You may recall that DOC Teamsters, working in concert with our union's Legislative Affairs Department, successfully lobbied the legislature to secure funding in 2018 for a comprehensive staffing level audit at the DOC.
At the time, the DOC had been operating under a staffing model that had not been reviewed in 30 years. An external audit was the first step in addressing insufficient staffing levels in our State's prisons.
That external review of the Department, conducted by CGL Companies, is now complete and the company has published a report with a number of important findings.
As suspected, the audit revealed that the Department is significantly understaffed in several areas. The report concluded, for example, that an additional 250 custody staff are required above levels funded and that there are severe shortages in a number of non-custody areas as well.
You can review the entire DOC Prison Staffing Model Report here.
This week a group of rank-and-file members and union staff met with the State at our Union Hall in Tukwila to hear DOC's assessment of the audit. The Department indicated that they are developing a plan to request additional positions from the legislature.
Our union's Political Department is also in the process of developing a strategy for working with the legislature, in coordination with the Department, to begin securing funding for additional positions to meet current demand as recommended by the audit.
Needless to say, we'll need your help and an excellent turnout at next year's Lobby Day to make sure our legislators understand that DOC is severely understaffed and how that impacts staff safety.
Mark Hackett has worked on campus for over twelve years.
When you are a police officer at UWPD, you never know in the morning what your day will bring. It could range from responding to a car prowl case to something more serious, such as a gun threat, or you might be fishing unruly students out of the quite deep and polluted Drumheller fountain again. With the beginning of the academic year, thousands of new freshmen students are expected at the UW, and police officers will be going to student orientations to do safety trainings and talk to parents and students who might be out on their own for the first time.
" I want to thank past members, past Teamster Reps, and all who made this bill a reality."
Officer Mark Hackett has done this job for over twelve years and knows that patience and diplomacy are his assets when resolving incidents involving students in a college environment.
“We’re here as a resource for the students, and we want them to succeed. We want to keep them safe,” he shared.
Officer Hackett appreciates the necessity of a union for performing his best at a job laced with daily uncertainty and danger. His coworkers formed a guild when he first came to the UWPD, but around 2010 things began to change. A new police chief moved in from a right-to-work state and contract violations began to compound. Hackett and his team realized they needed more power to face the injustices creeping up in their workplace and decided to join Teamsters 117.
“The University of Washington is a very powerful entity and a very large employer, so we needed the backing of a powerful union,” mentioned Hackett.
After joining the Teamsters, officers had their contract respected again and gained invaluable representational support and help with legal matters.
“At the end of the day, I need to get home to my wife and daughter. Having a good contract means having good equipment and increased safety,” Hackett said.
One of the biggest issues for officers at the UWPD was that they were not interest arbitration eligible. They were hopeful that joining Teamsters 117 would help them make progress toward that goal, and they were not disappointed. After almost a decade of Teamsters fighting for interest arbitration, the Governor has signed the bill and 6000 members, including UWPD officers, were granted access to a neutral arbitrator for resolution of negotiations that have reached impasse.
Along with Teamsters 117 President, Michelle Woodrow, Hackett and his co-workers are celebrating the passage of an interest arbitration bill.
Here Hackett puts it in his own words:
“After facing many difficult challenges the Campus Police Officers at the University of Washington joined Teamsters 117 in 2011. The transition was not easy. We faced a difficult and unknown future as we worked to achieve our first Teamsters collective bargaining agreement. Our UWPD members had a clear conversation about future goals and had high expectations of our Union. Our Teamster’s Business Reps, Attorneys, and the President of our local, had a very direct response. We needed to change the law. We needed to have the same rights as other police officers in our state. We needed interest arbitration!
Approximately 8 years later, Governor Inslee will put pen to paper and Senate Bill 5022, granting interest arbitration to Campus Police Officers throughout the State of Washington. I want to thank past members, past Teamster Reps, and all who made this bill a reality. Our members, our Union, our work, make a difference!”
Today, Hackett is celebrating this monumental achievement with his co-workers as smoke rises from the grill, and Teamsters enjoy a BBQ outside their station. If you are ever at the UW campus, know that officers there are 100% behind their union.
Joel Bruch and William Flores after assisting in apprehending a runaway inmate at Olympic Correctional Center. Photo credit: OCC
It was early Tuesday morning, and Correctional Officer William Flores was scouting along the creeks of Clearwater River two miles south of the Olympic Correctional Center searching for an inmate who had escaped the correctional facility three days ago. Inmate recovery units from Olympic, Stafford Creek, Clallam Bay and Cedar Creek Corrections Centers were deployed combing through the Olympic National forest and giving heads up to the loggers in the area.
Flores was searching for tracks in the mud near the riverbank when he saw a logger, Joel Bruch, whom he had spoken to only a few minutes earlier driving back hastily. It turned out that Bruch had just spotted an older man who matched the fugitive’s description, and Flores responded immediately.
They drove back to the spot, and soon Flores spotted their guy with a backpack across his shoulder. The inmate, Mark Vannausdle, who was serving his final years of a 20-year sentence for assault and armed robbery, stood at the bottom of a hill. He was known to be a good runner and on the day of his escape he had bolted out of a bus as he was transported to the dining hall and disappeared in the forest.
Now, Flores looked at this familiar yellow jacket and called out to the inmate identifying himself and giving him directions to stop. Instead, Vannausdle chose to sprint up the hill. Flores ran after him but when he reached the top of the hill, the inmate was already out of sight. It wasn’t long before Flores found the fugitive hiding in the nearby bushes. This time, Vannausdle listened to Flores’s instructions. Flores waited for the rest of the search team, who arrived in less than 10 minutes, and at 7:37 a.m., Mark Vannausdle was apprehended without any injuries and in good condition.
“We didn’t want anyone to get hurt, that’s our main objective,” reflected Flores.
For William Flores, who has worked at Olympics Correctional Center for almost eight years and received the Officer of the Year award two years ago, it was his first inmate recovery deployment. He is proud and content that he was able to assist in returning the inmate to the custody of the Department of Corrections.
“We are a minimum security facility, and I enjoy working there. We are working on putting people on a path to be integrated with their communities rather than being just an incarceration facility,"said Flores. Today, he is taking a well-deserved rest knowing that residents of the nearby communities will sleep free from anxiety tonight.
Captains and Lieutenants at SCORE who passed their first Teamsters contract unanimously are celebrating in front of the facility with President Michelle Woodrow, their rep Matthew House and attorney Eamon McCleery.
At the South Correctional Entity (SCORE) in Des Moines, WA , captains and lieutenants support other corrections staff and oversee the day-to-day activities of inmates, a job that is stressful and challenging. On Tuesday, this group got together to take a vote. On slips of blue paper, they all ticked the same box: yes. They voted for getting better health coverage at a lesser cost, for additional paid time-off, for enrolling in the Teamsters Retiree’s Welfare Trust and for a pay increase of up to 9% over two years. By doing so, they voted in their first-ever Teamsters contract, which turned them from unrepresented, at-will employees to union members secured by a collective agreement and voice.
“Today is a victory, and I’m feeling celebratory,” said Ryan Barrett, a captain and a member of the negotiating committee.
For Ryan Barrett today is a victory. He has been organizing to form a union for over three years.
It all started over three years ago when Barrett approached his co-workers with the idea of organizing to form a union. He was met with some resistance at first, but the group soon warmed up to the idea as things started to change in their organization. Forming a union was a way to ensure fairness and transparency when dealing with an employment issue or needing an answer from an attorney.
Proud new members of Local 117, they made the choice to join Teamsters after thorough research.
The group briefly considered forming their own guild, but after meeting with Michelle Woodrow, President of Teamsters Local 117, and doing some research on their own, they decided Teamsters 117 was the way to go. “We asked our partners and law enforcement agencies in the area and the feedback was nothing but positive,” Barrett explained. “We felt like we would have access to all these strengths for a very small fee. You get so much value of the union that there really are no downsides to it.”
By far, the group values as their biggest achievement the security and representation that comes with having a union. Knowing that they have Teamsters in their corner empowers them to speak up for things that they need and makes their workplace safer.
We are pleased to announce that we are now accepting applications to hire an additional Union Representative for Teamsters who work at the Department of Corrections.
A successful candidate for the position should possess a solid understanding of our collective bargaining agreement and be adept at building union power through member organizing and engagement. The candidate will primarily be responsible for representing members in Western Washington.
You can access a complete job description for the position on our union's website. Interested applicants must submit a cover letter and resume to Director of Administration Jennifer Shaw at email@example.com by the close of business on Wednesday, August 14.
We are excited to be able to add this additional position thanks to continued growth in our membership, outstanding solidarity at the DOC, and because Local 117 members are standing together to keep our union strong.
We're pleased to announce the hiring of Eamon McCleery, an experienced labor attorney who joined our union staff effective July 1.
Eamon will be our Teamsters 117 staff attorney dedicated to handling negotiations, arbitrations, and unfair labor practice litigation on behalf of members working in corrections and law enforcement.
A native of the Pacific Northwest and a graduate of the University of Oregon School of Law, Eamon previously worked as an attorney at a labor law firm specializing in representing law enforcement and corrections employees in the State of Washington.
It's important to understand that the outstanding unity and low opt-out rate among law enforcement and corrections members have allowed us to secure Eamon as an additional resource.
When members stand together and commit to each other like we have seen at Teamsters 117, we can improve wages, safety, and benefits and protect our workplace rights through professional, quality representation.
If you are in need of legal support due to an issue in the workplace, please contact your union representative who will initiate a legal review process with Eamon.
Yesterday we received the finalized version of our 2019-2021 DOC collective bargaining agreement from the Washington State Office of Financial Management (OFM), and the document is now available for you online. Our union's Secretary-Treasurer John Scearcy and the Governor signed our contract in a ceremony in Olympia on June 17.
You can view a link to the complete contract with all of the negotiated changes below:
Your union contract contains a number of language improvements and a minimum of an 8% general wage increase for all Teamsters at the DOC over the next two years.
Members received a general increase of 4% effective July 1, 2019 and will receive another 4% increase effective July 1, 2020. In addition, a number of classifications will receive targeted range increases.
Please take some time to familiarize yourself with your union contract. It contains essential seniority rights, bidding rights, safety provisions, vacation and holiday pay, the right to just cause in a disciplinary investigation, and many other workplace protections that are unavailable to non-union employees.
Thank you to our outstanding union negotiations team for their work on our contract and for speaking out for fair wages, safety, and respect for all DOC corrections employees.
Our Teamsters DOC retirement committee met last week in Olympia to look at policy options.
A group of members who attended the DOC contract signing in Olympia last week spent a few minutes celebrating on the steps of the State Capitol then got straight to work.
Their goal? To evaluate retirement benefits and make policy recommendations for Teamsters at the Washington State Department of Corrections.
It's a challenging job given the convoluted nature of pension politics and the potential impact pension reform could have on the State budget, but all were in agreement: The work needs to get done.
"Retirement is something at DOC that needs to be looked at," said Jeannette Young, a classification counselor at the Washington Corrections Center in Shelton. "We work one-on-one with inmates and it's a highly stressful environment."
"We are committed to working to tackle this difficult issue."
The current DOC retirement system has many corrections staff working longer than they should, which can compromise staff safety inside the prisons.
"Many people are forced to stay on too long because they need to maintain their medical benefits," said Shawn Piliponis of the Larch Corrections Center. "This can affect response times and the ability to assist in disturbances."
After a round of introductions, the 21-member DOC Retirement Committee focused on brainstorming improvements they'd like to see. Ideas included improving post-retirement healthcare benefits, reducing the penalty for early retirement, and making PSERS available to everyone, among others.
Now the hard part begins. The next step requires researching what is fiscally and politically feasible and what would have the greatest impact on the membership as a whole. It also requires educating members and engaging them around the issue. Clearly, people are concerned about their retirement and would like to see improvements. The trick is getting folks involved.
The committee agreed to meet on an ongoing basis to develop short and long-term goals. Once viable options are on the table, the group also plans to survey the membership to see what ideas we can coalesce around.
"Corrections work is inherently stressful and dangerous," said Michelle Woodrow, our union's President and Executive Director, who is helping to lead the committee. "We are committed to working to tackle this difficult issue so that all of our members at the DOC can retire with dignity."
To learn more about your current retirement benefits, please visit the Department of Retirement Systems. You can learn about health care options in retirement here. If you are interested in participating on our Teamsters Retirement Committee, contact Political Director Dustin Lambro at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Governor Jay Inslee signs our DOC 2019-2021 collective bargaining agreement.
Our 2019-2021 DOC collective bargaining agreement was signed on Monday by the Governor and our union's Secretary-Treasurer John Scearcy in a short ceremony in Olympia.
This marks the end of many hours of hard work from our union negotiations committee followed by an interest arbitration hearing and an intense effort to persuade legislators to fund the contract.
The contract contains a number of language improvements and a minimum of an 8% general wage increase for all Teamsters at the DOC over the next two years.
Members will receive a general increase of 4% effective July 1, 2019 and a 4% increase effective July 1, 2020. In addition, a number of classifications will receive targeted range increases.
I encourage you to familiarize yourself with your union contract. It provides important information about your rights, protections, guaranteed wages, and working conditions.
Thank you again to the incredible work of our union negotiations team and to all of our members who spoke out for fair wages, safety, and respect. You made this victory possible.
Members celebrate contract victory after Governor signs the agreement.
Meghan Fewins (c), Brea Jermsted (r) together with Union Rep Taylor House (l) at National Police Week in Washington D.C.
Over the last several years, our Union's Executive Board has sent rank-and-file members to National Police Week in Washington D.C. For the event, thousands of law enforcement professionals gather to honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
In previous years, members from the ranks at the Port of Seattle, the City of Pacific, and the University of Washington have attended.
This year, Police Dispatcher Meghan Fewins and Communications Officer Brea Jermsted, both of South Sound 911, made the trip. Fewins and Jermsted were involved in dispatching emergency calls when Pierce County Sheriff’s Deputy Daniel McCartney was killed in the line of duty last year.
Fewins and Jermsted took some time after their trip to share their reflections, experience, and gratitude. In a text message sent to her Union Rep, Taylor House, Jermsted wrote:
Fewins chronicled her experiences via email:
Fewins: "We watched Dan’s wife and kids place a flower in the wreath."