Washington State Patrol (WSP) Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Officers (CVEOs), Paul Austin and Bennett Olsson, weren’t too sure about their union at first.

Neither Austin or Olsson had ever been union members, and they didn’t see what their union did on a daily basis. Some of their colleagues were supporters and some weren’t, but most just didn’t know much about the value of having a union. That’s when Austin and Olsson decided to be the change they wanted to see and got involved.

First, Austin and Olsson became Union Stewards, and then they joined the 2022 bargaining team that negotiated the 2023-2035 contract. Alongside their fellow state employees from the Department of Licensing (DOL), Department of Transportation (WSDOT), and other WSP departments represented by PROTEC17, they achieved historic wins in language changes, wage adjustments, and premium pay. These changes were largely due to the team’s subject matter experts – like Austin and Olsson – who spoke articulately to the issues they see in their workplace and the best ways to address them.

After bargaining concluded, the two were elected Co-Presidents of the statewide PROTEC17 WSP Chapter and have been making things happen ever since.

Together with the PROTEC17 Communications department, they designed a challenge coin and used Chapter funds to pay for their production. They also took time off to go on a 1,000+ mile field trip, visiting over 60 CVEOs throughout the State, introducing themselves, answering union-related questions, and handing out challenge coins and informational bookmarks.

One of the things that make these two union leaders stand out is the fact that they are respected by colleagues and management alike. They are often able to resolve issues without involving their union representatives, and they are the go-to for their colleagues with union-related questions and issues.

Recently, Olsson was honored with the 2023 CVEO of the Year award in his division for his dedication to his work at the WSP. And it is no surprise that it is an award that Austin has also held in the past.

Union members often look to their union and ask ‘what is the union doing for me?’ These two leaders have flipped that sentiment on its head and ask ‘what can I do for my union?’ Indeed, their involvement has made a tangible difference in the daily lives of CVEOs.