May 6, 2010

Salary survey out today - and the numbers don't lie (and by the way, we now know wrong numbers fed attack on step increases)


They say numbers don't lie. And the numbers say state employees still earn less, according to the state salary survey released today. The numbers also say the state as an employer lags behind the 59 percent of public employers who pay 100 percent of their employees' health premiums. Don't take our word for it. 

The salary survey is done every two years as required by law. It aims to show how big or small the pay gap is between state employees and their counterparts in the public and private sector.

And the latest salary survey shows a still-unacceptable pay gap.

Some 82 percent of state workers still earn below market rate, according to the salary survey. Nearly a third – 30 percent – fall more than 25 percent behind comparable counterparts.

For the first time, the state Department of Personnel hired an outside consultant to do the salary survey.

  • You can view the complete salary survey and other summaries here.
DOP has opened a public comment period through May 28. The Federation will scour the voluminous data to find any out-of-whack calculations and the like. Feedback can be sent to The DOP director will adopt the final salary survey results June 4.

The salary survey along with the June revenue forecast are two prime measures used in contract negotiations over your economic issues. The state has signaled there will be tough bargaining on economics in these down economic times, but even state negotiators have to concede the numbers show a smoldering problem that has to be acknowledged.

When the economy tanked in late 2008, the just-concluded 2009-2011 contracts had to be re-opened. One of the sacrifices exacted was a provision to bring those more than 25 percent behind on the salary survey up to no more than 25 percent behind.

The salary survey also refutes attacks on your benefits and leave. According to The Olympian, most employers, public and private, pay 100 percent of employee health premiums; Washington pays 88 percent. Most other public employers also pay more than 80 percent for family coverage. That latter finding could be a new target to be attacked, so we have to get ready for that.

And most employers grant the same amount of (or possibly a little more) sick leave, vacation and holidays. Most public employers grant the same or similar pension benefits.

No one really wanted you to know the step increase attacks were based on bad numbers.

Shhh!! You might have missed it.

Way back in January, the state budget office re-did its figures and found that it was an earlier (whopping) math error that gave Sen. Joe Zarelli and others a soapbox to attack step increases.

But we now know that the $83 million price tag provided by the state Office of Financial Management ($38 million from the state General Fund) in December was a back-of-the-envelope calculation that was way off.

In January, after Zarelli and others in the GOP used step increases as a convenient scapegoat in guest editorials and floor speeches, OFM said, “Oops!”

It turns out the cost to the state of step increases is about $6.6 million in the next fiscal year from the General Fund and $9.5 million from other sources. In all, according to, the cost was “a whopping 0.2 percent” of the budget deficit.

No one except Crosscut paid attention to the OFM mistake and recalculation because by then Zarelli and company had moved on to other targets that were less easy to refute with numbers.

But the incident backed up what Federation members have said all along. The bottom line is step increases are a standard actuarial tool to save the state money. The alternative is paying all new hires their full salary from the day they walk in the door. Step increases allow the state to offset compensation costs so as top-step employees leave state service, a replacement is hired at a lower salary that will be phased in over about six years or so. Step increases in fact cost far less than the $15.8 million to $35 million the state will spend to close Maple Lane School or Pine Lodge Corrections Center for Women to supposedly “save” money.

  • You can read the story at here.


    The governor on Tuesday signed the state supplemental budgets and turned a deaf ear to your pleas. She left intact the three-year phased closure of Maple Lane School in south Thurston County and the closure of Pine Lodge Corrections Center for Women in Medical Lake this month.

There’s still time to fight the Maple Lane closure.

But the governor and legislators left few options for Pine Lodge.

Some had hoped a partnership with Spokane County and City would have given it a reprieve, but that apparently is now no longer in the cards.

Tuesday afternoon’s meeting between Pine Lodge members and 9th District legislators Rep. Susan Fagan and Joe Schmick was a somber event. Fagan and Schmick said they may assist in any demands to bargain over issues related to the Pine Lodge closure. Federation President Carol Dotlich, Local 782 President Greg Davis, Federation Lobbyist Matt Zuvich and Federation Council Rep Dale Roberts were all on hand to help.

And they acknowledged what we all know: the Pine Lodge members did everything right in the campaign to save the facility, but they were undermined by politicians’ empty promises. And the Federation holds those politicians accountable for this wrong-headed move that really doesn’t save money, and harms the community, the prisoners and the employees.


    Hundreds of members and other state employees stopped by the Local 443 booth at Olympia’s Public Service Recognition Week fair Wednesday to sign petitions against furloughs, any management attempts to bargain away your health care and in support of supplemental bargaining. They went away wearing “NO furloughs!” and “Support Supplemental Bargaining” buttons. Watch for these in your area for job actions in coming weeks.

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