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T i m e s

October 23 2009


  1. Open Enrollment Update
  2. Furlough ULP Update - PERC Rules in favor of TEA
  3. TEA Political Action Committee Report
  4. November Personal Holiday
  5. Announcements   Advertisements
  6. November TEA Meeting Schedule

1. Open Enrollment Update

King County's 2010 Benefits Open Enrollment is scheduled for November 2-20, 2009. Open Enrollment information has been distributed to all King County employees via mail. TEA members need to know that the Benefit Plan changes may depend on which TEA Bargaining Unit you are in (WW Staff Unit, WW Supervisors Unit, and Transit Staff Unit).

TEA members in the WW Staff Bargaining Unit will be selecting benefit options from the 2010 Open Enrollment package which includes several significant changes to deductibles and co-pays. The recent contract ratified by WW Staff members contained an agreement to accept the County's proposed changes to the existing benefit package (ie. higher deductibles and co-pays for King Care, increased benefit access fee for covering a spouse/domestic partner, etc).

TEA members in the WW Supervisor Bargaining Unit will likely remain on the 2007-2009 Benefit Plan pending the outcome of the Furlough ULP and a vote on the Teamster petition for representation. TEA has indicated to King County that it would be inappropriate to implement the proposed 2010 changes to existing medical benefits plan without first bargaining with TEA; in addition, the changes should not be implemented until after the ULP and petition are resolved.

TEA members in the Transit Staff Bargaining Unit will likely remain on the 2007-2009 Benefit Plan pending the outcome of the Furlough ULP and a vote on the Teamster petition for representation. TEA has indicated to King County that it would be inappropriate to implement the proposed 2010 changes to existing medical benefits plan without first bargaining with TEA; in addition, the changes should not be implemented until after the ULP and petition are resolved.

2. Furlough ULP Update

PERC Rules in favor of TEA

On October 22, 2009, PERC Hearings Examiner Terry Wilson issued a ruling that confirms TEA's position that King County improperly implemented the 2009 Furloughs. Among the actions required by the ruling is the reinstatement of back-wages, including interest.

A copy of the complete ruling will be posted on the TEA website.

3. TEA Political Action Committee

The TEA Political Action Committee (PAC) sent a preliminary questionnaire to Susan Hutchinson and Dow Constantine after the primary elections. The PAC spent several days brainstorming and reviewing the Q A and came up with questions that were specific to the work that Transit and Wastewater staff performs. We also asked about the frustrations we feel with the contract negotiation process. The PAC members and TEA board reviewed the questionnaire before it was sent.

We received the following response from Dow Constantine.

1. Why do you want to be the King County Executive?

I have been dedicated to public service in King County for my entire life. One of my earlier forays was as a law school student, when I helped organize an effort to save a wooded ravine in our neighborhood from being developed. I earned an advanced degree in urban planning and practiced law for several years. I then served in the state legislature for five years before joining the King County Council in 2002.

Since joining the Council, I have been a strong advocate for improving King County government by working to develop strategic goals and performance management. I offer dedication to change and innovation in government, coupled with the experience and knowledge to get the job done. I want to be King County Executive because I care deeply about this region where my family has lived for five generations. I want to ensure that the next generation has the same opportunity for a high quality of life.

2. Many of us see an uninterrupted line of political practice that goes back to, or before, Executive Tim Hill. Continuity can certainly be a good thing, but it also makes us wonder: what's possible and what can government be. Where do you look for new ideas? Who are your heroes?

I work to incorporate good ideas from wherever I find them. My constituents. My political allies. Often this means I learn from my political opponents. I am developing many of the good ideas I discussed during the primary with my colleagues Fred Jarrett, Ross Hunter, and Larry Phillips into my plan for change in King County. As a King County Councilmember, I regularly work with members with different political views on issues of common interest. Good public policy has always been more important to me that partisan politics.

Chronologically: Jefferson. Lincoln. My grandfather Abe Wilson. Kennedy. King.

3. Scientific research and technology advances are important to the future of Transit and Wastewater Treatment Division. Planning for and responding to climate change, energy needs and urban pollution is important to both divisions. What role do you envision for science in King County government, the Department of Natural Resources and Parks and Department of Transportation?

Our region is one of innovation and technology. Our people created commercial air travel, revolutionized personal computing, and are today creating the cures to cancer. King County government must be one as innovative as its people. We are poised be a national and international leader.

As the regional provider of transit and wastewater services, much of King County's work is driven by strong engineering and science. Climate change and the evolution in our energy sources make investment in new technology and scientific research critical. King County needs to find and retain strong scientific minds. As the largest provider in our region of these services, King County should look to form partnerships with local research institutions and to contract with our cities and neighboring counties to provide them with the best science and technology. By doing this we will build a culture of innovation in King County.

4. TEA continues to contribute to the benefit of our citizens. Consider, for example, the Wastewater Treatment Division Productivity Initiative that has returned more than $51 million to the ratepayers since 2000. Do you support innovative employee driven programs like the productivity initiative?

I think the Wastewater Productivity Initiative is a model for other county efficiency programs. I believe that the 13,000 employees of King County have a wealth of education and real world experience that we haven't fully utilized. As King County Executive, I will work with our unions and employee groups to form programs in each department to share ideas on how to improve the services we provide. Employees know their jobs better than anyone else and have great ideas to both improve their workplace and the product they deliver to the public.

5. What's your impression of our TEA employees in Wastewater Treatment and Transit Division who do project management, planning and construction work?

TEA employees have played a key role in the success of King County in becoming a leader in both transit and wastewater treatment. King County Metro is one of the largest bus transit systems around and has served a region that was slow to build rail very well over the past decades. In our Wastewater Division we have been consistently innovative in the design of our facilities and in keeping the growth in rates to the taxpayer far more stable than many regions. King County has also been a leader in cleaning up our lakes and rivers. I will work hard to involve TEA employees in continuing to be national leaders in transit and wastewater treatment.

6. At one point KC had more than 20 labor contracts that had been expired for more than two years. TEA has been frustrated with the length of time it has taken to negotiate each new labor contract. Do you believe it should take more than four years to finalize a contract, and if not, what suggestions do you have to improve the process?

This angers me. I believe that we need to negotiate contracts quickly and efficiently. I believe the delays are often a product of an inadequate sense of urgency about finishing the job. That has to change. Further, I would work hard to involve our labor force in every facet of King County government. The more involved our workforce is in decision-making, the greater our chance of negotiating and approving labor contracts in a timely way. The economic and societal challenges we currently face are enormous. We need to work to involve labor and management in making sure King County is a good place to work and is doing a good job for the people.

7. The current County strategy for labor contract bargaining is to have all contracts expire in 2010. At least 60 will apparently do just that. There are not enough bargaining staff to do the normal workload already. This problem will land square in the lap of the new Executive. What would you propose to clear the log jam?

These contracts must be negotiated in a timely manner. I believe we should look at beginning work on these contracts as soon as possible to narrow down the outstanding issues. Where possible, we should try to work with groups of unions on common approaches to certain labor issues. We may need to bring more bargaining staff to ensure that contracts are being negotiated and ratified quickly.

8. Do you support the existence of independent labor groups? How do you see them in balance with larger national unions?

Workers should have the right to organize themselves as they see fit.

9. The Healthy Incentives program has resulted in significant cost savings for medical benefits. King County employees and partners are doing their part to embrace healthier lifestyles and control costs, according to data compiled by the King County Health Reform Initiative. Employees have curbed projected costs by $18 million since the Healthy Incentives program began in 2005. Medical costs increases have slowed from an 11 percent growth to 9 percent growth from 2005 to 2008. Employees will contribute $37 million over 3 years to decrease costs thanks to employee cooperation and contributions. Are you open to alternative programs that curb the costs of health benefits rather than simply charging employees for health benefits?

Yes. During this campaign I have proposed that we provide an incentive to workers to cut costs by switching to high quality health care from Group Health. We could also encourage other new providers who might offer models that both cut costs and give employees choices that match their lifestyles. I would continue the Healthy Incentives program. It is always cheaper to try to prevent costs on the front end than to pay for medical problems later.

This is a national problem and I will use my office as Executive to advocate for health care reform. Businesses and our state and local governments are all impacted by rising health care costs. We spend more, but deliver less coverage than any other developed nation. This must change.

10. What are you committed to do to demonstrate to our members that the County values them?

I will invite TEA members and other employees to be part of workgroups in their departments that foster improvement and innovation in their workplace.

I will meet regularly with employees, including TEA members, to establish an ongoing dialogue on how to improve service delivery, efficiency and job performance.

I will place a premium on negotiating contracts in a timely manner and as collaboratively as possible.

The practice of sending questionnaires is practiced by many
political organizations and NGOs. Candidates normally respond
and post them on their campaign Web sites.

4. November Personal Holiday

The November personal holiday will be loaded by Payroll on November 2nd. Remember to check your pay stub in early November to confirm the appropriate hours have been added to your vacation bank.

5. Announcements   Advertisements

Holiday Open House
November 14, 2009

Jewelry, Kiln-formed glass, Hand-carved Thai wood carvings and Massage and reflexology gift certificates
Hosted by Jo Sullivan, Susan McDonald-Wright and Mary Baranowski
Hours: 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM
Place: Full Tilt Ice Cream in Seattle's Columbia City
Address: 5041 Rainier Ave. S., #105, Seattle, WA 98118

6. October Meeting Schedule

November  4 — TEA Board Meeting, 12-1, KSC, 4G
November  5 — TEA Council of Reps, 12-1, KSC, 6th floor conf rms
November 11 — Veteran's Day Holiday
November 18 — Monthly Member Meeting, 12-1, KSC, 5B C
November 24 — Grievance Committee

TEA Board

Roger Browne, President
Adé Franklin, Vice President
Ken Madden, Secretary
Terry Browne, Treasurer
John Phillips, Wastewater Bargaining Chair
Jerry Williams, Transit Bargaining Chair
Jan Knudson, Council of Reps. Chair