October 28, 2010

HOTLINE: Agreement reached mitigating impacts of new DSHS furoughs

WFSE/AFSCME and management of DSHS reached agreement on a “memorandum of understanding” that mitigates the impact of the new furloughs tied to the governor's 6.3 percent budget cuts.

The agreement saves the jobs of 160 DSHS workers, has fewer furlough days for previously exempt employees than management originally proposed and showed the public our members have innovative ideas to generate savings to offset furlough days. 

NOTE: This posting was delayed to respect the agreement to put out a joint statement first, which went out at 12:30 p.m. today.

Highlights of the agreement signed off at 2:40 this morning:
          • Only eight furlough days for those previously exempt under the furlough law passed by the Legislature. This is a big deal – management originally proposed nine. 
          • Commitment to use savings to offset furloughs if possible. 
          • Commitment to pend all performance evaluations until next June, unless absolutely necessary. 
          • Important workload modifications. 
          • Workers making less than $2,500 a month will be exempt.
          • And both sides committed to put out a joint statement to employees. 
          The negotiations were extraordinary – with DSHS Secretary Susan Dreyfus sitting on the management side, along with many of her top leadership team, including Denise Revels Robinson, head of DSHS Children’s Administration, Chief Financial Officer Gary Robinson, other division heads and superintendents of 24/7 facilities. 

          Your team worked long and hard for the fourth day this month. Negotiations started at 9 a.m. Wednesday and as we said didn’t wrap up until 2:40 this morning.

          It shows the value of having a union with the know-how to dig in and fight for out-of-the-box ideas to save jobs and money. One example of that was the agreement where those working holidays would be paid at straight time plus half, so that each holiday worked “during the time of temporary layoffs will count as an offset for a temporary layoff day for that employee.” The creative thinking aimed at preserving public services.

          “By negotiating new workload standards, by protecting the lowest-paid DSHS workers and by saving 160 permanent DSHS workers, the union has mitigated the debilitating aspects of DSHS’s current across-the-board compensation reductions,” said Carol Dotlich, president of the Washington Federation of State Employees.

          “We hate that additional furloughs are contemplated, but our members are trying to preserve as many services for our citizens as they can." 

          Download a copy of the full agreement here. 

          Here are more details:
            • Employees subject to the previous ESHB 6503 law that mandated 10 furlough days will take an additional temporary layoff day in November 2010 and May 2011.
            • All other employees will take eight furlough days between November 2010 and June 2011. 
            • Children’s Administration employees may choose to take a furlough day on Nov. 24 or Nov. 29, but if work demands prevent that, they can request an alternate day in November.
            • There are important options for those with alternate work schedules. Refer to the agreement for full details.
            • With the added furloughs – and decreased work time – the agreement recognizes that expectations have to be adjusted: “The agency will not expect employees to accomplish the same amount of work during the month of temporary layoff that the employees accomplished during a month where no temporary layoff occurred.”
            • Employees who work a holiday from November 2010 to June 2011 will be compensated at straight time plus half, for all hours worked on the holiday, instead of their regular rate of pay plus time and a half for all hours worked on a holiday. That will count as an offset for a temporary layoff day for employees working a holiday.
            • Employees with a full-time equivalent salary of $2,500 or less a month will be exempt from these furloughs unless their office or work location is closed. If their office is closed, employees who are eligible to use leave will be allowed to use leave.
            •  If a work location is closed on a furlough day, employees can turn their voice mail greeting to the “extended absence” message. Current 24-hour non-emergency message response requirements will be extended to 48 hours during the entire period of the furloughs from November 2010 to June 2011. The 48-hour non-emergency service response will also apply to internet, e-mail and fax requests.
            • Both sides agreed it is a priority to use salary savings in addition to those budgeted, booked and not needed for emergent and necessary expenditures, as determined by the secretary’s office, to reduce the impact of furlough days. Management will meet with the union monthly to discuss the number of furlough days that can be reduced consistent with this provision.

              Agreement reached on temporary layoff impacts

              The Department of Social and Health Services and WFSE/AFSCME have reached an agreement on a “memorandum of understanding” that mitigates the impacts of expanded temporary layoffs required to meet the Governor’s directive to achieve 6.3 percent across-the-board reductions for the current fiscal year.

              Bargaining went on throughout the day and night yesterday and an accord was reached early this morning.

              Among the highlights of the agreement:
              • Eight temporary layoff days for those previously exempt under the temporary layoff law passed by the Legislature this year
              • Exemption for employees making $2,500 a month in full-time equivalent salary unless their office or work location is closed, in which case they can exercise several leave option
              • Reduced workload expectations during temporary layoff months
              • No loss of state retirement benefits because of income lost due to temporary layoff days
              • Department commits to making it a priority to use other salary savings to reduce the impact of temporary layoff days
              • Department will suspend performance evaluations through June 30, 2011 for most represented employees
              • Waiver of requirement for advance written notice of temporary layoff days; one temporary layoff letter for each employee for the entire duration of the temporary layoffs
              • Flexibility in scheduling temporary layoff days
              The agreement is posted online at: http://www.dshs.wa.gov/pdf/ea/moadshswfse.pdf

              October 25, 2010

              Bargaining Updates

              UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON. The UW Bargaining Team caucused Oct. 20 to prepare for mediation. The Public Employment Relations Commissions is expected to appoint a mediator and set dates sometime in November. In contract mediation, the mediator meets separately with each side and attempts to find solutions that the parties might have missed – or common ground that was never considered. Meanwhile, a subcommittee of the UW Bargaining Team on Oct. 28 will meet with management to negotiate improvements in the language on “cyclic employees” (all in Housing and Food Services or Student Union Activities and Facilities); these members work nine, 10 or, in rare cases, 11 months a year. The language in question involves how work is assigned during layoff periods.

              Follow negotiations on WFSE.org > Bargaining > UW/HMC Bargaining news & information.

              COMMUNITY COLLEGE COALITION. The bargaining team for the coalition of 12 Community Colleges negotiated last Friday, Oct. 22. The team is producing an update. It will be posted online at WFSE.org  > Bargaining > Community College Coalition news & information.

              GENERAL GOVERNMENT. Well, with the governor giving the impression in the media that nothing is happening at the bargaining table because of the impasse over the health care article, your General Government Bargaining Team decided it’s time to be more explicit about the progress your team has made. It’s similar to what other bargaining teams are doing, but up to now the General Government team has hyper-respected the contractual restrictions on what can be said publicly. So the team believes we can give you a broad outline without violating any contractual restrictions.

              Read the full report at WFSE.org > Bargaining > General Government Bargaining news & information (scroll down to read the update).

              Furlough bargaining this week in DOC, DSHS

              Bargaining on furloughs tied to the governor’s 6.3 percent cuts starts today in Corrections and resumes Wednesday in DSHS.

              DOC:  In the Department of Corrections, the management proposal appears to be one additional furlough day with those previously exempt now furlough eligible. But we need to see the formal management proposal at the table.

              DSHS:  In DSHS, nothing has happened since management walked away from the table Oct. 7. Rumors may be flying and you may be seeing nasty things on the internal DSHS online message boards and you may see confusing statements from management. But the truth is, there is no agreement on additional furlough days because management walked away from the table. As we said before, your dedicated Federation team worked three long days to try to get an agreement. But it was management that pulled up and walked out. Any uncertainty, any confusion is caused by management’s action, not the union’s. If you hear otherwise, it’s a lie.

              But having said that, negotiations in DSHS resume this Wednesday with DSHS Secretary Susan Dreyfus agreeing to personally sit at the table. Secretary Dreyfus agreed to hands-on negotiations after Federation Executive Director Greg Devereux wrote her a letter Oct. 15.

              Devereux said the goals Dreyfus had laid out to Devereux and Federation President Carol Dotlich on furloughs “may have been thwarted” by management representatives at the table.

              “We too want sound plans and agreements that are flexible and not administratively burdensome, and we came to the table with exactly that intent,” Devereux wrote. “But when we asked reasonable questions and provided information to support our positions, the LRO and your delegation left negotiations and management representatives started to malign the union."

              So, it’s hoped that Dreyfus’s presence will lead to quicker and more productive negotiations. We’ll keep you updated.

              October 20, 2010

              WFSE/AFSCME members jam benefits board meeting, ask for help in health care fight

              Federation members in AFSCME green jammed the meeting of the Public Employees Benefits Board today as they made a direct request on the 58th day waiting for the state to return to the health care bargaining table with a realistic proposal.

              “Adequate health care is a necessity,” said Brad Samples, a Local 53 member with DSHS in Tacoma.

              Samples wore black to make a statement about the pall the governor’s proposed health care package has cast over state employees. The governor wants state employees to pay 26 percent of their premiums, a 117 percent increase over the current 12 percent. That would mean an estimated pay cut of about $2,316 a year.

              “Darn it, I didn’t get in the business as a social worker or as state employee with lust for personal wealth,” Samples said. “I did it for reasons to try to improve my world, my community around me.

              “Unfortunately, we all need to be able to pay for minimum necessities of life….What has been proposed of further increases, it will be undoable for a number of individuals."

              Samples presented a bundle of letters from other members explaining the economic harm the proposed increases would mean.

              He read one from a member already hard-pressed by the out-of-pocket costs that went up this year, on top of no pay raises, pay cuts from furlough days and other sacrifices.

              “There are times when I and my wife go without food so that our two children have something to eat,” the member wrote.

              The Federation delegation showed up to enlist the benefits board’s support for innovative solutions to the huge cost increases proposed by the governor. A core minority of the board, led by Federation Executive Director Greg Devereux, is often narrowly outvoted.

              Steve Segall, a Local 443 member with DSHS in Olympia and a member of the General Government Bargaining Team, said legislators OK’d using a reserve fund, the “premium stabilization account,” to keep costs level in 2011.

              “We believe that the hardships continue as we look into subsequent years,” Segall said. “We believe that those reserves should be used again. And we ask for your support to move forward into this legislative session.”

              The board meets again Nov. 17 over the complicated issue of “redesigning” the Uniform Medical Plan and examining costs in hospitals used in the UMP.

              Federation members and allies shout down supporters of I-1082

              The Building Industry Association of Washington, who spearheaded Initiative 1082 to turn our state’s workers’ compensation system over to AIG and other Wall Street insurance companies that helped ruin the economy in the first place, got a jolt this morning when they “rallied” outside Labor and Industries (LNI) headquarters in Tumwater.

              An equal number of Federation members and members from other unions ranging from the IBEW to Building and Construction Trades spoke truth to power and shouted down the BIAW’s lies.

              LNI employees, who were discouraged by management from participating even on break time, showed their support by peering down from outside balconies and office windows.

              The Federation and allies shouted, “Let’s vote no on 1082, good for insurance bad for you” and “Is this how you use our bailout money?”

              After about a half hour of befuddlement because they couldn’t match the lungpower of the union team, the BIAW partisans slowly drifted away. The insults they shouted at the employees looking on from inside fell flat.

              The BIAW has publicly made it its mission to obliterate L&I, “closed down, windows shuttered, with weeds growing all over its sprawling campus.”

              After today, it looks like they’ll have to wait a long time for that.

              October 19, 2010

              Three job actions in coming days: LNI counter-demonstration; Benefits board meeting; and Corrections negotiations on furloughs

              You may have heard via our e-mail network, Facebook fan page and our website, but three major job actions take place starting tomorrow.

              Counter-demonstration against supporters of I-1082 

              The Building Industry Association of Washington is rallying at Labor and Industries Headquarters in Tumwater tomorrow, Wednesday, Oct. 20. The BIAW wants to hand over our workers’ compensation program to AIG and the other Wall Street giants who got us in this economic mess in the first place. And the BIAW and its ilk make no qualms about obliterating L&I and its employees, in their words, “closed down, windows shuttered, with weeds growing all over its sprawling campus.” 

              Well, we’re defending that campus with a counter-demonstration. 

              So join the Federation and its allies who oppose I-1082 for a counter-demonstration, 9:45 a.m., tomorrow, Wednesday, Oct. 20, at L&I Headquarters, 7273 Linderson Way S.W., Tumwater, WA  98501-5414. We’ll speak truth to power and counter the BIAW lies.

              Benefits board meeting 

              Also tomorrow, the Public Employees Benefits Board meets to discuss revising the list of providers under the Uniform Medical Plan. It’s also a chance to support the minority on the board who support affordable health care and press the board and Health Care Authority to drop its opposition to using health fund reserves to fund your health care – instead of the governor’s plan to make you pay 117 percent more for premiums.

              So come out if you can. Tell the benefits board: Maintain current access! Use health reserves to save benefits!

              The PEBB will meet 1-3 p.m., tomorrow, Wednesday, Oct. 20, at the Health Care Authority – Sue Crystal Board Room, 676 Woodland Square Loop S.E., Lacey.

              You can register online at http://takeaction.wfse.org so we can also keep you updated about the next PEBB meeting Nov. 17. 

              Corrections negotiations on additional furloughs 

              Corrections members are encouraged to turn out next Monday to support their DOC Supplemental Bargaining Team as they negotiate with management over the proposed additional furlough days under the governor’s across-the-board 6.3 percent budget cuts.

              The support job action will be next Monday, Oct. 25. Show up any time between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., at DOC Headquarters, 7345 Linderson Way S.W., Tumwater.

              And if you can’t attend, wear your black DOC t-shirt (the one with WFSE Council 28 Community Corrections badge on it).

              Governors sometimes say the darndest things

              We’re entering Day 57 of the wait for the state to come back to the Health Care Coalition Bargaining table with a realistic proposal (Hint: It shouldn’t include 117 percent increases or 26 percent premium shares).

              While we wait, we’re always looking for signals from the other side. And Gov. Chris Gregoire herself yielded some clues (and confusion over facts) in an Oct. 14 interview with journalist Austin Jenkins on Inside Olympia on TVW, the state’s public affairs TV network.

              The interview with the governor left the impression that all bargaining had broken down. “We’re still open to negotiations,” the governor said. But the truth is, while some of the Federation’s teams have filed their contracts to mediation or fact-finding, most have dates scheduled through the fall and even up to the Christmas season to continue the hard work on the contracts.

              When the governor appeared to confuse the health care coalition bargaining with bargaining for State Troopers and others who have arbitration, Jenkins reminded the governor that “health care gets negotiated as an umbrella for everybody, correct?”

              “Umm, pretty much, pretty much,” Gregoire responded.
              All state employee unions negotiate in coalition on health care and the final agreement goes in all contracts.
              “And the issue on health care – I’m not going to commit an unfair labor practice here and negotiate publicly – but the problem for me in health care is … the bill’s gone up by about $260 million. As I said earlier, I don’t have an extra penny. So the fundamental question is how do we pay for that? I don’t have the ability to pay for it. If I pay for it, then I lay someone off. I can’t provide the service, or I cut services to people, which ultimately lays someone off. So that’s the dilemma that we face.”
              The cost for the 60,000 state employees bargaining in coalition is not $260 million – the governor chose to inflate the number by lumping in all state employees, including the 50,000 or so employees exempt or not in bargaining units. She also used the old tactic of making state employees the bad guys – if they maintain health care in the face of more than $1 billion they’ve already sacrificed, others will suffer. That’s why the Federation has argued for using health reserves – done this year to keep costs level in 2011 – and closing tax loopholes – similar to what the Congress did to fund the jobs bill.
              Jenkins asked specifically if the governor is still asking state employees to pay 26 percent for premiums – a 117 percent increase over the current 12 percent.

              “Again, I’m not going to commit an unfair labor practice here by publicly talking about this,” she said. “They chose to talk about it. We responded simply by saying we can’t afford the escalating cost of health care and therefore we’re asking them to help us get through the recession by paying more.” 
              There are no ground rules in health care bargaining, so each side is free to talk publicly. That’s what the Federation did Aug. 24 after the state presented its 26/74 premium split plan. However, in responding to the Federation, the governor’s budget director [in the Aug. 26 Olympian] instead bargained in the media over the separate General Government compensation package, which had not yet even been discussed. The governor wanted a contract that freezes pay and step increases, he said. The governor’s negotiators did not present their compensation plan for discussion until late on Sept. 8. The General Government negotiations are governed by a contract article that places some restrictions on what can be said about what’s being said at the table – and certainly on what has not even been presented at the table.
              The governor also seem confused about the Oct. 1 deadline in statute to submit any requests for any parts of the contract that would require new appropriations. But the answer actually came two years ago when the governor refused to submit a request, the Legislature then acted, and the Federation came back in the spring to revamp the tentative agreement. The only deadline that really matters is July 1, 2011, when the 2011-2013 contract needs to be in place. 
              As you recall, a court found the governor guilty of an unfair labor practice for those actions in 2008.
               The governor also revealed her thinking on what happens if there is no new contract by July 1, 2011. The existing terms and conditions would continue for a year.

              Jenkins: “And you’re saying that the state can’t afford that because that would be the same (88/12 health premium) split?"

              Gregoire: “Correct.”

              On furloughs, the governor actually showed signs of the old Gregoire who spent years fiercely defending state employees. Jenkins kept goading the governor about why she hadn’t laid off more than the 8,000 state employees she has.

              “You know,” Gregoire said, “we’ve laid people off, we’ve furloughed people, this idea that we ought to take it out on the hide of every state employee, I simply don’t get. People didn’t get into public service to make money. They got in because they wanted to give back to their community. So they want a decent living for their families, so meantime, they are living under fear all the time now they’re going to lose their job just like anybody else in the private sector, fear they won’t be able to make their house payment or put food on the table for their family, just like the private sector. State employees in state government are no different today than the private sector. They’re under the same fears, the same pressure. The only thing is they get bashed more than the private sector."

              But the governor shared her disturbing vision of a post-recession state government: 

              “We’re not going to provide the same services we did. It’s going to have to be taken up by volunteers, by churches, by non-profits, by businesses, by neighbors, by friends. State government cannot continue to do what it’s done in the past.”

              Watch the furlough exchange here:

              Watch the contract exchange here:

              That’s it for now.

              October 7, 2010

              State walks away from negotiations on proposed new furloughs; management tactic sets stage for uncertainty

              After three days of negotiations on the latest round of proposed furloughs in DSHS to meet the governor’s across-the-board cuts of 6.28 percent, the state walked away from the table shortly before 4 p.m. Thursday.

              Their retreat from talking about creative ways to bridge the budget gap leaves DSHS employees hanging.

              "We do not know what they are going to do," said Federation bargaining team member Sue Henricksen.

              "The union offered a number of recommendations that would yield cost savings and would keep communities safe," said Federation Executive Director Greg Devereux.

              Management’s Monday promise of partnership to solve the problem ended Thursday with the Federation team actually having to search for a management bargaining team in the halls of the General Administration Building. The Federation team came prepared to bargain over management’s latest counterproposal. But for some reason the Labor Relations Office side wasn’t ready.

              Management never came to the table with a specific proposal. On the second day of negotiations Wednesday, management took 10 hours to respond to the union’s offer.

              After the union proposed maximum flexibility for the workforce in their furlough proposal, management countered with a very inflexible, rigid approach to furloughs.

              When pressed on their approach, management abandoned the union’s creative and viable cost-saving measures and indicated they needed more time to determine their direction. It’s not even clear if they will go forward with the new proposed furloughs.

              The spokesman for the Labor Relations Office said they were reconsidering whether to do the additional furloughs at all. He said a DSHS representative would contact the union next week regarding future negotiations.

              So, the state blew it. It’s a golden opportunity lost. And those of you in DSHS are the ones left scratching your heads. Three days and all the state could say was, "We’ll have to get back to you on that."

              We know management has left DSHS members with a lot more questions, uncertainty and anxiety. But know that your union negotiators stood strong for you, showed the ability to be creative problem solvers. Your team of DSHS member negotiators worked long and hard in good faith with you in mind—and with the safety of your clients above all else. But in the end management walked away. That speaks for itself.

              So, as we know more, we will pass it along to you.

              October 6, 2010

              Union waits for response from DSHS on furlough negotiations; State to cut 725 jobs

              The Federation and DSHS met for the second day today to bargain over the latest plan to propose additional furlough days because of the governor’s call for 6.3 percent cuts starting this past Friday.

              The union gave management a comprehensive proposal at 10 a.m., but after six hours, DSHS negotiators said they’d have to study it more. We hope for a response tonight or tomorrow.

              If there is no response, it calls into question whether DSHS can furlough the additional workers this coming Monday or in October at all.

              The first day of bargaining on this new round of proposed furloughs was Monday.

              So stay tuned. The existing furloughs mandated by the Legislature last spring and mitigated by the union will go forward Oct. 11 for those 25 percent of state employees affected.

              October 1, 2010

              Proposed DOC cuts announced

              Following DSHS, the Department of Corrections yesterday announced how it would implement the 6.3 percent cuts ordered by the governor, effective today.

              DOC Secretary Eldon Vail in a memo to staff, said he can’t find all the savings mandated. The cuts would translate to $53 million, he can only find $51.3 million, so he will ask the Legislature to help.

              As in DSHS, DOC proposes adding more furlough days. Many staff previously exempted will be furloughed – how many days DOC proposes wasn’t said. And those who’ve been furloughed face an 11th furlough day in May 2011.

              And as with DSHS, the Federation disagrees and we will meet them at the bargaining table. There are billions in tax loopholes and a bloated Washington Management Service that should be trimmed first.

              DSHS overtime reaches 9742 hours in July, not 48 previously reported

              Furlough activities Monday, Oct. 11

              You may be taking part in job actions, rallies and other activities for the next furlough day, Monday, Oct. 11.

              Whether it’s picketing, gathering food for local food banks or attending the Olympia Local 443 Furlough Fest, you’ll be making a number of public statements that need to be made:
              • It's about our healthcare, current and future furloughs. 
              • It's about coming together as a union and standing “Union Strong” in a time when state employees have given up so much and are told they have to give more. 
              • It's about reaching out to our community and informing them about the decisions that are being made about the services they will not be receiving because state officials won't raise the revenue needed.
              • It's about being informed about the up coming elections and the measures that will affect state employees directly.
              If you’re in the Olympia area on Oct. 11 and want to attend the Furlough Fest Rally, it’s 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Monday, Oct. 11, at Sylvester Park, at the corner of Legion and Capitol Way in Olympia. This will be a time to show the people we work for – the public – the real people who care enough to stand up for them.