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March 25, 2018

TEA Wastewater Staff and Supervisors

Dear Members,

Thank you for everyone who could attended TEA’s March Monthly meeting last Wednesday and let the TEA Board know your concerns and interests. Health care, as well as the ever escalating cost of living, are at the very top of the list. TEA members also want more information and multiple forms of communications. We appreciated being able to have a balanced discussion and hear multiple points of view in an open meeting forum.

Health Care

You recently received a County mailer to your home that, in a footnote, stated the 2019 Healthy Incentives replacement plan is only available to the unions who signed on to the 2017-2018 total compensation agreement the County reached with the Total Compensation Coalition. TEA is one of two unions that did not sign that agreement, and you are probably wondering what you need to do for benefits eligibility next year. No action is required for continued health benefits in 2018, and no changes will occur for you this year. You do not need to participate in a survey, or perform an action plan this year to achieve benefits eligibility in 2019.

Many members have heard that the County is taking away the current health care plan beginning in 2019 and have expressed urgent concern to the Bargaining Team. However, the County cannot unilaterally take away health insurance. Were it to try, TEA would immediately take legal and political action on that decision.

It is true that the County’s current bargaining strategy is to take an aggressive position against our health insurance benefits. During the most recent round of contract negotiations, the County proposed to remove TEA members from the JLMIC (Joint Labor Management Insurance Committee) plans and give TEA a fixed payment per employee to purchase health care on the open market. That proposal is far less than the County actually collects from the Departments for health care, and is inadequate. Everyone else in the County, including non-represented staff, will be continued in the JLMIC plans for Regence, Kaiser-Permanente, or the newly crafted ACN plans. Aggressive posturing is often part of the back-and-forth of the collective bargaining process. I encourage you not to be overly distressed by the County’s proposals at this point. After all, part of the County’s strategy may be to try and sow discord within TEA.

So, here we are. We cannot guarantee what medical benefits you will have in 2019 until bargaining is concluded. We view the County proposal to make TEA find independent insurance as some form of retaliation by the County because we objected to their improper bargaining away of medical reserve fund increases.

We are heading to mediation on the Contract in June to move Contract bargaining along. We have proposed that TEA remain in JLMIC, and TEA’s expectation is that, at the end of the day, you will remain on the current County benefit plans. Although our latest proposal to the County would have settled the JLMIC Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) and grievance in exchange for a contract for TEA and similar concessions for signing the improper agreement, the County has refused either to consider our settlement offer, or even to mediate the ULP and grievance. The County apparently wants to have its day in court. It’s a risky move for the County. They could be directed to restore the status quo of 4% annual increases in medical funding rate for 2017 and 2018, and be forced to generate $12 million they don’t currently have to make the Protected Fund Reserve whole. The arbitrator could cancel the entire Total Compensation Agreement and force all of the parties back to the bargaining table. The County demands to bargain the JLMIC reserve fund ULP separately, and that is being scheduled for September.


Many members have questions about why health insurance has become such an acrimonious issue between TEA and the County. You can read a detailed history of disagreement on that issue at this link: Joint Labor Management Insurance Committee (JLMIC) History

Wage Increases

Another question that many members have is what economic package is the County offering TEA and, conversely, what TEA is requesting. The following chart addresses the current bargaining positions as to COLA or general wage increase (GWI) for a 4 year contract.

KC offer to TEA

TEA’s Request

Coalition Received

In WTD Budget













COLA based TBD




COLA based TBD


Economic data shows that certain groups are substantially behind the market. TEA is requesting that the following classifications be given general wage increases in addition to overall COLA increases.

Capital Project Managers

I – 57; II – 62; III – 69; IV - 72


Entry-60; Journey-64; Principal-71; Senior-68; WW Engineer VI-74

Project Control Engineers

I – 55; II – 60; III – 64; IV-68

Inexplicably, the County refused to consider these increases across the board. The County also refuses to correct the wage disparity between various supervisors’ classification ranges, even though the supervisors perform comparable work in managing staff. TEA sees all supervisors as equals and they need equal pay, at the proposed rate of step 75.

There is another meeting called by TEA staff members for the King Street Center 8th Floor Conference Room on March 28, 1:00 to 2:30. This is not a TEA Board meeting, but TEA Board representation will be there to answer your questions.

The TEA Wastewater Bargaining Team appreciates your involvement, support and solidarity in this difficult stage of negotiations for your labor contract. The Bargaining Team will update you further when we know more.

Roger Browne, Alton Gaskill, Mike Sands,

TEA Wastewater Bargaining Team