WSDOT Members Win Fight for Fair Pay

Armed with a strong contract and the resources of their union, four WFSE members won justice for themselves and their co-workers.

Slowly, incrementally over time, an employer gives an employee more work and job responsibilities. What they do not give them is a corresponding increase in pay. This is commonly called job creep, and it’s one reason that worker com­pensation has stagnated over the last 40 years while executive pay and corporate profits have soared.

This was the situation for Secretary Supervisors working in the Washington State Department of Transportation’s (WSDOT) area maintenance shops.

Edie Stritmatter was one of the first to speak up about her position being misclassified.

Edie Stritmatter

Over her decades of public service, Edie’s job duties had expanded well beyond her job description as a Secretary Supervisor to include fiscal, administrative, purchasing, procurement, and inventory functions. The same was true of fellow Secretary Supervisors Teri Bolyard, Nanette Nebe and Tricia Sorensen.

Often, there’s little an employee can do in these situations but accept the status quo or look for new work.

Lucky for Edie and her colleagues, they have a union contract.

In accordance with Article 41.3 of the  General Government contract, Edie was able to request a review of her position with human resources. In the following months, her colleagues did the same.

The reallocation process isn’t easy. You look at your position description, look at what you actually do, and look over your records to find documentation that proves that you are doing the work of a different, higher-paying job class.

Edie and her colleagues had the help of WFSE Council Reps to find what mattered and what didn’t and to write up a review request that made a tight case.

It worked. Teri, Nanette, and Tricia were reallocated to the Fiscal Specialist Supervisor job class. Edie, in recognition of her considerable work supervising procurement activities in her area, was reallocated to the Procurement and Supply Specialist 4 job class.

All of these reallocations would result in significant increases in pay, as well as back pay. Which is why WSDOT pushed back.

WSDOT appealed one decision and argued against the others, which sent their cases to the next level of review, the Personnel Resources Board, per the contract.

It was all hands on deck. Edie, Teri, Nanette and Tricia dove back into their files, and WFSE’s Classification & Compensation Specialist lent her vast experience to present a strong case. Finally, between July and October 2020, all the reallocations were confirmed.  

Then, WFSE’s Labor Advocates stepped in to ensure that the 25 other Secretary Supervisors working at area maintenance shops across the state would also benefit from the reallocation and pay raise.

Predictably, WSDOT told these Secretary Supervisors that their reallocations were the result of a “department decision” and not union activism.

Member participation has a direct impact on what we are able to accomplish as a union.

“I’m speechless,” Edie said following the decision, “and those who know me know that’s unusual! It was a very long, stressful 3 years, but I’m glad the work I perform is finally being recognized. I want to thank my Union family so very much. It wouldn’t have been possible without your unwavering support, encouragement, and hard work!”

“It would have been easier to give up when we were originally turned down,” said Teri. “But the two-year long fight turned out in our favor and that’s what is most important.”

"It was a long road and a long wait, but well worth it in the end,” said Tricia. “I am extremely grateful for all of the hard work of WFSE staff who took their time and helped us with our case. We truly could not have prevailed without them all."

Tricia Sorensen

“When we started the reallocation process, we were told that it would be long and stressful,” Nanette said, “and boy they were right! We teamed together with other counterparts and made it happen.”

Edie and her colleagues worked hard for this, but they didn’t have to go it alone.

There was a contract that predicted the kind of job creep they faced and provided them with tools to address it. There was union staff there to support and advise them every step of the way.

This story is yet another example of our union acting as a family that works to achieve and maintain excellent wages, benefits, and working conditions for Washington’s public servants.

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