DOT Union Members Win Back Pay

Thanks to a WFSE member’s sharp eye, three Department of Transportation (DOT) bridge maintenance workers recently had assignment pay reinstated, including nearly two years of back assignment pay (a premium added to base pay to compensate workers for specialized skills and assigned duties).

James Christo, a Bridge Maintenance Specialist Lead, has worked at the Department of Transportation for 35 years. Looking over his paychecks during the winter of 2019, Christo realized something was off. 

He hadn’t been getting assignment pay for months.

“Come wintertime, when I had less hours, I realized something seemed a little short. I realized we hadn’t been getting assignment pay. They took it away without saying a thing,” said Christo. 

Though Christo and two other affected workers in Snohomish County had received no notice of any change in pay, they were not being given their assignment pay.

“There was no notice to us that they were taking it away from us and no reason given why,” said Christo.

Christo has been a lead since 1991.

“We do bridge repairs, bridge maintenance, and bridge inspections,” he said.

“It’s really important to public safety.”

With over 7,000 bridges in Washington State, Christo and his counterparts across the state have a critical role in maintaining infrastructure.

“We risk our lives every day when we are out there, that’s for sure,” said Christo. 

After pursuing the issue of the missing assignment pay with DOT human resources, Christo teamed up with his fellow union members and WFSE staff to file a formal grievance.

As a result, Christo and two coworkers were able to secure back assignment pay they should have been receiving. What’s more, assignment pay has been reinstated for Christo and others moving forward.

The victory was significant, since assignment pay represented as much as 10% of these employees’ wages. 

“I would tell everybody, look at your paycheck,” said Christo.

“People need to realize that this job is political, basically,” he said.

“It’s a big organization and you can get lost in the bureaucracy. If you don’t have a union’s help when things go wrong, you’re basically out of luck.”

Christo said that despite their initial lag and the issue arising during the pandemic, DOT was responsive in the end and wanted to make the situation right. 

“Everything’s been reinstated,” Christo said. “It was a big win.”

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