Empowered DCYF Union Members Set Priorities

Over 1,000 DCYF union members voted “no confidence” in the leadership of DCYF Secretary Ross Hunter, sending a strong signal to the agency and legislators that urgent change is needed to keep families and staff safe.

Take Action: 3 Ways DCYF Members can Capitalize on the Strength We Have RIGHT NOW

The campaign generated nationwide media coverage and was endorsed by:

  • Rep. Tom Dent, the co-chair of the DCYF Oversight Board;
  • Foster parent representatives in the 1624 Consultation Team;
  • The Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, representing 550,000 union members in Washington; and
  • WFSE’s Executive Board, who together are the voice for WFSE’s 47,000 public workers.

No Confidence Vote a Success

We emerge from this campaign more organized at DCYF than ever before. The No Confidence Vote has given us a mandate to demand major changes.

Jeanette Obelcz receiving the Howard D. Ocobock Award at WFSE's 50th Biennial Convention in October 2023. The award is given to a member for outstanding achievement in political activism.

“With this campaign we were able to send a strong message that WFSE DCYF members across the state are united in demanding better management so every child in Washington can be safe,” said Jeanette Obelcz, a WFSE member, Child Protective Services supervisor at DCYF, and the chair of WFSE’s DCYF Policy Committee.

“We have sent a clear message that our staff are essential in ensuring child safety and those staff are being failed. To get to a place where every child is safe means we as an agency have safe staffing levels including safe caseloads, policies and laws that ensure child safety, and not just physical safety but the psychological safety of staff following critical incidents.”

That mandate has already having real, on-the-ground impacts to improve the lives of DCYF employees, and we’re just getting started.

An example? DCYF informed our union on 10/16 that the 10% assignment pay for SSS2's we’d won after bargaining concluded would not only stop but that all SSS2's would need to repay any assignment pay earned.

WFSE DCYF members immediately put out a call to action and contacted agency and state leadership. The Office of Financial Management reached out the very next day to schedule a meeting with us. Acting this quickly to address the issue when they had no obligation to do was unprecedented.

The end result was that when DCYF proposed we force SSS2s to repay what they’d earned, we walked away with a deal ensuring that all SSS2s who are currently getting assignment pay would continue getting it until they are 3s, and current 1s will get it when they become 2s.

3 Ways to Capitalize on the Strength We Have RIGHT NOW

It’s time now to pivot to the major policy and contractual issues that we are more empowered to solve now than at any time in recent memory.

We have the agency’s attention. We have the legislature’s attention. We have the attention of taxpayers and voters that our elected officials must answer to.

Here’s three ways to take action:

1. Win Needed Policy Changes During the 2024 Legislative Session

Many of the issues facing DCYF members boil down to policy failures that can be addressed at the legislative level. Through our no-confidence vote campaign, we have gained the attention and support of key legislators who are eager to hear from members. 

We can come together and lobby our elected officials to:

  • Save lives of children and families by addressing the fentanyl crisis in homes that DCYF is in contact with
  • Reinvest in our units and offices with targeted budget asks that will re-staff key positions such as SSS4s, support staff, and near-fatality review specialists
  • Stop DCYF employees from fleeing the agency by addressing targeted issue areas that will improve key day-to-day quality of life factors
  • Address the ever-growing statewide issue of mistreatment of DCYF caseworkers in the court system by creating public accountability for bad-faith actors and enforcing stronger training mechanisms
  • Bring as many WFSE DCYF members to the legislature as possible to elevate agency concerns straight to the top.

Help Us Win by Registering for a 2024 Lobby Day Here:

2. Submit Contract Proposals for our 2025-2027 Contract

Contract proposals are open through December 31, 2023. These proposals will help our bargaining team decide what issues to focus on when we enter negotiations with the state during the spring and summer of 2024.

Submit a contract proposal here.

3. Get Involved in Your Local

Everything WFSE takes on flows from member priorities. The way you set those priorities is by attending your local meetings and making your voice heard. Find your local here and get involved.