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In Pierce County, WA, WFSE staff win fight to work longer to better serve the community

In Pierce County, WA, WFSE staff win fight to work longer to better serve the community
By Pete Levine ·

They fight for crime victims, yet the professional support staff at Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office in Washington state were only allowed to work 35 hours a week – despite a 3,700-case backlog. Many weren’t making a living wage; some even had to rely on donations from food pantries.

“We know our work is important,” said Laura Devereaux, a legal assistant who has been with the prosecutor’s office for the past 27 years and is member of Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE/AFSCME Council 28). “We just want to be treated like it is.”

For years, the professionals who seek justice for crime victims were victims themselves – victims of a county needlessly suppressing their hours to hedge against possible budget shortfalls.

The question these crime fighters put to the county during contract negotiations was: “Are we 87.5% committed to support public safety?”

Now, after eight bargaining sessions and two mediations, the legal assistants, legal interviewers and victim advocates have ratified a new contract that recognizes the vital work they do.

That contract, which they ratified this month, increases their work hours to 37.5 per week, equivalent to a 7.1% pay increase. That comes on top of a 4% increase in the contract’s first year, and another 4% increase in the contract’s second year.

The contract also allows staff to revert to a previous position if they don’t clear probation in a new position, take sick leave without providing a reason, gives them a right to cash out for sick leave, among other wins.

This victory brings some justice to the essential workers who fight for crime victims, and it makes Pierce County safer.

To learn more about other AFSCME public safety professionals and how they’ve experienced the union difference, visit us here.

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