July 30, 2010

If you feel you'll be retaliated against by the Governor's Budget Transformation Commission, submit ideas to us

The four regional hearings by the governor’s stacked-against-state employees Budget Transformation Commission wrapped up Thursday in Spokane.

You can submit ideas to her website: http://transformwabudget.ideascale.com/

But many of you have said you fear retaliation by going to one of her hearings or submitting an idea through her website.

So by noon today, Friday, July 30, we will have a special link on our website where you can submit your ideas to us and we will submit them to the governor on behalf of the union so you’d remain anonymous.

Go to WFSE.org > ISSUSES and look for the “Transform the Budget in Confidence” link under “Issues” or in the “flash” display at the bottom of the main page. Give us your ideas to manage the deficit in strictest confidence.

It's time to blow the whistle on furloughs!

The second furlough day is coming Aug. 6. There’s growing suspicion – based on information many of you have provided – that more and more overtime is being approved to make up for work not done on furlough days when offices are closed.

We also know from legislative documents that the state loses $94 million in federal matching dollars by trying to save $48 million through furloughs.
With $480 million in federal FMAP Medicare matching dollars in doubt, the governor must choose between indiscriminate across-the-board cuts of 4 percent or calling legislators into special session to make more “surgical” cuts.

More and more, the phony furlough scheme seems to be playing out as a costly snafu by the Legislature, the governor and her agencies. And you and the public you serve are paying the 

But this is no time to turn down the heat. A hearing date is pending on the Federation’s unfair labor practice complaint. The separate grievance and lawsuit are still in play. And bargaining to mitigate the impacts continues.

And now it’s time to literally blow the whistle on furloughs, by using the state employee Whistleblower Program you created a few years back, the State Employee Suggestion Program run by the state Productivity Board and the governor’s own Budget Transformation website.

You can also go to the Federation website for more information and links on how to do this.

But here are the links and a few pointers:
  • Submit a “Brainstorm” idea to recoup the $94 million in federal funds lost to furloughs.

    The Washington State House of Representatives Office of Program Research on Feb. 22, 2010 (Agency Detail, page 167) showed a net loss of about $94 million in federal matching funds caused by furloughs. So furloughs may try to save $48 million, but actually end up costing the state more. This is inefficient.

    Go to http://www.sos.wa.gov/productivityboard/ and click on “Employee Suggestion Program.”

More background on what the Governor's No. 2 said on overtime and furloughs

When the special furlough bargaining team and the Community College Coalition Bargaining delivered petitions July 7, the governor’s chief of staff said furlough-caused overtime costs would have to be made up with further cuts in programs. We don’t know if this is a “smoking gun” the blows the lid off the behind-the-scenes phony furlough scheme. But it clearly shows they’re going to take it out of your hide one way or another.

Here’s what Chief of Staff Jay Manning said:

“You’re right. The experience in several states has been that it doesn’t end up saving money because people end up working overtime, getting paid time and a half and you end up losing money. That was the Oregon experience. 
 “Our direction to the agencies is if we let that happen, we’re then going to have to figure out some other place to take these cuts, this $48 million. So you’re going to have to manage that overtime as well as you can. It’s not going to be possible in every case that we can avoid overtime. …

“To the extent that furloughs are prompting more overtime, this will be a failure and we are going to have to do our best to manage our way through that. And do everything we can do to avoid that outcome because the cuts are still going to have to happen. We have to have a balanced budget at the end of the biennium. And it’s going to come from somewhere.”

July 23, 2010

Movement in furlough negotiations

Your special furlough bargaining team worked late into the night Thursday on an agreement to mitigate the damage being done by the furlough days.

This was the fourth session and it ended at about 11 p.m. Movement had been made in the previous 10 hours of negotiations, but management wanted more time to review the union’s latest counterproposal.

The team can’t discuss the details of where the negotiations stand. But enough movement has been made to keep both sides at the table. You should also know that this team from General Government agencies has shown an extraordinary sense of solidarity and a commitment to the principal that an injury to one is an injury to all. They’re at the table fighting for the members they represent.

So we’ll keep you updated when we know what happens next.

These negotiations to mitigate the impacts and protect your rights should not be confused with the union’s other three-pronged attack to now get retroactive relief for the furloughs. A judge earlier this month would not grant an immediate halt, but the union’s lawsuit, grievance and unfair labor practice complaint continue. The Public Employment Relations Commission right now is trying to schedule a hearing on the union’s unfair labor practice complaint.

Job actions also continue.

General Government Bargaining Update

In the day and a half before the latest furlough negotiations, the separate General Government Bargaining Team had another back-and-forth with management. At the end, there was movement on some key issues and tentative agreement on two more articles. During the team caucus, they also had a productive strategy session for the balance of negotiations. The General Government team is next set to bargain Aug. 18. Separate health care bargaining is expected sometime in early August.

July 21, 2010

AFSCME Pres. McEntee appeared on the Bill Press Show this morning to discuss the very urgent need for federal aid to states. As some cities literally close down their functions and workers lose their jobs, Pres. Obama and Congress need to do more to help working families.

Benefits board OK's 2011 plans - no reduction in benefits, some increases in premiums for three plans; Aetna, Kaiser Value plans emliminated for 2011

The Public Employees Benefits Board this afternoon (July 21) took its annual vote on the next calendar year’s benefit plan structure and employee premium contribution rates.

Thanks to the $65 million the Federation and its members pushed the Legislature to adopt this spring, the schedule of benefits will stay level, Group Health will have no premium increases, but the remaining three plans (Uniform Medical Plan, Group Health Value and Kaiser Classic) will have increases.  The level playing field is still at too high a level.

The changes take effect Jan. 1, 2011.

The level benefits plan passed 5-0, while the premium rates passed narrowly 4-3, with Health Care Administrator Doug Porter breaking a 3-3 tie. Federation Executive Director Greg Devereux, Retirees Representative Gwen Rench and K-12 Retirees’ Lee Ann Prielipp all voted no.

So here are the monthly premium rates that take effect Jan. 1, 2011:

Group Health Classic – no increases; premiums remain $71 a month for employee; $152/mo for employee and spouse; $124/mo. for employee and children; and $205/mo. for full family.

Group Health Value – Monthly premiums increase: from $22 to $30 for employee; from $54 to $70 for employee and spouse; from $39 to $53 for employee and children; and from $71 to $93 for full family.

Kaiser Classic – Monthly premiums increase: from $72 to $105 for employee; from $154 to $220 for employee and spouse; from $126 to $184 for employee and children; and from $208 to $299 for full family.

Uniform Medical Plan – Monthly premiums increase: from $41 to $60 for employee; from $92 to $130 for employee and spouse; from $72 to $105 for employee and children; and from $123 to $175 for full family.

Aetna and Kaiser Value will be eliminated because they have become too costly. Those now in Aetna will need to choose a new plan during open enrollment in November or they will default to the Uniform Medical Plan. Those in Kaiser Value will need to choose a new plan or default to the Kaiser Classic Plan.

The premium increases for Uniform, Group Health Value and Kaiser Classic were defeated in the first vote. Federation Executive Director Greg Devereux, Retirees Representative Gwen Rench and K-12 Retirees’ Lee Ann Prielipp voted no. Only former Health Care Authority Director Margaret Stanley and state Personnel Director Eva Santos voting yes. But they tracked down board member Yvonne Tate by phone. The revote ended in a 3-3 tie, which HCA Administrator Doug Porter broke with his yes vote.

Devereux said cost increases “just keep coming and coming and coming,” even though mitigated by the $65 million the union won from the Legislature.

While the $65 million Federation members won from the Legislature kept benefits level, it’s a sad commentary that only four health plans remain for you to choose from, compared to 10 to 15 years ago. The four plans are: Uniform Medical Plan, Group Health Classic, Group Health Value and Kaiser Classic.

The benefits board’s actions should not be confused with upcoming bargaining on health benefits funding, which determines your share of premium costs. The board’s action stuck to the current negotiated 12 percent share – but for three plans, that meant increases because overall premium costs went up.

It should also not be confused with the Federation’s grievance to recoup $216.3 million in your health funds diverted by the Legislature in 2008. That diversion added an average of $1,500 to state employee health costs through higher deductibles and co-pays this past Jan. 1.

"Transforming State Government" hearings continue

The governor’s stacked-against-state-employees budget transformation commission had its first hearing Monday in Tacoma. And you and your allies dominated the conversation opposing unwise budget cuts and favoring new revenue, including closing more tax loopholes.

Here’s the rest of the schedule:
  • Tonight, July 21 – Everett, 7-9 PM, (Everett Community College, Parks Building, Multi Purpose Room, 2000 Tower Street)
  • July 27—Vancouver, 7-9 PM, (WSU-Vancouver, Administration Building Room 110, 14204 NE Salmon Creek Avenue, Vancouver)
  • July 29—Spokane, 5-7 PM, (Spokane City Hall, City Council Chambers, 808 W. Spokane Falls Boulevard)
More information is posted on WFSE.org > Issues > Transforming State Government

July 16, 2010

Hearing date for union's unfair labor practice (ULP) complaint over agency-specific (supplemental) bargaining may be set soon

An upcoming conference call may yield a hearing date for the Federation’s unfair labor practice complaint over agency-specific (supplemental) issues.

That conference call will be convened by the Public Employment Relations Commission. The Federation and state will hash a number of preliminary issues.

The commission on June 18 determined a cause of action exists. The union alleges the state has violated the law by not agreeing to negotiations on agency-specific issues away from the main General Government bargaining table. When those issues are rolled into the main negotiations, they sometimes get pushed aside as the clock runs out toward the Oct. 1 deadline the state relies on.

The state earlier did agree to agency-specific bargaining for Institutions. The Federation’s Institutions Supplemental Bargaining Team met July 14 to prepare for negotiations.

Furlough negotiations to enter fourth day

Nothing’s ever easy, especially when you’re fighting the ill-advised state furlough plan. Thursday’s (July 15) negotiations over the impacts of the furloughs ended with management requesting time to review the union’s third counterproposal. A fourth bargaining session will be scheduled. We’ll let you know when that is.

The bargaining is at a delicate point so we don’t want to say too much that would paint anyone into a corner when the goal is to get a fair settlement. But it’s safe to say the union team is fighting for an agreement that, among other things, addresses the inequities faced by those with alternate work schedules. For instance, those who work four 10-hour days lose 10 hours of pay on a furlough day. Those working straight 8-hour days lose two hours less. It’s one of those situations where many members may have moved to a 4-10 or other alternate schedule to help the state meet its commute trip reduction goals to keep cars off the road. Now those employees are getting whipsawed by furloughs.

Your team is also adamant about protecting your rights to seek the best avenue for retroactive justice—the lawsuit, unfair labor practice complaint and grievance filed by the Federation. A judge blocked the union’s motion to immediately freeze the furloughs. So those furloughs will take place – for the time being – as well as the union’s lawsuit. No date has been set for trial.

Save Maple Lane School forum July 21

All Federation members are invited to attend next Wednesday’s public forum in Centralia to reverse the phased-in plan to phase-out the Maple Lane School for juvenile rehabilitation.

The SAVE MAPLE LANE SCHOOL FORUM will be next Wednesday, July 21, Centralia Community College, Corbet Theater, Washington Hall, 600 Centralia College Road. 6 p.m. Reception; 7 p.m. Forum.

Transforming State Government hearings start Monday

The governor’s stacked-against-state-employees budget transformation commission holds the first of its four hearings Monday in Tacoma. Federation members are urged to wear your green t-shirts and show up to challenge some of the ill-advised budget cutting ideas being proposed.

Here's the schedule:
July 19 – Tacoma, 7-9 PM, (UWT-William W. Phillip Hall, Milgard Assembly Room, 1900 Commerce Street)

July 21 – Everett, 7-9 PM, (Everett Community College, Parks Building, Multi Purpose Room, 2000 Tower Street)

July 27—Vancouver, 7-9 PM, (WSU-Vancouver, Administration Building Room 110, 14204 NE Salmon Creek Avenue, Vancouver)

July 29—Spokane, Time TBA, (Spokane City Hall, City Council Chambers, 808 W. Spokane Falls Boulevard)

Kyron Horman's grandfather in need of shared leave

This is a plea for help in a tragic story you’ve all heard and read about. It comes from Neil Horman, a DSHS worker in IT.

The statement Neil authorizes:On June 4, 2010 my grandson, Kyron Horman, disappeared from his school in Oregon. In order to support the family, my wife and I went to Oregon. This burned all my leave time and more. This situation is extremely stressful and the upset continues. I am making it to work as I can but this is an ongoing tragedy and we have dramatic ups and downs.

As the investigation continues my wife and I may have to return to Oregon. We simply do not know what to expect.

As time goes on we hope that Kyron will be found and we can rejoice. In the mean time we are still in dynamic flux and we could use your help if possible.

If you can help Neil with a donation of eligible unused annual leave or sick leave or all or part of your personal holiday, contact your human resources representative.

By the way, we are confirming, but we believe from the information DSHS has provided us that Neil is one of the workers subject to furloughs. If true, that truly adds insult to a great injury.

More shared leave requests are at the end of this message.

July 10, 2010

General Government bargainers see movement on some key articles a they embrace results of members surveys

The General Government Bargaining Team made more progress on the next contract taking effect next July – while joining the all-out fight on furloughs that start next week.

The team reached tentative agreement on one article during two days of bargaining Thursday and Friday and is making headway on several other key articles. They return to the table July 21 and 22.

Meanwhile, the team got a good read of membership bargaining priorities as they pored over the results of the survey sent out to General Government members last month.

More than 10 percent of General Government members (2,847) took part in the survey. Most direct mail surveys get only a 2 percent response. More than 90 percent of the responses came in by mail. Just under 6 percent also took the survey online and just under 4 percent came in from job actions, lunch ‘n’ learns, desk drops and local meetings.

Here are the top priorities (in rank order) that you identified for the General Government team:

1.    Affordable health care
2.    Addressing pay inequities
3.    Strong seniority rights
4.    Workload and work schedules
5.    Compensatory time/call-back/overtime/shift differential
6.    Contracting out restrictions
7.    Agency-specific (supplemental) issues

The rest of the priorities were basically tied: stronger job classification language; improved probationary/trial service rights; workplace health, safety, anti-bullying protection; hiring/transfer procedures; leave and leave scheduling; and strong grievance/arbitration procedure.

In addition, the team reviewed 39 pages of comments written by survey respondents.

The major comment theme: Members hate furloughs.

The first furlough day is Monday. Many furloughed members will take to the street with pickets to explain to taxpayers and clients why they can’t help them that day.

A judge last week denied the union’s request for an immediate halt to the furloughs. So legal, administrative and bargaining challenges continue with an eye toward mitigating the remaining furlough days and gaining retroactive relief.

As the judge hinted, if the union ultimately prevails, the state could be forced to pay back lost wages to furloughed employees.

The lawsuit is awaiting a hearing date in Thurston County Superior Court.

The unfair labor practice complaint is pending before the Public Employment Relations Commission, but may be moved to Superior Court.

The union’s grievance is also in the pipeline.

And bargaining continues July 15 to mitigate the effects of the furloughs. On Thursday, special subcommittees of the furlough bargaining team managed to exempt more employees from the furloughs in the Department of Health and the Department of Corrections. The union prevailed in arguing that the employees met the exemption criteria in the furlough law. As of late Friday, the union was still waiting word from the Department of Social and Health Services on further exemptions there.

There may not be speedy relief, but the union at all levels is committed to winning relief and justice.

And furloughs will also stand trial in the court of public opinion. Once the media and the pundits do their homework and see the harmful effects as furlough days go into play, they’ll get it. Here’s what one blog commentator wrote in response to an editorial in The Columbian lambasting the union for fighting the furloughs:

“It is sad when a once respected newspaper joins the herd and falls for the furlough farce passed by the Legislature hook, line and sinker. If The Columbian had done its homework, its readers would know that the furlough plan actually costs $94 million in lost federal funds, will incur huge overtime costs (just as in Oregon) and was about making a political statement rather than saving money. Please!”

And we’ve received word that one welfare office in Pierce County will be open with staff working tomorrow, Saturday—working overtime to make up for the mandatory furlough on Monday! You can’t furlough the demand for state services.

Look for more media stories on Monday and throughout the “furlough farce” era.

Watch your mail for a General Government Bargaining Update summarizing your bargaining priorities from the survey and other negotiation news.


The General Government Bargaining Team joined several other Federation team in electing its representatives on the Health Care Coalition, the Federation-led group of all state employee unions, that bargains the article in all contracts on health benefits funding.

The three General Government reps are: Craig Gibelyou, Local 793, Western State Hospital; Gabe Hall, Local 862, Green Hill School; and Don Hall, Local 1466, State Parks.

A date hasn’t been confirmed, but Aug. 2 is a tentative date for the start of health care negotiations.

Steve Kreisberg, AFSCME’s collective bargaining director, who was lead negotiator on the last two General Government contracts, will return to lead the union side of the table in the health care negotiations, Federation President Carol Dotlich told the General Government team Friday. Kreisberg headed those talks in 2006 when the union discovered the state had improperly diverted health funds. That brought a settlement worth $55 million that paid out $756 to each member in 2007.

July 8, 2010

Furlough negotiations to continue; push on to correct list of affected employees improperly left off exempt list

This is a special update of the Federation Hotline at about midnight, 7/8/10

The governor’s office and state negotiators got an earful on furloughs Wednesday.

Nearly 2,000 “No FurloUGHs” petitions were delivered one-by-one and spread across the governor’s office’s newly refinished conference room table. The special furlough bargaining team, joined by the Community College Coalition Bargaining Team, gave the individually signed petitions to the governor’s chief of staff, Jay Manning, during the Wednesday lunch break. They then pelted Manning with questions about the furlough farce that will actually cost $94 million in lost federal matching funds, run up huge overtime costs (just as in Oregon) and make a political statement rather than saving any money.

Meanwhile, the special furlough bargaining team wrapped up its scheduled two days of bargaining on the impacts of the furloughs set to start Monday, July 12. The union demanded the negotiations to effectively mitigate the impact of furloughs on thousands of members—if furloughs could not be blocked quickly.

Wednesday’s talks stretched to 15 hours. There was some movement on such issues as how to deal with those on alternative work schedules who stand to lose more than eight hours of pay on a furlough day.

But both sides could not reach agreement so negotiations will continue on a comprehensive agreement. That will come July 15, after the first furlough day. Management made it clear it was too late for any agreement to take effect July 12. That harsh reality arose July 2 after a Thurston County Superior Court judge rejected the union’s motion for an injunction, and instead sent the Federation legal challenge to a full trial. No date has been set yet.

So the focus now is on affecting the next scheduled furlough day, Aug. 6, and the others that come after that.

The union did not concede that furloughs are OK, even as the July 12 furloughs will go forward. The union’s bargaining, lawsuit, grievance and unfair labor practice complaint may take time to bring justice. But as the judge suggested last week, the state might be forced to reimburse affected employees for any lost wages caused by furloughs if down the line the union prevails in its many efforts.

But tensions ran high Wednesday as an early management proposal struck the union team as an insult to affected members.

So, the negotiations on an overarching memorandum of understanding to mitigate furloughs continue July 15.

The more immediate talks to correct the list that improperly targets for temporary layoffs some employees exempted from furloughs in Health, Corrections and Social and Health Services continue today with special subcommittees still being formed late Wednesday night. The outcome of those negotiations would take effect on the July 12 furlough day.

Job actions and all the other legal and administrative actions continue as well.

Bargaining shifts gears Thursday and Friday as the General Government Bargaining Team returns to the table.

That’s it for now.

July 7, 2010

WFSE/AFSCME's furlough bargainers deliver petitions to governor; all 1,891 signers have names read as chief of staff looks on

WFSE/AFSCME President Carol Dotlich (right) reads the names of each of the 1,891 members who signed "FurloUGHs URT" petitions as the union's special furlough bargaining team deposits them on the newly refinished conference table in the governor's office.

The governor's chief of staff, Jay Manning (left) looks on and responds to the team's on-point questions about the furloughs that will cost $94 million in lost federal funds, incur huge overtime costs and harm public access to state services.

The special furlough team delivered the petitions, joined by members of the Community College Coalition Bargaining Team, during a lunch break on the second day of negotiations over the furloughs set to start Monday.

"This isn't about us--it's about the people we serve," said furlough bargaining team member Julianne Moore, Local 1326, Yakima Valley School (foreground).

July 2, 2010

Federation’s motion to halt furloughs until decisions are reached on grievance and unfair labor practice charges is denied

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Richard Hicks ruled the Federation did not meet the burden of proof,  but called it a close case.

Judge Hicks wrestled with Federation’s argument that the state was failing to participate in meaningful bargaining and agreed there was an inequity - adding “the employer should initiate bargaining.”

The judge implied that the implementation phase of the furlough bill, 75 days after its passage, might not provide the time necessary for meaningful bargaining of the impacts.  However, “the judicial branch should be slow to interfere with the legislature and executive branch’s” attempt to implement the bills.

On the issue of injury, the judge stated “substantial, if it’s your paycheck,” and “collateral” affecting morale not only between the union and its members but also between the workforce and management.  But for the injunction to be applied to stop implementation of the furloughs on July 12, there must be proof of irreparable injury and because the employee could possibly be compensated later on from the grievance and/or ULP rulings, the motion was not granted.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Richard Hicks ruled the Federation did not meet the burden of proof, but capped his remarks off with “a ruling like this does not make me happy.”

July 1, 2010

BULLETIN: PERC finds cause of action exists on furlough ULP

PERC issues a preliminary ruling finding cause of action exists on the Federation' furlough ULP.  The state has 21 days to answer the charges. 

The next step is for PERC to assign an examiner and set a hearing date.