In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic in Washington state and before Gov. Inslee’s stay-at-home order, PROTEC17 leadership made the decision to hold the annual spring meeting of the Regional Executive Committee (REC) – the policy-making body of our union – by videoconference to protect the health and safety of delegates. Originally scheduled to be held in Tukwila, Wash. on March 14, delegates instead converged via Zoom, the now ubiquitous platform some workers are using to hold meetings and workgroups since the Governor’s order went into effect on March 26. 

Despite the challenge of conducting the REC remotely, over 80 participants joined the meeting. Delegates in attendance were able to make several important decisions, including approving the 2020 budget. 

Lead by PROTEC17 President Rachael Brooks with Executive Director Karen Estevenin, the meeting opened with the swearing in of new officers and delegates, and the approval of minutes from the October meeting. Estevenin gave her state of the union, highlighting the 2020-2022 strategic plan and contract settlements, including the tentative agreement on the PROTEC17 staff collective bargaining agreement (CBA). 

Jessica Garcia, PROTEC17 Secretary/Treasurer then presented the 2020 budget, highlighting several line items and the rationale for their change from the previous year. After questions and robust discussion over audio and the chat feature, REC delegates approved the 2020 budget as proposed, as well as the staff CBA, using voting tools in Zoom.

After the budget discussion, there was a presentation by PROTEC17 Research Director and Legislative Analyst Elliot Levin on the Freedom Foundation, an anti-union organziation that also goes by ‘Opt-Out Today’ (see story on previous page.) 

Levin told members about the recent public disclosure requests by the Freedom Foundation for the contact and personal information of public employees, which is legal under current law. He also warned that despite the approval of a temporary injunction by the court system on the release of that information, the Freedom Foundation is likely to continue to use the lists they currently have to encourage union members to abandon paying dues. The injunction originally gave unions until March 31 to request the removal of members who are under the protections of restraining orders and other safety measures. With the outbreak of the coronavirus, the injunction was extended through May 15.

REC delegates were also prepared to discuss revisions to the PROTEC17 constitution, and several topics were summarized for the delegate body. However, with limited time, the consensus was to push the discussion to the fall meeting, when hopefully members are able to meet in person again.

Based on feedback given by delegates after the virtual meeting, it was largely deemed a success, attributing the pre-meeting logistics, responsiveness, and handling of technology issues to PROTEC17 Operations Director Anthony Davidson.

Delegate Nick CastroLang said: “Anthony did a great job. Thank you to all for that amazing meeting over zoom! It was fantastic.”