Welcome! Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the new WMSEA union:

What's new? 

We have great news to share! With the help of AFSCME Council 28/WFSE, our collective bargaining bill (HB 1122) passed the legislature this year and has been signed by the Governor. WMS Band 1 and Band 2 staff now have the right to organize and form a union within their respective state departments.

WMS staff have formed WMSEA within AFSCME Council 28/WFSE to allow us to collectively bargain for better wages and predictable salary increases, negotiate over working conditions, and secure the many benefits that Classified/WGS staff have won over the years. By standing with the 47,000 members in AFSCME Council 28/WFSE, we will bring their power along with us to the negotiating table and continue to build the most powerful voice for state employees in the Pacific Northwest.

What's next?

We need to come together and formalize our desire to create represented bargaining units by working together to sign union cards as soon as possible. Bargaining units will be formed around supervisory and non-supervisory lines, within each department. If 50% + 1 of the eligible WMS staff sign cards on either or both sides of that supervisory line within a particular department, then we will be able to form a union there.

The first day that we can file to form a union is on January 1, 2024, but the timeline to get a contract funded is very tight.

Maybe later. I'm busy. Why the hurry?

The sooner we organize and certify our union the sooner we can begin negotiating a union contract. The legislature has never appropriated the funds necessary to sufficiently address our pay or establish a salary grid. We’ve continued to see our wages compressed in comparison to union-represented staff, while the cost of living has continued to surge.

Winning the right for WMS staff to unionize was a huge victory, but we are on a tight timeline to put those rights into practice.

The first day that we can file with the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) to form these bargaining units is January 1, 2024. Since we are forming new bargaining units under a new RCW, the certification process could take significantly longer than normal.

We need to:

  • Secure union certification (haven’t signed a card yet? Sign here!)
  • Elect a bargaining team
  • Negotiate a supplemental collective bargaining agreement (CBA, or contract)
  • Conduct a vote to ratify that supplemental CBA and
  • Submit it to OFM by October 1, 2024 – the funding deadline required by law

There’s a lot to be done to negotiate a raise, a progressive salary grid, and any other changes to our benefits and working conditions, so the sooner we secure union certification the better.

If we want to be able to successfully negotiate and secure funding for a 2025 raise, we need to organize now.

What am I signing?

By signing the card you are agreeing to two things:

  1. Agreeing to create a bargaining unit with AFSCME Council 28/WFSE as our exclusive representative.
  2. Agreeing to pay dues by payroll deduction. Dues only start AFTER there is a ratified collective bargaining agreement. A majority of the membership must approve the CBA for it to go into effect (after being funded by the state Legislature). The agreement to pay dues auto renews each year unless you provide notice before renewal. Dues deductions automatically stop if you no longer work in the bargaining unit.

What is in it for me?

  • A seat at the table to advocate for our needs and in support of the work we do.
  • Real movement on wages – applying our collective power to win a progressive salary schedule and across the board raises.
  • Clearer rules, protections, and guidelines around workload concerns – hours, discipline, and discharge.
  • The tools necessary to address equity concerns with and between different departments at the WMS level
  • Power in numbers. Several thousand WMS staff joining 47,000 state workers means real power and support when we are at the bargaining table with the Governor’s office (Office of Financial Management, or OFM).
  • The scope of bargaining is limited to wages, hours, and working conditions.
  • Healthcare costs are negotiated with all unions at one table, but AFSCME Council 28/WFSE, given its depth, has the largest voice at that table. WFSE also has a representative on the Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB) which determines healthcare policy changes. No union has the legal right to negotiate over our Public Employees' Retirement System (PERS) retirement, but WFSE has a member leader on the State Investment Board and the Legislators Joint Committee on Pension Policy. AFSCME Council 28 advocates strongly in the state legislature to fight to maintain our retirement security.

Will forming a union result in WMS staff losing any of the working conditions or benefits that we like?

No. Once we file for certification, a “dynamic status quo” comes into effect which requires management to negotiate any major changes to wages or working conditions – even though the union hasn’t been established yet. After we’re certified, members will fill out bargaining surveys to inform the bargaining team about our overall priorities.

What have other professional staff accomplished by joining WFSE and collective bargaining?

The Assistant Attorneys General (AAGs) at the Attorney General’s office (AGO) are a great and timely example.

In 2019, the Assistant Attorneys General (AAGs) formed a union with WFSE, and, since then, have won significant improvements:

  • An 18 step progressive salary grid
  • A five percent retention premium for staff with five or more years of cumulative service
  • Multiple across the board raises, on top of COLAs
  • A binding contractual agreement to maintain working conditions that AAGs currently like and enjoy, including Affinity Groups, flexible work schedules, children in the workplace, and telecommuting – with any and all changes subject to bargaining with WFSE.
  • Expanded Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and Non-Discrimination agreements
  • Improvements to personal leave exchange time policies
  • A mutual commitment by the AGO and WFSE to collaboratively work on achieving manageable workloads for AAGs, and to attempt to secure funding to reduce workloads.
  • A new Union-Management Communication Committee structure, which allows AAGs and WFSE to regularly meet with the AGO’s leadership, for the purpose of sharing information, raising concerns, and discussing resolutions in a collaborative manner.

That is just one example. In every union contract, WFSE regularly negotiates for, and wins, job class-specific raises for thousands of behind-market union members. We can do the same for WMS Band 1 and 2.

There is no united voice that is pushing the state to bring WMS staff up to market rates. If we don’t seize the opportunity this year, we will only fall further behind.

How much are dues?

Remember: Dues only start after our collective bargaining agreement has been ratified and takes effect. Your bargaining team is certain to consider the impact of dues, so they will be covered in that CBA. Dues are 1.5% of gross pay, capped at a maximum of $117.15 per month. So if you make:

  • $60,000 per year / $5,000 per month, then you would pay $37.50 per paycheck
  • $70,000 per year / $5,833 per month, then you would pay $43.50 per paycheck
  • $80,000 per year / ~$6,667 per month, then you would pay $50 per paycheck
  • $90,000 per year / $7,500 per month, then you would pay $56.25 per paycheck

Before you hit $94,000 you have reached the dues cap.

The amount of dues is set in the bylaws of the union, which are readopted every two years by vote of elected representatives of the membership.

A majority of the membership must approve the supplemental CBA for it to go into effect. Members will be able to do the math and see what’s in the CBA before you vote and ever pay any dues.

Because WFSE’s bargaining power is directly dependent on our membership strength, a super-majority of the 47,000 state employees who we represent choose to voluntarily become dues-paying members. After we are certified as a union representing the WMS Band 1 and Band 2 staff, we will push to win targeted raises. As part of preparing for our contract negotiations, we will also ask each eligible WMS employee to increase our bargaining power by becoming dues-paying members.

But again, this choice is up to each individual employee, and no one is forced to become a member or pay WFSE dues.

Every organization needs resources, and every AFSCME Council 28/WFSE member pays dues to collectively pool lots of small amounts of money together, in order to create one powerful union that is advocating for state employees 24/7, all year round. If there were another organization whose purpose was to protect and promote the interests of state employees, we wouldn’t need a union. But there isn’t, which is why we formed WFSE and are forming WMSEA within it today. 

Our dues fund negotiations and contract enforcement and also ensure that we can continue to advocate to protect and improve the healthcare, retirement, wages, professional development, and support agency programs we value. WFSE uses our dues to harness the power of our membership during bargaining with the state, mobilize our members to get the Legislature to fund our contracts and state agencies, and to employ expert staff negotiators, lobbyists, organizers, and representatives, whose full-time jobs are to advocate for our members.

Why WMSEA and AFSCME Council 28/WFSE?

WMSEA formed to advocate for salaries, benefits, and workplace policies that will foster job satisfaction and the highest standards of professional competence among WMS staff. By joining with AFSCME Council 28/WFSE, we were able to draw on the solidarity and power of 47,000 other union members to pass our legislation. Now, WFSE members and staff are helping with outreach and organization to secure certification.

AFSCME Council 28/WFSE is the same union that many of us promoted out of, and the union with the best understanding of our departments, our roles, and our needs.

AFSCME Council 28/WFSE already represents thousands of Classified/WGS supervisors and subject matter experts. They are the only union with far ranging experience and expertise.

AFSCME Council 28/WFSE is Washington’s largest state employee union, representing over 47,000 employees. WFSE is part of a national parent union called AFSCME, which is the third largest labor union in the United States and represents over 1.6 million state, county, and municipal employees.

AFSCME Council 28/WFSE is member run and driven. In WFSE, we run our union as members, and we set our union’s priorities and direction because we know what’s best for state employees.

Becoming part of the ASFCME family is a logical choice given that it has been instrumental in helping us get the law changed and already represents most organized employees in state agencies in Washington. There is a real advantage to becoming a part of a large union. Negotiating a contract and getting it funded at the state level is no small feat. We need statewide power and organization to support us as we move to negotiate our first and subsequent contracts.

Is there a conflict of interest if I’m a supervisor?

WFSE members have been advocating for public sector employees for eighty years, and we have been representing supervisors from the very day collective bargaining rights were won.

When there is an issue that involves multiple members, be it supervisor versus non-supervisor, two non-supervisors, or two supervisors, we create a firewall. One staff member or steward represents the first person to reach out, and the other party or parties have the right to request representation from a different staff member or steward. These union representatives or stewards are present to make sure that every member gets their legally required fair representation under the contract. They do not interact with each other, and they provide the best available advice to staff where the contract applies.

WFSE does not protect bad employees, nor does it prioritize one class of workers over another. We enforce the contract for everyone. It is both our requirement under the law and our mission to ensure that everyone’s rights are respected.

What do the Legislature and Governor think about this?

The Governor and Legislature agree – a union for WMS Band 1 and 2 staff is best for everyone. The nature of the WMS structure has delivered some of the flexibility that executives wanted prior to its creation, but the ability of every agency to utilize it largely as they see fit has led to much inconsistency and great inequities across the bands. It has also limited our ability to successfully advocate for ourselves. This has impacted our work/life balance, our available income, and, in many cases, our departments’ ability to recruit and retain staff. The Governor and Legislature want to see us secure a union, for ourselves and for the people we serve.

What will our executive management teams think about this?

While this is a natural concern, there’s no need to fear: WFSE already represents thousands of Classified supervisors and subject matter experts. Being in a union has not inhibited their ability to pursue professional development and promotions.

We believe that management understands that WMS employees are not forming unions primarily because they have problems with their executive leadership. We’re forming a union because the Legislature has consistently failed to provide money for raises and overall agency funding for WMS roles. We believe that we share the same goals with management regarding staff retention, funding for reduced workloads, and many other issues. But we also understand that we won’t see those gains unless we organize ourselves.

With a union, we can negotiate binding raises with the state that the Legislature must vote on, and which they cannot unilaterally decrease. In these efforts, we positively impact agency budgets, and secure the funding that we deserve. This helps management, particularly with retention.

In the rare cases where a manager may feel opposed, such feelings are absolutely not representative of executive leadership as a whole.

Finally, and most importantly, it is your legal right to decide whether to form a union, without fear, intimidation, harassment, or retaliation.

Where can I get more information?

If you know someone who is already having conversations in your department, you can reach out to them. You can also reach out to a staff member at [email protected].

How do I get involved?

Being active in WMSEA is easy. There is a role for everyone, no matter how great or small, to help build a strong unified voice.

The first step for every supporter is to sign a union card.

The next step is talking to your coworkers who are also Band 1 and 2, to ensure that they have the information they need to sign, too. Union organizers and member leaders are available anytime to answer questions and speak with any of your colleagues.

We are currently building leadership teams among WMS staff who can help with outreach efforts and disseminating communications. Moving forward, we will need help gathering signed union cards to form bargaining units and negotiate a contract before the October 1st deadline. If you’re interested, please reach out to an organizer you’ve spoken with or email [email protected].

In WMSEA and WFSE, you and your coworkers are our union.