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.
Teamsters Mari Jane Friel (l) and Anthony McKinney (r) take their talents out to the broader membership.
Mari Jane Friel and Anthony McKinney are a couple of stand-out union activists. Both have excelled at building a strong union in their respective workplaces.
Mari Jane is a roads utility worker at King County. She ramped up her union involvement when the Janus court case loomed with its threat of open shop. Anthony comes out of the grocery industry, where he and a fellow shop steward orchestrated a powerful workplace action to stop their employer from skimming their work.
Both Anthony and Mari Jane recently had a chance to come on board at Local 117 as lost-timers. Our union negotiated a leave of absence with their employers and picked up their wages and benefits while they were away from their jobs.Read more
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.
Nurto Abdi directing traffic at the rental car parking building of Sea-Tac Airport.
At Sea-Tac Airport, Fleetlogix unjustly terminated Nurto Abdi, and it was subsequently overturned during the grievance process. The day the disputed incident took place, Abdi was driving the rental car a customer had just dropped off. She stopped at the gate and the light flashed green, swinging the gate arm open. Abdi drove forward but immediately felt a jolt. When she got out, she saw that the lower part of the gate had malfunctioned and hit the car.
Abdi’s employer, Fleetlogix, didn’t hear her out and quickly fired her. English not being her first language, she wrote a statement in her native language and with the help of her co-worker Burhan Farah, a union leader at her workplace and her union representative Takele Gobena filed a grievance. Soon after she had to leave the country responding to a family emergency.
Meanwhile, the company pushed to process the grievance in her absence without giving her the chance to be heard. Fleetlogix has already been sanctioned by the NLRB in the past for intimidating workers who were wearing buttons supporting their union. Working together, union leader Farah and union representative Gobena did not let the employer proceed without Abdi’s presence.
Abdi worked at Sea-Tac Airport for nearly 15 years.
When she was back in the United States, the Board of Adjustment meeting lasted four long hours. Abdi and Farah had to face Fleetlogix VP, CEO and CFO who specifically flew in to challenge Abdi’s rights. Still, this list of company executives did not help their case -- Abdi got her job back and her seniority was restored.
“I felt appreciated in so many ways,” reflected Farah. “As immigrants and women of color, we are vulnerable in this and most jobs we might take. It is being part of the union that protects us. It was empowering for our entire team to see someone like us standing up to men in power. The company needs us, and we need a union. It was a battle, but in the end the victory was sweet.”
“This is not just my victory, but also one for all the people who work at Fleetlogix,” Abdi concluded. “I am grateful for the energy and time my union representative and my coworker put in to work on my case.”
ICS Teamsters showed unwavering unity and resolve in their fight for a fair contract.
After months of struggle, Teamsters who work at Industrial Container Services (ICS) have achieved a monumental win. Yesterday the group voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new three-year contract.
The contract contains a 5.2% wage increase in the first year for the majority of the group, paid union orientation for new hires, and healthcare protections for the workers' families, among other improvements.
"We're happy with our new contract," said Abel Garibay Flores. "All of us struggled together for better pay and benefits and it made a difference."
Getting to this point took tremendous courage. With ICS intent on exacting bitter takeaways in bargaining, the group of mostly immigrant workers voted unanimously to authorize a strike and engaged in multiple solidarity actions, including a “just practicing” picket in front of the facility on February 20.
The workers also benefited from an outpouring of community support. Seattle City Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez marched with a member delegation to deliver a letter to company management demanding fair treatment.
Seattle City Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez standing together with Teamsters at ICS at a solidarity action on March 7.
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."
Uber and Lyft drivers speak out for fair pay and a voice before their caravan embarks for City Hall.
Ride hail drivers took their vehicles on a slow procession through Seattle neighborhoods today to call for better working conditions at Uber and Lyft. Drivers ended their caravan at Seattle City Hall where they delivered their demands to City officials for fair pay, a due process to appeal deactivations, and a voice.
“We are tired of seeing Uber and Lyft siphon off bigger and bigger percentages of what riders pay,” said Fasil Teka, an Uber driver of 7 years. “It’s time for the City to ensure that drivers have the same rights as all workers in Seattle.”
"It’s time for the City to ensure that drivers have the same rights as all workers in Seattle."
Embarking from the Masjid al-Taqwa mosque in Seattle’s Central District, drivers honked their horns and displayed signs on their vehicles that read, “Share the fare!” and “Uber and Lyft: Listen to your drivers!” The caravan wove through the heart of the city, from the Central District to Capitol Hill and downtown Seattle, neighborhoods with some of the greatest concentrations of ride hail customers.
“We are asking our customers to stand with us in our effort to win fair pay and a voice,” said Lyft driver, Mohamed Sharif. “When drivers are paid a living wage and can stand together to improve driver and passenger safety, our local economy and the entire community benefits.”Read more
The summer issue of our DOC Guardian newsletter is hot off the press!
In this issue, you'll find a recap of the 2019 legislative session in Olympia, which featured a number of critical wins for Teamsters at the Department of Corrections.
The highlights include passage of a DOC interest arbitration bill, the full funding of our DOC contract, and the restoration of our right to carry a concealed weapon off duty without having to purchase a permit.
You can access a PDF of the newsletter here; print copies will be distributed by member leaders at your facilities in the coming weeks.
Participants from our first-ever Womxn's Conference gather outside our Union Hall in Tukwila to celebrate after the event.
A powerful spirit of sisterhood coursed through our union hall on Saturday as more than 100 members gathered together for our first-ever Teamsters 117 Womxn's Conference.
Organized by a committee of Teamster women under the banner She/Us/We Rising Together, the conference featured presentations, participatory workshops, and an art show fundraiser for a new scholarship - the Jayme Biendl Working Women's scholarship.
The event raised over $5,000 for the scholarship named after the Local 117 correctional officer who was tragically murdered at her post at the Monroe Correctional Complex in 2011.
"Jayme Biendl paid the ultimate sacrifice for serving and protecting our communities," said Michelle Woodrow, President and Executive Director of Teamsters 117. "This scholarship pays tribute to our fallen Sister and to all of the women across our union who work so hard to support their families."
Our union hall was transformed for the event with colorful banners, artwork, and flowers. State Senator Rebecca Saldaña kicked things off with her inspirational story of rising up from an immigrant family to become a champion of working people in the Washington State legislature.
Senator Saldaña was followed by Elise Bryant, President of the National Coalition of Labor Union Women, whose speech was electric. The audience joined her throughout in intermittent chants and song.
"Don't mistake one moment of darkness for total blindness," she said. "This is the cure, you are the light. This is the food that feeds our soul." You can view Bryant's entire address online here.
"This is the cure, you are the light. This is the food that feeds our soul."
After the speeches, participants attended workshops designed to empower, inform, and inspire. Sessions were held on climate justice, running for office, sexual harassment, and union leadership.
The group reconvened in the main auditorium for lunch and a panel discussion led by Local 117 Union Representative Maria Williams.
Participating on the panel were six powerful labor union leaders: Michelle Woodrow, President and Executive Director of Teamsters 117; Brenda Wiest, Vice President and Legislative Director of Teamsters 117; Tracey Thompson, General Counsel of Teamsters 117; Nina Bugbee, Director of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Women's Conference; Nicole Grant, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of MLK Labor; and April Sims, Secretary-Treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council.
Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer John Scearcy brought the idea for the conference home from the IBT Women's Conference, which he attended last year. "I was inspired by the power and energy the event brought to our international union," Scearcy said. "I knew we could build on that power by organizing our own conference here at Teamsters 117."
"The whole idea of a Womxn's Conference resonated with me," said Joan Jaeger, a nurse at the Monroe Correctional Complex who attended the event. "This is the first year I've gotten involved in the union and I'm thrilled that it took place."
More good news from Olympia! The Washington State Legislature has fully funded our DOC collective bargaining agreement for the 2019-2021 biennium.
This means that the wage increases achieved in our DOC members' contract through our interest arbitration award are now guaranteed.
Under the award, all Teamster correctional employees will now receive no less than an 8% general wage increase over the next two years.
The award calls for a general increase of 4% effective July 1, 2019 and a 4% increase effective July 1, 2020 for all classifications. In addition, a number of classifications will receive targeted range increases.
Teamsters 117 Secretary-Treasurer, John Scearcy, and Governor Inslee are expected to sign our contract in the middle of June. The contract will take effect on July 1, 2019.
Thank you to the members on our union's negotiations committee who put in many long hours to achieve a strong contract on behalf of all Teamsters at the DOC. Thank you also to so many of you who spoke directly with legislators about the critical nature of corrections work.
Congratulations on this accomplishment.