June (No) Bargaining Update

Scott's picture

Latest Update: 1-Jul-2009

June began with a rip-roaring start for bargaining. OK. It didn't. It started off horrendously.

On June 3rd the following message was sent out:


Yesterday the State upped the ante and increased the urgency in bargaining by announcing that it intends to declare impasse.

This declaration means the State feels that it is close to done "compromising" -- which is ironic, since we don't feel like they've done much compromising at all.

The State's declaration of impasse also means that both sides must submit "final offers" in seven days, although bargaining can continue after these offers are submitted so in some sense the term is misleading. We anticipate that the State's final offer will remain unchanged from its current position:
* Complete step freeze
* Revocation of tenth step
* 10 to 24 furlough days, based on salary range, for most employees
* Pay reductions in lieu of furlough days for some workers, including most in 24/7 institutions, and motor carrier enforcement officers in ODOT
* No cost of living raises
* Increase in State's contribution for health insurance.

Our bargaining team is working to craft our final offer. Our top goals will be to:
* protect our health insurance
* preserve our steps
* minimize the number of furlough days
* avoid pay cuts for anyone
* win extended recall rights to protect workers who may be laid off as a result of budget cuts.

After both the State and the Union submit final offers, a 30-day "cooling off period" begins. Bargaining can continue, but at the end of that time, according to the State's Chief Bargainer Eva Corbin, the State may "implement" its final offer. Effectively, the State is threatening to impose the terms of its final offer in mid-July if we have not reached a negotiated agreement by that point. Though permitted by law, unilateral implementation would be unprecedented in the history of our collective bargaining with the State of Oregon. We cannot let the State believe it can implement this kind of "last offer" on us!! The State  must improve its proposals!

Our window of opportunity is now! We know from experience that when we come together, take action and make our voices heard we can make positive change. We've done that when we've pulled together to beat back anti-worker ballot measures. Just recently, after hundreds of workers came to Salem to lobby, testified at hearings and participated in the Ways and Means community forums around the state, we succeeded in moving the legislature to include $800 million of new revenue in the proposed 2009-2011 budget to protect our services.

Now we have to make our voices heard to move the State negotiators. That's why we all need to join the United for Oregon March on Sunday. Members and community allies will come together to demonstrate our support for fair treatment of workers and adequate funding for quality public services. If you have already signed up for the march please bring friends and family and urge co-workers to go, too. If you have not yet registered, do so now at http://www.seiu503.org/United_for_Oregon_March__Sunday_June_7.aspx.

We will gather at the Eastbank Esplanade between Salmon and Main Streets at 11:30. Bring cans or boxes for the Oregon Food Bank and bring a strong voice!

This is a day that could affect the rest of our lives.


Then, on June 4th, a slightly different message was sent out. This one was not sent out to the general membership.


On Tuesday at the end of the day the lead negotiator of the States bargaining team announced that the State was declaring an impasse in bargaining. 
 
Both bargaining teams must now prepare and submit their last best offers.  While we can (and will) continue to negotiate, after those offers are submitted an automatic 30 day cooling off period begins.  At the end of that cooling off period the governor can decide to implement the State's last best contract offer.  The State is indicating its willingness to impose the terms of its final offer in mid-July, if we cannot reach agreement.
 
The State's last best offer is essentially that;
       Most state workers will take up to 24 furlough days
       or have a 5% pay cut for workers at OSH, OYA, ODOT and DHS
       No Cost of Living Increase
       A freeze on step increases
       A take away of the top step for our most experienced workers
 
In response to what you have told SEIU leadership we are working to;
     Protect Health Insurance
     Preserve Step Increases
     Avoid all pay cuts
     Cut the number of unpaid mandatory days off
     Protect workers who will be laid off with extended recall rights
 
This Sunday in Portland there will be a rally and march to let Oregon know that we are for a fair contract.  Your presence and participation will make a difference.  Please plan to attend.

There is a small, but very significant difference between the two announcements. The first says that, "[the State] intends to declare impasse." The second says, "the State was declaring an impasse." An intent to do something is still not the actual action itself.

We, as a union, need to be clear in what we are communicating. We also need to stop playing favorites in our communications. If the impasse was actually declared, then the first communication was in error. If it was declared after the first communication was sent (which does not seem likely given the timing and wording of the first message), then declaring an impasse was a major change. An event that significant should have been sent out to everyone.

 

On June 7th, the United for Oregon March was held in Portland. Although I was signed up to attend, I was unable to go at the last moment. If any readers attended, we'd love to hear a first-hand account of how the event went. Anyone can read the official accounts. The personal impressions are usually far better at presenting how things really went.

 

Where are we now? A few things to remember:

  • The State still hasn't done anything about the inequities of furlough days. Many people will be required to take their vacation time to cover furlough days they don't have to take, but where their office is closed.
  • We still have a large number of people that are just going to get-the-shaft and take a pay cut while having to work on everyone else's furlough days.
  • As bad as this is, it only applies to those of us who will still be employed! Until we have the final, legislatively approved budget, we're looking at something like 1700 state employee layoffs. And 2-3 times that many in other areas.

And lets not forget the most important point. Around the middle of July, the Governor--that would be Ted "The Lesser of Two Evils" Kulongoski--can impose the State's "best" offer on us. While this is "unprecedented," so is the current economic state, the complete lack of negotiation, and the list goes on. I fully expect we'll have a new contract whether we want it or not. And for OUS, Childcare, and the others still bargaining...good luck once that happens!

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Scott's picture

Re: June (No) Bargaining Update

The latest update out today:


What a difference a week can make!

Barely a week ago, DAS negotiators declared impasse, upping the ante and urgency in bargaining.

Sunday, thousands of SEIU members and allies from around the state made a big splash in Portland in the United for Oregon March calling for funding for vital services and fair treatment of workers who provide services. (Click here for photos, video and media coverage)

http://www.seiu503.org/_What_Do_We_Want__Fairness__.aspx

Yesterday, legislators completed voting on measures to bring more fairness into our tax system and restore a significant amount of funding for our services. For many years we have been fighting to bring some balance back into our tax system and ensure that corporations and the wealthiest Oregonians contribute their fair share for public services. Yesterday we did it!

And today, we can report that there has been a new and unexpected development in bargaining with the State.

Late Thursday, DAS negotiators informed us that the State has withdrawn its declaration of impasse and its proposal to impose wage cuts on workers in certain classifications they did not want to furlough.  This also means that neither side is required to submit final offers today as previously planned. Instead we will return to mediation on Monday.

Why would the state withdraw its declaration of impasse?

It has to do with that proposed pay cut. In May, the State concluded what we had been telling them for months: that it was not practical to furlough employees in 24/7 institutions and certain other workers.  When they then substituted the proposed pay cut for these workers, the Union immediately filed an unfair labor practice charge with the State Employment Relations Board (ERB). We contended that the pay cut proposal was violation of the ground rules for bargaining, because it was submitted months after the deadline for making entirely new proposals.

It turns out that state negotiators, who have bumbled their way through this process from the start, may have been too clever by half.  Under certain circumstances, when an unfair labor practice charge is sustained by the ERB, the State forfeits its right to implement a final offer.  Fearful of this consequence, the State apparently decided that its best tactic was to withdraw the pay-cut proposal and un-do its impasse declaration.

On its face, that is a significant victory for those members targeted for the cut. It also should give us a chance to pick up the pace of bargaining when we return to the table Monday and continue our good-faith efforts to reach an agreement. But we are not deluding ourselves. The state is still looking for significant concessions that we find unwarranted, unfair and unreasonable. They will continue to seek ways to force them upon us rather than engage in good-faith bargaining.

Thus while we return to the table with the best of intentions, we suspect that even if further progress is made, the State is likely to declare impasse at the next earliest moment it can, procedurally speaking, and re-start the clock ticking toward the date when, if we don’t have a settlement, they can legally go ahead and implement their bad proposals—including furloughs and the step freeze proposal.

We will continue to dramatize our campaign to win a fair contract away from the table as well as in bargaining. Our next worksite actions will occur on Tuesday, June 30th— the last day of our current contract. Mark your calendars and get ready to let the Governor know that Oregon needs us and we need a fair contract. Watch for more details on the June 30th statewide day of action next week.


Hooray for the ERB! They could have dragged it out for months, long past implementation of the wonderful deal we were offered. And the State gets caught with its pants down again. When they said that the state negotiators have bumbled their way through negotiation from the start, did they mean the start of this bargaining? Or did they mean from the start of collective bargaining with the State? Enquiring minds want to know.

Next up, more bargaining, or lack thereof. While the clock isn't running on a final offer right now, there's no indication that the State will even attempt to bargain in good faith. They haven't so far, so why start now?

Scott's picture

Re: June (No) Bargaining Update

And now for a quick analysis of where the State may go with this.

We have the given that the inequity of furlough days for some and pay cuts for others causes a problem. Based on that, I see two options they seem likely to pursue:

  1. Pay cuts for everyone!

    They already tried to work this angle by putting furlough days on our paid holidays. More work days for less money. Pay cuts all around isn't entirely new, so there may be some wiggle room with the ERB on that front. And it wouldn't be inequitable treatment since everyone would get the same. I'm sure there are those who will argue that this option won't work for them. Please, give us the facts to back it up and you may just change my mind.
  2. Cut Health Insurance!!!

    This one seems far more likely to me. If they can't get their pound of flesh with the furlough days and pay cuts, they'll have to go somewhere else. We literally don't have anything else that they can take! And this is something they ask for every two years like clockwork.

    Some of you are no doubt asking, "What about <insert name of paid leave>?" We've already gone-to-bat over paid holidays. That won't fly. And vacation or personal business doesn't reduce their out-of-pocket that they have to pay. The only way for them to save money is to not pay it to you! Reducing those paid leaves only limits how much time you take off, it doesn't reduce your take-home pay.

    Which brings us back to Health Insurance! There could be fireworks over this hot-button issue!
Scott's picture

Re: June (No) Bargaining Update

Update from June 17th, 2009:


This week there were several positive developments in DAS bargaining, though the central obstacle to a contract settlement-the State's continued insistence that state workers shoulder more than our fair share of the sacrifice necessary to address the budget crisis-remains unresolved.

Following two more days of mediation in the aftermath of the State's withdrawal of its premature impasse declaration, we have achieved two significant goals:

State negotiators have withdrawn their demand for pay cuts in lieu of furlough days for some workers, including most in 24/7 institutions, and motor carrier enforcement officers in ODOT. This was the proposal that provoked our filing an Unfair Labor Practice charge with the State Employment Relations Board, contending that the State had breached the Ground Rules by issuing a new demand after the deadline. We can now say confidently that there will be no actual reduction in any member's pay rate during the next two years, which is a significant victory.
 

We signed off on a letter of agreement extending recall rights for employees who are on layoff now or who will be laid off during the life of the next two-year contract from two to three years. We hope and pray that anyone laid off will be back sooner than later, but given the current economic climate this represents a new and important protection for members already in considerable distress.

Three of our four Coalitions - Human Services, ODOT and Specials - have also successfully concluded bargaining (ODOT at 3 a.m. Tuesday morning). The fourth, Institutions, will be back at it tonight. 

In coalition bargaining, members have gained a number of advances in areas like scheduling, reimbursement and union rights and fought back a number of management-sponsored take-away proposals. Details outlining changes in these agreements will be on the Coalition Bargaining Updates pages:

DHS: http://www.seiu503.org/state/DHS/default.aspx
ODOT: http://www.seiu503.org/state/odot/default.aspx 
Specials: http://www.seiu503.org/state/Specials/default.aspx
Institutions: http://www.seiu503.org/state/Institutions/default.aspx

As most of you probably know, our success in reversing the impasse declaration and progress at the table comes after some promising news from the Legislature, which continues to hammer out details of the 2009-11 budget following crucial passage of about $770 in new revenue from wealthy Oregonians and profitable large corporations.

This has been a cornerstone of our lobbying efforts. It means that the final budget will likely provide the fiscal parameters to support a compromise settlement, but the fight will not be over when the legislature adjourns! 

We expect the State will declare impasse again at the earliest possible moment-probably in late June, thus returning to bargaining by brinkmanship - restarting the clock on the Governor's nuclear option of implementation. We will continue to fight for a negotiated settlement that protects our steps and minimizes the number of furlough days.

Members and supporters who turned out to our march and rally June 7 made a big difference. Now we need to refine and ramp up our message. Our contract ends June 30 and we will be organizing worksite actions all across the state that day.

We return to mediation Monday. Watch for details of our June 30th actions.


****************************************
This message is from the SEIU Local 503
Member Alert System. 

Scott's picture

Re: June (No) Bargaining Update

"As most of you probably know, our success in reversing the impasse declaration and progress at the table comes after some promising news from the Legislature, which continues to hammer out details of the 2009-11 budget following crucial passage of about $770 in new revenue from wealthy Oregonians and profitable large corporations."

I certainly hope they're raising more than $770 in new revenue! That won't even pay the HVAC costs for some offices for a day. I'm fairly certain it was supposed to say $770 Million. That's a little better.

I'm not sure why this is the great news for bargaining that it's being portrayed as. Weren't the budget numbers we've been seeing all predicated upon raising additional revenue? If those revenue sources had not come through, we would have been looking at even worse cuts. Since they did, we're right where we were before--24 furlough days, etc.

Scott's picture

Re: June (No) Bargaining Update

Today's bargaining update:


We Have the Momentum. Now We have to Build on It!
Join Your Workplace Action June 30th and Call the Governor!

In the two weeks since our United for Oregon March we have made significant progress on key issues in bargaining.

First the State felt compelled to withdraw its proposal to unilaterally cut the pay of workers in programs where management did not want to impose furloughs. Then we scored a victory when the State agreed to our proposal to extend recall rights for laid off workers from two years to three, offering workers who have been or will be laid off a greater likelihood of being able to return to their jobs.

This week that momentum continued. In bargaining Monday and Tuesday, the state agreed to a binding timetable for a classification study for workers in 35 clerical and health-related classifications.

This long-sought study will cover these clerical titles: Office Assistant 1 and 2, Office Specialist 1 and 2, Administrative Specialist 1 and 2, Executive Support Specialist 1 and  2, Public Service Representative 1 through 4, Date Entry Operators Word Processing Technician 1 through 3, Office Coordinator, Executive Assistant, Data Entry Control Technicians, Student Office Worker, and Legal Secretary.

Health-related titles covered are Clinical Psychologist 1 and 2, Habilitative Training Technician 1 through 3, Mental Health Security Technician, Mental Health Specialist, Mental Health Therapist 1 and 2, Mental Health Therapy Coordinator and Shift Coordinator, Mental Health Therapy Technician, Psychiatric Social Worker, and Transporting Mental Health Aide.

For months now we have been working on two fronts to win a fair contract: in the legislature to maximize revenue and minimize cuts, and in our worksites to persuade the Governor.

The legislative front is wrapping up. We've had remarkable victories. In the face of a historic $4 billion state budget shortfall we staved off most proposed cuts in jobs and services thanks in large part to the efforts of hundreds of SEIU members who lobbied legislators alongside allies from such groups as the OR-PTA, AARP and the Human Services Coalition, sharing our stories about the important services we provide to our communities.

We were also able to bring greater fairness into our tax system and much needed new revenue when the legislature voted to increase income taxes on profitable corporations, at long last raise the $10 corporate minimum, and add a new top tax bracket for the wealthiest Oregonians.

We did suffer one significant loss in recent days when we could not quite muster a two-thirds majority to delay implementation of aspects of Measure 57, thanks to the influence of the state's district attorneys-whose shortsighted attitude is likely to actually make Oregon more dangerous and susceptible to crime, not less. As of today, we have not been able to pass a bill that would secure funding to prevent the closure of the Oregon Youth Authority facility in Burns, downsize the one in Hillcrest and dramatically reduce funding for the OYA Gang Intervention programs. We will continue to look for opportunities to secure funding but with the close of the legislature nearing, options are shrinking quickly.

But overall, we have protected thousands of jobs, preserved most essential services and set the stage for our fight to minimize furloughs and protect our steps.  Now, working in close cooperation with AFSCME and other unions as well as community allies, we need to take the momentum we've built with member activism to another level to persuade the State to minimize the number of furlough days and protect our steps.

When we join together and take action we can significantly impact the decisions that are being made in the Capitol and in the Governor's office.

That is why it is so important that you take part in the day of action in your worksite, next Tuesday, June 30th.

Workers across the state are planning to deliver this message to their managers and Governor Kulongoski:

"Oregon needs us and we need a fair contract. We have been willing to step up and be a part of the solution from the start of negotiations, but we expect equity: a fair contract that protects step increases and calls for no more furlough days than are actually necessary."

You can help deliver this message in two important ways: by joining the action in your workplace and calling the Governor on June 30th at 503.378.4582.


 

Scott's picture

Re: June (No) Bargaining Update

"First the State felt compelled to withdraw its proposal to unilaterally cut the pay of workers in programs where management did not want to impose furloughs."

I suppose compelled is technically accurate. Remember, it was a legal challenge that would have eliminated their trump card that made them change their minds. Why mince words??? We made them withdraw their proposal. Of course, by doing so, they've kept open their ability to declare an impasse and have the Governor unilaterally impose the State's "best" offer!

"the State agreed to our proposal to extend recall rights for laid off workers from two years to three"

This is partially self-serving. Remember that whatever we get, management and non-represented staff normally get at least the same. Just because they've extended the rights doesn't mean they'll recall anyone. But it does open the door to recalling management staff without looking like they're playing favorites.

"the state agreed to a binding timetable for a classification study for workers in 35 clerical and health-related classifications."

We had an agreement last contract to do a study on part of these classifications. Now, 2 years later, we have to bargain for the same thing again! First DAS stalled us. Then they just didn't have the time to do their jobs! It will be interesting to see what loophole or excuse they come up with this time around. After all, the purpose of the study is to raise salaries to an appropriate level. That means more money. That doesn't work well when we're cutting pay across-the-board.

 

Now we're planning to call the Governor on June 30th. I just hope it works out better than all of the calls to Scott Harra, Director of DAS. I personally saw no evidence that our calls had any effect. Get your dialing fingers ready!

Scott's picture

Re: June (No) Bargaining Update

We only have 2 more days of bargaining before the current state contract ends. Be on the lookout for the State to declare impasse again. Why not take the poll to say which day you think the announcement will come.

One thing that is certain to come out of bargaining is that we will be facing furlough days. The only question is, how many? If they can't go after health care or wage cuts, there's nothing else to bargain over from their side. On our side of the equation, it sounds like we're still fighting to retain step increases and the tenth step.

As was pointed out to me yesterday, furlough days are more acceptable than step freezes. Why? The furlough days are only temporary. They don't go directly into the contract. They get added as a Letter of Agreement. So after the 2009-11 contract ends, the furlough days go away. The step freezes are permanent, as is the loss of the tenth step.

If you lose 2 steps over the next biennium, that's a 4.75% wage cut each year. And that cut keeps on giving you lower wages forever. If you take furlough days that amounts to 5% each year, it's the same amount of money--I rounded up from 9.5%. But once it's done, it's done. Plus you still have your steps, which offset some of the furlough cuts.

So expect the number of furlough days we offer to go up, possibly significantly. The State still wants to cut our pay over the biennium. If they give in on the step increases, the number of furlough days will have to go up as well so that there is still a NET decrease in payroll. If they want a 5% reduction, furlough would have to go to about 10% to cover the step increase as well. Mind you, my math doesn't account for those who top out during the biennium. That would lower the actual amount of payroll increase, and would ultimately lower the number of furlough days to reach the desired payroll reduction.

What may cause everyone more problems is the fact that there is a coalition fighting the tax increases that were just passed. If we have to cover, or cut, that additional $800 million, things will be looking even worse than they do now. Let's hope that if it goes to the voters, we're all smart enough to realize that the tax structure needs some change. We can't live with Depression-era corporate tax laws any longer. And while it's not a popular opinion, I'll state that a sales tax won't fix the problem either, for multiple reasons. Ask Washington how their sales tax is working out for them right now. But that's another discussion.

Scott's picture

Re: June (No) Bargaining Update

There's an indication of where the State thinks that bargaining is going. On Friday, June 26th, a message was sent out from DAS regarding the continuation of pay freezes and additional furlough days for July and August of this year for management and executive staff. They are still looking at a tiered level of furlough days, with up to 1 per month for the higher pay scales. This sounds a lot like they're still expecting to offer us the same non-deal they've already offered.

At least one manager asked the question on why they changed their plans. Previously they had been told the freeze and one-day-a-month furlough would be for the entire 2009-11 biennium. We represented staff know that it's because management is waiting to see what we get in our contract. Almost without fail, management gives themselves the same deal that we manage to eke out. Unless they plan to give themselves a better deal like in the 2007-9 biennium.

So expect no surprises from today and tomorrow's bargaining. The state is unlikely to budge. They're just biding their time to declare impasse again. Then it's just a waiting game for the Governor to implement their very special offer.

Scott's picture

Re: June (No) Bargaining Update

A few items of note:

  • Bargaining on Monday ran all day, and no progress was made.
  • Bargaining for Tuesday was cancelled Tuesday morning. They may have been meeting in the afternoon.
  • The Legislative session ended Monday at 9:45 PM.
  • The final budget only shows cutting $65 Million out of our compensation.
  • The Governor still wants to take double that out.
  • The Governor must have been scared. He ran and hid out at the State Library instead of his office at the Capitol on Tuesday. We'll have to see how the march from the Capitol mall went.
  • Supposedly there's a 2nd complaint filed with the ERB. The first one was over the mixed furlough and pay cuts. I'm not sure what we're going after this time.

Did we bargain Tuesday afternoon? If so, I'll stake that it was only to declare impasse again.

And, as predicted, the state didn't move at all during bargaining. I based that prediction on information gathered last Friday. So, I was not surprised. Were you?

 

Scott's picture

Re: June (No) Bargaining Update

The latest updates from Tuesday, June 30th:


More than 400 members who work on the Capitol Mall poured out of their offices at noon Tuesday and marched to the Governor's office to demand a fair contract. They were joined by thousands of workers across the state who took part in such actions as informational picketing, delegations to take our message to managers and generating phone calls to the Governor.

SEIU 503 President Linda Burgin said at the Salem rally, "The Legislature has done its job, Governor, now it's time for you to do yours!"

Bargaining team member Theresa Arndt read our message to the Governor: "We have been willing to step up and be a part of the solution from the start of negotiations, but we expect equity: a fair contract that protects step increases and calls for no more furlough days than are actually necessary." Theresa and a group of members later presented a placard with that message to the Governor,s chief of staff, Chip Terhune.

And Executive Director Leslie Frane led members in a new chant: "$65 million is enough -- Cutting more is way too rough!"

The actions came on the heels of the legislature passing a budget that creates a road map for a contract settlement. The budget contains a note clarifying the sources of $130 million in savings still needed to balance the State's books. In that note, the legislature declared that no more than half -- $65 million -- should come from state workers' compensation. The State's latest proposal would cut our workers' pay by almost twice that amount -- taking almost all the necessary savings from the state workforce -- while our current proposal would save about $35 million.

Noting that, our bargaining team has issued a direct challenge to the Governor: if he commits to the $65 million figure -- "and not a penny more" -- we will do the same and the contract can be settled almost immediately.

At the bargaining table, we continued to make some headway Monday and Tuesday, including getting a signed extension of our current contract through July 31. In addition, the State made two changes to its furlough proposal, reducing its proposal for the maximum number of furlough days from 24 to 22 days and accepting our request that agencies using full-office closures for their furloughs designate the day after Thanksgiving as an office closure day. While both of these changes are relatively small, they do represent some steps in the right direction.

While we are currently bargaining on how furloughs will be implemented (such as by insisting that they count as time worked for purposes of accruals) state negotiators are refusing to bargain with us on how they are scheduled.  The law is on their side on this one. While the number of furlough days is a mandatory subject of bargaining, the scheduling of those days is not.  The State is permitted, but not obligated, to negotiate over how the days are scheduled. We are continuing to make proposals related to scheduling of furlough days, but in the end it is likely that the State will have the final say in whether furloughs are done by office closures or scheduled by individual workers and their supervisors.

We will continue negotiating next Monday and Tuesday. The Governor needs to hear from all of us with a message that says, "Oregon needs us, and we need a fair contract. We have been willing to step up and be a part of the solution from the start of negotiations, but we expect equity: a fair contract that protects step increases and calls for no more furlough days than are actually necessary." 

Please call the Governor at 503.378.4582!

View photos of the June 30 state-wide actions here:
http://www.seiu503.org/state/Thousands_of_Workers__One_Message.aspx


 

Scott's picture

Re: June (No) Bargaining Update

Again we seem to have different stories about what has happened. On Tuesday it was reported that we made absolutely no progress on Monday. Then Tuesday morning bargaining was canceled.  Now, this latest update says we made progress Monday and Tuesday. From what I can tell, our "progress" all came Tuesday afternoon. That would be after the State had a chance to review the Legislatively Approved Budget. And so they could receive guidance on how much they are supposed to give-us-the-shaft!

And what progress did we make?

First, we have a signed extension for the contract through the end of July. OK. I supposed that's something. But it seems to be a pointless gesture. Without a new contract in place, the terms of the old one continue to be binding. And the extension only goes for a month. That's just short of the time before the Governor could force a new contract on us after declaring an impasse.

Second, they reduced the maximum furlough days from 24 to 22. Right now, I think I'm far more concerned with keeping steps alive. So this concession really plays to the strength of the State's goals.

Third, offices that close completely will use the day after Thanksgiving as one of the furlough days. That's both good and bad. It's good, because the state does not have to bargain when furlough is taken. It's bad because now we've got the union telling us when to take  furlough--but mitigated by the first point. And just as a reminder, it limits when you can take Governor's Leave. Of course, you can always take it before Thanksgiving and have that nice 5-day weekend instead!

And fourth, what's this about fighting for furloughs to count towards accruals??? They have been very consistent in stating that furloughs will not affect our accruals! Until now!!! So is the State trying to take that back? Did someone make a mistake when they wrote the update? Or have we been lied to the entire time up to this point? If furlough days affect accruals, that certainly changes the math on what we are losing, or not losing.

So go ahead and call the Governor. As Art Towers has noted, the note specifying that only $65 Million can come out of our pockets does not have the force of law. And Ted isn't on our side.

While you're at it, call SEIU 503. Ask them some of the questions that keep coming up. What is the real story? And can we have it in writing?

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