July 29, 2011

Compromise on internal transfers in DSHS reached may settle issue

A team of Federation DSHS members met with the state Labor Relations Office Wednesday (July 27) regarding the demand to bargain over the use of NEOGOV (careers.wa.gov) in DSHS to apply for internal transfers. This comes under Article 4.3 of the new, 2011-2013 General Government contract.

Your union team emphasized the employees’ dissatisfaction with the online application process. They also stressed our concern for equality of opportunity in transfer and computer access for ALL Article 4.3-affected employees. (Article 4.3 does not apply to relief or shift positions in DSHS.)

In the end, both sides agreed to a compromise that could settle the issue. Another meeting is set Nov. 15 to see how much or how little progress has been made. The demand to bargain remains open, but idle, until that update meeting takes place.

Under the compromise reached Wednesday:
  • Between now and Dec. 31, 2011, DSHS will provide notification of transfer (posting) opportunities in two ways: via statewide e-mail to all employees and via notification on NEOGOV (careers.wa.gov).
  • DSHS will set up various NEOGOV (careers.wa.gov) training sessions around the state that will be available to all interested employees on work time within this period. All affected employees are encouraged to attend.
  • If an employee is interested in a posted transfer opportunity, he or she will have to notify DSHS through NEOGOV (careers.wa.gov) within the five calendar day period in the contract.

    If an employee does not understand how to access NEOGOV (careers.wa.gov), or has any trouble attempting to apply for a transfer using NEOGOV (careers.wa.gov), he or she must contact the recruiter listed on the job posting they received by e-mailing that recruiter within the five calendar day period. As long as the employee’s e-mail is dated within the five calendar day transfer period, the employee’s name will be placed on the list of interested transfer candidates.

    The recruiter will contact that employee as soon as possible and assist her or him through the profile creation and transfer application process on NEOGOV (careers.wa.gov) so that the employee will know how to do that in the future.
  • After Jan. 1, 2012, all Article 4.3 transfers will occur through NEOGOV (careers.wa.gov).

    DSHS demonstrated the NEOGOV (careers.wa.gov) transfer application process to those who were at Wednesday’s demand to bargain meeting. While not everything went perfectly, it was apparent to the members in attendance that NEOGOV (careers.wa.gov) is very different from the much-cursed E-recruiting program. In the Federation caucus, members stated that DSHS had not done a very good job separating these two and there is definitely an “image problem” when it comes to automated application processes. The union let DSHS know that they should make the differences known in their trainings, as NEOGOV (careers.wa.gov) appeared less complicated than the old system.
DSHS will send the Federation a copy of their PowerPoint presentation, a sample e-mail of the job posting so we will know what they will look like and a list of all the training dates and locations.

The statewide e-mailed job listings should contain multiple jobs and the e-mail will probably be sent in the evening or on weekends, as these statewide e-mails tend to slow the DSHS e-mail system. The next business day will constitute the first day of the five calendar day posting requirement.

House committee probes plans for new Department of Enterprise Services, Consolidated Technology Services agencies

An oversight committee of the state House of Representatives wasted no time in asking tough questions of the administration about the move to create the new Department of Enterprise Services and Consolidated Technology Services agency.

We already know that this new scheme to consolidate virtually all information technology functions in one agency, plus services now provided by the Department of General Administration and others, includes the stripping away of contract protections for some 100 employees and the inability to compete for work proposed for privatization.

Obviously, this is an issue of vital importance to current information technology employees in several agencies, like the soon-to-disappear Department of Information Services, and those in the Department of General Administration, which will be absorbed by the new DES.

But if you touch a computer in your state job or use state vehicles to do your job, chances are this agency consolidation will affect how you do your job. And it may not be for the better. So we hope you keep your eye on this issue as well.

At Wednesday’s meeting of the House General Government Appropriations and Oversight Committee, panel members asked tough questions showing they’d done their homework on concerns raised by Federation members. Those issues included: being classified differently and possibly paid differently; potential layoffs; which employees will be targeted to lose their collective bargaining rights as mandated by the new law;  among others.

Administration officials promised answers to the committee – and when they are, we’ll get them to you.

“The committee made it clear they wanted more information, not less, as such major reforms are implemented and that they will be closely monitoring to determine what legislative changes may need to be brought forward for next (legislative) session,” said Jeanine Livingston, the Federation’s contract compliance manager.

Here are documents presented to the committee.

This issue has many parts to it and the union intends to give voice to all affected members’ concerns.
Stay tuned.

Bet you didn't know - bill allows legislators and statewide officials to cut their pay

The Legislature passed a bill (ESSB 5860) that included a section allowing legislators and statewide elected officials to voluntarily cut their pay by 3 percent – to equal the sacrifices being made by state employees. The governor signed the bill into law June 15. The law directed the Department of Personnel and Office of Financial Management to develop a form allowing elected officials to authorize a waiver of compensation. The resulting form, posted on the DOP website (http://www.dop.wa.gov/sitecollectiondocuments/forms and publications/dop forms/electedofficialsauthorizationtowaivecompensation.doc), allows elected officials to voluntarily cut their pay by either 3 percent a month or some other amount per month. They had the option of taking the pay cut for the same time period as most state employees, from July 1, 2011, through June 29, 2013, or for any other time period on or before June 29, 2013.

So if elected officials wanted to take on the same sacrifice as state employees, they would have signed up for a voluntary pay cut starting July 1 that would have first turned up in July 25 paychecks. According to press reports, only two elected officials – the governor and state treasurer – filled out that form and took a pay cut starting with their July 25 paycheck.

There’s no value judgment on this. After all, it is voluntary and there may not have been a lot of time to get the word out between the time the governor signed the law June 15 and July 1. So many may sign up once they’re made aware of it.

We hope that’s the case with those elected officials who intended all along to take the voluntary pay cut. After all, 36 state senators and 72 House members voted for it. And there was all that rhetoric about how you should pay more and more just to be a state employee.

So we’re just saying, you know, what’s good for the goose should be good for the gander.

UPDATED 7/31/11:


Following up on our Friday Hotline that few elected officials had opted to take a voluntary 3 percent pay cut under a new law aimed at sharing the sacrifice with state employees, two newspapers this morning report that in fact a few elected officials have signed up for the pay cuts – or contributed an equal amount to charity.

We already reported on Friday that Gov. Chris Gregoire and state Treasurer Jim McIntire had signed up for the pay waivers, effective July 1.

The Spokane Spokesman-Review today reports that state Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn had also signed up for the voluntary 3 percent pay cut, but because of a processing glitch, he resubmitted the paperwork again Friday.

As far as other statewide elected officials, the Spokesman-Review reports that:
  • • Lt. Gov. Brad Owen filled out the form late and his voluntary pay cut will first show up in his Aug. 10 paycheck.
  • State Auditor Brian Sonntag, Attorney General Rob McKenna, Secretary of State Sam Reed and Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler have donated an equal amount to local charities and/or the state Combined Fund Drive, the Spokesman-Review reports. Kreidler’s office told the newspaper the commissioner opted for charitable donations because his salary is funded by assessments on insurance companies and does not come from the general fund. “By simply requesting a 3 percent reduction in salary, that money would be refunded to insurers, most of which are based out of state,” the newspaper said Kreider wrote to the state budget office.
The Olympian newspaper today reported that only four legislators – all from the House and none from the Senate – signed up for the voluntary 3 percent pay cut. According to the newspaper, those “Fantastic Four” House members who’ve signed up for the pay cut are:
  • Rep. Ann Rivers, R, 18th District
  • Rep. Frank Chopp, D, 43rd District
  • Rep. Larry Seaquist, D, 26th District
  • Rep. Troy Kelley, D, 28th District
Chopp, speaker of the state House, had already had his pay quietly cut way back in February, The Olympian reports.

Rivers, the assistant minority whip, told The Olympian “that after voting to cut public employees’ pay, she felt it was wrong not to reduce hers.”

To be fair, as we said Friday, many elected officials did not know the voluntary pay waiver form was available. Many said they would sign up now that they know about it. Others already are or will contribute to charity. And some, like Rep. Sam Hunt, D, 22nd District, forfeited most of their $90 daily expense money allowed legislators. Hunt did this even before the voluntary pay cut option was passed.
We know this is of keen interest to you. As more elected officials opt in to share the sacrifice with you, we will include kudos for them here.

New York Times poll measures voters' approval rating of state governors

The Washington State Labor Council’s The Stand passes along findings from the New York Times’ analysis of polls measuring voters’ approval ratings of their respective state’s governors. No. 1 on the list was Maine’s Gov. Paul LePage who removed a mural dedicated to state workers because he thought it looked too “Communist.” Some 56 percent of Maine’s voters disapproved of his job performance.

No. 3 on the list was Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker, whose attack on his public employees’ collective bargaining rights sparked worldwide outrage – and upcoming recall elections for several of his supporters in the state Senate. He came in with a disapproval rating of 54 percent.

So that’s who was No. 1 and No. 3 on the least popular governor’s list.

You might ask who was No. 2 on the list, sandwiched between the 1950s Red-baiting governor of Maine and Gov. Walker of Wisconsin. Well, it’s our governor, Gov. Chris Gregoire, according to the New York Times’ analysis. She comes in with a disapproval rating of 55 percent and a job approval rating of 38 percent.

Again, we place no value judgment on this item in the news. Our governor is not running for re-election – and she is apparently one of so far only two elected officials voluntarily taking a 3 percent pay cut.

You can see more on this story at The Stand: http://www.thestand.org/2011/07/gregoire-among-least-popular-governors-in-u-s/

July 22, 2011

UW Board of Regents welcome union members calling for justice on the UW Medical Center Call Center

The powerful University of Washington Board of Regents and new UW President Michael Young welcomed a delegation of Federation members to their 22nd floor meeting room Thursday as the Local 1488 members urged the regents to drop the university’s appeal of the state order reinstating call center workers’ collective bargaining rights.

The call center workers, formerly located at the UW-run Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, had their rights stripped last year when the university merged them with another call center operation in downtown Seattle.

That Wisconsin-style action took away the UW Medical contact call center workers’ right to voice concerns about patient care because they could no longer file grievances or hold labor/management meetings.

“We certainly want you to know we welcome your comments and you being here is most appreciated,” said Board of Regents Chairman Herb Simon to the millionaires and billionaires, captains of industry and philanthropists who make up the board. About 25 Federation members from as far away as Vancouver flanked the regents in their top-floor boardroom overlooking the campus and Lake Washington

While the atmosphere was cordial, the message was blunt about what the UW administration had done to the call center employees.

“I come before you today to ask you on behalf of the 40,000 workers I represent to intervene and encourage the University of Washington leadership to honor the contract that rightfully covers these workers, to drop the appeal of the PERC decision and to allow our members to work in an environment of dignity and respect,” Federation President Carol Dotlich told the regents.

“We’ve been through a lot,” call center member Regina Pugh told the Board of Regents. “We’ve been stripped of things, but our main focus is our patients.”

After the meeting, the union leafleted outside the UW’s Meany Hall where the exclusive Presidents’ Club held a reception to welcome Young as the new UW president.

“It’s hard to believe this has happened here,” Dotlich earlier told the board. “The University of Washington is home to the Harry Bridges Labor Center, home to many activist groups who are encouraged to get involved in social justice issues….

“These workers that I’m talking about have no other forum except this one because they no longer have collective bargaining rights.”

The university fired many of the call center employees, ruined morale and overall reduced the quality of patient care, Dotlich said.

The Public Employment Relations Commission ordered the university to restore the call center workers’ bargaining rights.

But on June 13 “the university appealed and because it’s in appeal are again denying these workers their collective bargaining rights,” Dotlich said.

“Management is refusing to engage in talks with the union, doesn’t honor its obligations to the workforce and is denying the workers a voice at work…

“It’s created a chilling effect and a hostile workplace. It undermines employee efforts to improve patient care standards and forces workers to publicize the mistreatment, eroding patient confidence in University of Washington Medicine.”

With no ability to discuss workload concerns at the bargaining table, call center workers are seeing about 5,000 patients a month hang up while on hold waiting to schedule a doctor’s appointment. Pugh said operators are expected to take 14 to 18 calls an hour, or 70 a day.

“We are being told to triage our patients over the phone,” she said. “We are not nurses. We are not doctors….

“Sometimes, we are all that the patients have to talk to….(and) it’s not good patient care.”

Pugh said she was representing the scores of other workers who felt too intimidated by their management to come. “Some were even told not to come,” she said. “I think that’s sad.”

CBTU Banquet postponed

The banquet of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists scheduled for tomorrow (July 23) has been postponed because of unforeseen problems with the location, the Machinists Hall in south Seattle. The event will be rescheduled as soon as possible.

Those who would like ticket refunds or who have any questions can call Jacquie Jones-Walsh at (206) 772-2079 or (206) 245-9542, or Mari Wyatt at (206) 290-4757 or (206) 721-2266.

July 21, 2011

WA Voters to Bend Ears at Progressive Caucus Forum

July 21, 2011    http://www.publicnewsservice.org/index.php?/content/article/21309-1
SEATTLE - U.S. House Democrats are having a public get-together on Saturday in Seattle, as part of a national tour by the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC). South Seattle is the only stop in the state for the tour, but it might be enough to give the CPC representatives an earful while they're here. Washington Congressman Jim McDermott (Dist. 7) and Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison say they want to hear people talk about how they have been affected by the economy.

April Sims, legislative and political action field coordinator with the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE), says she'll be there, although she's a little concerned that the discussion will veer into the hot topic of raising the federal debt ceiling.

"For most folks, this is the first time they've ever even heard about the debt ceiling. We get lost in this idea of the debt ceiling, instead of talking about how real folks are affected by the decisions that they're making in Washington, and how we really need to focus on investing in jobs."

Sims says WFSE is encouraging its members to speak their minds at the listening session. The state of Washington has not been through anything like the budget battles in Minnesota, where the state government literally shut down for 20 days this month, but she says the combination of federal and state cutbacks has taken a toll.
"Our members have seen lots of layoffs. They've agreed to a 3-percent pay reduction over the next two years, to pay their fair share, to help balance the budget in the state of Washington. It's really the folks who rely on the services who are struggling."

Since June, Congressional Progressive Caucus members have been canvassing the country hosting listening sessions. The CPC is proposing a plan to balance the federal budget through defense spending cuts and taxes, mostly on people at higher incomes. It has not seen much traction in the budget debate, and it has been criticized for not addressing health-care costs.

Doors open at 11:30 on Saturday for the listening session, called the "Speak Out for Good Jobs Now Tour," at the Brockey Conference Center at South Seattle Community Center, 6000 16th Ave. SW, Seattle. The session starts at noon.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA

Benefits board acts on 2012 health rates, plans

The Public Employees Benefits Board today (July 20) adopted the state employee health plans for 2012. The changes take effect Jan. 1, 2012. Open enrollment when you can change plans if you want will be in November.

In a small but significant victory thanks to your objections, the board revised its proposed rates for diagnostic services in Group Health. After objections from Local 443 member Katie Nelson, PEBB members Federation Executive Director Greg Devereux, state Personnel Director Eva Santos and former HCA Administrator Margaret Stanley, the board recessed and consulted with actuaries and came back with the revision.

Under the package adopted by the board, the co-pays for MRIs, CTs and PET scans will now be in line with the co-pays proposed for specialists of $30 in Group Health Classic and $40 in Group Health Value. The original proposal was to impose $100 co-pays for diagnostics in Group Health.

What this means in the complicated world of benefit design is that premiums will go up less than $2 more than the original 2012 package. More on those rates later.

Nelson was the only member of the public to comment on the diagnostics and also the new health savings account options, dubbed “Consumer Directed Health Plans.”

She said diagnostic testing helps in early detection and keeps costs down in the long run.

“When you put a $100 co-pay on a diagnostic test, you will price many state employees out of the market…,” Nelson said.

“I find that unacceptable.”

Devereux questioned why the health care companies needed more money when state employees are battling the recession with pay cuts and other sacrifices.

“I don’t know why providers need to get increases during this time period,” he said.

“It is just surprising to me. And ultimately I think there will be a tremendous backlash.”

The board did OK bringing co-pays for radiation and chemotherapy in Group Health in line with co-pays for other services -- $30 for radiation in Group Health Classic and $40 in the value plan, and $15 for chemo in GHC Classic and $20 in GHC Value. But it took it a lot of objections and explanation by Health Care Authority staff before it came to a vote.

Devereux voted to oppose all of the increases for active state employees.

Now, under your negotiated contracts – and as a sign of the times – premium shares for all plans and all tiers will go up (except for Kaiser Classic, which will drop). They’ll reflect the 25 percent change in premium share from the current 12 percent to 15 percent of total premium costs. Because of weighted averaging and medical inflation, the dollar increase varies from plan to plan and tier to tier. Details on those rates later.

The benefits board also OK’d changes to some other out-of-pocket costs, lowering some while raising others. Most of those changes come in Group Health, so we’ll detail some of those here. Group Health deductibles will not change in 2012.

In Group Health Classic, office visit co-pays for primary care, urgent care and mental health will drop from $25 to $15, while the co-pay for specialists will increase to $30.

The out-of-pocket maximum for families will drop from $6,000 to $4,000. But the co-pays for several other services will increase or start: dialysis (to $30); radiation and chemotherapy as we mentioned earlier ($30/$15); ambulatory surgical center (to $150); and emergency room (to $150).

As we mentioned, the board also approved the legislatively mandated health savings accounts, renamed “Consumer Directed Health Plans.” The idea is you’d get $700 to spend on health costs, and if you don’t get sick, you keep the money. But if you roll the dice and do get sick, you’d face deductibles as high as $2,800 and, in Group Health, total out-of-pocket costs would be capped only when you hit $10,200. This may make sense to some when open enrollment rolls around in November – and we will work to give you information you need to make an informed decision. We don’t want you to roll the dice, lose and get fleeced with extraordinarily high health costs under these new health savings accounts.

Nelson, who is also a member of the Federation Statewide Executive Board called these health savings accounts “health insurance lottery” that “prey on the innocence of our youngest employees.”

As promised, here are the monthly premium rates for all plans and all tiers starting Jan. 1, 2012. They will carry the notation that they will increase to no more than the original amount proposed last week because of the revision downward of diagnostics costs in Group Health:

Group Health (three plans to choose from)

Group Health Classic:

  • Employee – from $71/month now to no more than $102/mo. in 2012;
  • Employee and spouse/partner – from $152/mo. now to no more than $212/mo. in 2012;
  • Employee and children – from $124/mo. now to no more than $177/mo. in 2012;
  • Full family – from $205/mo. now to no more than $287/mo. in 2012.
Group Health Value:
  • Employee – from $30/mo. now to no more than $55/mo. in 2012;
  • Employee and spouse/partner – from $70/mo. now to no more than $118/mo. in 2012;
  • Employee and children – from $53/mo. now to no more than $95/mo. in 2012;
  • Full family – from $93/mo. now to no more than $158/mo. in 2012.
Group Health Consumer Drive Health Plan (new health savings account option):
  • Employee – no more than $29/mo. in 2012;
  • Employee and spouse/partner – no more than $66/mo. in 2012;
  • Employee and children – no more than $49/mo. in 2012;
  • Full family – no more than $86/mo. in 2012.
Kaiser (two plans to choose from)

Kaiser Classic:

  • Employee – from $105/mo. now to no more than $92/mo. in 2012;
  • Employee and spouse/partner – from $220/mo. now to no more than $192/mo. in 2012;
  • Employee and children – from $184/mo. now to no more than $160/mo. in 2012;
  • Full family – from $299/mo. now to no more than $260/mo. in 2012.
Kaiser Consumer Drive Health Plan (new health savings account option):
  • Employee – no more than $27/mo. in 2012;
  • Employee and spouse/partner – no more than $62/mo. in 2012;
  • Employee and children – no more than $46/mo. in 2012;
  • Full family – no more than $81/mo. in 2012.
Uniform Medical Plan (two plans to choose from)

Uniform Medical Plan Classic:

  • Employee – from $60/mo. now to no more than $85/mo. in 2012;
  • Employee and spouse/partner – from $130/mo. now to no more than $178/mo. in 2012;
  • Employee and children – from $105/mo. now to no more than $147/mo. in 2012;
  • Full family – from $175/mo. now to no more than $240/mo. in 2012.
Uniform Medical Plan Consumer Drive Health Plan (new health savings account option):
  • Employee – no more than $30/mo. in 2012;
  • Employee and spouse/partner – no more than $68/mo. in 2012;
  • Employee and children – no more than $51/mo. in 2012;
  • Full family – no more than $89/mo. in 2012.

July 18, 2011

Benefits board acts on 2012 rates Wednesday - show up or get message in to oppose costly benefit design changes

The Public Employees Benefits Board meets Wednesday to adopt the 2012 premium rates and other benefit changes for your health plan. In November, you’ll have the annual open enrollment period when you can change health plans if you want.

The proposed changes rolled out last week include increases to your premium shares to reflect the negotiated change where you will go from paying 12 percent of your premium costs to 15 percent. So for instance, the share of premiums paid for full family coverage in the Uniform Medical Plan would go from $175 a month to $238 a month; for Group Health, the family premium share would go from $205 a month to $285 a month. These rates are based on weighted averages.

But more jarring are some of the co-pays proposed for diagnostic changes, especially in Group Health. Group Health would actually lower office visit co-pays but pay for them by imposing a $100 co-pay for MRIs, CTs, PET scans; right now, there is no co-pay for those diagnostic services. The Group Health emergency room co-pay would double from $75 to $150. Kaiser currently doesn’t have a deductible; under the proposal before the PEBB on Wednesday, Kaiser would impose a deductible of $150 per person and $450 per family.

The board will also take up the legislatively mandated health savings accounts, renamed “Consumer Directed Health Plans.” The idea is you’d get $700 to spend on health costs, and if you don’t get sick, you keep the money. But if you roll the dice and do get sick, you’d face deductibles as high as $2,800 and, in Group Health total out-of-pocket costs would be capped only when you hit $10,200. This may make sense to some when open enrollment rolls around in November, but it may be a wolf in sheep’s clothing to others.

But as far as this Wednesday’s meeting of the Public Employees Benefits Board, we need your activism:
  • Show up in person if you can. The PEBB meeting will be 1 to 3 p.m., this Wednesday, July 20, at the Cherry Street Plaza Building at the corner of Cherry and 8th Avenue in Olympia in the Apple/Peach Rooms. Wear your AFSCME Green t-shirt if you have one.
  • Or call or e-mail the board to oppose the design changes that increase costs for diagnostics in Group Health, for instance, or to add any other comments you may have. You can e-mail the Public Employees Benefits Board at board@hca.wa.gov. Or call the Health Care Authority at (360) 923-2600 and politely ask the receptionist to take your feedback.
You can review the proposed changes online under the online version of this hotline dated 7/18/11.

Exchange Time committee meets, needs your input

A memorandum of understanding in the new, 2011-2013 General Government contract mandated a statewide master agreement Union Management Communication Committee (UMCC) to discuss the issue of overtime-exempt employees’ use of exchange time in specific state agencies.

That special committee met with the management reps from several agencies last Wednesday (July 13). The agencies include the departments of Health, Ecology, Commerce, DSHS, Labor and Industries, Veterans Affairs and Military, and the Parks and Recreation Commission.

The first meeting provided an opportunity for the union to share concerns with how exchange time is being implemented. The main concerns include consistency, fairness and too much reliance on flexing time within a workweek or pay period rather than allowing exchange time. Workload for those who are overtime exempt was also discussed.

The Union proposed several best practices be put into place immediately, including:
  • granting exchange time at a 1-to-1 ratio for excessive hours worked;
  • that discussions about exchange time occur at the line supervisor level as soon as an employee works in excess of a standard 40-hour week;
  • and that exchange time policies be written, clear and fair.
Your exchange time team wants to hear your stories about exchange time abuses and successes. Please contact the assigned UMCC staff, Debbie Brookman, DebbieB@wfse.org, for more information.

Another UMCC meeting to continue the discussion will be scheduled soon.

Congressional Progressive Caucus brings listening tour to Seattle Saturday

The Federation and other allies are urging you to attend the Congressional Progressive Caucus Listening Tour at 12 noon, this Saturday, July 23, at the Brockey Conference Center at South Seattle Community Center, 6000 16th Ave. S.W., Seattle, WA  98106.

This group of progressive members of Congress, including Rep. Jim McDermott of the 7th Congressional District in Washington state, is visiting several cities around the country to hear directly fro our nation’s families about their struggles to live the American Dream – and learn what they think must be done to win our nation’s economic future.

Inslee first major candidate to seek WFSE/AFSCME forum

Inslee greets board members after Saturday appearance.

Congressman Jay Inslee became the first candidate for governor in 2012 to see a forum before the Federation Statewide Executive Board Saturday (July 16) and received a warm reception as he invoked the can-do spirit of Harry Truman and defended state employee collective bargaining, pensions and contracting out rights.

“The heat is going to be on when you’re governor because it’s the place where the kitchen is and where the heat is,” said Inslee, the member of Congress from the 1st Congressional District that straddles Puget Sound in the Seattle area. “All I can tell you is I’ve shown you I can take the heat. I know who cooks the food and that’s working class people, including your brothers and sisters.”

Inslee said he understands the disappointment of state employees who’ve been whipsawed by management over the past several years.

“I think I know how you feel about being burned…about what has happened to you in the last couple of years and that’s a deep sense of disillusionment in what has happened in state leadership,” he said.

Inslee said the fight to protect collective bargaining rights is a fight to save the middle class.

“This is an American value and needs to be respected,” he said.

He put an exclamation point on that at the end of his remarks to the board, which was meeting in Seatac.

“I view that organizational rights, collective bargaining rights, the right to be heard in state government is fundamental to the preservation of the middle class,” Inslee said.

He said as governor he’d consult state employees about better ways of getting the job done, but he’s skeptical of the promises of privatization. He cited the contracting out of airport security, which, he said, brought “lousy service, we got less security and we really got no savings for the taxpayers.

“And we cannot allow people to spread rose petals on the path to privatization that ends up not saving a buck and actually diminishing services.”

He was asked if he’d take a look at the recent legislation that consolidated several agencies into the Department of Enterprise Services and Consolidated Technology Agency. Inslee reeled off numbers and facts that showed he had studied up on the issue. He voiced grave concerns about stripping away collective bargaining rights from more than 100 employees and prohibiting those employees from competing for work proposed for privatization.

“Now, if there’s some rational necessity for doing that (taking away those collective bargaining rights), I haven’t heard that,” he said. “Until I hear it, I think we should have those collective bargaining rights restored.”

The employees in the new consolidated agency should also be able to compete for contracted out work under existing law and collective bargaining provisions, he said.

“I cannot understand why if you’re going to have an open bidding process, you essentially take one team out of the bidding and say they’re ineligible…,” Inslee said. “If you’re going to have a fair bid, why would you take one team out of the bidding process – the team that actually has expertise in the work?”

Questioned about media reports of his supposed position on pension fund investment, Inslee welcomed the opportunity to set the record straight.

He said he never said he’d take any funds away from pensions to invest in companies in Washington, but only ask the pension board if they should slightly increase the percentage of investments made by the board in Washington state private equity funds to help boost this state’s economy.

He said 98.6 percent of the funds invested by the pension board in private equities goes out of state. Inslee suggested boosting the investment in Washington private equity from the current 1.4 percent to 2 percent.

“But the question is where do we invest?” he said. “Do we invest all in California or New York, or do we invest some of it here.”

July 13, 2011

No endorsement in District 4 race

In this off year, there are only a few legislative races to fill out the rest of a term where an incumbent resigned earlier. In the 4th District Senate race in Spokane, Federation locals interviewed candidates and voted to take no action in that race.

State agrees to $13,500 in backpay for LPNs at Western State Hospital

LPNs caring for geriatric patients at Western State Hospital have been arriving early for years to prepare medications for their patients. It seemed the best way to avoid interrupting the patient’s day. But the time worked pre-shift was not calculated for pay.

Shop Steward Scott Marshall questioned the practice and research by Council Representative Sean Dannen showed that 16 employees were affected.

Applying the three-year statute of limitations, an amount of $13,542.52 was calculated as unpaid wages.

Union representatives and the state met to negotiate the issue and reached an agreement on June 30 to compensate affected employees. The issue with scheduling and pre-shift work was addressed in October 2010, so non-payment of work completed no longer occurs.

Affected employees will receive this backpay on their July 25 paycheck.