After focusing on COVID-19 related issues early on in DOC contract negotiations with the State, our Union's attention has turned over the last three days to the impact of the pandemic on the State budget and how that will affect our collective bargaining agreement.

As you may have heard on the news, Washington State is facing a massive projected $8.8 billion budget shortfall. The uncertain economic environment in our State and in the country as a whole will have a profound impact on all of us.

While our Union's negotiation committee has indicated that we are willing to make sacrifices to mitigate the unprecedented crisis caused by the pandemic, we have also made it clear that we will not allow the State to balance the entire budget on the backs of Teamsters at the DOC.

We will also not allow the State to violate the terms of our collective bargaining agreement. Unfortunately, the State has been slow to receive that message and continues to make proposals that represent a violation of our contract.

In particular, the State has been insistent on the need to implement mandatory furloughs for staff who work in positions that do not require relief in ways that are not consistent with our contract.

We have unequivocally communicated that these proposals are unacceptable. While we are willing to engage in discussions about furloughs, it is our position that they must be implemented in a way that honors our collective bargaining agreement.

With respect to compensation over the next two years, our Union's negotiation committee has proposed forgoing wage increases to help mitigate potential layoffs in the future as our communities struggle through this crisis. In addition to preserving jobs, our top priorities as a Union are to maintain the current levels of our health care benefits and to protect existing contract language. We are holding firm on those priorities.

Every day next week we have mediation sessions scheduled with the State in an effort to reach a tentative agreement on these priorities. We will be sending out another negotiation update by email after those sessions. At the end of this process, you will have an opportunity to review and vote on a final contract proposal. The outcome of the vote will determine whether we activate the interest arbitration process.

Finally, we are extremely proud of the work and unwavering solidarity of the members on our Union's negotiation committee. Our team is unanimously committed to limiting the impact of the pandemic and protecting your contractual rights.

With the Freedom Foundation/Opt-Out Today attempting again this week to access your personal information through a public disclosure request, it is imperative that we all stick together and not let them divide us or weaken our Union. Their goal is to destroy our Union and we cannot be fooled into thinking they have our interests at heart.

If you have questions, please contact a member of your Union's negotiation committee. Thank you so much for your service during these challenging times.