September 30, 2010

Message from President Dotlich about DSHS cuts; 9742 hours of furlough overtime paid in July -read more


Greg Devereux and I met with Susan Dreyfus, Secretary of DSHS, and her staff at 8 am this morning. We were given a very brief overview of the announcements about the budget cuts she was about to make to all who work in Department of Social and Health Services. I will not repeat here in detail what I know you have probably already heard.

Those of you who have already been subject to furlough will face an additional two days of furlough that are not part of the bill the legislature implemented. Those of you who were exempted from that bill will now face nine total furlough days. DSHS plans to implement these beginning in October.

This new furlough scheme does not fall under the same protections as the legislatively implemented furlough bill and the previous negotiations related to it. November and May are months at issue for those already affected by the existing furloughs. All nine days are at issue for those not already affected by furloughs.

A Demand-To-Bargain is immediately being sent by our union to management. We have asked that the bargaining begin as early as next week.

We were told the cuts to DSHS equate to a 6.287% across the board cut or in other words 280 million dollars. DSHS, we were told, is unlike any other state agency. Most agencies get one general state fund appropriation DSHS receives multiple specific appropriations and provisos and, we were told each of these had to be cut by the same amount.

Susan Dreyfus said that the additional furlough days will save 160 state employee jobs. That said, we were told state employees within DSHS will face 380 layoffs total for the 6.287% across the board cut.

We were told one ward at Western State Hospital will close, one cottage at an RHC will close based on census numbers, Maple Lane School will downsize and these events will take place prior to June 30 of next year. Long term care services, TANF, and food assistance for non citizens and naturalization services will be hit hard. Mental Health RSNs will also be hard hit. The impacts of these changes will reverberate throughout the human services network.

This is difficult news to hear and our members will hear a lot of speculation about it. I am committed to making sure you know what I know as much as possible. Please contact me or your local Council Representative if you have news to share about these cuts and furloughs.

By the end of this week we can expect to hear about a further 10% cut being considered in DSHS. This 10% cut is being considered for the 2011-2013 biennium. Some of the 6.287% cut already being discussed will go forward as part of the 10% so we don't know at this point what any of that means.

The most important action you can take right now is to assure your brothers and sisters that we are all in this together as a union. We will stand together and we will bargain the impacts of these cuts as early as possible and protect them in every way we can under the current contract. Please commit to helping each other as much as possible. Local union meetings are a great place to give and get information that will help arm us for what we all face together. 

Your brothers and sisters need you. I'm counting on you to Stand Union Strong!

September 29, 2010

Legislative budget writers get earful on failed furlough scheme

House budget writers held a hearing today to see how furloughs are going but instead got a fact-based earful from the three largest unions affected.
Federation Executive Director Greg Devereux said many of the damaging outcomes predicted by the unions “have come to fruition” – and it’s hurting the state and the taxpayers who more and more depend on those services in these tough times.

Take overtime caused by furloughs.

Devereux said the union and a newspaper pressed the state for overtime data to see if there was a connection. The largest agency, the Department of Social and Health Services, initially reported to the press it had only incurred 48 hours of overtime in July.

“We questioned that number and yesterday we were informed that the actual overtime number was 9,742 hours,” Devereux said. “So we believe furloughs have had some impact on that number.”

The hearing on furloughs came before the House Ways and Means Committee.

Devereux said furlough-caused overtime was hidden in a number of other ways, such as: increasing part-time workers to full-time; increasing the number of part-time temporaries; hiring Washington Management Service and exempt staff to do field work; and granting overtime or exchange time when not linked directly to furlough days.

He told the budget panel that in the Department of Corrections, records and clerical staff were furloughed – and Community Corrections officers told to stay in their offices and answer the phones.

“Meanwhile, their caseloads of felons were unseen on furlough days,” Devereux said. “To us, that is a ticking time bomb.”

Elsewhere, maintenance workers had to be brought back from furlough because their physical plants could not run without them, he said.

Furloughs cut a day of work, but not a day of workload, he said.

“As layoffs grow, work expectations remain high and many portions of state government have untenable workloads,” Devereux said.

Furloughs also “disproportionately harmed” the 25 percent of state employees not exempted from furloughs.

The mantra on furloughs and other takeaways is that “everything is on the table.”

If so, said Devereux, lawmakers should target the 154 tax breaks totaling $3 billion granted by the Legislature in the past 10 years instead of the $38 million supposedly saved by furloughs.

Without an attempt to recoup those billions instead of millions, Devereux said, “in essence we are saying we care more about tax breaks for the few while services for the many go wanting.”

Furloughs really do hurt, he said.

“Furloughs, added to substantial health care cuts, added to layoffs, are destroying the quality state workforce,” Devereux said. “When the economy rebounds, those public service workers left standing may very well abandon state government and jump to the private sector to recover what they have lost.”

Also testifying with Devereux were representatives from the Teamsters and SEIU 1199 Northwest.

Important settlement on monthly leave accrual for DSHS members

The Federation has won an important grievance settlement affecting monthly leave accrual rates for DSHS members. 

The contract says an employee will earn leave each month after working 80 hours in a month. 

“However, HRMS would not post it until the 16th of the month and human resources/management were telling employees they could not use this accrued leave until HRMS has posted it,” said Federation Council Representative Phedra Quincey. “This posting sometimes occurred well after the employee worked 80 hours in the month, hence creating a violation of the contract by not allowing them to use the leave once they worked 80 hours.” 

After the Federation filed the grievance, management agreed that that glitch in the HRMS system can’t be used to justify violating the contract. 

In addition to reinstating leave to the employees involved in the grievance, DSHS issued the following memo to all human resource staff statewide: 

“Due to questions arising during grievances, we are reminding everyone of the following:
 “Article 11.3 of the Washington Federation of State Employees collective bargaining agreement provides that employees accrue vacation leave after 80 hours in pay status.  This means that the leave is available for the employee’s use after the 80th hour is completed, even if HRMS hasn’t computed the accruals and put them in the employee’s leave bucket.  An employee may use the leave in the same pay period in which it is earned.   Therefore, if an employee requests to take leave that does not appear in HRMS, care must be taken to evaluate whether the employee has met the 80-hour threshold.  If an employee has met the threshold, the accrual is available for their use.   In calculating the 80 hours, count all hours in pay status except overtime.  Holidays and other paid leave days count towards the 80 hours in a pay status.”

September 21, 2010

Governor found guilty of unfair labor practice over post-negotiation actions in 2008

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Tom McPhee late this afternoon ruled in favor of the Federation and found the governor and her budget office guilty of an unfair labor practice for failing to bargain when it determined the 2009-11 contracts agreed to in September 2008 were not "financially feasible" and the governor would not forward the contracts to the Legislature for funding.

McPhee said the state, not the union, had the obligation to request re-opening of negotiations once it, in effect, withdrew from the tentative agreements reached earlier. That failure "violated the good faith bargaining obligation and constitutes an unfair labor practice," McPhee said in his ruling.

Once the budget office told the governor the contracts were not financially feasible, the state had the obligation "without delay" to notify the union, explain why it reached its conclusion and then request re-negotiation, the judge said.

Faced with the prospect of no contract because of the state’s refusal to initiate bargaining, the union demanded negotiations, which came in the spring of 2009, long after the financially infeasibility ruling was made in December 2008.

McPhee's finding does not turn the clock back because the contracts eventually were re-negotiated. But finding the governor guilty of an unfair labor practice stands as a public rebuke of the state's highest official. Such a censure has a sobering impact. It makes the statement that Federation members' bargaining rights should be respected.

McPhee's ruling directs the state to never repeat its actions again if a similar situation arises. And the state will notify all Federation members that it committed an unfair labor practice so there will be no doubt that Federation members were right and their governor was wrong.

September 17, 2010

Interpreters say "YES" to WFSE/AFSCME with overwhelming 95% vote

Medical interpreters in the DSHS system today voted to make the Federation their union and vowed to win a strong contract for the more than 1,500 “language access providers” who help doctors communicate to patients for whom English is a second language.

The interpreters, organizers and supporters burst into cheers, tears and hugs when the results were announced at the Public Employment Relations Commission in Olympia.

The vote was 851 for the Federation and 47 for no representation. There were 125 challenged ballots, which would not have affected the outcome of the vote. Another 50 ballots were voided.

The interpreters won the right to form a union under the Federation-initiated ESSB 6726, which was signed into law this spring.

It’s believed this is the first time a bargaining unit exclusively for public-sector interpreters has been formed in the United States.

“There are not words to describe this day – it’s historic,” WFSE/AFSCME President Carol Dotlich told the newest union members after the vote count.

“You are the first and I’m very proud to call you brothers and sisters."

“Our union will be far richer with your activism,” said Megan Parke, the union’s organizing director.

The interpreters say they’re ready to build on the hard work that won them a union to next win a strong – and groundbreaking -- contract.

They will also continue the campaign to reform the archaic system of brokers and agencies – the middlemen in the system who sap 42 percent of state and federal dollars before they ever reach the frontline workers actually doing the interpreting work.

“I hope this is the beginning for much fairer treatment and consideration for what interpreters do,” said Diana Noman, a Seattle-based interpreter specializing in Russian and Arabic.

“This is the birth of a new experience for interpreters…,” said Edmundo Cavazos, a Tacoma interpreter specializing in Spanish.

“No more will we be subjected to being exploited and treated in the manner we are."

“I’m excited because there’s a lot to be done – I think it’s the beginning of big things to come,” said Pon Hochingnavong of Seattle, who specializes in Laotian and Thai.

Join the "One Nation Working Together" rally October 2

Join the local One Nation Working Together Rally to coincide with the national event in Washington, D.C. Saturday, Oct. 2.

The rally is a “social movement of individuals and organizations committed to putting America back to work and pulling America back together.” The national event will be at and Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

But you don’t have to go that far.

The Seattle One Nation Working Together Rally will be 10 a.m.-1 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 2, at the Henry M. Jackson Federal Building, 915 Second Ave., Seattle. If you’re not a Policy Committee delegate or alternate (they are meeting that day in SeaTac), please attend.

AFSCME and Council 28 are proud to join this event. For information on the movement, go to

Bargaining Updates


EWU members this past Monday (Sept. 10) overwhelmingly ratified their 2011-2013 contract, which rolls over the current contract with six important additions, including a financial re-opener clause to go back to the table should any other WFSE/AFSCME contract get any general wage increases or additional personal paid leave. The Health Care Benefits Amounts article will be folded in if and when that article is wrapped up (the unions are waiting for management to return to the table with a realistic proposal to negotiate). The EWU vote was: Bargaining Unit 1 – 63 to accept, 7 to reject; Bargaining Unit 2 – 10 to accept, 0 to reject.

It’s now clear the other teams will bargain past Oct. 1: 


The coalition of 12 Community Colleges bargained this week (Sept. 15 and 16). In recent bargaining there, the team reached tentative agreement on five more articles:
  • Article 3 – Workplace Behavior (strengthened for all employees);
  • Article 8 – Overtime (takeaways prevented);
  • Article 9 – Training and Employee Development (takeaways prevented);
  • Article 10 – Holidays (improved for alternative work schedule employees);
  • Article 11 – Vacation (takeaways prevented). 
 The CCC team is holding management’s feet to the fire to live up to their respective mission statements, which speak of such values as supporting employees. The team is also fighting a management proposal to raise employee parking fees. “Don’t freeze employee wages and benefits and then look toward those same employees to boost revenue,” the team said. Like other WFSE/AFSCME teams, the CCC Bargaining Team is looking for additional bargaining dates through the fall. The contract expires June 30, 2011.


The third mediation session on the WSU contract is set for this Monday, Sept. 20, in Pullman. The parties reached impasse on the contract in June. The mediator brought both sides together on one article in the first mediation session. Some movement came in the second session, but the WSU Bargaining Team still hopes for changes on: holiday pay equivalent to work shift; work during cyclic leave; sick leave as time worked; freezing parking fees; and expanding hazard pay. The WSU contract expires June 30, 2011.


Management presented the CWU Bargaining Team with a compensation proposal similar to that presented at other tables – freezing pay and step increases. That came during the team’s Sept. 9-10 round of bargaining. With little economics on the table, it became clear that bargaining at CWU, too, will go past Oct. 1. In the most recent round of bargaining, the team did reach tentative agreement on 11 more articles:
  • Article 3 – Workplace Behavior
  • Article 8 – Overtime
  • Article 16 – Work-Related Injury or Illness
  • Article 19 – Leave Without Pay
  • Article 21 – Uniforms, Tools and Equipment
  • Article 29 – Discipline
  • Article 30 – Grievance Procedure
  • Article 33 – Employee Files
  • Article 37 – Mandatory Subjects
  • Article 41 – Dues/Fees Deduction and Status Reports
  • Article 53 – Printing of Agreement 
 Future CWU bargaining dates will be announced. The current contract covering CWU members expires June 30, 2011.


In the five most recent bargaining sessions, the TESC Bargaining Team has reached tentative agreement on several articles—but got the same insulting compensation articles that other WFSE/AFSCME bargaining tables have received. 

The team on Aug. 31 received the same offensive compensation proposal as the other tables – no cost-of-living adjustments and takeaways in other areas. 

Because of the state budget and unresolved bargaining over Health Care Benefits Amounts, contract negotiations have been extended past Oct. 1. Additional TESC bargaining dates will be announced.

But both sides have reached tentative agreement on 13 more articles:
  • 4  Hiring and Appointments
  • 5  Temporary Appointments
  • 10  Holidays
12  Sick Leave
15  Family and Medical Leave
  • 16  Work Related Injury or Illness
20  Safety and Health
21  Uniforms, Tools, and Equipment
  • 25  Licensure and Certification
  • 29  Discipline
  • 30  Grievance Procedures
  • 37  Mandatory Subjects
51  Entire Agreement
The current contract covering TESC members expires June 30, 2011.


At the UW, negotiations have stalled and are in danger of heading to impasse. UW will not agree to basic improvements in language and working conditions for our members; not because they can't, because they don't want to, according to the team.

“All of the improvements we are seeking are things that the General Government contract and/or the Higher Ed Coalition contract already have and are actually improving on currently,” the UW team said.

 In seven bargaining sessions from Aug. 12 to Sept. 15, the team reached tentative agreement on Article 7 – Union Dues and Security, proposed changes in 18 other articles and proposed a new article, Mandatory Subjects.  

The UW team, too, will extend negotiations past Oct. 1. They have bargaining dates set for Sept. 23 and 24, Oct. 15 and Oct. 20. The UW contract expires June 30, 2011.

This small unit of about 10 has had two half-day sessions. The UWPM Bargaining Team has proposed opening several articles. Management has not responded with any counters and has not made any proposals. The UWPM contract expires June 30, 2011.


The General Government Bargaining Team heads back to the table Sept. 28 and 29. Bargaining dates have been scheduled at least until Dec. 10. The General Government contract expires June 30, 2011.

September 16, 2010

6.3% cuts ordered; let us know what you're hearing

The slow economic recovery means less consumer spending, so tax collections are still down, adding another $520 millioin to the deficit. The governor's budget office has ordered cuts of 6.3 percent. No details on the level of cuts yet. But if you hear or see an e-mail with specifics at your worksite or agency, let us know. 

Click here to send us an e-mail.

September 10, 2010

Judge rules for union, overturns state's repeal of gainsharing benefits for PERS3 and PERS1 members.

A judge Thursday ruled in favor of the Washington Federation of State Employees and ordered the state to resume gainsharing benefits for those in the PERS 3 and PERS 1 retirement systems.

King County Superior Court Judge Richard Eadie on summary judgment found that the gainsharing benefits are protected by the state constitution – basically that pensions are a promise the state can’t break. “The state may not divest members of gainsharing unless that benefit is replaced with comparable new advantages,” which didn’t happen when the Legislature in 2007 repealed the gainsharing benefit, the judge said.

“To terminate gainsharing for participating members, the state must show that the termination serves the purpose of maintaining the integrity and flexibility of the retirement system and further that any resulting disadvantage to the covered employee has been replaced by comparable new advantages,” Eadie wrote.

The judge said gainsharing has not negatively impacted the retirement system’s flexibility. “To the contrary, gainsharing was designed as a flexible tool to recognize and equitably share extraordinary returns on the systems’ investments; to appeal to a wider range of potential members, specifically those who may come into covered employment for a shorter time than would allow full retirement…,” the judge said.

“An earned pension right, such as gainsharing for covered employees, may not be removed without adding counterbalancing benefits. While some benefits were added when gainsharing was removed, the record before this court would not support a finding that those added benefits meet the standard of ‘counterbalancing.’”

The faulty counterbalancing was earlier retirement benefits for PERS 2 and PERS 3 members—to retire at age 62 with 30 years of service with no reduction in benefits.

According to union counsel, Judge Eadie’s ruling also wipes out the “poison pill” provision in the gainsharing repeal so the earlier PERS 2 and PERS retirement remains as well even if gainsharing is restored.

That interpretation may be contested by the state, which is expected to appeal Eadie’s ruling.

Gainsharing is the term given to sharing extraordinary returns on retirement fund investments. The Legislature adopted a program that would divide a portion of investment returns that exceeded 10 percent over a four-year period between the state and those in PERS 3 and PERS 1. It was meant as an incentive for new hires to join PERS 3 and for PERS 2 members to switch to PERS 3.

The union’s legal action was a class action on behalf of all PERS 3 and PERS 1 enrollees. The named plaintiffs were two Department of Corrections members, Dana Hufford of Local 308 and Paulette Thompson of Local 53.

CLARIFICATION: the judge did not rule on the earlier retirement for PERS 2 and 3 members, but it's our position it remains in effect.

That’s it for now.


September 9, 2010

Bargaining to continue in General Government as state confirms compensation proposal it's talked about in the press for weeks

It should be no surprise to you that the state finally presented its General Government compensation article that would freeze pay and cut step increases from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2013.
Their Article 42 proposal had been expected because the governor and her budget director had been discussing it in the press for weeks but their negotiators were silent on it at the bargaining table.

Their compensation article proposed other takeaways that we’ll be telling you about in days to come. They affect significant groups of our members but are somewhat technical. We want to get our ducks in a row to refute the proposals.

We’ll be calling on you for help.

Coupled with the state’s bargaining proposal on health care – which would more than double your share of health premiums from 12 percent to 26 percent – the compensation article is an insult. An insult to the 40,000 heroes who make up this union. They deserve better. And the state ought to know better.

In these tough times, we expected proposals to keep pay and benefits level. We did not expect the significant takeaways the state has proposed.

We’ve told you a lot about the health care travesty. To date, we have not heard back from the state on a realistic counterproposal that has some basis for negotiations leading to a fair settlement.

Even if they do, it looks more and more like the path to a fair contract with no takeaways leads through the halls of the state Capitol. Legislators ultimately will have to make the policy decisions on such things as use of reserve funds and closing tax loopholes to keep premiums and costs at current levels in 2012 and 2013.

(The 2011 health program has already been funded at current levels, thanks to union action this past legislative session and using the current contract.)

Your heroic job actions have made a difference. But we all know it’s time to take it up a notch. More job actions, sure. But this November’s election will play a critical role. State employees need good legislators when it comes time for the policy decisions needed to keep your benefits level in these times of budget deficits. If you want to find ways to help in legislative campaigns, call our Legislative and Political Action Department at 1-800-562-6002.

And don’t forget: Observers say to win on health care and getting a fair contract with no takeaways, the five bad initiatives on the Nov. 2 ballot would have to be defeated. Those include:  I-1082 to privatize the quality workers’ compensation program provided by our Labor and Industries members; I-1053, Tim Eyman’s latest scheme to make it nearly impossible to repeal even a fraction of this state’s $14 billion in eligible tax loopholes; the measures to privatize liquor (I-1100 and I-1105); and I-1107, repealing taxes on candy, bottled water and soda pop. All these would cut hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. That lost revenue would worsen the deficit, make it harder to repeal some tax loopholes and dampen chances to win the policy changes to keep your health benefits costs at current levels.

Concerned members can find out how to help by visiting our website at or calling our Legislative and Political Action Department at 1-800-562-6002.


Bargaining is tentatively set to resume Sept. 28 and 29. In the latest round of bargaining Wednesday and Thursday (Sept. 8 and 9), the team reached tentative agreement on five more articles, bringing to 31 the number of signed-off articles. But 23 articles remain open. Your bargaining team worked long hours to ship plenty of proposals to management’s side, but little came back, except the expected pay and step increase freeze – expected but still insulting coming from this state’s largest employer, which sometimes acts as if it’ some rural general store in Mississippi (or wherever Hooterville was).

September 7, 2010

LABOR DAY 2010: Patty Murray joins labor events to reaffirm fight for jobs, health care, Wall Street reform

Flanked by supporters in “AFSCME Green,” Washington’s U.S. Sen. Patty Murray used a Labor Day speech in Tumwater to urge Federation and all union members to “reaffirm” their commitment to the fight for jobs, health care and Wall Street reform.

“This election is not about Patty Murray, this election is about you,” she told the crowd Monday.  

“This is about your family and the strength of the future. You know that I fight for all of you. I’ve been at your back on every vote to make sure we have a strong country for the workers who go to work every day. Now I’m asking you to be at my back.”

Murray is the Federation’s endorsed candidate for the United States Senate. She has a 100 percent “Right” voting record in the current Congress and a 94 percent “Right” voting record in her 17 years in the Senate.

Murray note the contrast with her opponent, two-time gubernatorial runner-up Dino Rossi, who pledges to overturn Wall Street reform.

“Not on my watch,” Murray said. “We’re going to keep that in place. I know whose side I’m on…. I’m not on the side of the wealthy Americans who want more tax breaks and invest it overseas when they get it.”

September 6, 2010

On Labor Day 2010, here are three examples where the media are hearing you on health care, furloughs

It’s not easy beating the big media powers like the Seattle Times who want you to pay for their tax breaks. The opinion pages always represent the big business perspective. But the news side is different where real journalists have long respected the work you do and the credibility of your information. Here are three examples on this Labor Day 2010:

Health costs: Talks, balks

Gives your side of the story on the state's 74/26 health care bargaining position.

The Olympian, 9/5/10

Stuck with salary-sapping furloughs

Vancouver Local 313 members Patricia Loving and Marty Harris counter business leader's assessment that "business advocates see no way around the measure.”

Vancouver Columbian, 9/6/10

Furloughs set for Tuesday

The Olympian, 9/6/10

September 4, 2010

Union team applauds what appears to be new spirit of collaboration at General Government table

The General Government Bargaining Team saw significant progress at the table during the latest bargaining session Sept. 1 and 2 at the Thurston County Fairgrounds in Lacey.

The union and management reached tentative agreement (TA) on eight articles – bringing to 26 the number of articles TA’d. That’s nearly half the contract.

The General Government team worked overtime over two days to respond to management proposals and ship counterproposals to the state side. Thursday, the pace significantly picked up with the eight TAs.

The team continues to look at your identified priorities and is working hard to get the best contract possible for these terrible times.

The General Government team bargains again next week on Sept. 8 and 9 and is looking forward to more mutual creative problem-solving.

On health care bargaining, the Federation-led coalition of all state employee unions is still awaiting some word from the state on whether they’re ready to come back to the table and discuss a health care article that gives some basis for a settlement. The union proposal on the table is not unreasonable given the reality that state employees may be in the middle of a four-year wage freeze and sacrificed already with other significant cuts to pay from furloughs, benefits, pension funding and lost jobs.


Other teams bargained this week including The Evergreen State College, Western Washington University, the Community College Coalition and the DSHS Institutions Supplemental Bargaining Team. As we get details, we’ll report them here and post them at > Bargaining.