’t know yet about yesterday’s election results. That’s because counting continues this morning in the 38 counties that vote totally by mail.

On the big races like U.S. Senate, you can follow media reports for updates. There will be many as counting continues in King County, where Sen. Patty Murray is winning 62 percent of the vote over Dino Rossi. Prognosticators say Rossi had to come close to winning in Snohomish and Pierce counties to overtake the Murray lead from King County; as of now he trails statewide, but is carrying Pierce County and narrowly trailing in Snohomish County.

It’s a little harder to get news about what the new state Legislature will look like. And that’s important to you because lawmakers are the ones writing the next budget that must fill a possible $5 billion deficit, with little if any appetite to raise new revenue after what voters said about taxes last night. Voters turned down the income tax on high earners (I-1098) and approved both Tim Eyman’s I-1053 to make it harder to raise taxes and I-1107 to repeal the temporary tax on pop, bottled water and some candy.

Luckily, they defeated I-1082 to privatize workers’ comp and throw 2,000 of our L&I members out of a job. They also appear to be defeating both measures to privatize liquor sales, I-1100 and I-1105.

And in the Legislature, there are just too many close races. It appears Democrats will hold onto smaller majorities in both the House and Senate, but that’s not a sure thing. At the end of the preliminary vote count last night, Democrats were trailing in seven races in the House and five races in the Senate. If that holds (and it probably won’t once all the final mail ballots are counted), the House Democrats would have a majority of 54-44 and Senate Democrats would have a majority of 26-23.

But we may not know the final make up of the Legislature or the results of many other races for several days or weeks.

Whoever gets sworn in Jan. 10 will face a bigger deficit with fewer options and huge pressure to cut. That’s why it’s so important you go to our website at and click on the Action Center to join the Health Care Action Team. Tuesday’s results dealt us a very tough hand, but they are now the cards we’ve been dealt. It’s not a time to give in. It’s a time to step up and Save Our State.

October 28, 2010

HOTLINE: Agreement reached mitigating impacts of new DSHS furoughs

WFSE/AFSCME and management of DSHS reached agreement on a “memorandum of understanding” that mitigates the impact of the new furloughs tied to the governor's 6.3 percent budget cuts.

The agreement saves the jobs of 160 DSHS workers, has fewer furlough days for previously exempt employees than management originally proposed and showed the public our members have innovative ideas to generate savings to offset furlough days. 

NOTE: This posting was delayed to respect the agreement to put out a joint statement first, which went out at 12:30 p.m. today.

Highlights of the agreement signed off at 2:40 this morning:
          • Only eight furlough days for those previously exempt under the furlough law passed by the Legislature. This is a big deal – management originally proposed nine. 
          • Commitment to use savings to offset furloughs if possible. 
          • Commitment to pend all performance evaluations until next June, unless absolutely necessary. 
          • Important workload modifications. 
          • Workers making less than $2,500 a month will be exempt.
          • And both sides committed to put out a joint statement to employees. 
          The negotiations were extraordinary – with DSHS Secretary Susan Dreyfus sitting on the management side, along with many of her top leadership team, including Denise Revels Robinson, head of DSHS Children’s Administration, Chief Financial Officer Gary Robinson, other division heads and superintendents of 24/7 facilities. 

          Your team worked long and hard for the fourth day this month. Negotiations started at 9 a.m. Wednesday and as we said didn’t wrap up until 2:40 this morning.

          It shows the value of having a union with the know-how to dig in and fight for out-of-the-box ideas to save jobs and money. One example of that was the agreement where those working holidays would be paid at straight time plus half, so that each holiday worked “during the time of temporary layoffs will count as an offset for a temporary layoff day for that employee.” The creative thinking aimed at preserving public services.

          “By negotiating new workload standards, by protecting the lowest-paid DSHS workers and by saving 160 permanent DSHS workers, the union has mitigated the debilitating aspects of DSHS’s current across-the-board compensation reductions,” said Carol Dotlich, president of the Washington Federation of State Employees.

          “We hate that additional furloughs are contemplated, but our members are trying to preserve as many services for our citizens as they can." 

          Download a copy of the full agreement here. 

          Here are more details:
            • Employees subject to the previous ESHB 6503 law that mandated 10 furlough days will take an additional temporary layoff day in November 2010 and May 2011.
            • All other employees will take eight furlough days between November 2010 and June 2011. 
            • Children’s Administration employees may choose to take a furlough day on Nov. 24 or Nov. 29, but if work demands prevent that, they can request an alternate day in November.
            • There are important options for those with alternate work schedules. Refer to the agreement for full details.
            • With the added furloughs – and decreased work time – the agreement recognizes that expectations have to be adjusted: “The agency will not expect employees to accomplish the same amount of work during the month of temporary layoff that the employees accomplished during a month where no temporary layoff occurred.”
            • Employees who work a holiday from November 2010 to June 2011 will be compensated at straight time plus half, for all hours worked on the holiday, instead of their regular rate of pay plus time and a half for all hours worked on a holiday. That will count as an offset for a temporary layoff day for employees working a holiday.
            • Employees with a full-time equivalent salary of $2,500 or less a month will be exempt from these furloughs unless their office or work location is closed. If their office is closed, employees who are eligible to use leave will be allowed to use leave.
            •  If a work location is closed on a furlough day, employees can turn their voice mail greeting to the “extended absence” message. Current 24-hour non-emergency message response requirements will be extended to 48 hours during the entire period of the furloughs from November 2010 to June 2011. The 48-hour non-emergency service response will also apply to internet, e-mail and fax requests.
            • Both sides agreed it is a priority to use salary savings in addition to those budgeted, booked and not needed for emergent and necessary expenditures, as determined by the secretary’s office, to reduce the impact of furlough days. Management will meet with the union monthly to discuss the number of furlough days that can be reduced consistent with this provision.

              Agreement reached on temporary layoff impacts

              The Department of Social and Health Services and WFSE/AFSCME have reached an agreement on a “memorandum of understanding” that mitigates the impacts of expanded temporary layoffs required to meet the Governor’s directive to achieve 6.3 percent across-the-board reductions for the current fiscal year.

              Bargaining went on throughout the day and night yesterday and an accord was reached early this morning.

              Among the highlights of the agreement:
              • Eight temporary layoff days for those previously exempt under the temporary layoff law passed by the Legislature this year
              • Exemption for employees making $2,500 a month in full-time equivalent salary unless their office or work location is closed, in which case they can exercise several leave option
              • Reduced workload expectations during temporary layoff months
              • No loss of state retirement benefits because of income lost due to temporary layoff days
              • Department commits to making it a priority to use other salary savings to reduce the impact of temporary layoff days
              • Department will suspend performance evaluations through June 30, 2011 for most represented employees
              • Waiver of requirement for advance written notice of temporary layoff days; one temporary layoff letter for each employee for the entire duration of the temporary layoffs
              • Flexibility in scheduling temporary layoff days
              The agreement is posted online at:

              October 25, 2010

              Bargaining Updates

              UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON. The UW Bargaining Team caucused Oct. 20 to prepare for mediation. The Public Employment Relations Commissions is expected to appoint a mediator and set dates sometime in November. In contract mediation, the mediator meets separately with each side and attempts to find solutions that the parties might have missed – or common ground that was never considered. Meanwhile, a subcommittee of the UW Bargaining Team on Oct. 28 will meet with management to negotiate improvements in the language on “cyclic employees” (all in Housing and Food Services or Student Union Activities and Facilities); these members work nine, 10 or, in rare cases, 11 months a year. The language in question involves how work is assigned during layoff periods.

              Follow negotiations on > Bargaining > UW/HMC Bargaining news & information.

              COMMUNITY COLLEGE COALITION. The bargaining team for the coalition of 12 Community Colleges negotiated last Friday, Oct. 22. The team is producing an update. It will be posted online at  > Bargaining > Community College Coalition news & information.

              GENERAL GOVERNMENT. Well, with the governor giving the impression in the media that nothing is happening at the bargaining table because of the impasse over the health care article, your General Government Bargaining Team decided it’s time to be more explicit about the progress your team has made. It’s similar to what other bargaining teams are doing, but up to now the General Government team has hyper-respected the contractual restrictions on what can be said publicly. So the team believes we can give you a broad outline without violating any contractual restrictions.

              Read the full report at > Bargaining > General Government Bargaining news & information (scroll down to read the update).

              Furlough bargaining this week in DOC, DSHS

              Bargaining on furloughs tied to the governor’s 6.3 percent cuts starts today in Corrections and resumes Wednesday in DSHS.

              DOC:  In the Department of Corrections, the management proposal appears to be one additional furlough day with those previously exempt now furlough eligible. But we need to see the formal management proposal at the table.

              DSHS:  In DSHS, nothing has happened since management walked away from the table Oct. 7. Rumors may be flying and you may be seeing nasty things on the internal DSHS online message boards and you may see confusing statements from management. But the truth is, there is no agreement on additional furlough days because management walked away from the table. As we said before, your dedicated Federation team worked three long days to try to get an agreement. But it was management that pulled up and walked out. Any uncertainty, any confusion is caused by management’s action, not the union’s. If you hear otherwise, it’s a lie.

              But having said that, negotiations in DSHS resume this Wednesday with DSHS Secretary Susan Dreyfus agreeing to personally sit at the table. Secretary Dreyfus agreed to hands-on negotiations after Federation Executive Director Greg Devereux wrote her a letter Oct. 15.

              Devereux said the goals Dreyfus had laid out to Devereux and Federation President Carol Dotlich on furloughs “may have been thwarted” by management representatives at the table.

              “We too want sound plans and agreements that are flexible and not administratively burdensome, and we came to the table with exactly that intent,” Devereux wrote. “But when we asked reasonable questions and provided information to support our positions, the LRO and your delegation left negotiations and management representatives started to malign the union."

              So, it’s hoped that Dreyfus’s presence will lead to quicker and more productive negotiations. We’ll keep you updated.

              October 20, 2010

              WFSE/AFSCME members jam benefits board meeting, ask for help in health care fight

              Federation members in AFSCME green jammed the meeting of the Public Employees Benefits Board today as they made a direct request on the 58th day waiting for the state to return to the health care bargaining table with a realistic proposal.

              “Adequate health care is a necessity,” said Brad Samples, a Local 53 member with DSHS in Tacoma.

              Samples wore black to make a statement about the pall the governor’s proposed health care package has cast over state employees. The governor wants state employees to pay 26 percent of their premiums, a 117 percent increase over the current 12 percent. That would mean an estimated pay cut of about $2,316 a year.

              “Darn it, I didn’t get in the business as a social worker or as state employee with lust for personal wealth,” Samples said. “I did it for reasons to try to improve my world, my community around me.

              “Unfortunately, we all need to be able to pay for minimum necessities of life….What has been proposed of further increases, it will be undoable for a number of individuals."

              Samples presented a bundle of letters from other members explaining the economic harm the proposed increases would mean.

              He read one from a member already hard-pressed by the out-of-pocket costs that went up this year, on top of no pay raises, pay cuts from furlough days and other sacrifices.

              “There are times when I and my wife go without food so that our two children have something to eat,” the member wrote.

              The Federation delegation showed up to enlist the benefits board’s support for innovative solutions to the huge cost increases proposed by the governor. A core minority of the board, led by Federation Executive Director Greg Devereux, is often narrowly outvoted.

              Steve Segall, a Local 443 member with DSHS in Olympia and a member of the General Government Bargaining Team, said legislators OK’d using a reserve fund, the “premium stabilization account,” to keep costs level in 2011.

              “We believe that the hardships continue as we look into subsequent years,” Segall said. “We believe that those reserves should be used again. And we ask for your support to move forward into this legislative session.”

              The board meets again Nov. 17 over the complicated issue of “redesigning” the Uniform Medical Plan and examining costs in hospitals used in the UMP.

              Federation members and allies shout down supporters of I-1082

              The Building Industry Association of Washington, who spearheaded Initiative 1082 to turn our state’s workers’ compensation system over to AIG and other Wall Street insurance companies that helped ruin the economy in the first place, got a jolt this morning when they “rallied” outside Labor and Industries (LNI) headquarters in Tumwater.

              An equal number of Federation members and members from other unions ranging from the IBEW to Building and Construction Trades spoke truth to power and shouted down the BIAW’s lies.

              LNI employees, who were discouraged by management from participating even on break time, showed their support by peering down from outside balconies and office windows.

              The Federation and allies shouted, “Let’s vote no on 1082, good for insurance bad for you” and “Is this how you use our bailout money?”

              After about a half hour of befuddlement because they couldn’t match the lungpower of the union team, the BIAW partisans slowly drifted away. The insults they shouted at the employees looking on from inside fell flat.

              The BIAW has publicly made it its mission to obliterate L&I, “closed down, windows shuttered, with weeds growing all over its sprawling campus.”

              After today, it looks like they’ll have to wait a long time for that.

              October 19, 2010

              Three job actions in coming days: LNI counter-demonstration; Benefits board meeting; and Corrections negotiations on furloughs

              You may have heard via our e-mail network, Facebook fan page and our website, but three major job actions take place starting tomorrow.

              Counter-demonstration against supporters of I-1082 

              The Building Industry Association of Washington is rallying at Labor and Industries Headquarters in Tumwater tomorrow, Wednesday, Oct. 20. The BIAW wants to hand over our workers’ compensation program to AIG and the other Wall Street giants who got us in this economic mess in the first place. And the BIAW and its ilk make no qualms about obliterating L&I and its employees, in their words, “closed down, windows shuttered, with weeds growing all over its sprawling campus.” 

              Well, we’re defending that campus with a counter-demonstration. 

              So join the Federation and its allies who oppose I-1082 for a counter-demonstration, 9:45 a.m., tomorrow, Wednesday, Oct. 20, at L&I Headquarters, 7273 Linderson Way S.W., Tumwater, WA  98501-5414. We’ll speak truth to power and counter the BIAW lies.

              Benefits board meeting 

              Also tomorrow, the Public Employees Benefits Board meets to discuss revising the list of providers under the Uniform Medical Plan. It’s also a chance to support the minority on the board who support affordable health care and press the board and Health Care Authority to drop its opposition to using health fund reserves to fund your health care – instead of the governor’s plan to make you pay 117 percent more for premiums.

              So come out if you can. Tell the benefits board: Maintain current access! Use health reserves to save benefits!

              The PEBB will meet 1-3 p.m., tomorrow, Wednesday, Oct. 20, at the Health Care Authority – Sue Crystal Board Room, 676 Woodland Square Loop S.E., Lacey.

              You can register online at so we can also keep you updated about the next PEBB meeting Nov. 17. 

              Corrections negotiations on additional furloughs 

              Corrections members are encouraged to turn out next Monday to support their DOC Supplemental Bargaining Team as they negotiate with management over the proposed additional furlough days under the governor’s across-the-board 6.3 percent budget cuts.

              The support job action will be next Monday, Oct. 25. Show up any time between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., at DOC Headquarters, 7345 Linderson Way S.W., Tumwater.

              And if you can’t attend, wear your black DOC t-shirt (the one with WFSE Council 28 Community Corrections badge on it).

              Governors sometimes say the darndest things

              We’re entering Day 57 of the wait for the state to come back to the Health Care Coalition Bargaining table with a realistic proposal (Hint: It shouldn’t include 117 percent increases or 26 percent premium shares).

              While we wait, we’re always looking for signals from the other side. And Gov. Chris Gregoire herself yielded some clues (and confusion over facts) in an Oct. 14 interview with journalist Austin Jenkins on Inside Olympia on TVW, the state’s public affairs TV network.

              The interview with the governor left the impression that all bargaining had broken down. “We’re still open to negotiations,” the governor said. But the truth is, while some of the Federation’s teams have filed their contracts to mediation or fact-finding, most have dates scheduled through the fall and even up to the Christmas season to continue the hard work on the contracts.

              When the governor appeared to confuse the health care coalition bargaining with bargaining for State Troopers and others who have arbitration, Jenkins reminded the governor that “health care gets negotiated as an umbrella for everybody, correct?”

              “Umm, pretty much, pretty much,” Gregoire responded.
              All state employee unions negotiate in coalition on health care and the final agreement goes in all contracts.
              “And the issue on health care – I’m not going to commit an unfair labor practice here and negotiate publicly – but the problem for me in health care is … the bill’s gone up by about $260 million. As I said earlier, I don’t have an extra penny. So the fundamental question is how do we pay for that? I don’t have the ability to pay for it. If I pay for it, then I lay someone off. I can’t provide the service, or I cut services to people, which ultimately lays someone off. So that’s the dilemma that we face.”
              The cost for the 60,000 state employees bargaining in coalition is not $260 million – the governor chose to inflate the number by lumping in all state employees, including the 50,000 or so employees exempt or not in bargaining units. She also used the old tactic of making state employees the bad guys – if they maintain health care in the face of more than $1 billion they’ve already sacrificed, others will suffer. That’s why the Federation has argued for using health reserves – done this year to keep costs level in 2011 – and closing tax loopholes – similar to what the Congress did to fund the jobs bill.
              Jenkins asked specifically if the governor is still asking state employees to pay 26 percent for premiums – a 117 percent increase over the current 12 percent.

              “Again, I’m not going to commit an unfair labor practice here by publicly talking about this,” she said. “They chose to talk about it. We responded simply by saying we can’t afford the escalating cost of health care and therefore we’re asking them to help us get through the recession by paying more.” 
              There are no ground rules in health care bargaining, so each side is free to talk publicly. That’s what the Federation did Aug. 24 after the state presented its 26/74 premium split plan. However, in responding to the Federation, the governor’s budget director [in the Aug. 26 Olympian] instead bargained in the media over the separate General Government compensation package, which had not yet even been discussed. The governor wanted a contract that freezes pay and step increases, he said. The governor’s negotiators did not present their compensation plan for discussion until late on Sept. 8. The General Government negotiations are governed by a contract article that places some restrictions on what can be said about what’s being said at the table – and certainly on what has not even been presented at the table.
              The governor also seem confused about the Oct. 1 deadline in statute to submit any requests for any parts of the contract that would require new appropriations. But the answer actually came two years ago when the governor refused to submit a request, the Legislature then acted, and the Federation came back in the spring to revamp the tentative agreement. The only deadline that really matters is July 1, 2011, when the 2011-2013 contract needs to be in place. 
              As you recall, a court found the governor guilty of an unfair labor practice for those actions in 2008.
               The governor also revealed her thinking on what happens if there is no new contract by July 1, 2011. The existing terms and conditions would continue for a year.

              Jenkins: “And you’re saying that the state can’t afford that because that would be the same (88/12 health premium) split?"

              Gregoire: “Correct.”

              On furloughs, the governor actually showed signs of the old Gregoire who spent years fiercely defending state employees. Jenkins kept goading the governor about why she hadn’t laid off more than the 8,000 state employees she has.

              “You know,” Gregoire said, “we’ve laid people off, we’ve furloughed people, this idea that we ought to take it out on the hide of every state employee, I simply don’t get. People didn’t get into public service to make money. They got in because they wanted to give back to their community. So they want a decent living for their families, so meantime, they are living under fear all the time now they’re going to lose their job just like anybody else in the private sector, fear they won’t be able to make their house payment or put food on the table for their family, just like the private sector. State employees in state government are no different today than the private sector. They’re under the same fears, the same pressure. The only thing is they get bashed more than the private sector."

              But the governor shared her disturbing vision of a post-recession state government: 

              “We’re not going to provide the same services we did. It’s going to have to be taken up by volunteers, by churches, by non-profits, by businesses, by neighbors, by friends. State government cannot continue to do what it’s done in the past.”

              Watch the furlough exchange here:

              Watch the contract exchange here:

              That’s it for now.

              October 7, 2010

              State walks away from negotiations on proposed new furloughs; management tactic sets stage for uncertainty

              After three days of negotiations on the latest round of proposed furloughs in DSHS to meet the governor’s across-the-board cuts of 6.28 percent, the state walked away from the table shortly before 4 p.m. Thursday.

              Their retreat from talking about creative ways to bridge the budget gap leaves DSHS employees hanging.

              "We do not know what they are going to do," said Federation bargaining team member Sue Henricksen.

              "The union offered a number of recommendations that would yield cost savings and would keep communities safe," said Federation Executive Director Greg Devereux.

              Management’s Monday promise of partnership to solve the problem ended Thursday with the Federation team actually having to search for a management bargaining team in the halls of the General Administration Building. The Federation team came prepared to bargain over management’s latest counterproposal. But for some reason the Labor Relations Office side wasn’t ready.

              Management never came to the table with a specific proposal. On the second day of negotiations Wednesday, management took 10 hours to respond to the union’s offer.

              After the union proposed maximum flexibility for the workforce in their furlough proposal, management countered with a very inflexible, rigid approach to furloughs.

              When pressed on their approach, management abandoned the union’s creative and viable cost-saving measures and indicated they needed more time to determine their direction. It’s not even clear if they will go forward with the new proposed furloughs.

              The spokesman for the Labor Relations Office said they were reconsidering whether to do the additional furloughs at all. He said a DSHS representative would contact the union next week regarding future negotiations.

              So, the state blew it. It’s a golden opportunity lost. And those of you in DSHS are the ones left scratching your heads. Three days and all the state could say was, "We’ll have to get back to you on that."

              We know management has left DSHS members with a lot more questions, uncertainty and anxiety. But know that your union negotiators stood strong for you, showed the ability to be creative problem solvers. Your team of DSHS member negotiators worked long and hard in good faith with you in mind—and with the safety of your clients above all else. But in the end management walked away. That speaks for itself.

              So, as we know more, we will pass it along to you.

              October 6, 2010

              Union waits for response from DSHS on furlough negotiations; State to cut 725 jobs

              The Federation and DSHS met for the second day today to bargain over the latest plan to propose additional furlough days because of the governor’s call for 6.3 percent cuts starting this past Friday.

              The union gave management a comprehensive proposal at 10 a.m., but after six hours, DSHS negotiators said they’d have to study it more. We hope for a response tonight or tomorrow.

              If there is no response, it calls into question whether DSHS can furlough the additional workers this coming Monday or in October at all.

              The first day of bargaining on this new round of proposed furloughs was Monday.

              So stay tuned. The existing furloughs mandated by the Legislature last spring and mitigated by the union will go forward Oct. 11 for those 25 percent of state employees affected.

              October 1, 2010

              Proposed DOC cuts announced

              Following DSHS, the Department of Corrections yesterday announced how it would implement the 6.3 percent cuts ordered by the governor, effective today.

              DOC Secretary Eldon Vail in a memo to staff, said he can’t find all the savings mandated. The cuts would translate to $53 million, he can only find $51.3 million, so he will ask the Legislature to help.

              As in DSHS, DOC proposes adding more furlough days. Many staff previously exempted will be furloughed – how many days DOC proposes wasn’t said. And those who’ve been furloughed face an 11th furlough day in May 2011.

              And as with DSHS, the Federation disagrees and we will meet them at the bargaining table. There are billions in tax loopholes and a bloated Washington Management Service that should be trimmed first.