August 28, 2010

Management shows its hand on compensation, health care; but gee, the Seattle Times likes it

We’ve been telling you about the impacts of the health care plan put forward at the bargaining table this week by the governor’s negotiators. You know, you’d pay 26 percent of premiums, representing a 117 percent increase, which translates to pay cuts in the range of 8 percent for such lower-paid jobs as custodians and office assistants – all totally ignoring the pay, benefit, pension and job cuts you’ve already taken.

Stung by the backlash from state employees, the administration has stepped up the rhetoric a notch.

They’ve gone to the media and made you the bad guy by saying you can take one of two awful paths. The choice—and blame—is yours. In their mind and public statements, you have to pay an unacceptable amount for premiums or an unacceptable amount for fees charged when you go to the doctor.

They totally ignore out-of-the-box ideas like using some of two health reserve funds (which is what we convinced the Legislature to do this year to keep your 2011 benefits cost at current levels). There’s also the possibility of dipping into the $14 billion in eligible tax loopholes—the kind the Seattle Times wants to keep getting so they can editorialize about how “greedy” you are.

The Seattle Times is running an editorial this weekend calling your health plan “deluxe.” “It is difficult to imagine state employees not giving a little or even a bit more,” the editorial will say. To the Times’s credit, editorial writer Joni Balter did call us just minutes before they posted the editorial on their website today (Friday, Aug. 27). But she was not interested in facts to dispute her claims. Like the pay, benefit, pension and job cuts you’ve already taken.

She didn’t want to hear about the innovative ideas your negotiators have put across the table.

She didn’t want to hear that the governor and her budget director are negotiating in the media on compensation without negotiating at the table.

Balter quoted the governor’s statement at a press conference that Gregoire wants a contract that freezes pay, including step increases. Her budget director said the same in The Olympia yesterday. The problem is the governor’s negotiators have not presented any compensation article at the General Government table and the Federation has not presented any language on those key parts of the compensation package.

We’ll probably get in trouble for discussing that in such detail because the contract says you shouldn’t. But, hey, the governor and her budget director have discussed their intentions openly with the media, so it’s only fair we get to clarify the public record.

And Ms. Balter didn’t want to hear that some see a connection with the Times’s anti-state employee stance and the paper’s drive for more tax loopholes to bail out the financially troubled newspaper. She was a bit stunned that Olympia Capitol Press Corp reporters photographed Times Publisher Frank Blethen’s sporty Porsche that he drove to the Capitol to ask for a 40 percent tax break—and then posted the photo online.

The editorial accomplished one thing. It proved that if you coddle the Seattle Times Editorial Board long enough, they might give you a pat on the head. “The governor, at long last, has it right,” the Times said of Gregoire.

But if the governor is so right, why did she post an article on The White House blog celebrating national health care reform as a way to stop the 40 percent premium increases inflicted on consumers in this state?

Gov. Chris Gregoire wrote: “We can’t let the rising cost of health care continue to bankrupt our families, businesses and government. We have to take steps to make health care more affordable, and enhance the quality of care our families are receiving.”

“If 40 percent is bad, why is she proposing 117 percent?” the union told The Olympian.

In the end, we told the Times that Federation members would meet with the Times Editorial Board anytime. If an invitation from them is not forthcoming, we are glad to invite them to our offices to meet with members. We’ll let you know if they accept.

By the way, the Federation, our allies and members have gone to the media, too. And we will continue to do so. And you can help.

 Go to the Seattle Times website ( and post a blog response to the editorial. And write a letter to the editor rebutting the editorial, explaining how the governor’s position on health care is harming you and your family personally.
  • E-mail it to: In fact, there’s probably a lot of info in this hotline you can use in your blog posts and letters to the editor.
Dipping into reserves and closing tax loopholes to keep your benefits at current levels when you’re in the middle of what likely is a four-year wage freeze is not too much to ask. There is a creative path out of this dilemma if the administration would only value its workers more than a pat on the head from the Seattle Times.

August 24, 2010

State proposes 117% increase in employee premium share, rebuffs unions' creative proposals to maintain benefits

The state today at the bargaining table proposed that your share of health care premiums increase from 12 percent to a whopping 26 percent. The state would only pay 74 percent instead of the current 88 percent.

The state wants to cut health benefits for 110,000 state employees by making them pay about $2,316 more a year in health premiums for their families.


To put that in perspective, that would mean:
  • a pay cut of 7.8 percent for a custodian 1, 
  • a pay cut of 6.8 percent for an attendant counselor 1, 
  • a pay cut of 8 percent for an office assistant 1, 
  • a pay cut of 7 percent for a cook 1, 
  • a pay cut of 4.5 percent for a Community Corrections officer 2, 
  • a pay cut of 5 percent for a financial services specialist 3 – 
  • and the list goes on and on. 
And these pay cuts are based on those at top step. The impact is far greater for newer employees lower down on the salary schedule.

But the Federation-led coalition of all state employee unions proposed a creative path out of the dilemma that would require finding a modest amount of new money (if that) to maintain the current 88/12 premium split and other current health costs.

The Federation also stuck to its position on protecting any surpluses in the health fund and some attempt to help lower-paid state employees with health costs.

The union plan is not unreasonable. It comes in the middle of what could be four years of pay freezes.

Health costs went up this year already by about $1,100 a person. Pension funding has been cut. Thousands of members are taking a 5 percent pay cut through furloughs. And thousands more have lost their jobs.

In that environment, it’s not unreasonable to agree to a plan that maintains your current health premiums and costs when you’ve sacrificed so much already.

Unlike the Seattle Times, which continues to rail against your health plans. Funny thing is, we figured out why. It’s because they don’t like our suggestion that the state dip into some of the billions in tax loopholes to maintain your benefits.

It turns out Seattle Times Publisher Frank Blethen drove his sporty Porsche to Olympia earlier this year to demand a whopping 40 percent tax break/tax loophole for his financially ailing newspaper.

Blethen and the Times are the last ones to be lecturing office assistants and custodians who would take pay cuts of 7 percent or 8 percent if the state gets its way by jacking up your premium costs.

Much is planned.
  • For now, call the governor at 1-800-562-6000 (or send an online email message here).

    Tell her to nix the 74/26 premium plan her negotiators brought to the table. Work with us to think out of the box on the creative path we’ve presented in health care negotiations.

WFSE/AFSCME representatives on the Health Care Coalition caucus outside the General Administration Building in Olympia Aug. 24. From left: Craig Gibelyou (General Government) Gabe Hall (General Government), Liz Larsen (staff), Brett Clubbe (WSU), President Carol Dotlich, Nicole Kennedy (UW), Vice President Sue Henricksen, Kirk Talmadge (TESC, back to camera), Brandon Taylor (WWU), Don Hall (General Government), Rodolfo Franco (Community College Coalition), Chief Negotiator Steve Kreisberg, Cathy Green (EWU) and WFSE/AFSCME Executive Director Greg Devereux.

August 20, 2010

Bargaining accelerates at all tables ... but health care bargaining looms as state hints at major proposed takeaways

The latest round of bargaining wrapped up today at the General Government table as the team reached tentative agreement on three more articles, swapped and negotiated over 16 other articles and adjourned to prepare as many as 15 counterproposals on other issues.

The state has yielded and agreed to supplemental bargaining on agency-specific issues in the Department of Transportation and the Parks and Recreation Commission. The DOT bargaining will be Monday, Aug. 23, and Friday, Aug. 27. The Parks bargaining will be Friday, Sept. 10. Meanwhile, DSHS Institutions supplemental bargaining resumes Monday.

It’s a mixed bag at other tables, including Central Washington University, the Community College Coalition, the University of Washington and Eastern Washington University, where that team has actually reached tentative agreement on their entire contract and will hold a ratification vote Sept. 13.

We’ll have more updates on all of these tables later in this message.

But we need now to turn to the sobering bargaining over your health care benefits funding. Those Federation-led negotiations involving the coalition of all state employee unions resume Tuesday. We expect an ugly management counterproposal based on discussion at the first session Aug. 10.


We often use soundbites and flashy graphics to get information to you. But we’re not going to do that in this hotline on the health care bargaining. We felt it was important that you saw all the facts to prepare yourself for the bad news we expect Tuesday. But we also want you to know that this top priority will require us to push back with all the power we have. It will be a tough fight.

In short, your health benefits are again under attack, this time at the bargaining table. We believe management wants to inflict major takeaways from health insurance benefits you and your family depend on.

We want to prepare you for what could be a tough fight involving nasty attacks from management and their allies who control the editorial pages of this state’s newspapers. And we want to ask your help in whatever actions – public and private – we may need to take to beat back the latest assault on your family’s economic well being.

First, where we’re at:

• On Aug. 10, we presented a proposal that would keep your share of health premiums at the current 12 percent, with the state paying the current 88 percent share.

Our initial proposal aims to protect any surplus in your health fund; we believe any surplus should be used to reduce your health costs. We proposed this because the Legislature has taken those surpluses and instead diverted them to other parts of the budget. You ended up paying even more. We want to bargain to make sure that never happens again.

Finally, we proposed a Health Reimbursement Account so lower-paid employees can get a break on the higher health costs that hit them particularly hard.

“What we don’t need in this state is mediocrity for the members in terms of health care benefits,” said Rodolfo Franco, the Federation’s Community College Coalition representative on the Health Care Coalition.

• Management conceded our proposal was “thoughtful.” But they did not present a counterproposal.

• Instead, the state’s bargainers made it clear they are not interested in maintaining the current 88/12 premium split. They are apparently more sensitive to the criticism they receive from the Seattle Times editorial page than to the financial hardships faced by the state employees who make this state run.

What confounds us is the state seems incapable of recognizing your sacrifices -- you have given up more than $1 billion in lost pay raises, lost pay because of furloughs, lost pension contributions, lost jobs and higher health costs.

• The state team claimed the only way to keep the current 88/12 premium split was to force dramatic increases in your out-of-pocket costs – up to $2,100 per year in family deductibles.

• They prepared a number of scenarios that showed where they were headed. It appears they will propose a dramatic increase in your premium costs and argue that is the only way to keep your out-of-pocket costs at current levels. In their analysis, that means your premium share would more than double to 25 percent, with the state share decreasing to 75 percent.

• Here is a summary of the numbers they provided us:

• We disputed their costs and offered a number of alternatives to keep our proposal cost-neutral, including closing tax loopholes. We believe the state should follow the model used by the United States Congress. They just passed the $26 billion jobs bill that restored some $500 million in FMAP Medicare funding to our state. And they did it by closing tax loopholes. As the New York Times reported, “the $26 billion cost of the measure would not be added to the deficit, but would be offset by revising a corporate tax provision that affects companies that do businesses overseas.” According to the state Department of Revenue, there is some $14.8 billion (yes, BILLION) in eligible tax loopholes that could be closed. The state could close just a fraction of those to do right by its employees and their families.

• The state can also cover some of the costs by once and for all getting serious about trimming the bloated Washington Management Service.

C’mon. If the state gets its way on health care, you will pay more. It will be harder to recruit and keep good employees. We will be in a race to the bottom. We’re not California. We’re not Mississippi. We’re Washington. We can do better.

Much flashier information will be coming your way in the coming days and weeks. Included will be calls to action and requests for you to tell us what public actions we should take to fight the proposed takeaways from health care. We will keep you informed every step of the way.
This is a time to stand strong. The facts are on our side. And, on health care, the fight is right because it’s a fight for the health and well being of our families.


EASTERN WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY. The EWU Bargaining Team on Aug. 17 reached tentative agreement on their contract (except the health care article which is still being bargained in coalition). The ratification vote is set for Sept. 13. The EWU agreement basically rolls over the current contract, with four important additions: language that employees will not be required to use family and medical leave while on workers’ compensation; allowing more time to file grievances to arbitration from 14 days to 30 days; consolidating the contract articles for Bargaining Unit 1 and BU 2 into one document; and a wage re-opener clause if any other Federation contract includes any general wage increase. So the EWU team ensured no takeaways and got some important gains.

CENTRAL WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY. The CWU Bargaining Team reached tentative agreement on two more articles at the latest session that ended Aug. 12. About half the contract has been settled, but 31 articles remain on the table. The survey of CWU members’ bargaining priorities mirrored other tables: No. 1 – affordable health care followed by strong layoff and recall rights and holiday pay equivalent to work shift. CWU members at the Ellensburg campus will wear “Fair Contract Now!” buttons Aug. 26 as the CWU team holds its next bargaining session.

COMMUNITY COLLEGE COALITION. The bargaining team for 12 Community Colleges reports slow but intense negotiations. At their Aug. 9-10 session, they reached tentative agreement on one more article but saw 25 different articles pass back and forth on the bargaining table. They bargain again Sept. 1-2.

UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON. The UW Bargaining Team met for their second session with management Wednesday (Aug. 18). The team reports a productive day of bargaining. Management presented their articles on FMLA and Overtime. While having no full counter proposals, management did have feedback on all of the Federation team’s previous proposals -- including some items we are fairly close on. The union and management discussed in detail articles 7, 10, 12, 17, 20, 22, 23 and 24. Progress was made on details of several articles.

Follow all bargaining online at > Bargaining. Follow bargaining on the Federation’s Facebook Fan Page and YouTube Channel (go to the links at > WFSEc28 Community). Sign up for text messaging alerts at  > Text Alerts.  Sign up for email at the WFSE Action Center.

August 16, 2010

WFSE/AFSCME files unfair labor practice (ULP) complaints over illegal skimming in Corrections, General Administration

The union has filed a pair of unfair labor practice complaints against unilateral skimming of union members’ work in the Department of Corrections and the Department of General Administration.

CORRECTIONS. The union on July 29 challenged DOC’s unilateral movement of some 15 Community Corrections specialists out of the bargaining unit and into positions not protected by contract rights. That move took place June 16. No negotiations took place, despite the union’s formal June 11 demand to bargain. The complaint also alleges that the agency circumvented the contract by contacting affected employees directly rather than bargaining; that constitutes illegal interference. The requested remedies include restoring the employees to the Community Corrections specialist positions and restoring the work.

GENERAL ADMINISTRATION. The Federation on Aug. 11 filed an unfair labor practice complaint over GA’s laying off of some 16 Tenant Improvement Services (TIS) and six Buildings and Ground (B&G) employees—and then contracting out their work. The union scoured the contracts and discovered that “at least 28 of the contracts, representing a minimum of 5,500 hours of work, was work traditionally and historically performed by members of both the TIS and B&G units who had been laid off, and some was work they had originally been scheduled to perform.” The union complaint says GA should: reimburse the affected employees for the wages lost to the contracting out; reinstate the employees to their old positions; and return current or future work to the bargaining unit.

“Skimming” is the term used when management moves employees and work out of a bargaining unit.

State denies WFSE/AFSCME's health care grievance; arbitration next

The state’s Labor Relations Office on Friday (Aug. 13) denied the Federation’s health care grievance.

This is the grievance to recoup some $216 million in your surplus health funds diverted by the Legislature in 2008. Because of that diversion, your deductibles, co-pays and other out-of-pocket costs skyrocketed this past January.

LRO Director Diane Leigh ruled the grievance was filed too late and even if it was timely, “no funds were diverted to other portions of the state budget.”

The Federation has 30 days to file for arbitration.

The union will save its counterarguments for arbitration. But it’s safe to say the state missed the point: The union has documented the diversion; and it only became aware of the magnitude of the diversion’s impact this spring—after protracted pushing and prodding to get accurate information from the state.

The Public School Employees/SEIU followed the Federation in filing a grievance as well. All were consolidated and all were denied by the state.

August 11, 2010

Health care bargaining starts; will resume Aug 24; members should prepare for action

The Federation-led coalition of all state employee unions began bargaining on the health care benefits funding article of all contracts today.

The union presented what the state’s team conceded was a “thoughtful” proposal that centers on the unions’ interest of keeping health costs low in the face of recent and huge increases in out-of-pocket costs and premiums.

Management did not offer a counterproposal.

But in a series of questions, the management side made it clear their interest is raising your share of premium costs from the current 12 percent and likely decreasing your level of benefits.

Both sides agreed to meet again Aug. 24.

We could be surprised. But based on what the state said during this year’s legislative session, we believe we’ll have a fight on our hands.

The several unions are working on a more comprehensive joint communication to all 60,000 state employees covered by the Health Care Coalition.

We continue to build our capacity to respond whenever and wherever we need to with necessary supplies for all of our field offices.

Just today, Labor and Industries members of Local 976 picketed the governor as she held a press conference at their office at Fifth and Jackson in downtown Seattle.

So in summary we wish we had better news, but we didn’t really expect any on health care bargaining. We can’t predict what will happen Aug. 24 or in any following negotiation sessions, but we can’t wait to gear up for the kind of actions we are so good at when the chips are down.

So stay tuned, stay informed and stand strong.

The Federation representatives on hand today were: Chief Negotiator Steve Kreisberg, AFSCME; Federation Executive Director Greg Devereux; Federation President Carol Dotlich; Vice President Sue Henricksen; Treasurer Rosemary Sterling; Federation Director of Negotiations Cecil Tibbetts; Rodolfo Franco, Community College Coalition; Cathy Green, Eastern Washington University; Kirk Talmadge, The Evergreen State College; Nicole Kennedy, University of Washington/Harborview Medical Center; Brett Clubbe, Washington State University; and, from General Government, Craig Gibelyou, Don Hall and Gabe Hall.

August 9, 2010

Agreement reached to mitigate impacts of furloughs; those on 4/10 and 9/80 schedules


The Federation and the state today (Aug. 9) reached agreement on a memorandum of understanding laying out several measures to mitigate the impacts of furloughs, with special provisions so those working 4/10 and 9/80 schedules aren’t dinged for more than eight hours of pay on furlough days.


The agreement came after four days of tough bargaining and one final team strategy meeting Aug. 4. Your special furlough bargaining team held the line to help those with other than the traditional five-day, eight-hour-a-day schedule. And the team insisted on and got language that does nothing to harm the union’s other challenges against the furloughs. The union has filed a lawsuit, unfair labor practice complaint and a grievance over the furloughs.

In fact the agreement states: “Nothing in this agreement will be construed to mean that the union agrees with the employer’s decision to implement temporary layoff days or that the union agrees that this decision complies with the law or the collective bargaining agreement.”

Federation Director of Negotiations Cecil Tibbetts and Shane Esquibel of the state’s Office of Labor Relations signed the 16-point memorandum of understanding today (Aug. 9).

This agreement generally covers those agencies that did not submit an alternative plan for something other than the 10 furlough days specified in the furlough law ESSB 6503. Generally, those agencies with alternative plans are supposed to have agency-specific negotiations. And it goes without saying this agreement affects those who are not exempt from furlough days, in other words, if you’re in a job class in one of the 22 agencies listed below required to take furloughs, this agreement applies to you.

You can to go to our website at to view and download a copy of the agreement. 


Under agreement, employees represented by the Federation in 20 agencies who work 4/10 schedules can switch to a 5/8 schedule on the week of a furlough, PROVIDED THE EMPLOYEES DECLARE THIS OPTION BY AUG. 20 FOR ALL FURLOUGH DAYS STARTING IN SEPTEMBER. Those 20 agencies are: Early Learning; Health; Utilities and Transportation Commission; Recreation and Conservation Office; Information Services; Labor and Industries; Licensing; Commerce; Veterans Affairs; Health Care Authority; Washington State Patrol; Corrections; General Administration; Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board; Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises; Human Rights Commission; Criminal Justice Training Commission; Arts Commission; Employment Security; and Ecology.


Employees in the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Social and Health Services may switch from a 4/10 schedule to a 5/8 schedule during the week of the next furlough day, Sept. 7 PROVIDED THEY REQUEST THE SCHEDULE CHANGE BY AUG. 20. This is a pilot project in DFW and DSHS. Those agencies will determine the “administrative burden” of the schedule changes and determine the “feasibility” of continuing the changes after the Sept. 7 furlough day. 


Employees in all 22 of the agencies covered by the agreement who work a 9/80 schedule will be able to switch to an eight-hour day on a furlough day in September and October, and make arrangements to work the additional hour necessary to meet their schedule. BUT EMPLOYEES WORKING A 9/80 SCHEDULE MUST MAKE A REQUEST IN WRITING FOR THIS SCHEDULE CHANGE BY AUG. 20.

The 9/80 agreement is a two-month pilot. Each agency will evaluate the feasibility of the 9/80 schedule change switch provision by Nov. 1.


The agreement allows agencies to OK more frequent schedule changes. And employees on alternate work schedules other than 4/10 or 9/80 may request schedule changes under the General Government contract.

  • The agreement has important protections for vacation and sick leave accrual, retirement, periodic increment dates, seniority dates and part-time employees. Part-time employees will be able to modify their schedule during a furlough week so their loss of pay is proportionate to the percentage of their position relative to a full-time position.
  • The agreement also has a provision on workload. An employee who believes a work deadline or workload demand can’t be met because of a furlough day, he or she can work with their supervisor to make appropriate adjustments. Also, employees shall not be denied the ability to schedule leave solely because of work left undone because of furloughs.
  • Employees not scheduled to work on a furlough day will take the work day before or the work day after as the furlough day.
  • Overtime exempt employees become overtime eligible during furlough weeks.
  • Those earning less than $2,500 a month can use vacation leave or shared leave on furlough days, as outlined in the law.

August 5, 2010

DSHS shocks clients with proposals to $51 million in WorkFirst TANF programs

The Department of Social and Health Services shocked WFSE/AFSCME members and clients today by announcing a proposed laundry list of cuts to make up for a $51 million deficit caused by underfunding by the Legislature.

At a meeting today in Tacoma, DSHS officials unveiled a list of proposed cuts.

We have scanned those documents. We need members to evaluate those cuts and gets comments and concerns to us as soon as possible. The agency wants to make cuts within a month.
Click the link for a pdf of the documents.