United, we show lawmakers why our ratified contracts and negotiated pay raises matter

swm111416b-copy-webFederation members decked out in AFSCME Green t-shirts packed a Senate budget hearing Monday (Nov. 14) – and the senators got the message that our ratified contracts and negotiated pay raises will go a long way to keeping the employees who provide vital social services, public safety, health and other public services.

“They (the senators) had some good questions,” Lana Brewster, a Local 443 member at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, said after the hearing.

“We have some recruitment and retention problems so we’re just hoping for the best.”

And legislators need to keep seeing members at the Capitol when the full legislative debate on our negotiated pay raises and contracts begins in January, she said.

“We need people to keep joining in to keep the movement going,” Brewster said.

swm111416a-copy-webThe Senate Ways and Means Committee held the pre-session hearing that touched on our 10 ratified contracts – one for General Government, eight for Higher Education and one for Medical Interpreters.

They got a rundown of what many of you already know – cost-of-living adjustments of 6 percent in three installments starting July 1, 2017; targeted job increases to address recruitment and retention and other crises for more than 10,000 workers; and instituting a minimum wage of $12 an hour so no state employee will ever earn less than that again.

Representatives from the state budget office said the Office of Financial Management is now doing the required analysis to see if all the contracts are financially feasible. If so, Gov. Jay Inslee would include a funding request in his 2017-2019 biennial budget request. Then the legislative debate over funding of our contracts begins when the 2017 Legislature convenes Jan. 9.

As Brewster and the dozens of other Federation members witnessed, many of the senators at the Senate Ways and Means Committee hearing had positive insights about why the contracts should be funded and not attacked.

Sen. Steve Conway of the 29th Dist. raised the out-of-the-box idea that the budget fund only the contracts negotiated by the Federation and other unions funded by the dues and fees of members and represented feepayers. It was a good question because often estimated costs include all state employees – and that makes our negotiated contracts look more expensive than they really are. Indeed, committee staff confirmed the estimated cost is about 40 percent less when the costs for “non-represented parity” for state employees not in bargaining units are split out.

Sen. Kevin Ranker of the 40th Dist. also asked questions that got budget office confirmation that geographic pay – what Federation members call “locality pay” – is on the Inslee administration’s radar screen, thanks in part to memoranda of understanding negotiated in the General Government and Community College Coalition contracts.

OFM’s Franklin Plaistowe acknowledged locality pay is on the radar screen because Federation members raised it. That has sparked an “ongoing conversation” to be “mindful of the cost of living in certain areas of our state,” Plaistowe said.

Plaistowe also stressed to the senators that the negotiated contracts tried to address state employees’ loss of purchasing power and recognize increased costs for health care and pensions.

In the administration’s eyes, the contracts also try to make up lost economic ground in other ways, such as improved vacation accrual rates and two leave provisions that would require changes to current law:

• The ability to use vacation leave in the first six months of employment; and

• Improved access to paid leave options for employees with a newborn or newly placed child.

Download a copy of the OFM presentation: collectivebargainingoverviewnov2016_swm

To see summaries of what we gained in each contract, go to: