Washington

Tentative deal for 30,000 state workers includes raises, $12 minimum wage

Union members and supporters rally at the Washington Capitol, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016, in Olympia. Most Washington state workers would receive 6 percent pay raises over two years under a tentative agreement reached Tuesday between state officials and union leaders.
Union members and supporters rally at the Washington Capitol, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016, in Olympia. Most Washington state workers would receive 6 percent pay raises over two years under a tentative agreement reached Tuesday between state officials and union leaders. AP

About 30,000 Washington state workers would receive pay raises of roughly 6 percent under a tentative deal struck Tuesday between state officials and union leaders.

The proposed pay raises, to be spread over two years, would be the largest across-the-board increases state employees have negotiated since they gained full collective bargaining rights in 2004, said Tim Welch, a spokesman for the Washington Federation of State Employees.

The proposed labor contract would also establish a $12 minimum wage for the approximately 30,000 general government workers, who make up the largest segment of state employees, Welch said.

Welch announced the tentative agreement to union members in an email at about 5:45 p.m. Tuesday. Union members still must ratify the contract by Oct. 1, he said.

Welch called the negotiated pay raises “a monumental achievement” that should continue to help state workers recover from years of not receiving cost-of-living increases during the economic recession.

“It doesn’t make up for the years of pay cuts and no pay raises that took place starting in 2008, but it goes a long way,” Welch said.

If approved, the new two-year contract would award general government workers a 2 percent raise starting July 1, 2017, followed by an additional 2 percent raise on July 1, 2018, Welch said.

A final 2 percent raise would take effect Jan. 1, 2019, he said.

The Office of Financial Management, the governor’s budget office that negotiates labor contracts, estimated the contract will cost the state about $170 million over two years. Agency officials said they couldn’t comment further while the contracts are pending.

The same across-the-board raises would also go to employees at Central Washington University, Eastern Washington University, Washington State University and The Evergreen State College, who recently struck tentative agreements tying their salary increases to those negotiated for general government workers.

Should the union ratify the contract as expected, a few more steps are required before it becomes final.

The governor’s budget office first must determine whether the contract is financially feasible, a precursor to the governor funding it in his 2017-19 budget proposal.

Then the Legislature must choose next year whether to approve the contract, or to reject it and send negotiators back to the bargaining table.

Certain other state worker contracts were still being negotiated early Tuesday evening, including ones affecting employees at 12 community colleges.

Melissa Santos: 360-357-0209, @melissasantos1

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