WFSE Corrections Employees Win Multi-Million Settlement

Three union grievances, hundreds of letters, and a statewide petition result in $2k cash payment for all employees in 2023 and a retention bonus of 3% in 2025 for those deemed “essential” by DOC.

Estimated to be over $6 million, the settlement is one of the largest grievance settlements in WFSE’s 80-year history. 

Essential is defined as those who have successfully completed CCOA or CORE or whose position requires the completion of Community Corrections Officer Academy (CCOA) training or Correctional Worker Core Academy training. Members must volunteer and be within the bargaining unit on the last day of the fiscal year. The 3% essential pay will be earned in 2024 and paid at the end of the fiscal year in 2025 as a bonus.

WFSE-represented DOC employees should receive the $2,000 by December 11, 2023 “allowing for any time constraints imposed by law or the state payroll system,” per the agreement.

To recieve the $2,000, the employee must be employed as of 11/22/23. 

Read the Full Settlement Details

“Our union understands the role we play in keeping our communities safe, keeping our family members safe,” said WFSE DOC member Jim Furchert. "That's why this win is so important.”

WFSE DOC Policy Committe Chair Jim Furchert being sworn into WFSE's Executive Board. Furchert is a CCO, WFSE steward, and the Chair of the WFSE Corrections Policy Committee, which allows DOC members statewide to collaborate and coordinate.

“Everyone that goes to prison is coming out eventually," Furchert said. "And when they come out and they're living in the house next to yours, or they're in your community, you want to make sure someone's watching them. And you want to make sure that a professional is watching them, someone that feels valued and takes their job seriously.”

Community Corrections Held the Line During the Pandemic

WFSE Steward and Corrections and Custody Officer Brian Parks, who works in DOC’s Amend program, which is based on the Norwegian model of “normalization, progression and dynamic security” to improve the health of both inmates and staff.

WFSE-represented Department of Corrections employees in the Community Corrections division worked tirelessly on the front lines during the pandemic, managing an active caseload of around 18,000 individuals. They put themselves at risk of illness, burnout, PTSD, and worse.

Their dedication in Reentry Centers, Work Release facilities, and in their communities provided a vital release valve for those working in the prisons and ensured that the rehabilitative work of their agency did not suffer despite a global pandemic.

For their efforts, they bargained for and won a $1000 lump sum payment "in recognition of the service state employees have provided the citizens of Washington throughout the COVID pandemic” in their 2023-25 contract.

WFSE Corrections Denied Pandemic Bonuses, Spurring Grievances

But after their contract was signed, DOC leadership and the Office of Financial Management (OFM) attempted to exclude WFSE-represented DOC employees from receiving the $1000 bonus.

To make matters worse, when the contract took effect in July 2023, a 3% “essential pay” bonus that was also in their contract was not being paid out.

Several grievances were filed by WFSE DOC employees Jim Furchert, Anthony Perkins, Bill Copland, Marlena Aspen, and Jon Ogelsby.

Nearly four hundred WFSE members from all state agencies across the state wrote letters to DOC leadership and the Office of Financial Management. A supermajority of WFSE corrections workers filled out a petition that was delivered to Governor Inslee.

Multi-Million Settlement a Win for Frontline and Support Staff

On November 22, 2023, after months of negotiations, a settlement was reached that would honor the work of those on the frontline but also recognize the key role support staff played in keeping the agency running throughout the pandemic.

“What our support staff do is an art form, and they are some of the lowest-paid members in our bargaining unit,” Furchert said. “Everyone that has worked in a field office knows what a field office runs like when you have good support staff.”

WFSE legal counsel advised that if the union went to arbitration on the 3% essential pay grievance, and tried to apply it to everyone in the bargaining unit, the arbiter likely would not include support staff in that payment. So negotiations continued on the lump sum grievance, and WFSE succeeded in doubling the lump sum payment total figure to $2,000 so all would benefit.

“Unfortunately, for too long, our support staff have not been honored or recognized for what they've done, and they've not been compensated accordingly,” Furchert said. “This was something we felt really strongly about.”

Read the Full Settlement Details

Campaign Spurs New Union Activism in Corrections

The campaign, which took on the name “Justice for DOC Workers,” became a great organizing tool for the WFSE DOC bargaining unit.

“I have members out of Section 6 six that are now involved for the first time, and they're making management work,” Furchert said. “We have the most number of stewards now in Section 6 that I can remember ever having, because in the last year, people have wanted to get involved.”

WFSE Corrections is gearing up for their next round of negotiations. Bargaining team elections begin in early December, and negotiations for the 2025-2027 contract will begin in the spring and summer 2024.

“Membership is now motivated,” Furchert said. “They understand by this settlement that when we're motivated and we're working together, we can really change an outcome because OFM didn't want to do this. They did not want to come to the table and they did that because we forced them. We fought.”


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