Business Agent Report for May 2020
by Mary Keefe

*Call to Action: Call Senator Murray and Cantwell and tell them to strike the GROW Act from any Federal stimulus packages. The Grow Act would devastate healthy pension plans like our Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Plan. Click this link to email your Senators and protect union pensions: http://ibt.io/Stim4

King County: Our Master Labor Agreement and Appendices are scheduled to expire at the end of the year. The pre-COVID plan was to start negotiations in March and unfortunately that timeline is on hold while we wait out the Stay Home, Stay Healthy orders. In the meantime, the Coalition of County Unions negotiated a Memorandum of Agreement with enhancements Federal COVID leave, shared leave banks, telework/alternative work assignments and PPE. We are filing a demand to bargain over the COVID related impacts to economics and working conditions. While we wait for the quarterly financial reports to role in, the County already looking at a significant budget shortfall. The County has not asked for lay-offs (in our represented department) but we are bracing for hits.

Department of Assessments: DOA was one of the first departments to go completely to telework assignments. The department continues to conduct property inspections, with proper social distancing and PPE, to ensure that the tax base is accurate and complete. Our DOA members are considered essential workers because the work they do will ensure tax revenue necessary to support our community as we shelter in place and rebound economically.

Communication Specialists: April 1st the Communication Specialists started a 4/10 pilot schedule. We have tried for years to negotiate an alternative work schedule to create a better work/life balance. One month into the pilot program, we are starting to see less overtime and reports of decreased stress/recovery with a three day “weekend”.

City of Seattle: The Coalition of City Unions recently negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding that includes enhancements to the Federal COVID leave, telework/alternative work agreements, lifting the vacation accrual cap, maintenance of benefits, protections for temporary workers, and waivers for contractual notice and timelines. We fully expect to see a significant loss of budget over the next several years. At this time, the Mayor’s Office has directed departments to cut overtime, discretionary spending and a hiring freeze. The City has not signaled that they are looking a lay-offs for represented employees yet although, in all reality, it may just be a matter of time.

At our last meeting, I reported that I was appointed to the Workforce Equity Advisory Committee, which recently sent a report to the Mayor’s Office demanding that any economic cuts to the workforce should first consider the racial impacts to workforce. The Committee pulled data that showed that in the Great Recession, women of color were laid off at twice the rate as all other workers. When the City makes cuts to front line and entry level positions (those with the highest rates of unionization) it undermines the City’s commitment to the Race and Social Justice Initiative. In April, I was appointed by the Coalition to join the City’s Health Insurance Committee to monitor and advise on behalf of the membership.

Seattle Municipal Court: The Court was the first City department to close in early March due to a confirmed COVID exposure at the Seattle Justice Center. The Court was ground zero to negotiate closures, clarify that workers would be paid to be on standby status at home. The Court is required to run at least one court our members rotate through essential worker status and report to work while others are transitioning to telework.

Inspectors and Auditors: I am proud to report that several of our Teamster members at FAS volunteered to be redeployed to the City’s warehouse to work along-side our union siblings at 117, managing stockpiles of PPE and safety equipment.

Bridgestone: Our collective bargaining agreement was set to expire on March 30, 2020. Over the winter, we conducted several calls with the Bridgestone corporate HR team, located in Nashville, Tennessee to prepare for negotiations. It became clear that interstate travel would not be possible, and the membership approved a contract extension to June 30, 2020.

American Medical Response, Field Division: AMR EMTs have been on the front lines, literally transporting some of the earliest cases of COVID in the region. They were there at the Life Center in Kirkland, providing care and transportation to medical facilities. Throughout March, our EMTs worked in very uncertain situations before there were formal protocols for protection, testing and contact tracing. When the first tests arrived in Washington State, Teamsters used it political muscle to demand that our EMTs be recognized as first responders and get access to testing and paid quarantine time.

Once the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order took effect, AMR saw a sudden and significant drop in medical transports. Elective medical procedures were canceled, traffic died down and accident rates with it, and strangely enough heart attack and strokes are down (or not being treated), business slowed. In general, that is a good thing. In our world, that meant that AMR would not justify working all of its staff. And like many other industries, we have seen all of our part time members go into standby status.

As a safety precaution, the company also ordered all employees to report to the Tukwila station. They have enhanced transport vehicle cleaning and we are working through the labor management committee to implement other hygiene and safety procedures.

Shout out to our members who volunteered to travel to New York to provide COVID expertise and support to fellow AMR workers. Some heroes wear caps, our heroes  wear blue uniforms and PPE.

Finally, I am very happy to report that our political collaboration on the Quality Assurance Fee passed in Olympia and is now law. This fee will provide a much needed stop gap funding for Medicaid transports, putting the company in better financial footing as we head into negotiation season.

MLK Labor: We have partnered with the MLK Labor council to put a spotlight on essential public sector workers. There is a social media campaign highlighting the workers that keep our cities and counties running while the rest of the economy is on hold. We have also partnered with the council to support union workers by donating $5000 to help cover the cost of union cooks to make and deliver food to medical and hospital workers.

And finally, it is political season (when is it not?)! Candidate filing for the 2020 election cycle closed on Friday May 15. Over the next couple months we will publish and call for support for candidates that champion Teamster workers and issues.

Mary Keefe