At issue in the arbitration held on Monday, July 20 is whether State employees that are part of the Union “super coalition” that bargains health care benefits collectively for all union-represented employees can be required to pay the tobacco surcharges and spousal surcharges that the State imposed through a budget bill last year.
Your union, along with numerous others filed a grievance in April of 2014, and the grievance was heard by Arbitrator David Stiteler on Monday, July 20, 2015. Arbitrator Stiteler is an extremely well-respected neutral arbitrator, and he received exhibits and heard testimony and arguments from the parties in a hearing held in Tumwater.
The State had initially argued that the grievance should be dismissed (and therefore not heard on the merits) because of a procedural issue. Arbitrator Stiteler rejected that argument which led to Monday’s hearing.
At the hearing, the State argued that the budget bill which imposed the surcharges trumps the collective bargaining agreement (which contains no mention of the surcharges and simply an 85%/15% split of the premium). The Unions argued that the surcharges effectively undermine that 85%/15% commitment.
Briefs will likely be submitted in September, with an anticipated decision in October. We remain hopeful that Arbitrator Stiteler will recognize the danger of allowing the State to erode its premium commitment with surcharges and sustain the grievance. We will post the arbitration briefs and report the outcome as soon as we receive the Decision.