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.

No comments: