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All They Want is Respect – and a Fair Contract

Washington’s governor has refused to offer the state’s workers a two-year contract that reflects the work they do.
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By Clyde Weiss ·
All They Want is Respect – and a Fair Contract
Washington state employees join with community allies to rally at the State Capitol for a fair contract. (Photo courtesy WFSE/AFSCME Council 28)

Just days before the nation celebrated Labor Day – a time that Americans honor working people – more than 1,000 public service workers in Washington State rallied at the Capitol in Olympia to make a bold statement about respect. They’re still waiting for the governor to show them some respect, too.

Respect – or the lack of it, in this case – stems from the governor’s refusal to offer the state’s workers a two-year contract that reflects the work they do. That would be a contract like the one proposed by Washington Federation of State Employees, (WFSE)/AFSCME Council 28.

Council 28’s bargaining team presented the state with a fair compensation proposal that would bring competitive pay to the 30,000 state agency workers covered by the contract. The proposal was backed by a recent state salary study that showed nearly all employees - 99 percent - made less than people doing the same jobs elsewhere. Specifically, it revealed:

“The package aims to restore state employees’ buying power they in turn can put back into the state economy as we still dig out from the Great Recession,” Council 28’s bargaining team explained. “If this eight-year trend of managing the state’s workforce by eroding benefits, under-compensating, and incentivizing the turnover of skilled and experienced workers continues, we will only see the number of crises and those fleeing public service grow.”

At the union’s state Capitol rally on Aug. 31, Greg Devereux, WFSE’s executive director and an AFSCME International vice president, said the state’s contract proposal offered the night before “showed a lack of respect for the state’s own workers.”

Respect is what this is all about. A contract that includes fair wages and benefits is a contract that respects the workers who perform the tasks that most people never think about until they stop running, or run less-efficiently than the public has come to expect of their government.

This contract, covering the period 2017 to 2019, must be submitted to the governor’s budget office by Oct. 1. So far, however, state negotiators have shown little respect for the workers who never quit providing the critical public services that make Washington state a great place to live.

It’s time the state offer a contract that shows the respect these workers deserve. 

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