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Silence follows union election

Neither the union nor the university had much to say following the third ratification vote regarding the proposed contract between the Washington Federation of State Employees and Washington State University.

The election, held Dec. 1, 7 and 8, drew 730 participants — 56 percent of the 1,300 WSU classified staff represented by WFSE. Unlike the previous two elections, this one divided the participants by bargaining units. In addition, supervisors and administrative assistants also were split out.

As a whole, classified staff voted 437-293 (or 59.9 percent) to reject the proposed contract. (Margin: 144 votes.)

Results, as separated by bargaining unit, were as follows:

Accepting the contract:
• Bargaining Unit 1, statewide cooperative-research center unit, 38-10
• Bargaining Unit 11, WSU College of Nursing based in Spokane and Yakima, 26-5
• Bargaining Unit 5, library, 19-15
• Bargaining Unit 2, services supervisors, 4-3

Rejecting the contract:
• Bargaining Unit 3, skilled trades, 97-80
• Bargaining Unit 10, administrative assistants, 8-0; and supervisors, 9-22
• Bargaining Unit 2, services, 103-86
• Bargaining Unit 9, office, administrative and clerical, 192-31

Overall comparison:
Here’s how the results looked from the previous two elections:
• Sept. 29 — 827 participated, 426-401 (or 51.5 percent) to reject. (Margin: 25).
• Oct. 20-21 — 842 participated, 502-342 (or 59.6 percent) to reject. (Margin: 160).
The biggest sticking point in the election is believed to be the insertion of a union security clause. The WFSE represents approximately 1,300 classified staff at WSU — about 200 are dues-paying members. If the contract were approved in its current form, all classified staff represented by WFSE would have to pay union dues (or representation, agency shop or nonassociation fees).

Little to say
At press time, WSU administrators said the WFSE had not contacted them yet to set up a future meeting regarding the proposed union contract. As a result, they said they preferred not to comment on the specifics of the situation.

“There really isn’t anything we, as the university, can say at this point that will add constructive, positive information to the mix,” said Steve DeSoer, WSU director of Human Resource Services. “There simply aren’t any definitive answers to most of the questions that need to be answered at this time. So, rather than add more conjecture, we would like to simply let the subject rest until we have more information.”

Tim Welch, director of public affairs for WFSE, also had little to say. “Overall, we’ll be communicating with the WSU administration, the governor’s office, the Office of Financial Management and bargaining unit members about next steps … The governor’s budget comes out Thursday (Dec. 16) and should clear up a lot of confusion.”

Approval uncertain
Prior to the third vote, WFSE stated on its website, http://www.wfse.org, that individual bargaining units that approve the proposed agreement will be covered by the contract and will receive pay raises in 2005 and 2006. Those bargaining units that reject the contract, it stated, “would not get the pay (raises) or other provisions in the contract.”

However, because the WFSE-WSU contract has not been approved and was not submitted to the state in time to meet an Oct. 1 deadline, it is unknown whether approval of the proposed contract by individual bargaining units will ensure that those people covered by the agreement will receive the proposed pay raises or benefits. (For specific wording see state statute RCW 41.80.010 part 3).

Also, it was mutually agreed by both the WFSE and WSU that “all bargaining units would be covered by one bargaining agreement,” Glenn Frye, WSU labor relations officer, said prior to the election. “Neither side can unilaterally change any provision in the proposed contract. It requires a mutual agreement from both sides.”

If you have questions regarding the election, go to the WFSE website at http://www.wfse.org or call the state WFSE office at 800-562-6002.

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