Latest from The Spokesman-Review
(This post was updated at 4 p.m. Saturday.)
City Adminstrator Ted Danek said Friday that the membership of Local 270, the city's largest union, voted overwhelmingly this week to approve a three-year contract extension.
The contract currently expires at the end of 2012. The proposal will take the contract through 2015. The deal doesn't change employee benefits. It also doesn't change raises that already were in the contract for next year. But it does freeze wage levels in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Mayor-elect David Condon has criticized the proposal because it means he won't be part of shaping a contract. (A letter he signed along with four members of next year's City Council is printed in full at the end of the post.) Others argue that three years of no raises is a great deal that might be hard to achieve if Condon was at the table because unions might not be as willing to come to an agreement with a mayor who campaigned, in part, on how city workers were overcompensated.
City administrators also note that Condon will have plenty of other deals to work on. Outgoing Mayor Mary Verner hasn't come to agreements with other unions that have contracts that expire at the end of the year, including with the city's administrators union. So those agreements will be up to Condon to make.
The 270 contract, along with a nearly identical contract extension for the city's prosecutors union, will be considered by the City Council on Monday.
Monday's meeting is pretty full, but one big issue may fade without a decision. Council President Joe Shogan said it appears that the City Council doesn't have enough votes to make a change to the water rate structure. So that issue likely will wait until next year. Condon said this week that waiting until he and the new council is sworn in is what the council should do.
(Keep reading if you want to read the letter from Condon.)
This bill is a travesty and an insult to the education profession. The groups behind it are vested interests masquerading as concerned citizens who care for children. Yet they’re denigrating and dismissing those of us who actually educate our state’s children!
Contrary to what you may hear or read, HB 2261 is a bogus education “reform” bill that blames educators instead of focusing on the REAL problem facing our schools: The nearly $2 billion in cuts to K-12 and higher education.”
So parents, the PTA and League of Education voters are among the “vested interests” faking their interest in the education of children. Interesting take.
UPDATE: My view on the matter is here.
Whoops — forgot to post this earlier. From the print paper:
With state child care subsidies well below the actual cost of caring for enrolled kids, some Spokane-area workers and lawmakers say it’s time to give the industry more clout.
How? By unionizing the child care workers and letting them collectively bargain with Olympia for higher rates, paid training and other improvements.
“In this environment, you have to be able to provide some leverage for us to act on a priority,” said state Sen. Chris Marr, D-Spokane. He said the normal state budget process, which is essentially a tug of war among lawmakers and interest groups, has let child care rates lag well behind costs.
“We’ve let that model work for a long time,” Marr said. “The fact is that it doesn’t work.”
“It’s basically to give us a voice,” said Marci McLaughlin, owner of a Spokane Valley child care center.
The union structure would be unusual, McLaughlin said, with both workers and child care owners teaming up to bargain with the state. Under the plan, the state would deduct a yet-to-be-determined “representation fee” from payments to child care centers and pay it directly to the union.
Other lawmakers and child care centers say the simplest fix is just to increase the rates.
“If we really want to get money to child care centers, let’s get it to them,” says state Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond. He’s backing a bill, SB 5506, that would boost rates to 75 percent of actual cost.
That simpler plan “bypasses a very expensive and unnecessary middleman,” said Tom Emery, a Puyallup child care center owner. He’s the spokesman for the Washington Child Care Alliance, which includes dozens of centers opposed to the collective bargaining plan.
A new lawsuit was filed Tuesday by child care providers, asking a court to force the governor to ask lawmakers for more money for the workers.
It’s the third such suit involving a proposed union contract. After negotiating agreements covering thousands of state-paid workers last summer and fall, Gregoire’s budget director said last month that the deals were not feasible in the face of the state’s budget shortfall. Gregoire didn’t include the proposals – including millions of dollars in cost-of-living increases, more training, and additional benefits – in the budget she proposed to lawmakers Dec. 18.
Service Employees International Union Local 925 filed the suit Tuesday with the superior court in Olympia.
A second local of the same union, SEIU Healthcare 775NW, has filed a similar suit. At stake are raises of 22 cents to 25 cents over the next two years for 23,000 home care workers. The health aides, who earn less than $11 an hour, are paid by the state to help senior citizens and the disabled.
The home care workers’ contract included nearly $27 million in raises, health benefits and training, none of which Gregoire included in her budget suggestion.
Gregoire says the workers deserve the raise, but that the state – wrestling with an unprecedented $6 billion budget shortfall over the next two years – can’t afford it.
Also suing Gregoire over raises and contracts is the Washington Federation of State Employees, which represents about 40,000 workers.
Washington Federation of State Employees president Carol Dotlich had some words of advice for fellow union members at a recent banquet in Spokane:
“When you see that budget, I don’t want you to overreact to it,” she reportedly told the crowd. “I don’t want you to be panicked. I want you to be determined.”
The 40,000-member union is trying to stave off some of the cuts proposed yesterday by Gov. Chris Gregoire, including suspending all cost-of-living increases for state employees.
Some members are also heeding Gregoire’s call to not just say “don’t cut”, but to instead say “cut this other thing instead.”
For some members at the state Department of Ecology, that meant filing a public disclosure request for the salaries, bonuses and other pay given to the agency’s managers over the past 8 years. They found that rank-and-file workers got pay raises totalling about 28 percent, while managers’ totaled nearly 42 percent.
The union’s executive director, Greg Devereux, is calling for management bonuses to be eliminated.
Hat tip: The Olympian’s Adam Wilson.