Governor Inslee signs a bill granting interest arbitration rights to Teamsters who work at the WA State Department of Corrections.
It’s a victory a decade in the making.
For ten years, Teamsters across Washington State made phone calls, wrote emails, and met face-to-face with legislators. We rallied on the steps of the state house, spoke out in the press, and marched around the Capitol grounds in Olympia.
Now, after years of perseverance, we have achieved an historic win.
On April 30, Governor Inslee signed a bill that immeasurably expands the rights of 6,000 Teamsters at the Department of Corrections (DOC).
The new law grants our union access to interest arbitration, a right essential to public safety professionals and one that has been denied our members for decades. Making the victory even sweeter, Inslee signed a similar bill on the same day that benefits Teamster officers at the University of Washington Police Department (UWPD).
“Our corrections and law enforcement members put their lives on the line to protect the public,” said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters 117, who made passage of the bills a top priority. “Interest arbitration ensures our members are treated with respect.”
"Interest arbitration ensures our members are treated with respect."
Interest arbitration is a complete game-changer when it comes to the power our union can leverage at the bargaining table. Without interest arbitration, we had little recourse when negotiating over issues like wages and working conditions. Not surprisingly, the State exploited its advantage by engaging in frustrating cycles of take-it-or-leave-it bargaining.
These new laws allow our union to push mandatory subjects of bargaining to a neutral arbitrator if we reach impasse in negotiations.
The ramifications are huge. Over the last three contract cycles, our DOC members have been able to access interest arbitration, first through a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Governor, then through a negotiated provision in our contract. With interest arbitration, we have prevented concessions, strengthened language and increased wages for DOC Teamsters by a minimum of 28.3% over six years.
But from the start our goal has always been to codify interest arbitration into State law. “We wanted to ensure these rights could not be stripped away during negotiations, so we made statutory interest arbitration a long-term priority,” Scearcy said.
Getting to the goal wasn’t easy. Ross Hunter, the Chair of the House Appropriations Committee blocked early drafts of the bill. Later, the State Senate lacked the votes to pass the legislation. But thanks in part to our union’s powerhouse political program, the legislative landscape in Washington State shifted in 2018, creating an environment for change.
“We worked hard to elect legislators who were supportive and that approach paid off,” Scearcy said.
Under Scearcy’s leadership, our union made another major push during this year’s legislative session. In 2019, we had our largest, most successful lobby day ever. Over 200 Teamsters and their families converged on the State Capitol to talk with legislators about the need to get the law passed.
Now, after years of determination and hard work, a goal once thought unattainable has become a reality.
“I’m proud to be a Teamster,” said James Deuel, a corrections officer at the Washington Corrections Center in Shelton. “Interest arbitration levels the playing field with management. It gives us the opportunity to fight for what we want and what we need.”
This Tuesday is truly a momentous day for our corrections and law enforcement members.
At 2 p.m. on Tuesday, April 30, Governor Inslee will sign into law bills granting statutory interest arbitration rights for our members at the Department of Corrections and University of Washington Police Department (SB 5021/SB 5022). At the same ceremony, the Governor will also sign a bill that restores the right for trained DOC personnel to carry a concealed weapon (HB 1589).
We will be gathering outside of the Governor's office on Tuesday starting at 1:30 p.m. All members are encouraged to attend this event and join in celebrating this extraordinary accomplishment.
Interest arbitration increases our power and leverage in contract negotiations. Without interest arbitration, we had little recourse when bargaining with the State over issues like wages and working conditions.
With this new law, we will be able to take mandatory subjects of bargaining to a neutral third-party arbitrator if we reach impasse in negotiations.
Over the next several weeks, we have a number of activities planned to celebrate this win. We will be sending thank you cards to the legislators who supported our bills and recognizing the bill sponsors and other key legislators at our June membership meeting and our summer DOC barbecues.
We are also creating a commemorative pin to recognize the hard work so many of you put in to pass this legislation.
Congratulations and thank you to everyone on this historic achievement. After a decade-long effort in the Washington State Legislature to expand the rights of Local 117 members, our moment of victory is close at hand.
On Friday, the State House and Senate finalized the legislation for our Department of Corrections (DOC) and University of Washington Police Department (UWPD) interest arbitration bills (SB 5021/SB 5022). This clears the way for both bills to be sent to the Governor’s desk for his signature.
The Governor has indicated that he is supportive of the bills, and we expect he will sign them into law in the coming weeks. As soon as we have a date for the bill signing ceremony, we will let you know and encourage you to attend this historic event.
It’s hard to express the magnitude of this victory. We’ve been working as a union for nearly a decade to achieve statutory interest arbitration rights. Now the finish line is close at hand.
Interest arbitration is a complete game-changer when it comes to the power we leverage in contract negotiations. Without interest arbitration, we had little recourse when bargaining with the State over issues like wages and working conditions.
It’s hard to express the magnitude of this victory.
With this new law, we will be able to push mandatory subjects of bargaining to a neutral third-party arbitrator if we reach impasse in negotiations.
The ramifications are huge. Over the last three contract cycles we’ve been able to access interest arbitration rights at the DOC, first through a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Governor, then through a negotiated provision in our contract. Because of interest arbitration, we’ve succeeded in increasing wages for DOC Teamsters by 28.3% over six years.
But from the start our goal has always been to codify these rights into State law, which is exactly what these bills will do. Once they become law, we will have increased our strength to negotiate higher wages and better working conditions for all of you who risk your lives to serve and protect our communities.
Thanks again for your tremendous work toward this victory. By standing together and committing to each other, we’ve succeeded in achieving critical rights that will improve the lives of 6,000 members and their families.
We have fantastic news from Olympia tonight. Our bill (SB 5021) granting interest arbitration rights to Teamsters who work at the Washington State Department of Corrections passed unanimously out of the Senate.
This is a major victory for DOC Teamsters who have been fighting for statutory interest arbitration since 2010. It is also a testament to all of the members and their families who met with their legislators last week at our Lobby Day event.
Clearly, your voice made a tremendous impact. We still need a majority of representatives in the House to vote in favor of the legislation and a signature from the Governor, but passage in the Senate puts us a huge step closer to achieving our goal.
If you met with your State Senator last week and asked them to support interest arbitration for DOC, please send an email thanking them for their support.
Interest arbitration levels the playing field for union members working in public safety professions who don't have the ability to strike. It allows us to take mandatory subjects of bargaining to a neutral third-party arbitrator if we reach impasse with the State in contract negotiations.
Employees of other public safety agencies such as the Washington State Patrol and county corrections have access to interest arbitration. Now is the time to win interest arbitration for our members working in corrections and at the University of Washington Police Department.
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.
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:
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.
- You can view the House testimony on TVW here
- The Senate testimony can be viewed online here
- Track our bills: HB1042 (DOC), HB1043 (UWPD), SB5021 (DOC), SB5022(UWPD)
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.
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:
- A 4% general wage increase effective July 1, 2019
- A 4% general wage increase effective July 1, 2020
- Range increases for some classifications
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.
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.
This afternoon Arbitrator Joseph Duffy sent us his interest arbitration award outlining DOC Teamsters compensation for the 2019-2021 biennium. The award contains significant pay increases for all members of the bargaining unit.
According to the award, all Teamster correctional employees will 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, the arbitrator has awarded the following range increases:
|CLASSIFICATION||CURRENT RANGE||NEW RANGE|
|Warehouse Operator 1||29G||31G|
|Warehouse Operator 2||32G||34G|
|Warehouse Operator 3||36G||38G|
|Warehouse Operator 4||40G||42G|
|Ferry Operator Assistant||37E||39E|
|Corrections and Custody Officer 4||51||56|
|Corrections Mental Health Counselor 2||49||52|
|Corrections Mental Health Counselor 3||51||54|
|Sex Offender Treatment Specialist||55||57|
|Sex Offender Treatment Supervisor||59||61|
|Health Records Technician 1||44|
|Health Records Technician 2||49|
|Corrections Specialist Assistant||39|
|Corrections Specialist 4||61|
|Physician Assistant Certified – Lead||76N|
|Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner – Lead||74N||78N|
|Data Consultant 3||52|
|Corrections and Custody Officer 2||43||44|
|Corrections and Custody Officer 3||48||50|
|Classification Counselor 3||49||50|
|Fiscal Anaylst 4||52||54|
- Shift Premium for Nurses will now include CNA and MA classifications and is increased from $1.50 per hour to $2.50 per hour;
- Standby pay for overtime exempt Physician Assistant/Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner, Physician Assistant Certified/Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner Lead, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Psychiatric Social Worker 3 or 4, Psychiatrist 4, Psychologist 3 or 4, or Psychology Associate increases from $50/day to $100/day and for all other overtime exempt from $25/day to $50/day;
- When a CDL certification, license, and physical exam are required for a chain bus position, the employer will reimburse the cost of the initial certification, license, and physical exam up to $3,800 when the employee successfully bids into a chain bus position. All renewal costs will be the responsibility of the employee;
- Honor guard will receive assignment pay on an hour for hour basis for every hour worked during an authorized team related assignment or training. The assignment pay is basic salary plus two (2) ranges and will be paid to trained and qualified employees who are assigned members of the Honor Guard.
With the arbitrator's award, we see once again the immense power of having interest arbitration in our contract. The arbitrator awarded double what the State’s final offer was in contract negotiations. For many classifications, it will be significantly higher than that.
Assuming the Office of Financial Management (OFM) deems the award financially feasible, it will be included in the Governor’s budget. At that point, the legislature must decide whether or not to fund our contract.
Getting our DOC contract funded will take members across the state talking to their representatives in Olympia about the challenges you face every day to keep the public safe. Your participation in next year's Teamsters Lobby Day will be crucial. We will be sending out details about the event soon.
Thank you to our incredible union committee that worked so hard during contract negotiations. They deserve enormous praise for their fortitude, hard work, and professionalism.
You can view the arbitrator’s complete award here.
Thank you for your service to our communities. Please stay safe.
Today our union’s legal team presented a powerful closing statement before the arbitrator as we concluded our case for higher compensation for DOC Teamsters in our 2019-2021 contract.
Our union’s number one priority is a general wage increase for all bargaining unit members that recognizes the challenging and dangerous nature of your work and the critical public safety service you provide to communities across Washington State.
Our case is built on compelling testimony from members who spoke during the arbitration of threats to their families, assaults against staff, high turnover, crushing overtime, and other safety-related concerns that make working inside a prison in our state unique.
In closing, our union attorney summarized our argument:
Our case is also built on persuasive comparable data presented by a financial expert witness retained by the union. Our witness testified that compensation for Washington State corrections employees is not commensurate with corrections workers in similarly-sized states, counties, and jurisdictions.
The employer tried to dismiss our data at the county level, stating that the DOC is not losing large numbers of employees to the counties. We vigorously contested that position. No matter how you slice the data, members of the bargaining unit are significantly undercompensated. Even the State admitted that your compensation falls well below the comparators.
Still, throughout the hearing, the State clung to its final economic proposal in negotiations. The State’s attorney testified in her closing argument that a general wage increase of 2% in year one and 2% in year two of the contract is “fair and reasonable.” This proposal is grossly inadequate and would not even keep pace with the cost of living. It’s no surprise that the State’s proposal was rejected by 99% of members participating in our recent contract vote.
In contrast, our union's final protected position going into arbitration was an across-the-board general wage increase of 8.5% in year one and 8.5% in year two of the contract, plus a 3.6% cost-of-living increase in each year of the contract. Our position was based on comparable data researched by our financial experts and the current consumer price index.
Our case also showed how profound recruitment and retention difficulties at the Department adversely impact morale, safety, and lead to inordinate amounts of overtime. We presented evidence that the Department has an astounding 8% vacancy rate in CO2 positions alone. In their closing, the State continued to downplay recruitment and retention as a problem.
The arbitrator must issue his decision by no later than October 1 and has indicated that we can expect it to come as early as September 26. As soon as we receive the award, we will publish it on our union’s website with a summary and our analysis. Thank you to the members who took time away from their families to testify during arbitration. Their testimony about the challenges of working in Washington State prisons makes our case for higher wages genuine, compelling, and strong.
Over the last few days, our interest arbitration hearing has been marked by powerful testimony from members and some frustrating moments from DOC management.
Last Thursday, correctional officer James Deuel of WCC testified about scaled-back staffing levels on graveyard shift and how it impacts safety. He also addressed the cumulative stress of the job:
Officer Deuel also spoke about threats to his own safety and to his family, and of encountering offenders after they’ve been released into the community:
Adam Kapa, a transportation sergeant at WCC, testified about the dangers of operating a chain bus:
Like Deuel, Sergeant Kapa spoke of threats directed at him and his family:
Through member testimony, like that of Officer Deuel and Sergeant Kapa, our union’s legal team is establishing the risks and high-level stress associated with the job as we continue to make our case for higher compensation than the State proposed in contract negotiations.
Last week, we also heard from DOC Secretary Stephen Sinclair. Sinclair’s testimony irked members in the room, especially when he stated that he hadn’t given a lot of thought about whether members of the bargaining unit are satisfied with their compensation. He also testified that he hadn’t heard much from members who are dissatisfied with their compensation. These remarks seemed tone deaf and completely out of touch with the rank-and-file.
This week, we've had an expert witness present comparable data in states of like sizes and jurisdictions as well as data involving compensation for corrections employees at the county level.
We anticipate wrapping up the hearing this Friday, at which point we will give you another update. Please check your email and look for more information coming soon.
View a short video update from the hearing below: