On May 20, the PROTEC17 State negotiating team held its first session on the 2021-2023 contract with management from the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), Department of Licensing (DOL), and the Washington State Patrol (WSP), as well as the Governor’s Office of Financial Management (OFM). 

In these unprecedented times of working during a global pandemic, negotiations were held via teleconference software in order to keep safe and in compliance with the Governor’s orders to social distance while the coronavirus continues to pose a public health threat. 

The PROTEC17 team consists of members Bonnie Caress (DOL), Russ Hallgren (WSP), Chanel Johnson (DOL), Daniel Jones (WSDOT), John Kleinkopf (WSDOT), Mindi Mezek (WSP), Steve Morgans (WSDOT) and Faith Shuler (WSDOT), plus alternate Christina Belt (WSP), Bill Tufts, a WSP subject matter expert, and PROTEC17 staff Sarah Lorenzini and Alexis Young. 

The team presented its first set of proposals to OFM, including economic and non-economic items such as: posting of minimum job requirements; Licensing Service Representative (LSR) transfers; performance evaluations; compensatory time maximum; paid time for union and professional training; parity for Tuesday through Saturday LSRs; clarification on positions needing “relief replacement” and inclement weather; union access to new employees; assignment pay for those working around asbestos; and the extension of an MOU specific to WSDOT engineers. 

All proposals are made in consultation with the entire PROTEC17 negotiating team, as well as the survey input received from state members earlier this year about what they want to see in the next contract. 

A Washington State statute obligates contract negotiations to be completed by October 1, 2020, in time for inclusion in the Governor’s budget proposal. But in light of the unprecedented circumstances due to COVID-19, the actual timeline may change. Regardless, the PROTEC17 team is committed to making as many improvements as possible – both economic and non-economic – for members. 

As for negotiating via video teleconference, team member Faith Shuler, who is an Engineering Technician III at WSDOT, said:  “I was initially skeptical that negotiating over Zoom would be awkward and unproductive. On the contrary — not only has it been productive, but a lot more efficient, saving the State and the Union time and resources. I don’t see it completely replacing in-person negotiations, but we’re making it work in order to keep everyone safe and healthy during the pandemic.” 

The team met again on June 10 and the State presented their initial proposals, which included some responses to PROTEC17’s initial set of proposals. In addition, the union team proposed additional contract changes, including the extension of a WSP Memorandum of Understanding (MOU); changes to overtime rules; additional time between shifts for WSP employees; clarification regarding temporary schedule-change notice, tandem WSP employees’ seniority, and break rules; and additional miscellaneous leave. 

The next session is slated to take place June 24. At that time, the PROTEC17 team expects to have a a better picture of the State’s economic outlook for the next biennium. 

Meanwhile, PROTEC17 continues to work with other unions and community partners to strategize around negotiating economics – like wage and cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) – in light of what may be a large hole in the State budget due to lost revenue related to the pandemic. Thank you to all of the members who filled out our recent second survey to give the team additional input around negotiating potential COVID-19 related budget impacts. 

As things continue to evolve and change on a daily basis, PROTEC17 will keep state members updated on new developments. Please reach out to a member of the bargaining team, your Steward, or your Union Representative if you have any questions about negotiations.