March 31, 2010

Amp up calls against furlough bill

This has to be priority No. 1 because it appears to be one of the first bills the House will vote on when it reconvenes Friday. 

The call to action is simple. Call 1-800-562-6000. Tell your legislators: OPPOSE ESSB 6503, the state employee furlough bill.


If not for the union and the many members who have come to Olympia, phoned and e-mailed, the furlough bill situation would be much worse. We have to still oppose it outright, but also continue to mitigate the impacts if lawmakers finally approve it. 

ESSB 6503 originally would have mandated 16 furlough days across all of state government, while achieving very little savings. 

Thanks to your activism, the bill as it stands directs agencies to come up with a plan to reduce state employee compensation, that could include furloughs, but could also include voluntary retirements, reduced work hours and the like.  

Lawmakers hope to save $50 million, with at least $10 million of that coming from management positions exempt from civil service. 

If agencies can’t come up with a plan, they’d impose 10 (down from 16) furlough days, when employees would be laid off for one day, starting in July 2010. 

The list of exempted classes has grown to the point that as it stands, ESSB 6503 would cover just 26 percent of state employees. And under the bill now before the House, employees earning less than $30,000 a year could use annual leave or shared leave in lieu of a furlough. 

Those exemptions to furloughs would include: state corrections and social service institutions, child protective services, law enforcement, military operations, state hospitals, emergency management, state parks, highways, and ferries, revenue collection by the Department of Revenue, higher education classroom instruction and student employees, state liquor stores, state lottery, unemployment insurance and reemployment services, workers compensation and workplace safety programs, agricultural commodity commissions and food inspections, employees necessary to protect state assets and public safety, and state legislative agencies, the Governor, and Lieutenant Governor during legislative sessions. 

The House has on the floor an amendment to take away state employees’ personal holiday. But because your contracts trump state law, they can’t do that without negotiations, so the practical effect would be the amendment if passed would take the personal holiday away from unrepresented state employees – those without a collective bargaining agreement. 

But no furlough bill is still the best solution. In the end, any furlough bill will cost more than it saves. That means it has symbolic value, but in these tough times, we can’t afford to pay for symbolism. 

Again, call 1-800-562-6000 and tell legislators to oppose ESSB 6503, the state employee furlough bill. A vote is expected Friday in the House.

No comments: