tea » tea times: September 17 2007 email: teaseattle  


T i m e s

September 17 2007


  1. September/October Meeting Schedule
  2. Wastewater Contract Update
  3. Transit Contract Update
  4. Officer Elections
  5. Candidate Statements
  6. Classifieds

1. September/October Meeting Schedule

    September 25 - Grievance Committee
    September 26 - Annual Membership Meeting, 12-1, KSC Rm 7044/7045
    October    3 - Board Meeting, 12-1, KSC 4G
    October   10 - Board Meeting, 12-1, KSC 4G
    October   17 - Monthly Meeting, 12-1, KSC 8th Floor Conference Center
    October   23 - Grievance Committee

2. Wastewater Contract Update

TEA's lobbying effort on behalf of the Wastewater Staff members has been successful. TEA received a copy of the following email from Councilmember Larry Gossett to Rick Hayes, the acting manager HRD:

September 11, 2007


I understand that the TEA contract for Wastewater employees was ratified on July 3rd but has not been transmitted to Council yet. If this is correct, I would appreciate understanding the cause of the delay, and an estimate of when we will receive it. I would like to take it up on the September 25 meeting of my GGLR committee. Thank you for getting back to me.

Larry Gossett, Chair
Metropolitan King County Council,
District Two
(206) 296-1002

TEA President Roger Browne reported today that he has signed the Wastewater Staff contract and it is on track for approval by King County Council.

The Wastewater Supervisor Bargaining Unit voted on August 27th to reject an amended contract proposal. Several supervisors attended a Board meeting on September 5th to discuss their contract concerns with Board members and TEA attorney Jim Cline. The group agreed to schedule a follow-up negotiation session with King County's negotiator Alex Golan.

3. Transit Contract Update

The Transit Supervisor Bargaining Unit voted to approve an amended contract proposal on August 16th

For the Transit Staff contract, preparations for Arbitration are underway. TEA's attorney has requested and received a list of Arbitrators from the State. Jim Cline is working with the County's representative to select the Arbitrator. In addition, TEA has filed a Public Disclosure Request with King County for Consultant wage data.

4. Officer Elections

Nominations for Officer Elections closed on September 5th. The Nominating Committee (Duc Dang, Gary Ikeda, Roberta Kelly, Don Marable, Eric Mandel and Committee Chair, Roger Browne) met on September 6th to review the list of members who had expressed an interest in being a candidate for one of the open Board positions. The following members were nominated:

WW Bargaining Chair - Eric Davison and Eric Mandel
Transit Bargaining Chair - Jerry Williams and Eric Mandel
Treasurer - Terry Browne
Council Chair - John Phillips

The nominating committee determined all candidates are members in good standing. Candidates were offered an option to post a statement in the TEA Times and participate in a candidate forum at the Annual Meeting. Ballots will be distributed at least 5 work days prior to the Annual Meeting. If you have any questions regarding the election process, please contact TEA Secretary Ken Madden.

5. Candidate Statements

Wastewater Bargaining Chair

Eric Davison
Fellow TEA members, my primary goal, if elected Wastewater Bargaining Chair, is to present satisfactory, bargained contracts for the WW Bargaining Units ratification by December 31, 2008. The first Contract took 4 years to bargain, the second took 18 months. I think we can do even better.

As a means to achieve this goal I propose the following:
The first step is to notify HRD of our "intent to bargain" our next contracts beginning January 1, 2008. The second step is encouraging members to bring ideas to and participate on the WW Bargaining Committee. The third step is to identify the Supervisor and Staff Bargaining teams. I will schedule biweekly bargaining sessions through out 2008. This will help keep HRD participation and attention focused on our desire to consistently move bargaining ahead.

In addition to bargaining issues identified by members, this contract should include a salary and classification study. TEA Wastewater needs to "modernize" existing job descriptions and establish salary parity with comparable Wastewater Agencies on the West Coast. In addition TEA should continue its attempts to gain parity with other Wastewater Unions in additional contract areas.

My work as the Wastewater Bargaining Chair for the last year, and participation on the Salary Survey Team before that, has taught me how the King County Bargaining and mediation processes happen, as opposed to work. I believe that I have established good bargaining relationships with my King County HRD and Wastewater Management counterparts sitting at the table. If elected, I will use hard work and use my experience to negotiate the best possible contract for TEA's Wastewater members.

Thank you for your vote.

Eric Mandel
These are the primary concerns I have regarding the recently concluded wastewater contract negotiations. I hope to represent you in the upcoming contract negotiations and appreciate your consideration.

You pay hundreds of dollars each year for your membership in TEA - virtually all of which currently goes to our legal representatives. As an association member and consumer, are you satisfied with what you get for that money? More than half of the Wastewater members once again waited years - living with an expired contract - to be given an offer that gives them effectively nothing but a 2% COLA (which again will be retroactively paid without interest). In the current economic climate, that represents a real loss of wages (as you may note when you go shopping). The one true gain that the remainder of Wastewater TEA members were offered (advance two steps per year on merit performance) happened early in bargaining last year, and is what other represented County labor groups have been offered. In other words, it was the minimum we would have likely achieved and didn't require protracted negotiations. Many Wastewater members have noted that in comparison to other unions representing Wastewater staff or supervisors, the TEA contract is in most ways not as favorable. This is particularly acute for those of our members working side by side in field offices with non-TEA coworkers.

I believe the problem coming to a contract resolution in a timely and favorable way is largely one of our making, because we have continued to choose to be represented by a legal firm that is minimally effective and is - rightly or wrongly - vilified by the main County labor organizations and gives us no leverage or power in negotiating with the County. Those who think being at odds with the County power structure and labor is somehow to our advantage have a curious notion of how to be effective in bargaining. The high conflict model we currently use is hurting us.

One perfect example of how this hurts us was the extended negotiating time required because of bargaining the minutia of the Personnel Guidelines - something other labor groups avoided by having separate joint labor negotiations that were outside of regular contract negotiations. This is a process TEA was explicitly excluded from because other labor groups will not work with us as long as we are represented by our current legal firm. Further, our TEA legal reps were absent in recent attempts to protect your privacy from the Seattle Times FOI request for your names, birthdates and salaries - though other labor unions jointly and successfully filed injunctions to at least temporarily halt releasing that information. And at least a part of what drove the Wastewater supervisors to reject the contract was the lack of effort to proactively be involved in protecting their job classifications and pay.

We can and should do better. If elected, I pledge to request that the TEA Board release currently available surplus funds to hire an experienced negotiator that can be more effective, has a good understanding of the County labor landscape, and who can show that they have or can develop good relationships with our management on the other side of the negotiating table. We have nothing to lose in trying a different model like this, and if Wastewater members can pay the vast majority of the arbitrations for Transit TEA members (which cost $25,000 last arbitration and will likely be similar this go round), then we can surely afford to pay for a more effective negotiator in our next bargaining. It would be nice to come to resolution with some gains in less time and before the next contract expiration!

I will commit to regular updates, communications and discussions with our Wastewater members (I authored the bylaw revision to require monthly meetings of the Bargaining Team). We shouldn't have to wait over six weeks to even learn that a contract offer we voted on is being held up! I further pledge to ensure that we look for mutual areas of benefit that TEA and management have and find solutions that are win-win, such as having us work to better define job classifications that reflect the reorg intent of a PMI standards-based professional staff, which should reflect higher value to both sides. I also commit to having us know the cost of any monetary proposals that arise in bargaining so we can make smart tradeoffs - something that we have never done and labor experts stress is vital in effective negotiations.

TEA Wastewater members can't reasonably expect a superior contract to other WTD contracts, but we should have a contract that provides equitable value to our members and is comparable to those of other WTD contracts. The benefits and provisions gained in other WTD contracts that we decide would be of value (both current and for retirement) should be sought for our members too. This will be my goal and mission as your WW Bargaining Chair.

Transit Bargaining Chair

Jerry Williams
I work in Transit's Design and Construction as a Construction Manager and it would be an honor to serve YOU as the next Transit Bargaining Chair.

I believe that the primary purpose of TEA is to represent the interest of the membership and pursue the best collective bargaining agreement. The first priority for the Transit Bargaining Team is to gain wage and cost-of-living increases for members in the upcoming arbitration settlement. Then in 2008 the Transit Bargaining Team needs to aggressively engage the County during negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement. To be successful, we will need to put forward a united negotiating team that is backed-up by a strong Transit Bargaining Chair to achieve the best contract for Transit members. I believe the person leading this effort should be a Transit employee.

I have always been willing to speak up for member's interests. My goal is to serve the membership over the next two years, and help us get the Contract we deserve.

Eric Mandel
Some may wonder why I am running for this position as a Wastewater employee. (In the very unlikely event I was elected to both Bargaining Chair offices, time commitments would lead me to give up this position.) I have past experience negotiating as part of both the Transit and Wastewater Bargaining Teams as former TEA president. Beyond a belief that I would be effective based on my experience and involvement in TEA, I hope this is a way to open needed conversation on what mutual interests TEA really shares between Wastewater and Transit.

If you really believe that we are all one big union with shared common interests, you should have no problem supporting me for this office (and ALL members get to vote for these offices). If you think that a Wastewater TEA member has no business being involved in Transit negotiations, I would ask why you then think there is any advantage to being in the same union. I frankly think it would be worth having a discussion of that very question, and think your leadership should check in with all the bargaining units to ask them that. While I respect and understand the historical reasons Wastewater and Transit were joined in TEA, I believe at this point we need to revisit whether our structure is truly mutually beneficial. The reality of Federal law giving binding arbitration eligibility to Transit but not Wastewater means the County can (and does) successfully exclude cross-Division salary comparisons in bargaining. Further, we now have different and unique job titles in all the professional classifications outside of those "class-comped", and the latter are tied to County-wide salaries. There really is no crossover anymore. Would then, for example, TEA Wastewater members have more success on their own, or with another union like SEIU (which would then represent some 80% of Wastewater employees and be a huge and powerful block in negotiations)?

I have observed that there is also a different attitude and style of interactions with management between TEA members in Transit compared to Wastewater. Perhaps this comes from the knowledge that Transit members are "protected" by arbitration, but it leads to different relationships that may not be as effective in bargaining. It also leads to different outcomes - witness that virtually identical contract offers were rejected by TEA Transit staff and approved by TEA Wastewater staff.

Further, past TEA Board analysis of a year's worth of legal services show that well over half the time was spent on work for Transit issues (excluding Transit arbitration). Wastewater members pay over three fourths of the legal contract costs and arbitration (proportionate dues for 77 transit members and 243 WW members) - we need to show why that is fair and benefits both sides of the house.

Building on comments in my Wastewater Bargaining Chair statement, I think the high conflict model of relationship with County management has hurt Transit negotiations as well. I saw firsthand the poisoned atmosphere of negotiations between our legal representative and the County negotiator, and I don't doubt that it has led to the lengthy delays in getting a Transit settlement. I think this hurts Transit members (who will not get interest on retroactive wages and COLA and are still frozen at stale salaries) and costs all members in additional arbitration costs.

I am not doing this to upset anyone, and respect that others may have different opinions. We should at least seriously consider these issues. Fortunately, each of you has a choice to support a candidate that aligns more with your views.


Terry Browne
I have been a supporter of TEA since its inception. I am willing to take the time to balance the checkbook, deposit the money due TEA, write checks and maintain and keep records of member's dues, etc. I believe in TEA and would like to assist in the maintenance required to run a union.

Council Chair

John Phillips
No candidate statement submitted