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Biden administration moves to protect Alaska wilderness; opening statements and first witness in NY trial; SCOTUS hears Starbucks case, with implications for unions on the line; rural North Carolina town gets pathway to home ownership.

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The Supreme Court weighs cities ability to manage a growing homelessness crisis, anti-Israeli protests spread to college campuses nationwide, and more states consider legislation to ban firearms at voting sites and ballot drop boxes.

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Wyoming needs more educators who can teach kids trade skills, a proposal to open 40-thousand acres of an Ohio forest to fracking has environmental advocates alarmed and rural communities lure bicyclists with state-of-the-art bike trail systems.

WA Corrections Workers Say State Reneged on Pandemic Bonus Pay

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Monday, July 17, 2023   

Washington state corrections workers are calling on the state to keep their word and deliver on pandemic-related bonuses.

More than 400 union members of the Washington Federation of State Employees who work at the Department of Corrections say they've been informed they won't get a $1,000 Recognition and Retention Lump Sum payment negotiated in their latest contracts.

Jim Furchert, community corrections officer for the Washington State Department of Corrections and a union steward for the Washington Federation of State Employees, said the payments are needed.

"A thousand bucks may not seem like that much money to some folks," Furchert noted. "But to some of our lower-income folks -- our support staff, folks that aren't making, oftentimes, a family wage in my mind -- $1,000 is a huge amount of money."

The bonus is for workers who were employed on or before July 1, 2022, and remained employed a year later. The Department of Corrections referred questions about the payment to the Office of Financial Management, which said it had no comment because it anticipates litigation over the matter.

Furchert argued workers earned their pay working while COVID-19 raged. He pointed out arrests were still being made at the height of the pandemic, meaning corrections officers had to transport people to prison or jail.

"In that transport, you're in a car with a person. You don't know their COVID status, you don't know what they had," Furchert recounted. "I can't think of a CCO or a community corrections officer, or even a correctional specialist, that didn't get COVID during the pandemic, because we were still out doing the work."

Furchert stressed corrections workers in the state are implementing changes to the system to make people's lives better.

"The Washington State Community Corrections Division is one of the most progressive in the nation for some of the techniques we're using and some of the practices we're doing," Furchert emphasized. "I mean, we're really doing groundbreaking programs and groundbreaking approaches to attempt to impact behavior change."

Washington Federation of State Employees have written a petition to leadership in the state the public can sign.

Disclosure: The Washington Federation of State Employees-AFSCME Council 28 contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, Health Issues, and Livable Wages/Working Families. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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