We may be on the verge of an important breakthrough in our Total Comp negotiations with King County. This is great news, especially given the profound challenges we have faced over the last nine months of bargaining.
The County is still reviewing our latest proposal and will likely respond soon. Although we have not yet reached a tentative agreement, we are cautiously optimistic that a deal we can recommend to the membership is within sight.
Our Coalition of Unions met with the County again on Friday, July 29. In that session we made significant progress toward our goals. Those goals include across-the-board wage increases in both years of the contract, protection of our health and welfare benefits without premium share, and a separate wage table for Union Coalition members.
We also held firm on a fair approach to the County’s effort to achieve a Joint Labor Agreement. On that point, the County accepted our proposal with some modifications to create a pathway for streamlining the multitude of union contracts into a master agreement using the Teamsters model of the UPS Master Agreement as a template.
We achieved this excellent result through the leadership of Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer John Scearcy and Joint Council President Rick Hicks who, together with our Coalition leaders, convinced County Executive Dow Constantine that we were creating something that has had a successful experience in the past.
With that critical piece resolved, we were down to the economics. The County finally made a significant move to recognize our need for a distinguishing compensation element for engaging in these joint negotiations. That is now being referred to as the Coalition Premium.
The Coalition Premium will result in the creation of a second squared pay table, which will be distinct from the County’s base squared pay table. This means that County employees who are members of the Coalition will receive a financial benefit. To help allay the economic impact of that premium, our Coalition properly used our success at the JLMIC at controlling health and welfare costs to defer some of our cost savings to the wage line for Coalition members only.
The County is still reviewing our proposal on wages, but we believe our economic offer achieves not only our goals, but the County’s goals as well. It creates fixed wage increases so that the County can properly budget, lower than ever health and welfare contributions that don’t jeopardize employee premium share, and a plan to move towards establishing commonalities without risking autonomy of unions or the important individualized aspects of our agreements.
If the County makes an acceptable offer, we will be scheduling meetings in your workplaces to discuss the proposal and provide an opportunity for you to ask questions before we send it to the membership for a vote.