One of the most important benefits of coming together with your colleagues to form a union is gaining the clarity and security of a union contract. Having one means knowing exactly what is expected of you at work, and what you can expect from your employer in return. A union contract is a written agreement between the employer and the employees that details the terms and benefits in a clear and legally-binding way.
The power of the collective bargaining process. This might not seem like a big deal at first, but consider the power of being able to propose policy changes or raise issues as a whole instead of just taking them individually to a manager. You could have the best manager in the world, but it’s unlikely they have the power to change institution-wide issues.
In the weeks ahead you will be hearing lots about contracts. Many of you will soon be heading into the voting stage of the contract process. We want you to have an understanding of the terminology used to discuss this. Contract Bargaining Action Team a member driven, member lead, and member focused team, glossary of terms you might hear when talking about contracts and contract ratifications. If you have other terms that are needing to be defined, please reach out to your stewards or WPEA. Please stay tuned for more communications surrounding contract ratification, townhall meetings, and steward education:
Appendix: Extra language to explain specific pieces of the contract. Some appendices are included for reference only and are noted as such. Bargaining: Process of discussion between management/employer/OFM with the union about the contracts. Bargaining table: Refers to the members who serve on the bargaining team also called the bargaining table because usually the union and management are sitting at a physical table when bargaining. Biennium: Most contracts are in place for two years. This is referred to as the biennium of the contract. You are voting on the biennium that will run from July 1st 2021 until June 30th 2023. COLAs – Cost of Living Adjustments: An increase in income that keeps up with the cost of living. Contract/CBA: Collective Bargaining Agreement – is a binding contract between two bargaining groups (management/OFM and the WPEA) that outlines provisions of employment including but not limited to compensation, working conditions, fringe benefits, and grievances. Furloughs/temporary layoff: A “furlough” is any time that an employer requires members of its workforce to take unpaid leave. It means you remain employed, but you don’t work, you don’t get paid, and you cannot use accrued time off (vacation, exchange, etc.) to remain in paid status. In most Washington State union collective bargaining agreements, we don’t use the word “furlough.” Instead, the contracts talk about temporary reductions in work hours or similar language. This is a broader term that includes furloughs. In the WPEA General Government and Higher Education CBA’s, this language is in the Layoff and Recall article. Main table: WPEA has many contracts. Some agencies/institutions bargain directly with their employer/management. There are two contracts that bargain collectively for the greater good of those represented. Some of those similar agencies and institutions who bargain with their employer/management rely on or ‘me too’ portions of the bargaining from the main tables. Higher Education bargains for: Bellevue College Big Bend Community College Cascadia College Clark College Columbia Basin College Edmonds College Grays Harbor College Olympic College Pierce College Skagit Valley College Tacoma Community College Walla Walla Community College Wenatchee Valley College General Government bargains for: Department of Agriculture Washington Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Youth Department of Licensing Liquor and Cannabis Board Military Department Department of Natural Resources Department of Revenue Washington State Patrol Washington State School for the Blind Management/Employer: the agency or institution you work for and all their representatives (administration, management, leadership, etc) Management Rights: Each contract outlines the terms of management rights within their individual contract. Mediation: Mediation happens when the two bargaining tables cannot make any more forward movement, but there is not a fully TA’d contract to present for ratification, PERC can provide a neutral third party mediator to assist the teams. “Me too”: When a bargaining table agrees to certain articles being accepted into their contract, in their entirety that a different contract will be bargaining. For example: some bargaining tables ‘me too’ the compensation that the main tables bargain for. So they agree to accept whatever the main table bargains on that article in its entirety. MOU – memorandum of understanding: This is temporary, noncontract language, agreed upon by both parties that is attached to their contract. October 1st deadline: In a ‘normal’ bargaining cycle both parties work to get contracts complete and ratified by October 1st. This provides time to get the contract to legislation for budgetary approval. OFM –Office of Financial Management: The Washington state office that many agencies/institutions contract to manage bargaining. They have many other functions, this is relative to bargaining. OFM bargains contracts with WPEA for Higher Education & General Government. PERC –Public Employment Relations Commission: “As the Washington State agency with jurisdiction over public sector labor relations and collective bargaining, PERC assists parties in resolving labor-management disputes.” Proposals: The formalized document used to propose changes during bargaining. Ratification: The process of membership voting to adopt a tentatively agreed (TA’d) upon contract. Once ratified contracts go through legislative budgetary approval prior to implementation. Steps: Incremental increases in pay that the state agreed to in previous years, to get public employees up to industry standard pay rates. TA – Tentative Agreement: When the bargaining team and management/OFM agree on an article they sign a TA or tentative agreement to notate that there is an agreement. When both sides have agreed upon, TA’d all articles that have been discussed, the contract is considered TA’d. Membership is presented the fully TA’d contract to vote on, not individual articles. Track Changes: Refers to the actual document changes during the bargaining process. We start with the original or current contract language and on a Word Document enable the ‘track changes’ feature to indicate the changes being discussed in bargaining through proposals. ‘What if’ package: During bargaining this is a collection or proposals and ideas, that one side offers the other, it must be accepted or rejected in its entirety, and it has an expiration. 85/15: This refers to the portion of medical coverage that is paid for by the employer and the portion paid for by the member. The fraction 85/15 means that the employer pays 85% and the member pays 15%. This is over simplified. WPEA does not bargain the 85/15(Health Care at all) We ‘me too’ the Health Care coalition’s bargaining for this.