Members of DOC bargaining committee 2020 (left to right): Kimberly Cook, Christopher Lukens, Becky HaneyNixon, James Deuel.
Last Thursday and Friday, our Union Bargaining Committee met with the State to begin negotiations over our 2021-2023 contract with the DOC.
Our Union team consists of 19 rank-and-file members from facilities across the State along with 7 Teamster staff members.
These negotiations are unlike anything we've experienced before. Due to the coronavirus crisis, all bargaining sessions are conducted remotely using Zoom. Ordinarily, our Union team would have passed an initial comprehensive language proposal at the outset of negotiations. Instead, our discussions on both days revolved around the impact of COVID-19 and the State’s budget problems.
As you know, the operational impact on the agency has been profound. This is especially true given the recent outbreak at Coyote Ridge and the establishment of Regional Care Facilities at AHCC, MCC, and WCC.
In Thursday's negotiation session, we spent most of the day discussing the Governor's announcement to eliminate raises and issue mandatory furloughs for some State employees. As expected, we received confirmation that your 4% general wage increase is secure. We also have strong legal footing that protects us against the Governor's unilateral furloughs.
At the direction of your rank and file bargaining committee, we have reached an agreement with the State on a Memorandum of Understanding. We did not agree to allow the State to impose mandatory furloughs. Rather, our agreement will allow bargaining unit members to participate in furloughs through a volunteer process as outlined in your Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Bargaining unit members who volunteer to be furloughed will be eligible to receive unemployment benefits to help offset the impact of the reduced hours. The State will apply to participate in the SharedWork program which allows employees to collect partial unemployment while their work hours are reduced. This option of applying for voluntary lay-offs and/or reduction in work hours will be available through July 25th, 2020. Additionally, members may qualify for up to an additional $600 per week through the C.A.R.E.S. Act during this time.
The State will work with Employment Security Department (ESD) for educational guidance and assistance with the application process. Please look for information from the agency with the details on how to apply.
These furloughs are not mandatory for Teamsters and members must utilize this form to volunteer to participate.
Your Teamsters contract is strong and protects you from the mandatory 1 day per week furloughs. However, the severity of the crisis that has profoundly impacted our lives and the projected Washington State budget deficit of $8.8 billion is real. With access to the SharedWork program, coupled with the additional benefit of the $600 per week through the C.A.R.E.S. Act, we encourage each of you to assess whether or not you are able and eligible to apply.
If you have questions, please speak with a member on your Union Negotiations Committee. For questions about voluntary furloughs, please contact your local HR department. Our next negotiation sessions are scheduled for July 1-2.