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Corrections & Law Enforcement

DOC Guardian Newsletter: Essential Rights for DOC

Guardian_web.jpgThe spring issue of our Guardian newsletter for Teamsters at the DOC is hot off the press!

In this issue, you'll find an overview of our goals for the 2019 legislative session in Olympia as well as the status of the bills we are tracking. 

Other highlights include a tribute to Richard Coleman, an officer at the Washington State Penitentiary, who is retiring this month as well as the announcement of Legislative Director Brenda Wiest as the new Vice President of our Union's Executive Board. 

You can view the new Guardian online here. Print copies will be distributed over the next few weeks by a committee of shop stewards and member leaders.

If you would like to volunteer to help distribute the Guardian or have an article to contribute, please reach out to your Union Representative.  

ACT NOW: Support safer conditions for Teamster nurses


In Olympia, nurses from across the state are standing together to support a law that would make our workplaces safer. The proposed legislation (HB 1155/SB 5190) would allow front-line caregivers to take uninterrupted meal and rest breaks.

At DOC, fatigue isn’t just a worker issue, it’s a safety issue. When DOC medical staff are chronically exhausted and overworked, the safety of the entire facility is put at risk.

Employers and management are trying to weaken protections for nurses by introducing a competing bill (SB 5344) that doesn’t solve the problem. We need to reject that proposal and send a resounding message to legislators that we support safer, more secure conditions for DOC nursing staff.

TAKE ACTION NOW! Find your legislators online, and send them an email telling them to support HB 1155 and SB 5190 and oppose SB 5344. You can copy and paste the message below or draft your own message. 

I am writing to ask you to support HB 1155 and SB 5190 and oppose SB 5344. I think it is important you hear from front-line patient care providers who would be impacted by this law. When I don’t get my breaks or lunches, I don’t have time to go to the bathroom, eat, or just rest my feet for 15 minutes. At DOC, when I am this overworked my safety and that of my co-workers is put at risk. SB 5344 does not address fatigue for nurses and leaves out other front-line providers that desperately need a solution as well. This bill continues to leave caregivers like me working in conditions that are unsafe. After ten years of trying to pass this law, it is time to act for the safety of workers and our communities. Thank you for your time, please support HB 1155 and SB 5190, and oppose SB 5344, which aims to weaken these efforts.

Thank you for standing together with Teamster nurses!

Olympia Update: DOC and UWPD interest arbitration bills clear first hurdle


Good news from Olympia! Our legislation to grant interest arbitration rights to our members at the Department of Corrections (DOC) and the University of Washington Police Department (UWPD) (SB5021/SB5022) cleared a first, important hurdle in the Senate yesterday when the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee unanimously voted to pass both bills out of committee.

Our UWPD bill (HB1043) was also favorably passed out of the House Labor and Workplace Standards Committee yesterday on a vote of 6-1. The House committee has not yet taken executive action on our DOC interest arbitration bill (HB1042), but we anticipate that will happen soon.

Because both bills will have an impact on the state budget, the bills that cleared their respective committees yesterday will now be sent to fiscal committees in the House (Appropriations) and Senate (Ways & Means), where we will have another opportunity to testify. We will update you when those hearings are scheduled.

Yesterday we also introduced our bill that will amend current statute to authorize trained DOC staff who have been subject to a background check in the last five years to carry a concealed weapon. This fix will restore a right that was taken away due to a problem with the RCW that invalidated our Peace Officer Identification Cards. The new bill (HB1589) has bipartisan support with twenty co-sponsors and will be considered by the House Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee.

Please take a moment to thank the Senators on the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee for recognizing the need for interest arbitration for DOC and UWPD by sending a quick email or calling their offices. Thanks also to the members who took time out of their busy schedules to give powerful testimony on the bills.

Members give powerful testimony on DOC and LE interest arbitration bills


Wearing our union colors down in Olympia for the interest arbitration hearings on January 17.

With the 2019 legislative session kicking off in Olympia this week, bills that would grant interest arbitration rights to our Department of Corrections (DOC) and University of Washington Police Department (UWPD) members are already starting to move. 

Several Teamsters provided powerful testimony supporting both bills today in hearings before the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee and the House Labor and Workplace Standards Committee. 

Michelle Woodrow, our union's President and Director of Corrections & Law Enforcement, laid out our case for interest arbitration before legislators:

DOC and law enforcement employees perform one of the most stressful, dangerous jobs in the United States... Interest arbitration will ensure these employees are treated with the same respect as other public safety professionals by ensuring a level playing field in negotiations...

Interest arbitration is a right commonly available to public safety employees such as the Washington State Patrol who do not have the ability to strike. It allows our union to move mandatory subjects of bargaining to a neutral third-party arbitrator should we reach impasse in negotiations.

At the DOC, we achieved interest arbitration through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the Governor in 2014 and negotiated it into our contract, but it has not been codified in statute. Our members at the UWPD have never had access to these rights.

Without access to interest arbitration, members like Officers Mark Hackett and Marvin McKinney of the UWPD have struggled to obtain critical safety gear to protect themselves in the line of duty. 

For Sergeant Jason Heuer and Officer James Deuel of the DOC, passing interest arbitration means securing their rights into the future. "It’s critical that we win this in statute because otherwise it can just be taken away...," they said.  

Thank you to our members who took time out of their busy schedules to travel to Olympia to testify. 

As session continues, there will be more hearings on these bills and more opportunities to make your voice heard. Passing interest arbitration for DOC and UWPD will require excellent participation at our upcoming Lobby Day on February 26-27. It will also require all of us coming together to educate legislators about the critical public safety work we perform.

Our union’s priorities as the 2019 legislative session gets underway


It’s political season again, as lawmakers in Washington State have headed back to Olympia for the start of the 2019 legislative session. This is a budget year, which calls for a long session – 105 days, running from January 14 through April 28, 2019. 

Over the last few years, our union has built a strong voice in Olympia. Participation at our annual lobby day has grown from a few dozen a decade ago to over 200 members and their families at last year’s event.  With a stronger voice, we’ve been able to achieve legislative change that has benefited workers across our state. We’ve funded contracts for state employees and passed bills that have made our workplaces safer and more secure.

Our collective power is a direct result of member involvement, and in 2019 there will be plenty of opportunities to get involved.

Wage increases for DOC Teamsters in the new year


Now that 2019 has arrived, Teamsters who work at the WA State Department of Corrections can look forward to much-deserved wage increases that our union achieved through the interest arbitration process.

Effective January 1, 2019, most DOC Teamsters received a general wage increase of 3% while some classifications received targeted range increases. Those increases, which can be viewed here, are the last of three wage increases in our current 2017-2019 collective bargaining agreement.

In our 2019-2021 contract, you can expect the following increases:

To take effect, the wage increases in our 2019-2021 contract must be approved by the state legislature. Getting our contract funded will take an excellent turnout at our upcoming Teamsters Lobby Day on February 26-27.  

You can register online for our Lobby Day here.

Thank you for the incredible service you provide to communities across our state. Working inside a prison is a constant challenge, and you and your co-workers put your lives on the line every day to protect the public.

The wage increases you receive this year and next represent a small step toward honoring your work and giving you the recognition you deserve.

OFM deems DOC interest arbitration award financially feasible


We have good news to report from Olympia. We've just received word that the Office of Financial Management (OFM) has deemed our DOC interest arbitration award financially feasible.

OFM Director, David Schumacher, made the announcement in a memo sent to Governor Inslee on December 10. This means the Governor will include our award in his proposed 2019-2021 operating budget that will be submitted to the state legislature.   

OFM's determination is a critical step toward ensuring that the 8% general wage increase for DOC Teamsters and the other terms of the award will take effect.

But it is certainly not a foregone conclusion. The legislature must still vote to approve funding the award. 

Getting the award funded by the legislature will require an excellent showing at our DOC Lobby Day on February 26-27.

Most legislators have never set foot inside a prison and do not understand the challenging and essential nature of your work. We need to educate our legislators in Olympia about the critical work of corrections so they understand its value.

Please join your DOC co-workers in Olympia for our Lobby Day on February 26-27! If you have any questions about the event, talk to your union representative or contact Teamsters 117 Political Director Dustin Lambro.

You can register for the event online here.

Thank you for your service to our communities.

Wage increases at DOC have accelerated retirement for Officer Richard Coleman


Richard Coleman (center) fighting for interest arbitration at the Local 117 Day of Action event in Olympia in 2012.

Richard Coleman has his sights set on travel. The longtime Walla Walla resident has imagined destinations closer to home, and others further afield: from the Oregon Coast to the beaches of Belize, from the Civil War battlefields of Virginia to the Baltic states in Eastern Europe.

After 36 years of public service, trips once unfathomable are about to become a reality.

With retirement just a hair's breadth away, he credits his union for allowing him to bow out earlier than he’d imagined. Thanks to hard-fought wage increases over the last three contract cycles achieved through interest arbitration, he’s seen his social security and state pension benefits swell.

“Interest arbitration has been phenomenal in helping to raise our pay,” he said. “Without this level of income, I’d have to be working a couple years more. Now I have a good, solid retirement base.”

"Now I have a good, solid retirement base."

For Coleman, retirement from the Department of Corrections comes this February, the 28th of the month to be precise - not that anyone’s counting.

Scearcy demands apology for mayor's POS remark

We wanted to share a letter issued by Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan to members of Teamsters Local 117 at the Port of Seattle Police Department.

The letter comes as a result of a comment the Mayor made at a recent Seattle Police Officers' Guild meeting that denigrated the work of other law enforcement agencies, including the Port of Seattle.

As soon as we became aware of the Mayor's remarks, our union's Secretary-Treasurer John Scearcy reached out to the mayor's office and insisted on an apology.

In her letter, Mayor Durkan states that she "never meant to impugn the hard work of the Port of Seattle Police Department or any other neighboring jurisdictions that keep our region safe..."

You can read the Mayor's letter in its entirety here.

With the holidays approaching, our ports of entry nationwide become packed with travelers and potentially more dangerous. Thank you to our members at the Port of Seattle for your sacrifice during this busy season as you serve and protect our communities and work so hard to keep all of us safe. 

Audit leads to change in weapons law for DOC

As stated in a recent memo sent from the Department of Corrections to members of Teamsters 117, a new interpretation of the law that arose as a result of a WSP and FBI audit invalidates our Peace Officer Identification Cards effective immediately.

As a result, correctional employees who formerly met the requirements under the law are no longer able to carry concealed weapons without a concealed weapons license.  

This represents a blow to your right as a DOC employee to protect yourself in public, a right that our Teamsters union worked hard to achieve through a change in statute back in 2011.

Our Legislative Director, Brenda Wiest, is currently reviewing the statue in an effort to identify a legislative fix that will restore your right to carry a concealed weapon without the licensing requirement. Assuming a solution is viable, we will include this priority to our 2019 legislative agenda along with the other priorities we have identified: funding our 2019-2021 collective bargaining agreement and achieving statutory interest arbitration rights for DOC.

As always, your participation at our Lobby Day on February 26-27, 2019 and your engagement in Olympia this legislative session will be critical to achieving these priorities. We will keep you posted as soon as we have more information.