April 29, 2011

Don't put savings before safety, CCO tells Senate Ways & Means committee

The Legislature in special session has nothing but a pro forma Senate session today, but one Federation Community Corrections member’s testimony yesterday may have gone a long way to protecting community safety.

In the only legislative hearing held Thursday, Local 53 member
Donald Feist, a Community Corrections officer 3 in Tacoma, laid out the union’s opposition to relevant parts of the Senate’s omnibus criminal justice bill, SB 5891.

He urged senators to reject the parts of the bill affecting early release of dangerous offenders.

“The savings that may be realized by this bill will come with significant risk,” Feist told the Senate Ways and Means Committee. “We’re now at the point of jeopardizing our neighbors and loved ones by releasing dangerous, high-risk offenders back on the streets without treatment, resources or supervision.”

Based on his testimony and opposition, a proposal to reduce prison sentences appears doomed, but the idea of releasing based on good behavior may still remain.

Feist explained that legislation (SB 5288) passed in 2009 already cut thousands from post-release supervision.

“This was not done based on best practices, community safety or offender success,” Feist said. “It was done out of financial need. Because of the implementation of (SB) 5288, we’ve created a supervised offender population that now amounts basically to the worst of the worst.

“In addition, this population must now be supervised using vastly reduced staff, total resources, both within the agency and without.”

Two years later, the impact of that move hasn’t even been determined, he said, but “we’re back here looking at cutting thousands more from supervision under this bill.

“However, these newly cut offenders have already been determined to be dangerous and high risk enough to warrant supervision during times of extreme financial duress.

“Where the buck stops in regard to supervision and community safety has already been established. To further increase the number of dangerous offenders released directly back to the streets without any form of supervision or further accountability we feel is both irresponsible and dangerous."

Current proposals cut some $90 million from Washington’s corrections budget – on top of more than $250 million in cuts during the past three years.

new study from The Pew Center on the States warns that these kinds of proposed cuts will lead to a higher rate of released prisoners re-offending and ending up back in prison.

“That means more crime, it means more victims – and ultimately, it means higher costs for the state,” the Pew Center’s Adam Gelb told the Washington News Service.

That report shows that Washington has one of the highest increases in the rate of recidivism (re-offending) – 30.8 percent between 1999-2002 and 2004-2007. That’s the third highest in the nation, after South Dakota and Oregon.

Senate hearing on tax loopholes set for next Tuesday, 5/3

There’s no start time yet, but we have learned the Senate Ways and Means Committee next Tuesday, May 3, will hold a hearing on proposals to roll back corporate tax breaks. As we get details, we will pass them along.

April 28, 2011

Workers' Memorial Day observances shed light on worker safety

Dotlich and Kucinich lead somber march past markers for each of the 313 assaulted on the job at Western State Hospital in 2010.

Led by visiting Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, the marchers re-dedicated themselves to remembering those who’ve died on the job and to fight for the living.

“We need to be able to do our work in a safety-conscious environment,” Federation President Carol Dotlich said. “There are changes that need to be made. So we demand a culture of safety in this place.”

Management has crowed that the overall rate of assaults has declined, but they gloss over the most recent official state report that showed that the severity of the injuries has increased. The lower rate of assaults is also due to the state moving more patients into the community and restricting admissions. Ironically, no management representatives appeared at the commemoration.

“The number we want to see is not 313,” Dotlich said. “The number we want to see is zero.”

Kucinich, the keynote speaker, proudly held up his union card as a member of the stagehands’ union, and told of his relatives’ worksite injuries and the appreciation of mental health workers who have cared for his brother, who suffers from the disease.

“This is a moment in the history of the country when it’s never been more important for workers to come to the defense of their rights…,” Kucinich said. “We are sending out a message across this county, across this state, across this country, that we remember, we will not forget, and we will keep working to insure that workplace safety is held uppermost in the minds of everyone.”

Later, families of the 92 Washington workers killed on the job in 2010 gathered for the state’s official observance at Labor and Industries headquarters in Tumwater.

“Little can take away the disbelief or the pain, but coming together today to honor the lives of your loved ones in a room filled with people of good faith, many of whom have dedicated their working lives to creating safer workplaces, and helping those injured at work, I hope will provide some small measure of solace to you,” Jeff Johnson, president of the Washington State Labor Council, said. “I hope will be a part of the healing process.”

April 27, 2011

Blow the whistle on contracting out - take action online!

They’re at it again in the special session of the Legislature. They’re trying to take away our rights. This time it’s our contracting out rights.

It’s time to blow the whistle on contracting out!

In the rush to get a budget agreement, legislators may decide to throw the services you provide under the bus – and hand them over to the same corporations that already get billions in state tax breaks.

We all know what’s happening in Wisconsin. Well, if we don’t act here, the same type of attacks could grow here. We could see the erosion of our bargaining rights over contracting out of your jobs.

It’s not right. 

We’ve sacrificed enough. We shouldn’t have to see our jobs privatized, contracted out and outsourced without any ability to show we can do it better, faster and cheaper. 

It’s time to blow the whistle on contracting out in the special session. If we don’t draw the line here, they’ll move on to Transportation, Corrections, parks and on and on. 


NOTE: If you have examples of fouled-up contracting out, please add these details to your email letter.

April 26, 2011

Legislature starts special session today

The Legislature starts its special session today. It can last up to 30 days.

They’re trying to finalize a budget. And we must continue to push for a humane budget that reflects this state’s values, including closing corporate tax loopholes.

Today, only one meeting is on the Legislature’s schedule. Stay tuned here for calls to action and other events.

Workers' Memorial Day observances this week

EVERETT -- WEDNESDAY, APRIL 27 at 5:30 p.m. at the Snohomish County Courthouse's Worker Safety Memorial, 3000 Rockefeller Ave. in Everett -- Each year we gather to remember the men and women who went to work but never returned home. The Snohomish County Central Labor Council sponsors this Worker Memorial Day commemoration.

TACOMA / LAKEWOOD -- THURSDAY, APRIL 28 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (presentations begin at noon) near the flagpole at Western State Hospital, 9601 Steilacoom Blvd. The Pierce County Central Labor Council and Washington Federation of State Employees Local 793 are coordinating this commemoration, which will include a free barbecue.  SPECIAL GUEST APPEARANCE: Congressman Dennis Kucinich, US Representative for Ohio's 10th CD. FLYER
BELLINGHAM -- THURSDAY, APRIL 28 at noon at the monument on the library lawn in front of City Hall, 210 Lottie St. This event will be a commemoration of one year since the Tesoro explosion on April 2, 2010, and will highlight industrial safety concerns. The families of the fallen Tesoro workers have been invited as special guests.
TUMWATER -- THURSDAY, APRIL 28 at 2 p.m. at the state Department of Labor and Industries Building's Auditorium, 7273 Linderson Way S.W. The ceremony will include the traditional tolling of bells while the names of workers who died on the job in the last year are read.

WFSE/AFSCME mourns death of Local 1488 member killed in car crash

University of Washington Local 1488 member Trung Ngo, 36, of Covington, a maintenance mechanic 1, died Saturday night in a car crash near Tiger Mountain on Highway 18 as he and his wife went to get Easter candy for their children. His car was hit by a car driven by a Pullman man, who has been booked into jail on investigation of vehicular homicide. The entire Federation family joins Trung Ngo's  family, friends and co-workers in mourning this tragic loss.

Here is a link to the Seattle Times story:


April 25, 2011

On the Pew Report on Pensions: "Ancient History and Limited Use"

Monday, April 25, 2011

Contact: Gregory King, 202-429-1145
Statement of AFSCME Pres. Gerald W. McEntee on the Pew Report on Pensions: "Ancient History and of Limited Use"
"The latest Pew Report on Pensions, "The Widening Gap," reflects ancient history, distorts the true state of public pension funds and is of limited use for anyone hoping to make informed public policy.  In many cases, the report provides a snapshot of the state of investments on June 20, 2009, which was near the depth of the market.  Pension payments have been, and will continue to be, a small part of state and local government expenditures.  The 2008/2009 stock and real estate market crash took its toll on all investors.  The real story is not the Pew Center's latest snapshot, taken at the bottom of the market, but how well almost all of the retirement systems have recovered.  While individual investors are still struggling to grow their retirement portfolios to sufficient levels, pension funds have shown remarkable resilience.  These funds are not only persevering, but are well on their way to full recovery.

"The relevance of the report's findings are undermined by a Standard and Poor's report last month that found 'pension liabilities and current contributions are not presently jeopardizing any state's capacity to meet its debt service obligations.' Since 2003, the average aggregate pension fund earnings have exceeded the typically assumed benchmark of 8 percent every year except 2008, when the market crashed, with devastating results.
"Although the aggregation of pension liabilities makes for some interesting headlines, such information is of limited use to policy makers.  Large pension plans in all 50 states are funded by a variety of state, local and school district governments.  Some are poorly funded, while the vast majority has been responsibly managed.  Only a plan-by-plan analysis could determine the adequacy of plan funding and benefits.  The report often mixes apples and oranges and comes up with lemons.
"It is also worth noting that benefits for AFSCME-represented public employees in the major pension funds average approximately $19,000 per year.  Member contributions and investments typically comprise approximately 70 to 80 percent of the total cost. The men and women who provide the vital services our communities need are not getting lavish pensions.  They earn modest benefits after a career of service."

# # #
AFSCME's 1.6 million members provide the vital services that make America happen. With members in hundreds of different occupations - from nurses to corrections officers, child care providers to sanitation workers - AFSCME advocates for fairness in the workplace, excellence in public services and prosperity and opportunity for all working families.

April 22, 2011

Special session starts Tuesday

Gov. Chris Gregoire Friday afternoon called legislators back for a special session to finish their business starting at 9 a.m., next Tuesday, April 26. The special session can last up to 30 days.

Members from several WFSE/AFSCME locals spent the day getting last-minute messages in to legislators before they broke for the Easter weekend.

Legislators were set to adjourn their special session Friday.

WSU members ratify contract

Members at Washington State University have ratified their new two-year contract on a vote of 73 to accept to 2 to reject. There were 14 void ballots. There were 202 eligible voters. The mail ballots were counted this morning at WFSE/AFSCME Headquarters in Olympia.

Central Washington University members ratify contract

Members at Central Washington University have ratified their new contract on a vote of 66 to accept to 5 to reject. There was one void ballot. There were 163 eligible voters. The mail ballots were counted Friday morning at WFSE/AFSCME Headquarters in Olympia.

To get to where they wanted, the CWU Bargaining Team agreed to a one-year contract that would take effect July 1, 2012. During the first year of the biennium, the terms and conditions of the current (2009-2011) contract would apply.

Legislature set to end regular session today - special session ahead

The Legislature is set to end their regular session today two days early. They don’t have time to reach agreement on the budget and the dozens of bills necessary to implement the budget. And legislators want to be with their families on Easter.

A special session will be called so they can finish business. The governor may announce today when it would start. It might start right away on Monday. Or it may start several weeks down the line so legislative leaders can work behind the scenes to iron out differences so they can get a special session over with quickly.

So we take a little pause, but only a little pause. We still have much to fight for to save vital services and jobs.


Today’s Furlough Day Lobby Day is the last one of this regular session, but we’ll need a constant presence once the special session starts.

Watch your e-mail, our Action Center at http://takeaction.wfse.org (combined list of calls to action), or call the Federation Hotline at 1-800-562-6102 for updates as we head into special session.

In the meantime, two important calls to action to add to the ones particular to your area:


Call your legislators at 1-800-562-6000. Tell them to stop scapegoating public servants and support the state employee contracts in the budget bill, HB 1087, as it passed the House.

  • Tell them the Senate budget’s furlough plan is illegal. 
  • Tell them it’s time to stop the irresponsible rhetoric against public servants, who’ve already sacrificed to save services.

Oppose closing and privatizing Residential Habilitation Centers (RHCs)

Call the Legislative Hotline at 800-562-6000 to oppose SB 5943.  Closing and privatizing residential habilitation centers is the wrong way to go.

    A crack in the door on closing tax loopholes as House holds hearing

    Segall testifies at hearing on closing tax loopholes. (Photo courtesy TVW)

    WFSE/AFSCME members prepare for tax loophole hearing. From left: Barb Hangartner, Local 313; Steve Segall, Local 443; and Katie Nelson, Local 443. Jim Dawson of FUSE Washington is standing in background.

    The House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday (April 21) held a hearing on three proposals to close tax loopholes to pay for education and health care.

    Two of the measures would be sent to the voters in November – HB 2087 for mental health and HB 2102 for in-home health care.

    The other measure up for hearing was HB 2078, which would cap the business and occupation tax deduction for first mortgages and deeds of trust on residential properties to $100 million a year per taxpayer. The proceeds would fund education.

    They face an uphill battle. But the fact your activism and phone calls and e-mails and rallies got this issue this far is a first-round victory. No one wanted to talk about these issues at the start of the session.

    Rep. Laurie Jinkins of the 27th District, sponsor of HB 2078, said closing tax loopholes only makes sense when $10 billion has been cut from vital services during the Great Recession.

    “It’s a staggering amount of money and it’s had staggering effect on lots of people in this state,” Jinkins told the committee.

    Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson of the 36th District, sponsor of HB 2087 on mental health funding, said that level of cuts “will completely shred the safety net.”

    Jim Dawson of FUSE Washington, a coalition of activists, said the three tax loophole-closing measures were a “step in the right direction” backed by online comments his group has received.

    “It’s clear people are upset that these tax breaks are still on the books while billions have already been cut from education and health care,” Dawson said. “These cuts don’t reflect Washington’s values.”

    The bottom line is building a moral budget, “one that takes responsibility to govern for the good of the people and not just for for-profit entities,” said Federation Local 443 member Steve Segall, a member of the General Government Bargaining Team.


    Call 800-562-6000 and urge legislators to support closing tax loopholes to save the safety net. Specifically, support HB 2078, HB 2087 and HB 2102.

    Bills funding Natural Resources agenecies sent to governor

    The House on Thursday passed both the Discover Pass Bill (2SHB 5622) and SHB 5385 to raise hunting and fishing license fees to fund parks, Fish and Wildlife and other natural resource services. They both passed 55-42 with one excused. They both now go to the governor.

    Governor declares opposition to parts of medical marijuana bill that put state employees at risk

    You may not have thought the medical marijuana bill would become a state employee issue, but it has.

    E2SHB 5073 has passed the Legislature and awaits action by the governor. But she’s concerned it makes state employees who use marijuana for medical reasons criminally liable.

    Here is the statement the governor issued Thursday:

    “I realize the value that medical marijuana has for patients and support the voter-approved initiative. I also agree with the intent of the Legislature to clarify ambiguity surrounding search and arrest as well as concerns around dispensaries and access. We need to create a system that works.

    “I asked the Legislature to work with me on a bill that does not subject state workers to risk of criminal liability. I am disappointed that the bill as passed does not address those concerns while also meeting the needs of medical marijuana patients.

    “I will review the bill to determine any parts that can assist patients in need without putting state employees at risk. No state employee should have to break federal law in order to do their job.”

    April 21, 2011

    Western Washington University ratifies new contract

    Members at Western Washington University yesterday ratified their new contract on a vote of 180 to accept and 18 to reject. There were five challenged ballots.

    That’s a 91 percent yes vote. There were 408 eligible voters, so turnout was 48 percent. Voting took place onsite. The WWU elections committee tallied the ballots Wednesday night.

    To get to where they wanted, the WWU Bargaining Team agreed to a one-year contract that would take effect July 1, 2012. During the first year of the biennium, the terms and conditions of the current (2009-2011) contract would apply.

    Calls needed on the contacts

    You know about the Senate’s illegal plan to impose additional furlough days for those earning more than $50,000 a year. It was in several newspapers yesterday.  

    Read the story here. 

    Keep in mind, this isn’t a call for more furloughs alone – it’s an attack on the contracts themselves. 

    The state employee contracts will save the state almost $400 million. There comes a time to say enough is enough. 

    That time is now. 

    Call 800-562-6000: 
    • Tell legislators to stop scapegoating public servants and support the state employee contracts in the budget bill, HB 1087.  
    • Tell them the Senate budget’s furlough plan is illegal. 
    • Tell them it’s time to stop the irresponsible rhetoric against public servants, who’ve already sacrificed to save services.

    • The Senate on Wednesday passed its version of the Transportation Budget (ESHB 1175) that increases funding for Highway Maintenance. The vote was 39-9 with one excused. It now goes back to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

    • The Senate also passed the Discover Pass bill to fund parks, Fish and Wildlife and Natural Resources. 2SSB 5622 passed on a vote of 33-14 with one absent and one excused. It, too, now goes back to the House.

    • And the Senate passed SSB 5385, the measure raising hunting and fishing licenses to fund other natural resource services, on a vote of 38-8 with three excused. It, too, goes back to the House.

    ULP (unfair labor practice) complaint filed over contracting out of child welfare case management

    The Federation Wednesday (April 20) filed an unfair labor practice complaint over the state’s fast-track contracting out of child welfare services case management – and in part giving the impression the union had agreed to it.

    In fact, the union contends in the ULP complaint, it faced months of incomplete bargaining brought on by management delays in the Children’s Administration of the Department of Social and Health Services. 

    “The agency has delayed bargaining by feinting, in bad faith, the lack of knowledge that its proposed actions involve bargaining unit work and a lack of knowledge of its own actions or proposed actions,” the union’s complaint says. 

    The ULP complaint was filed with the Public Employment Relations Commission.The dispute stems from events sparked by passage in 2009 of 2SHB 2106, which set up a pilot project to privatize child welfare case management in two demonstration sites. The assessment to keep the pilots or expand them statewide was not to be made until 2015. 

    But starting in January 2010, the union protested over a series of actions by the Children’s Administration that promoted the contracting out without required bargaining. That culminated in February 2011 when DSHS basically solicited bids to contract out the case management statewide, not just in the two pilot areas. More required bargaining was delayed by the agency for various reasons. 

    Meanwhile, management sent an e-mail to bargaining unit members in March 2011 “to the effect that the decision to contract out case management services had already been made and further that the RFP (request for proposal) was the product of bargaining with WFSE,” the union complaint says. Implying that was untrue and amounted to illegal interference with employee rights, the Federation complaint says. 

    The union asks PERC to order the Children’s Administration to stop the contracting out until it fulfills its good-faith bargaining obligations with the Federation.

    Workers Memorial Day observances set

    April 28 is Workers’ Memorial Day, a day for organized labor and other advocates for safe and healthy workplaces to rededicate themselves to "Mourn the Dead and Fight for the Living."

    Following are the Worker Memorial Day commemorations planned over the next week:

    SPOKANE -- SATURDAY, APRIL 23 at 11 a.m. at Spokane City Mission Park, 1300 block of E. Mission Ave. For more information, contact the Spokane Regional Labor Council at 509-327-7637.

    EVERETT -- WEDNESDAY, APRIL 27 at 5:30 p.m. at the Snohomish County Courthouse's Worker Safety Memorial, 3000 Rockefeller Ave. in Everett -- Each year we gather to remember the men and women who went to work but never returned home. The Snohomish County Central Labor Council sponsors this Worker Memorial Day commemoration.

    TACOMA / LAKEWOOD -- THURSDAY, APRIL 28 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (presentations begin at noon) near the flagpole at Western State Hospital, 9601 Steilacoom Blvd. The Pierce County Central Labor Council and Washington Federation of State Employees Local 793 are coordinating this commemoration, which will include a free barbecue.

    BELLINGHAM -- THURSDAY, APRIL 28 at noon at the monument on the library lawn in front of City Hall, 210 Lottie St. This event will be a commemoration of one year since the Tesoro explosion on April 2, 2010, and will highlight industrial safety concerns. The families of the fallen Tesoro workers have been invited as special guests.

    TUMWATER -- THURSDAY, APRIL 28 at 2 p.m. at the state Department of Labor and Industries Building's Auditorium, 7273 Linderson Way S.W. The ceremony will include the traditional tolling of bells while the names of workers who died on the job in the last year are read.

    UFCW brothers and sisters kick off "SHOP UNION" campaign

    Our sisters and brothers in the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 367 in Pierce County have set up informational picketing and are doing area-wide mailings to remind neighborhoods – and union members – to shop at union grocery stores.

    The UFCW Local 367 has been there for our issues – they were a major presence at the April 8 rally in Olympia. So it’s a no-brainer to support them and union grocery store jobs.

    They kicked off the campaign at the grand opening of the non-union WinCo foods in south Tacoma with reminders of union alternatives in the area.

    UFCW Local 367 says union stores to patronize in the same area are: Safeways at 1302 S. 38th St., 707 S. 56th St. and 1624 72nd E.; the Fred Meyer at 7250 Pacific Ave.; Saars at 6414 Yakima Ave.; and Albertsons at 111 38th St.

    April 20, 2011

    Support the House budget position on state employee contracts

    Message from WFSE/AFSCME President Carol Dotlich:

    State employees have sacrificed enough! Our negotiated contracts will save the state almost $400 million. Forcing additional furloughs on people doing important jobs is wrong and illegal.

    Tell the politicians in Olympia to stop scapegoating workers and support the contracts.

    The 2011-2013 Biennial Operating Budget (HB 1087) that passed the House funds state employee contracts. Contracts include the furlough plan that was negotiated with the governor. Members of the Washington Federation of State Employees have ratified the General Government contract with that furlough plan.
    • That plan works out to 5.2 hours a month of furlough time, or 15.6 days over the two years of the budget.
    • The 3% cut in pay saves the state $330 million.
    • This is on top of a 25% increase in state employee health costs, higher pension costs and pay cuts from the 2010-2011 furloughs – saving another $56 million.
    Our contract is a fair plan - one where everyone sacrifices equally. 

    The Senate version of the budget that attempts to add additional furloughs is illegal. 

    It’s time to stop the irresponsible rhetoric against public servants, who have already sacrificed to save services.

    Furlough Lobby Day Friday

    It’s coming down to the wire in the regular session. But it’s almost certain legislators will finish their regular session before Sunday and come back into a 30-day special session, probably starting next week. 

    But before they go, you still have time to meet them one-on-one and get messages to them. 

    So we’ve set up another Furlough Day Lobby Day for this Friday, April 22. There’s still time to make a difference on the budget, institutions closures, funding of natural resource services and much, much more. 

    Register online or call 1-800-562-6002.

    House hearing on tax breaks Thursday

    There appears to be a crack in the door on repealing tax breaks.

    The House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday holds a public hearing on three bills to end tax breaks to prevent cuts to school and mental health services. The bills may not specifically benefit your area – but if successful, they’d free up money to avoid cuts elsewhere and open the door to more extensive tax loophole rollbacks.

    So, we need a strong showing of support at Thursday’s hearing on repealing tax loopholes. 

    The House Ways and Means Committee hearing will be 3:30 p.m., tomorrow, April 21, in House Hearing Room A in the John L. O’Brien Building on the Capitol campus.

    Parents ask help opposing legislation in the RHC debate

    The budget debate over the survival of residential habilitation centers keeps evolving – we hope towards preserving services for some of this state’s most vulnerable developmentally disabled citizens.

    Our parent allies oppose late-session legislation. The worst is Senate Bill 5943, sponsored by Sen. Margarita Prentice of the 11th District and Sen. Joe Zarelli of the 18th District.
    SB 5943 takes away the statutory authority for Frances Haddon Morgan Center and Rainier School, opens up profiteering in the state-operated SOLA community program and, in the words of one parents group, “assumes all RHC residents are second-class citizens.”
    So let’s unite with our RHC parents and call 1-800-562-6000 to oppose SB 5943. Closing and privatizing residential habilitation centers is the wrong way to go. 

    In the House, HB 2096, sponsored by Rep. Tami Green of the 28th District also aims at transitioning RHC residents. It would, for instance, turn two houses at the Morgan Center into state-run SOLA facilities. And it gives any resident in a facility that closes who moves to a community setting up to a year to move back to an RHC. It’s unclear if HB 2096 is meant as a starting point to add amendments that provide reasonable and acceptable alternatives. So stay tuned on HB 2096.

    Hearings have not been scheduled yet for these two bills.

    Senate passes Corrections Safety Bill (ESB 5907)

    The Senate on Tuesday (April 19) passed the Corrections safety bill (ESB 5907) that includes Community Corrections issues. 

    A new Statewide Security Advisory Committee will include a senior-ranking Community Corrections officer. And the bill mandates that the Department of Corrections study safety issues in Community Corrections and report back to the Legislature and governor by Nov. 1. 

    DOC must involve all levels of Community Corrections in the study. ESB 5907 passed the Senate 97-0 with one excused. It now goes to the governor for signature into law. 

    Community Corrections members should call the governor at 1-800-562-6000 and urge her to sign ESB 5907 with the inclusion of Community Corrections issues.

    April 19, 2011

    Senate passes budget; special session expected

    The Senate Monday night passed its bipartisan version of the 2011-2013 operating budget (ESHB 1087) on a vote of 34-13 with two excused. 

    With passage come negotiations between the House and Senate, with the governor looking over their shoulder, to iron out differences between the various plans. More on that in a moment. 

    But the Senate budget is pretty much as it was rolled out last week, with these notable exceptions:
    • On residential habilitation centers, the Senate budget does not specify which institutions would be targeted for closure, but it’s understood two unnamed RHCs would close under their plan. The original Senate budget pegged Frances Haddon Morgan Center and Rainier School for closure, while the governor and House plans would close the Morgan Center and Yakima Valley School. The Senate rejected an amendment from Sen. Maralyn Chase of the 32nd District that would have funded continued operation of all five RHCs.
    • The Senate adopted an amendment from Sen. Jim Kastama of the 25th District that says a manager whose job is eliminated may not bump into a classified position unless he or she held that classified position (or a similar position) within the last three years. The Kastama amendment also says that such a displaced manager who does get a new job may not get paid higher than is “commensurate” with the duties of the new position.

    We should know within the next day and a half if (more likely when) a special session will start. All sides say they need more time to work out differences and pass the 70 or so policy bills necessary to implement the budget. The other complication is many lawmakers want to break for Easter. The scheduled end of the 105-day session is April 24, next Sunday, Easter. 

    There is even some talk of breaking as early as tomorrow, then convene in special session Monday. But it’s all speculation at this point. 

    What is important for you to know is you need to keep getting calls and e-mails into the Legislature. 

    Our core issues haven’t changed – and you can enhance them with your specific interest:
    • Fund state employee contracts.
    • Protect workers and clients from institutional closures.
    • Retain funding for medical interpreters required by Medicaid patients whose first language is not English.
    • Preserve early retirement incentives for state employees’ services.
    • Support user fees necessary to retain critical natural resource agencies.
    • Support public safety in Corrections, Fish and Wildlife and other agencies.
    • Reject the plan to privatize all of Child Welfare Services.
    • Close billions in tax loopholes to preserve the safety net.
    Call 1-800-562-6000 and deliver those messages to legislators on ESHB 1087. And go to our website for e-mail calls to action and sign up for electronic updates to your phone or computer. 


    For Federation members, there are some notable differences between the budgets. Our goal for a final budget is one that mitigates or eliminates damage to the services you provide. 
    • State employee contracts (negotiated collective bargaining agreements):  All three budgets (governor, House, Senate) fund the negotiated contracts, but the Senate imposes additional illegal furlough days for those under contract earning more than $50,000 a year (with some exemptions).
    • Institutions: All three close Maple Lane School, the excellent juvenile rehabilitation facility in south Thurston County.
      The governor and House budget close Frances Haddon Morgan Center and Yakima Valley School. The Senate closes two unnamed residential habilitation centers.

      The Senate would close an additional forensic unit admissions ward at Western State Hospital and cut staff by 3 percent at Eastern State Hospital and the Child Study and Treatment Center.
    • Medical Interpreters: The Governor cut funding. The House cut funding by 40 percent. The Senate cuts funding by 25 percent with good budget language requiring reform of the costly brokerage system that siphons money from front-line interpretive services.
    • Pensions: The Governor’s budget eliminates early retirement benefits in PERS 2 and PERS 3; the House and Senate do not. All three budgets eliminate the automatic cost-of-living adjustments for PERS 1 retirees.
    • Agency consolidation: The governor would merge several natural resource agencies; the House and Senate do not.
      All three would move the Department of Information Services (DIS) into a new Consolidated Technology Services agency. The House specifically retains collective bargaining and civil service rights for affected employees.

      All three would merge the rest of DIS, General Administration, Personnel and the State Printer into a Department of Enterprise Services.

      The Senate, however, following the mandate in SB 5931, handles the technology and enterprise services together, but mandates privatization of mail services, printing and the motor pool and cuts collective bargaining rights. Very dangerous. Very Wisconsin.
    • Fees for Natural Resource programs: All three assume user fees to replace state General Fund dollars, including the Discover Pass to fund Parks, Fish and Wildlife and Natural Resources, and other user fees in Fish and Wildlife, Natural Resources, Ecology and Agriculture.

      The Senate would achieve additional savings by consolidating several administrative functions among several agencies.
    • Workers' Compensation: The governor and House do not include the “compromise and release” plan to pressure injured workers to settle claims with lump-sum payments, harming their long-term recovery. The governor does support the concept. The Senate includes this bad plan in its budget proposal.
    • Higher Education: State colleges and universities all take substantial hits, with the Senate cutting most at about $640 million.
    • Basic Health Plan: The governor would eliminate the Basic Health Plan provided by Federation members in the Health Care Authority. The House would retain it, but cap enrollment at 41,200. The Senate also retains it, but would cut the number of enrollees to 34,000 over the next two years.
    • Corrections: The governor and House eliminate tolling. The Senate retains it.

    • Health Savings Accounts: The governor and House have no health savings accounts, while the Senate assumes implementation of HSAs in the Public Employees Benefits Board.
    • Productivity Board: The governor and House keep it, the Senate cuts it. This is the board that oversees the money-saving state employee suggestion program.

    None of the three budget plans assumes any new revenue or closing tax loopholes. But the Senate and House have introduced multiple bills to close loopholes. Sponsors admit they may not come up for a vote because of the Initiative 1053 requirement that a two-thirds super-majority of the House and Senate must pass them.

    But as a result of the Week of Action and the big April 8 rally and the People’s Walk for Our Future that ended at the Capitol Monday, the fact that lawmakers are talking about closing tax loopholes is a major victory.

    Sen. Steve Conway of the 29th District told the People’s Walk members gathered at the sundial by the Capitol Monday that the best hope in the not-too-distant future is the bill to ask voters to exempt loophole closures from the two-thirds requirement.  

    That referendum is in Senate Bill 5944 sponsored by Sen. Ed Murray of the 43rd District, chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. The best hope is that the Legislature passes SB 5944 and then voters OK it in November. Lawmakers would return in January 2012 and take up the various loophole closure bills introduced last week; they all remain alive until then.

    So, we have to mitigate the damage in the next few weeks, hope for a moral budget and push ahead for the tougher fight to close tax loopholes – and make it easier to close tax loopholes.

    Members of several religious groups are fasting at the Capitol this week to demonstrate the need for a moral budget. Your calls and e-mails can help them – and the people you serve.

    April 18, 2011

    Local 443 welcomes People's Walk to Olympia

    Members of Local 443 welcomed the People’s Walk for Our Future to Olympia Sunday afternoon as they prepared for their final stop Monday.

    “I just want to thank each of you,” said Federation Executive Board member Yousef Fahoum, a member of Local 443. “Thank you for supporting all of those people who don’t have health care,” said another Local 443 member and Federation board member, Katie Nelson.

    The People’s Walk started Thursday in Auburn. Today’s stretch ended at the Farmer’s Market near the capital’s waterfront.

    Jeff Johnson, president of the Washington State Labor Council, said after his 45-mile trek that they were walking “for those who couldn’t walk but whose voices really need to be heard.” Johnson said the coalition of labor and community groups sparked by the budget crisis and events in Wisconsin mirrored the movement of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He chided legislators who adjourned for the weekend while the walk went on.

    “They were going to go home and rest but the people’s work went on and we were the symbol of that people’s work going on,” Johnson said.

    Monday’s People’s Walk events start at 10 a.m. at the Bank of America branch in downtown Olympia, followed by an interfaith service at noon at the sundial on the Capitol campus between the O’Brien and Cherberg buildings.

    April 15, 2011

    Senate committee budget vote Friday afternoon; floor vote possible over the weekend

    The Senate Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to vote on their budget proposal sometime Friday afternoon. A floor vote is expected over the weekend.

    We have a general call to action, but want you to add in your specific message from your area. We do want to add two issues to the previous list:

    Ok here goes:

    Call legislators at 1-800-562-6000 and urge the following in their budget plan, ESHB 1087.

    • Fund state contracts.
    • Protect workers and clients from institutional closures.
    • Retain funding for medical interpreters required by Medicaid patients whose first language is not English.
    • Preserve early retirement incentives for state employees.
    • Support user fees necessary to retain critical natural resource agencies.
    • Support public safety in Corrections, Fish and Wildlife and other agencies.
    • Reject the plan to privatize all of Child Welfare Services.
    • Support the Senate Democrats’ package to close tax loopholes.

    And here are the two new specific calls unique to the Senate budget:

    • Oppose closure of the additional admissions ward at Western State Hospital. This is where experts evaluate criminal defendants’ mental competency to stand trial. And we know from recent incidents in the news – and the closure of the PALS program – this cut threatens public safety. We shouldn’t assume that local jails will take over the evaluation of these patients.

    • Oppose contracting out of the motor pool in the Department of General Administration. The Senate budget mandates that the proposed new Department of Enterprise Services would swallow up GA and contract out the motor pool fleet management now done by about 20 Federation members. Beyond that, the contracting out would affect all Federation members who drive state vehicles for state business. Contracting out the GA motor pool is pennywise and pound foolish – and exempts from showing savings and competition. Please oppose it!

    Federation blasts the "anti-union message" in Enterprise Services bill

    The Federation on Thursday blasted the “anti-union message” in several parts of SB 5931, the Senate plan that would create the Department of Enterprise Services (DES) and the Consolidated Technology Services (CTS) agency.

    The bill came before the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

    Federation Lobbyist Alia Griffing said a proviso on the new CTS would create “a whole new version of the collective bargaining law, which cherry-picks provisions and leaves out competitive contracting….That’s our opportunity to show that we can do the work cheaper, more effectively and more efficiently in-house.

    “And by mandating the contracting, you’re eliminating that process.”

    People's Walk continues - join them or meet them along the way

    The People’s Walk to close tax loopholes to preserve the safety net kicked off Thursday in Auburn and continues through Monday when it reaches the Capitol rotunda in Olympia.

    You can sign up and follow the walk online at http://washingtoncan.org/wordpress/2654/join-the-peoples-walk-for-our-future/
    • Friday’s lag started at 10 a.m. at a Bank of America branch in Tacoma and ends at 3 p.m. at Western State Hospital, flagpole in front of the main WSH Administration Building, 3 p.m., tomorrow, Friday, April 15. The hospital is located at 9601 Steilacoom Blvd. S.W. in Lakewood.
    • Saturday’s lag starts at 10 a.m. at Pierce College, 9401 Farwest Dr. S.W., Lakewood and ends and reaches a Chase Bank branch in Lacey at 5 p.m. The bank is at 8225 Martin Way E., Lacey.
    • Sunday’s stretch of the People’s Walk starts at 10 a.m. at the Wal-Mart Super Center at 1401 Galaxy Drive N.E., Lacey, and ends at 5 p.m. at Community Youth Services, 177 State Ave., Olympia.
    • Monday, April 18, the walk proceeds to the Capitol in Olympia for an inter-denominational church service on the budget, and fasting, at noon. April 18 is significant for three reasons. It’s Passover. It’s the start of Holy Week leading to Easter Sunday (and the last day of the legislative session April 24). And it’s the 10th anniversary of the start of the Federation’s statewide strike of 2001. Like the People’s Walk, let’s not forget how far we’ve come and how hard we need to fight so we never go back.

    Important agreement on layoff rights in DSHS reached

    The Federation and DSHS on April 13 reached agreement on immediate implementation of the expanded layoff rights we gained at the General Government bargaining table for the 2011-2013 contract. Under that agreement, those provisions will take effect now in DSHS, not when the new contract goes into effect July 1. 

    Here’s a report from Debby Lippincott, Federation labor advocate: 

    Specifically, we agreed to implement the newly negotiated General Government master contract language regarding an employee’s ability to request that they be offered lower-level positions within their classification series even if they had not held permanent status in the lower-level position and for contiguous counties to be added as layoff options. 

    During the Maple Lane closure demand to bargain process, the union committee proposed that the improved layoff rights gained in the 2011-2013 Collective Bargaining Agreement be extended to the Maple Lane employees impacted by the proposed closure of their facility.

    A factor that we considered when formulating this proposal is that when a facility closes there is little likelihood of ever being recalled to work in their home county. The new contract language increases the likelihood of remaining closer to home when displaced.

    We have been engaged in negotiations with LRO and DSHS since last fall over the proposed closure of Maple Lane School.  A couple of weeks ago Patty Erhardt, Maple Lane Local 1926 president, and I met with Ann Mitchell, LRO, and Glen Christopherson, DSHS. They proposed expanding the rights to Maple Lane employees if we agree that it would be implemented at the same time for all of DSHS. 

    Since this would have DSHS-wide impact, Federation President Carol Dotlich and Vice President Sue Henricksen felt strongly that we needed the input from the DSHS representatives of the 2011-2013 General Government Bargaining Committee.  On short notice Carol Dotlich, Craig Gibelyou, Steven Segall, Ron Mullins, Ken Blair and Gabe Hall made themselves available for bargaining today.  Patty Erhardt, Craig Larson and Michelle Davis, the original Maple Lane School DTB committee, were also present.

    Our committee’s insight, experience and steadfast commitment to doing the right thing were invaluable in reaching this agreement. 

    One piece of this agreement that is especially important to note is that if a DSHS employee has received their formal options and would like to have them re-done in accordance with the MOU, they must notify their HRD human resource manager or consultant in writing by April 21, 2011. If they are satisfied with the formal options they received they do not need to take any action.

    April 14, 2011

    Group of 14 Senate Democrats proposes legislation closing tax loopholes

    Wisconsin 14, meet the Washington 14.

    A group of 14 gutsy Washington state Senate Democrats on Thursday appeared to have heard you. They unveiled a package of five bills to end or modify tax loopholes enjoyed by corporations.

    “We’re in tough times and we need to share the hurt,” said Sen. Tracey Eide of the 30th District, who is Senate majority floor leader.

    Sen. Phil Rockefeller of the 23rd District, spokesman for the 14 Democrats, said the proposals have the “goal of shared sacrifice.”

    It’s heartening that these 14 apparently have listened to you all session long and during last week’s rallies to close tax loopholes to save the safety net. In fact, they use many of the terms we’ve used for so long about the need for shared sacrifices.

    Rockefeller said while the proposed Senate budget is realistic given the need for a balanced budget, it’s “not sufficient.”

    The package of bills includes Senate Ways and Means Chair Sen. Ed Murray’s SB 5944 to ask voters whether they meant to include tax loopholes when they passed Initiative 1053 this past November. I-1053 requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to raise taxes, but are loopholes taxes or an expenditure?

    The other bills would: cut the B&O tax loophole by 25 percent (SB 5945); cut the B&O tax exemption on initiation dues or fees for most businesses; (SB 5932); and make corporate officers accountable for their business’s tax liabilities (SB 5946); end certain livestock tax exemptions, including for heating chicken coops (SB 5947).

    The strategy appears for the future – the Democrats admitted there probably aren’t the votes to get them passed this session. But if voters get the I-1053 clarification measure, then the package of loophole-closing bills might have a chance when the same Legislature returns in 2012.

    Besides Rockefeller, Eide and Murray, the other Senate Democrats at the Thursday press conference were: Sen. Adam Kline (37th Dist.); Sen. Scott White (46th Dist.); Sen. Steve Conway (29th Dist.); Sen. Kevin Ranker (40th Dist.); Sen. Sharon Nelson (34th Dist.); Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (36th Dist.); Sen. Karen Keiser (33rd Dist.); Sen. Karen Fraser (22nd Dist.); Sen. Debbie Regala (27th Dist.); Sen. Maralyn Chase (32nd Dist.); and Sen. Nick Harper (38th Dist.).

    Insufficient Senate budget blasted; added furloughs illegal

    Members from Yakima Valley School, Rainier School and other locals outside Wednesdays's Senate budget hearing.

    The bipartisan Senate budget falls short in many areas, and proposed added furloughs are illegal. The budget also paradoxically claims to help disabled by hurting them.

    That’s what the union told the Senate Ways and Means Committee late Wednesday during the hearing on HB 1087, the Senate operating budget plan for 2011-2013.

    The plan proposes additional furloughs for those covered by a contract and earning more than $50,000 a year – despite a negotiated memorandum of understanding that the 3 percent temporary salary reduction furlough plan in the contract constitute the only furloughs.

    “We’re quite confident that (the Senate furlough plan) is illegal, but it seems probably it would end up in court and that would put at risk the hundreds of millions of dollars in savings that you would otherwise be able to obtain from the collective bargaining agreements as they were presented to you,” the Federation’s Dennis Eagle told the budget panel.

    Eagle also said the budget exempts the proposed Department of Enterprise Services from the “checks and balances” in the current contracting out rules. As is, that proviso sends the message that “we don’t know if it’ll save money, we don’t know if it’ll work, we don’t know if the vendors are even there, but by golly we privatizing it anyway,” he said.

    “There needs to be some evidence presented that tax dollars would even be saved.”

    Eagle and Julianne Moore, president of Yakima Local 1326 who works at Yakima Valley School, blasted the budget’s plans for residential habilitation centers for the developmentally disabled.

    The Senate budget would close Rainier School and Frances Haddon Morgan Center and give remaining residents fewer choices. The House budget would close Yakima Valley School and the Morgan Center, but at a slower pace.

    “I am not asking you to cut programs anywhere else,” Moore said. “I’m here to ask that people have a right to true choice as it is there right under the federal rules….

    “These are homes for some of the most vulnerable people in this state and I actually do not believe it is right for anybody to tell my son or daughter or brother or sister where they should live.”

    “We fundamentally reject the argument that you help disabled folks by harming disabled folks and we fundamentally reject the argument that we preserve choice by denying choice,” Eagle said.

    Eagle thanked the budget writers for funding the medical interpreter program, including fees to support natural resource programs and accepting the negotiated contracts (except for the contradictory high-earner furlough proposal).

    HB 1179 - allowing legislators and state employees to hold informational and educational meetings at worksite - signed into law

    With the governor as she signed HB 1179 into law (from left): Brandon Anderson, WFSE; Jeremy Taylor-Sparks, Local 443, Health Care Authority; Rep. Sam Hunt, 22nd Dist., the bill's sponsor; Barb Hangartner, WFSE; and WFSE/AFSCME Lobbyist Matt Zuvich.

    • House Bill 1179 allowing legislators and state employees to hold informational and educational meetings at the worksite was signed into law Thursday by Gov. Chris Gregoire. On hand was Local 443 member Jeremy Taylor-Sparks and bill sponsor Rep. Sam Hunt of the 22nd District, whom Sparks and his Health Care Authority members had invited to such a meeting but were told Hunt would be escorted off the premises as a violation of state ethics laws.