2023 Recap, Message from the President

Message from the President

Mike Yestramski is a Psychiatric Social Worker at Western State Hospital and  WFSE Local 793 Member. He was elected as WFSE President in 2019 at the 48th Biennial Convention and reelected in 2021 and 2023 at the 49th and 50th Biennial Conventions. 

This year we celebrate the 80th year of our union’s history—our trailblazing efforts to make AFSCME a leader in the Civil Rights movement, our historic multi-million dollar lawsuit for gender equity, and our growth from a small union of Tacoma welfare workers into a movement of 47,000.

Our growth has taken many forms —from passing new laws to organizing campaigns—but the one constant is one-to-one conversations. I’ve had the opportunity over the last year to have a lot of them as I traveled this great state.

I visited the avalanche crew keeping Stevens Pass safe for drivers. I did a ride along with some of our Department of Corrections members in Mt. Vernon. I drove the Green Machine to Walla Walla. I flew to Medical Lake and met the WFSE heroes who pushed residents in their wheelchairs over a mile to safety when the blaze approached Lakeland Village.

I knocked on doors from Vancouver to Spokane and everywhere in between to sign up new members to our union. I’ve done this work with the strength of WFSE behind me. With all of you behind me.

In one visit, our Vice-President Ashley Fueston and I knocked on a door in the Spokane suburbs and met Dawn. Dawn wasn’t a member of our union, and explained why she'd dropped her membership many years prior.  And we listened. We listened because none of us are perfect.  And we listened because we know that nothing is more effective in organizing than one-on-one, heartfelt conversations with folks—members and not-yet members alike.

After about 30 minutes, Dawn let us know that she’d also gotten other folks in her office to stop being members. We could’ve left then, decided she was anti-union and not worth the conversation, but we didn’t. Because she was a person, she was a state employee, and because our union never quits.

I’d like to tell you we left Dawn’s house after two hours of conversation with a membership card in hand, but that’s not what happened. Dawn didn’t sign a card, but she agreed to keep an open mind, to think about our conversation, and to reach back out to me in a few weeks. In a few weeks I got Dawn’s call. She let me know that not only had she rejoined our union, she also got everyone else in her office to rejoin.

When the going gets tough, we don’t give up. That’s the history we’ve inherited at WFSE, and it’s what will ensure we remain a strong voice for Washington’s public workers.

After negotiating historic contracts in 2022, an unprecedented number of first-time member lobbyists came to Olympia during the 2023 legislative session to secure funding for our raises and pass bold, worker-friendly legislation. Their conversations with lawmakers have made us safer at work, better compensated, and better equipped to provide the vital services all Washingtonians depend on.

As we enter 2024, I look forward to doing this important work with you. We've come a long way in 80 years, and we're just getting started.