Essential Teamster road crew out of King County's Fall City depot is ready to hit the streets!
As the coronavirus crisis has touched all of our lives, our Union at King County has been working to adapt.
In April, Teamsters 117, as part of the King County Coalition of Unions, negotiated a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the County securing additional leave protections for union members, including emergency paid leave and paid administrative leave. The MOA also emphasizes increased access to telecommuting and PPE for those who are required to work on-site.
These protections were achieved outside of the framework of this year's contract negotiations, which were originally scheduled to begin in March but have been put on hold due to the pandemic.
To plan for what negotiations might look like this year, a group of Teamsters 117 Shop Stewards at King County, together with Secretary-Treasurer John Scearcy and Union Representatives Maria Williams and Cara Mattson, met via Zoom last week.
In that meeting, we had an excellent presentation from our International Teamsters Union on the financial state of King County. We also reviewed member contract surveys and established our priorities for negotiations. Our Shop Stewards are united around job preservation for Teamsters 117 members as the Union's number one priority.
Shop Stewards have identified job preservation as the Union's number one priority.
In the coming weeks, the County will provide us with its own analysis of how the crisis has impacted its financial condition. At that point, we will work within the Union Coalition to decide the best path forward for negotiations. Given that so much has changed over the last few months, we are also working on a way to solicit additional member feedback to ensure that your voice is heard.
There are still many unanswered questions about what bargaining will look like this year. To prepare for all possible outcomes, we plan to continue meeting regularly with Shop Stewards. As soon as we have more information, we will let you know.
Finally, we want to pass along some good news about your union health care. The joint labor-management group (JLMIC) that oversees your benefits has continued to meet on a monthly basis. Maria Williams, our Teamsters 117 representative on the JLMIC, reports that all COVID-19 related expenses will be covered at 100% for Union members at King County, and there will continue to be no out-of-pocket expenses on your health care.
Just a reminder that the pandemic does not impact previously negotiated agreements, so you will still be receiving your negotiated 1.5% general wage increase this July.
Thank you for your service during these unprecedented times. Your work is essential to the fabric of our community as we all struggle and strive to build a more healthy and just society that respects all people.
In these uneasy times, if you find yourself in a stressful or physically threatening situation, or need to talk to someone, please consider using these 24/7 hotlines.
If you are a public safety employee, emergency services personnel or their family member, make a Safe Call Now to (206) 459-3020.
It is a confidential, comprehensive, 24-hour crisis referral service nationwide.
- In a life crisis, reach out to counselors at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1(800) 273-8255.
- Staying at home may put vulnerable individuals at risk. If you or your loved one doesn't feel safe at home, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1(800) 799-7233, or text "LOVEIS" to 22522.
- If you are seeking help coping with drug or alcohol addiction, call the National Drug Helpline at 1(844) 289-0879.
- Connect with a crisis counselor at Crisis Text Line by texting "HOME" to 741741.
Thank you to all Teamsters at King County who are continuing to provide critical services to our community during this crisis.
Our King County Coalition of Unions has been actively negotiating over additional protections for represented members during the unprecedented pandemic caused by COVID-19.
We are happy to report that we have reached an agreement with King County that provides further protections for members of Teamsters 117, along with thousands of other Coalition members.
In sum, we have secured access to a minimum of 160 hours of full-time paid leave (Federal and County) and subsequent options to utilize COVID-19 or Donated Leave.
Here are some of the highlights:
Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSLA): Effective April 1, 2020, members will have access to 80 hours of EPSLA as covered under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) for the following reasons:
- The member is unable to work because they are quarantined, and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or
- The member is unable to work because of a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine, or care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19;
- The member is experiencing a substantially similar condition as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor.
For more information on the FFCRA, feel free to visit the Department of Labor website.
All EPSLA will be paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay which is better than what is required by the law!
Paid Administrative Leave (PAL): Effective on the first pay period in April, Coalition members will be allowed to use up to 80 hours of PAL for the following reasons:
- Members who are sick with COVID-19 or taking care of eligible family members with COVID-19;
- Members who are sick with COVID-19 symptoms and must stay home;
- Members who fall into CDC high risk categories who cannot telecommute and do not want to come into the workplace;
- Members who are not high risk but are directed by a Health Officer or qualified medical professional to quarantine because of potential exposure to COVID-19 and who cannot telecommute; and
- Members who are home because their child’s school or childcare facility is closed and who are unable to work or telecommute.
This leave was established for all members in addition to the EPSLA prior to requiring the usage of any alternative leave bank.
COVID-19 Leave and Donated Leave: Members continue to have access to the COVID-19 Paid Leave and Donated Leave Programs.
Telecommuting, etc., Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), etc.: The MOA emphasizes increased access to telecommuting and PPE for those that are required to work on-site as well as priority reinstatement for any TLT or STT whose work may be suspended during this time.
Should you have questions, please reach out to your Union Representative. This is a huge victory for represented employees in King County and it wouldn’t have been possible without the incredible work of our Coalition membership during this time.
Teamsters like Jeff Schellhase and Keith Wagner (photo) at the King County Public Health warehouse in Seattle are handling huge volumes of PPE inventory.
Jeff Schellhase has never been busier. He's been busting his tail, 11-12 hours a day, on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis.
At the King County Public Health warehouse where they work, Jeff and his Teamster co-workers house and haul medical supplies to pharmacies, healthcare and long-term care facilities. Since the coronavirus outbreak took hold in our region, the volume has been immense.
"Our work now is more important than ever."
"We're breaking down tons of PPE that has been shipped here and transporting it out as fast as we can," he says. "This includes masks, gloves, gowns - all of the protective gear needed to keep our caregivers safe."
Part of Jeff's job entails picking up COVID-19 lab work and running it over to the state lab for testing. As testing picks up, he'll be called on to do more.
All across the country, Teamsters like Jeff are stepping up to respond to this crisis. As essential personnel, they can't work from home, which puts them at a greater risk of infection.
"Our work now is more important than ever," Jeff says. "People are running out of PPE. They don't have gloves, they don't have masks, and they're having to wrap themselves up in garbage bags. We need to all work together to get them the supplies they need."
This March, we will begin contract negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement for all Teamsters at King County.
Teamsters 117 will be working as a part of a Coalition - the King County Coalition of Unions - to negotiate over our collective priorities related to the Master Labor Agreement, Total Compensation, and the JLMIC, the joint-labor management group that oversees County employees’ health care benefits.
To help prepare for negotiations, please complete the contract survey by clicking the link below. You must complete the survey by no later than Sunday, March 8, 2020.
Filling out a contract survey is important! The survey helps prioritize issues and gives you an opportunity to voice your concerns. Our Union Negotiations Committee will use the survey results to develop proposals for contract negotiations based on your feedback.
In addition to the contract surveys, we will be holding in-person Contract Demands Meetings with King County Teamsters. The meetings are another way you can make sure your voice is heard. As soon as those meetings are scheduled, we will let you know.
Thank you for sharing your ideas about how we can build a stronger contract together!
Angela Rogness works in King County's domestic violence advocacy program in the Regional Justice Center in Kent.
As we head into the holiday season, we wanted to provide a few updates for Teamsters who work at King County:
- Contract Negotiations: Master Labor Agreement (MLA) negotiations at King County will kick off in the first quarter of 2020 followed by bargaining over your individual appendix agreements. To prepare for bargaining, we'll be surveying the membership and providing lots of opportunities for you to engage in the process. Stay tuned!
- Your Teamsters Contract: With negotiations approaching, now is a good time to review your Teamsters contract. You can access the MLA and your bargaining unit's individual appendix agreement on our Union's website here.
- Wage Increases: All Teamsters at King County will receive a negotiated 3% wage increase in 2020, with 1.5% coming on January 1, 2020 and another 1.5% on July 1.
- Coalition Bonus: All members on payroll January 1, 2020 will receive a $500 coalition bonus. The bonus applies to members of the King County Coalition of Unions only of which Teamsters 117 is a part.
- Teamsters Holiday Meeting: Join us for our Holiday Membership Meeting and raffle drawing extravaganza on Thursday, December 19 at 7 p.m at our Union Hall in Tukwila! This is fun event with lots of prizes and a good way to connect with your Union. You can RSVP for the meeting on our Teamsters website here.
I have one other piece of good news to share. The Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures changes in prices associated with the cost-of-living, is hovering between 1.7% and 2.2% for the Seattle/Tacoma region for 2019. The fact that our Union Coalition was able to negotiate a 4% increase for 2019 shows the strength of our Coalition and the power of an engaged and informed membership.
Members in King County's domestic violence advocacy program go out of their way to help people in crisis.
The face of the domestic violence advocacy program in King County is one of deep compassion. Thank you notes from clients are pinned to the wall of the advocates’ office in the Regional Justice Center in Kent expressing profound gratitude to the women who work there.
"I have such gratitude for your knowledge and presence."
One former victim writes, “I want to thank all of you for your help. I don’t even know any of your names, yet I have such gratitude for your knowledge and presence...” Some victims will reach out years after their case has been resolved or approach their advocates to thank them in the street.
“When you hear that people have moved on with their lives in a successful way – that’s rewarding,” says Sanetta Hunter, who has worked at the agency for more than 20 years.
Advocates often receive thank you mail from people who have been the victims of domestic violence.
In the United States, about one in three women experiences some form of abuse, including assault, rape, harassment and stalking. In 2018, there were nearly three thousand domestic violence cases filed in King County alone. Advocates in Kent and in the agency’s Seattle office provided assistance at 5,798 hearings and helped victims obtain 1,271 protection orders through the courts. It is an astonishing volume of work for the 20 Teamsters employed in the program.Read more
Liz Evans and Kerwin Pyle came together from administrative and recycle department at King County to speak to Teamsters about the strength of solidarity.
“If you dug up a cardboard box from a landfill in fifty years you would still be able to read the words “Amazon” on it, but when it gets recycled we can still get two or three lifetimes out of it,” said Kerwin Pyle, recycling project manager at King County and Local 117 shop steward. Kerwin believes in protecting the environment and his co-workers.
Last month Kerwin paired with Liz Evans, administrative specialist, at the King County Administration Building where through a time loss program they were able to speak to fellow members who work at King County. They engaged their co-workers in conversations about the positive impact of recent contract wins, the importance of solidarity in the face of the opt-out campaign from the so-called Freedom Foundation, and the commitment to staying united for future fights.
“When we get involved in our union, we form a strong voice and can change the anti-worker policies,” Evans reflected. She has only been in her current position for a little over two years, but she already feels a strong obligation to her co-workers and stepped into a shop steward role. Coming from a non-unionized work environment, it didn’t take her long to realize the power of collective action.
Over the course of four days, Liz and Kerwin reached King County Teamsters working in solid waste, IT, the courthouse, archives, records, administration, and other areas. The conversations they had were overwhelmingly positive. The divisive efforts of corporate interests pushed through the Janus case last year are proving to be futile. Teamsters realize that although King County is not an anti-union environment, the efforts of the labor movement can be undone if members don’t stick together.
“If the next King County Executive comes in and wants to be a union buster, it is within their power to do so unless the union is your watchdog. That’s why I’m here. I’m a new shop steward who can back you up,” explained Pyle.
This time-loss campaign was built on the success of a previous one in June. Shop Steward Mari Jane Friel helped with the training as she recently did a similar time loss program to engage members working in King County roads.
These efforts are proving to be successful in coalescing members to be more aware and involved with their union as well as developing organizing skills for new leaders. Both stewards left the time loss program with new skills, enthusiasm about the union, and a deep desire to be more involved.
Teamsters at King County will see an extra chunk of money in their paychecks this month. The money comes as a result of months of hard work by members and staff who have been part of our King County Coalition of Unions.
The Coalition spent much of last year negotiating a Total Compensation Agreement, which all Teamster bargaining units overwhelmingly ratified last December. The Agreement covers your wages, benefits, and other compensable elements for 2019-2020.
With the contract approved, all Teamsters 117 members at the County received a 4% wage increase effective January 1, 2019. Before you could see the money reflected in your paycheck, the contract needed to be approved by the Council and the County Executive.
That process is now complete and your wage increase retroactive to January 1 has arrived.
Your contract also provides for a total of a 3% wage increase in 2020, divided into two parts: a 1.5% increase effective January 1, 2020 and a 1.5% increase effective July 1, 2020. You will also receive a $500 bonus on January 1, 2020 that applies to members of the King County Coalition of Unions only.Read more
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