January 24, 2024 – In the state renowned for its lush greenery and frequent rainfall, the irony of outdoor workers lacking proper rain gear is a tale that spans over two years. The journey began with a visit to the Cedar Creek Correctional Facility, where forest crew supervisors provided a tour. While exploring the grounds, a coatrack filled with well-worn and near-expiration rain gear caught the attention of Department of Natural Resources representative Julia Thurman-Lascurain. Shockingly, the forest crew supervisors disclosed that they purchased their own rain gear because the agency failed to supply it. Recognizing the absurdity of the situation, efforts were initiated to address this overlooked need.
Assurances were made that the issue would be resolved in a matter of weeks. However, the anticipated solution did not occur, leading to a persistent advocacy campaign. Between the initial conversation in January 2022 and May 2023, the rain gear issue became a recurring topic in every meeting with DNR management. Despite the constant reminders, progress remained elusive until June 14th when a breakthrough occurred during a union meeting where agency finally approved the provision of rain gear for outdoor workers. Despite the approval, the implementation before the rainy season, promised on June 14th, did not materialize by October 2nd. Members were still without rain gear during the actual rainy season. The agency's response was the formation of a committee to discuss rain gear options and create a menu for members to choose from. The specifics, including vendor selection and delivery logistics, were yet to be worked out.
Fast forward to January 24, 2024, thanks to ongoing collaboration with Shop Stewards from Washington Public Employees Association (WPEA), and input from staff throughout the agency, DNR has committed to providing rain gear to employees as part of their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) program. Eligible employees can select one top (jacket) and one set of bottoms (pants or bibs) from the DNR Supply Catalog, with supervisor approval required.
Through the commitment to safety and teamwork by WPEA DNR Shop Stewards, outdoor workers in the rainiest state can now look forward to being equipped with proper rain gear. WPEA celebrates a significant step toward ensuring the well-being of those who tirelessly contribute to the state's natural resources.