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On the eve of bargaining, Gov. Jay Inslee said it’s “unacceptable” that state employees have gone six years without a pay raise.
“It’s just clear to me that it’s unacceptable that state employees have gone so long without a general pay increase,” the governor told a cheering crowd of about 500 Federation Policy Committee delegates Saturday (May 17) in Seatac.
It was at least the third time the governor had spoken about the need for a state employee pay raise. He said it in December when he unveiled his supplemental budget plan and again in January during his “State of the State” address.
But the comment took on added weight just days before the start of bargaining at General Government and three of the Federation’s other largest teams: The Evergreen State College Classified Staff, the Community College Coalition and the University of Washington.
Negotiations on the next two-year contract for the Federation’s 30,000 General Government members start tomorrow (May 20) in Lacey between the union and Inslee’s team of bargainers.
That bargaining will determine the level of pay raises. Inslee cautioned that the financial pressures faced in 2013 will be even greater in 2015 when the Legislature debates the budget that would have any negotiated pay raises.
Inslee’s appearance before the Federation group showed the deep respect the union has in the public arena.
Inslee pitched his Results Washington good government initiative, with his team visiting individual policy committees to hear reactions from the rank-and-file Federation members. Ron Marshall, assistant Employment Security commissioner, followed Inslee to update the delegates on the joint ESD-Federation Employee Engagement initiative to change the culture in that agency. He then visited the Employment Security Policy Committee to hear some frank talk from delegates – a rare visit from a respected manager intent on listening and solving problems.
As a further sign of how much Federation are respected, the No. 2 officer of AFSCME, Secretary-Treasurer Laura Reyes, made her first visit to the Federation to praise their innovation and dedication to public service. “Together, collectively, we are strong,” Reyes.
But it was the governor who got some of the biggest standing ovations of the day – even when he said the fiscal challenges in 2015 will be tougher than in 2013 when a legislative stalemate on the budget came within 24 hours of a catastrophic government shutdown.
He said the Senate Majority Coalition’s approach to funding court mandated education improvements was wrong.
Cutting housing, nutrition, senior and disabled “I think is the wrong approach,” Inslee said.
The governor said it was the wrong approach “just from a sense of humanity of not forgetting the least amongst us.”
Cutting services to fund education is counterintuitive, he said.
“We are not going to solve this problem by creating more hungry, sick kids in our state,” Inslee said.
“We are going to recognize the cold hard fact that the state of Washington is going to have to find a way to generate additional revenues to solve this problem.”