Special negotiations net new compensation for WWU members



council28-logoLate last week, the Federation and Western Washington University in Bellingham signed two memorandums bringing an additional 1 percent lump sum payment to WWU members – and raising starting wages for the lowest ranges (after the probationary period) to the step closest to $15 an hour.

These would be under the current, 2013-2015 contract.

And we got the commitment from the WWU administration that this added compensation would not be used as leverage against any future wage negotiations in the next, 2015-2017 contract. Bargaining on that agreement kicked off March 18.

Under the agreements:

• WWU WFSE/AFSCME members will receive a lump sum payment of 1 percent of annual salary in July 25, 2014, paychecks. This is in addition to the 1 percent lump sum already negotiated and coming in Dec. 10, 2014, paychecks. The Federation last year also negotiated a 2.2 percent lump sum that WWU members received Aug. 25, 2013, and the new M Step.

• The second memorandum of agreement is for a general increase to starting wages for the lowest ranges at WWU. After completing probation, affected members will be at the step closest to $15 an hour on the wage scale and continue to progress as before.

Major credit for this breakthrough goes to the WWU Local 1381 team and the work of one member in particular who did the research showing that some members earn so little they’re on public assistance.

We also have to give credit to the administration. They looked at the information. Plus, WWU officials voiced disappointment that the state did not grant a 1 percent cost-of-living-adjustment for July 1, 2014 (it was tied to revenue benchmarks and the latest state forecast said revenue hadn’t increased by the agreed-upon amount).

“Additionally, they wanted to send a message that classified staff deserve to make a living wage and one way they could accomplish that would be to start people on a higher step,” said WFSE/AFSCME Labor Advocate Jennifer Dixon.

“We hope this will motivate other employers – especially in higher education – to increase wages.”

It’s no coincidence that the $15 minimum starting wage appears to be inspired by the $15 Now and other campaigns to raise the minimum wage.

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