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As you know the Washington Management Service at the Washington State Ferries has lowered the manning levels on several of the vessels in its fleet operating throughout the Puget Sound to the bare minimum Certificate of Inspection (COI) level. This violates language in our contract with ferry management and completely disregards the safe and efficient transit of the millions of passengers and vehicles that we move back and forth across these waters every year. We naturally pursued our legal options and filed a grievance which went to arbitration challenging this new reduced manning implementation. Unfortunately we lost this arbitration. This same Washington Management Service at ferry management filed an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) against the IBU to prevent us from introducing the manning issue in our recent contract arbitration (see attached ULP and contract proposal from ferry management). More than likely, this issue will not be resolved until the next biennium unless the USCG decides in the passengers' favor. Until that happens it's clearly time to sound the alarm!
Let us be clear. This problem was not created by the IBU, MMP, or MEBA. This is a dangerous policy decision on the part of the Washington Management Service at the Washington State Ferries. After several failed attempts to reduce manning in negotiations, mediations, and arbitrations over the past several years, WSF management has manufactured an operational budget problem at the ferries by under-budgeting for the deck department in the 2011-2013 biennium. They chose to present a budget to the Office of Financial Management (OFM) back in the fall of 2010 with a deck department operating at the COI. Every biennial operating budget prior to this one was based upon the contractually agreed upon manning levels. This fabricated shortfall, disingenuous at best, is the source of the most recent manning assault. There is a lot of confusion over the March 2011 Memo of Understanding (MOU) signed by the IBU, MMP, and MEBA. Let's review the context that led up to that MOU. Prior to the 2011 legislative session, the OFM declared our arbitrated economic award unfeasible much like they had in the previous contract arbitration in 2008. State revenues had been rapidly imploding since 2008 and the state budget was roughly 4.5 billion dollars in the red before the start of the 2011 session and rose to about 5.3 billion by mid-session. The legislature in fact met in a Special Session in December of 2010 to try to backfill the shortfall in the previous biennium budget so they could start in the new session focusing solely on the new budget problem. Let's also not forget that in the previous year and in the background of this budget nightmare was the KING 5 series “Waste on the Water,” which put a huge target on all of our backs. With one-sided details that could only have been provided by a management insider, the Governor and certain legislators vowed to “fix the ferry system problem.” Gregoire, Haugen, and Clibborn whose prior re-elections we wholeheartedly supported, seemed all too eager to jump on the Suzanna Frame bandwagon.
BUDGETS ARE ABOUT DECISIONS
Rather than attempt to close some of the 5 billion dollars in annual corporate tax loopholes across the state, the Governor and legislature aggressively went after wages and benefits for state employees. For members of our bargaining unit and the other ferry unions, of course, that meant Senator Haugen and Representative Clibborn's personal jihad against us. These chairs of their respective transportation committees have had at least ten years to solve the funding problem plaguing the ferry system since the loss of MVET dollars. WSF were told to save 20 millions dollars and rather than downsize any of the bureaucratic creep of the Washington Management Service at the 2901 Building or some of their sacred cows like the WINS Dispatch System or the ever expanding ferry reservation system, ferry management chose to go after the employees that literally do the core business of the ferry system. Remember this was when George Capacci was promoted to the number two position in the Executive Department of the ferry system, a position that was rarely occupied in the previous twenty years. They saw the economic crisis as an
opportunity, as a green light, to attack our wages, benefits, working conditions, and manning levels. Budgets are about making decisions and management's utter contempt for IBU and other union represented employees is now quite clear in view of this recent history. In short, it has marked the beginning of their union busting war against us. Since our previous arbitrated contract award was voided by OFM, the law required us to go back to the table with the Labor Relation's Office (LRO) and reopen our contract negotiations. Everything in that award, and a lot more, was up for grabs. We had to settle to Gregoire's satisfaction, per the OFM, or else we would be fighting to prevent Haugen and her minions from legislating (converting our entire cba into state law) a far worse contract including the loss of seniority, the right to collectively bargain, as well as a reduction in wages and benefits. After TA-ing on a number of issues to prevent the nightmare from Haugen etc., the final issue that needed to be resolved was manning aboard WSF vessels. They demanded COI aboard every vessel. The compromise MOU that was signed by all three marine unions, was for all four parties to go before the USCG to present our respective arguments and have them rule on what the appropriate manning levels should be. This happened in the 11th hour of negotiations with the LRO. Not only did we not have the time to vote the membership on any of these issues, we were in a position of either working out a compromise or having Mary Margaret Haugen write us a contract of her choosing in a “title only” Senate bill. Despite all this misdirected animosity, it's important to point out that we did have help in Olympia. A number of members in the House and Senate went above and beyond to thwart the worst of the legislative attacks against us. Representative Mike Sells from District 38 and members of his Labor and Workforce Development Committee in the House led the effort. We can't thank them enough. Be sure to support Mike and the members of his committee in their re-election bids this November 6th (Our endorsement list will be out soon). We also had a tremendous amount of support from the labor community around us and organizations like Jobs With Justice and other community groups that realize the lopsided regressive tax structure in this state has been a disaster waiting to happen.
What followed in this past year was a blatantly dishonest attempt by George Capacci to manipulate the wording from the original MOU in a new letter to the USCG to begin the manning review process. Drafts went back and forth in which the marine unions would not sign. Eventually Mosely signed a letter and unilaterally sent it to the USCG which put the review process in motion. The unions wrote the USCG objecting to this and were surprised when Mosely informed us that they would be implementing new reduced manning aboard the three classes of vessels currently operating at COI since the start of the summer schedule.
ENOUGH ONE-SIDED SACRIFICE
Dedicated employees like you have sacrificed plenty to help save the state during an economic catastrophe none of you caused. Since even before the Governor declared an economic emergency in 2008, you’ve given up much to save the state. Increases in health insurance premiums and more than 11 percent in wages have been sacrificed while workloads have now gone up due to the reduction in manning on both the docks and the vessels. The ferry unions learned recently that the legislated reduction of 3% to all state employees since July 1st 2011 was mitigated with a monthly temporary salary reduction (TSR) leave of 5.2 hours. Thousands of general government employees were given this TSR Leave. WSF represented employees had to take the 3% cut, yet were never even offered the TSR Leave in negotiations. In addition those same general government employees do not have the 3% cut applied to any overtime hours. WSF represented employees do. Since we were the first to sacrifice our hard earned compensation, falling further behind the state's wage and benefit survey for our industry, shouldn't we be the first to be made whole?
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Please join your union's effort to sound the alarm on this assault on safety and good judgment. Start by showing your solidarity and proudly and prominently wearing our contract campaign buttons “IBU Will S.T.R.I.K.E. for Safety” and “Ferry Workers United”. Wearing these buttons is not a campaign in and of itself. It merely shows management that we are going on offense and getting organized. They don't like it when we're organized. It makes them nervous. If our campaign needs to become a fight for our recent cba arbitration award with OFM or the legislature this winter, we'll be ready because WE RUN THE FERRIES! This of course is not an invitation to strike for that would be illegal for state ferry employees per RCW 47.64.140 -Strikes, work stoppages, and lockouts prohibited. (1) It is unlawful for any ferry system employee or any employee organization, directly or indirectly, to induce, instigate, encourage, authorize, ratify, or participate in a strike or work stoppage against the ferry system.
However, it is an invitation to speak loudly and in one voice that we are tired of being provoked. These buttons will be making the rounds to a terminal or vessel near you shortly. They are part of our overall contract campaign, so they are legal to wear on the job. Please remember that our fight isn't really over until we get through the OFM and the next legislative session in Olympia. Until then and our primary concerns as deck, terminal, shoregang, and information department employees at the state ferries are twofold: 1. Our passenger's safety as well as our own is now needlessly at risk due to this new policy from the Washington Management Service at the Washington State Ferries. The response time in the event of a fire, rescue, or abandon ship scenario will be less and during our daily rush hours will be well below our historic fail safe standard. It never makes sense to have the words minimum and safety in the same sentence. Remember that according to Homeland Security passenger vessels carrying over 1000 passengers are the number one marine target for terrorism. With average monthly temperatures of 46 – 56 degrees in the waters near Seattle, “hypothermia remains a grave concern” according to the United States Coast Guard. By these criteria alone, we are no longer “one of the safest ferry systems in the world.”; and 2. The efficient transit of our passengers is now continuously jeopardized due to the fact that it now takes longer to load and unload these ferries with reduced manning and in the unfortunate event of a member of the deck crew being held up in traffic or being out sick, these vessels will not sail until the USCG bare minimum manning is re-established. This will translate into a complete disruption in the lives of our commuters as they become needlessly late to work, school, a doctor's appointment, a job interview, etc. Our ridership rely on us as we rely on them. Don't be afraid to explain to them what's going on if they have questions. As always, be your usual courteous and professional selves. With the latest biennial threat to cut service to several ferry runs to “fix the newest budget shortfall,” we should have a natural alliance with the ferry ridership groups up and down the Sound. All of this in the context of a central office that while reducing the manning aboard the vessels and within the terminal department continues to increase the manning within the Washington Management Service of the ferry system. If the 2901 Building were a vessel, with a list no doubt, what would its acceptable manning level be? Does this number have no ceiling? Who are they accountable to? Ultimately it's the Governor, but OFM oversees the financial risk management of all state agencies in addition to “developing legislation to support the Governor's policy goals.” Smaller more efficient state government is one of her top goals and second only to safety in our particular agency. Is David Mosely in a safety sensitive position? George Capacci? Steve Rodgers? Pete Williams? Doug Schlief? Kelly Mitchell? Bill Michael? Jay Mooney? Terri Haffie? Do they get drug tested? Considering this enormous monolithic black hole of “waste off the water” that they've come to epitomize to anyone paying attention, drug testing seems more than warranted! Having become a retirement home for port captains, shoreside supervisors, vessel and terminal engineers, and consultants of all stripes, they need constant monitoring around the clock. Their attack on vessel and terminal manning and the safety that it represents is the latest cynical attempt by management (and now OFM) to improve it's own bottom line (smaller more efficient state government) at the expense of the employees who do the core business of the ferry system of transporting millions of passengers safely and efficiently across Puget Sound throughout the year. The name of this state agency is the “Washington State Ferries,” not the Washington State Port Captains, or Shoreside Supervisors, or Vessel and Terminal Engineers, or Washington State Consultants. Since 1951 the core business employees at the Washington State Ferries have earned a safety record that is second to none in the passenger industry. Our on-time performance record is the industry standard. It's become abundantly clear that the Washington Management Service at the Washington State Ferries no longer supports that record or our main mission of safe efficient ferry transportation. Don't forget...WE RUN THE FERRIES! Stay tuned for further updates and STAND UNITED! WEAR YOUR BUTTONS! Sincerely, IBU Puget Sound Region Executive Committee