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First Contract Ratification Points to Power of Collective Bargaining

Stock photo by: Getty Images
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By WFSE and Jashua Bane Worth the Fight Workers' Rights
First Contract Ratification Points to Power of Collective Bargaining
Some Washington state assistant AGs with AFSCME President Lee Saunders (in a suit). (Photo by: WFSE)

In a testament to collective power, the 600 assistant attorneys general (AAGs) voted 96% this month to ratify their first collective bargaining agreement with the State of Washington.

These public servants and AFSCME Council 28/Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) members fought hard in the 2019 legislative session to win collective bargaining rights. The AAGs filed for recognition the day the law went into effect and have worked tirelessly to reach agreement in an expedited bargaining process.

“It’s been a long road, but I’m pleased that we reached our first contract,” said Eric Nelson, an AAG and president of the Association of Washington Assistant Attorneys General. “It’s been a tremendous experience affiliating and working with AFSCME Council 28 to secure a contract that will make a significant difference in improving the well-being of AAGs in the state of Washington.”

The one-year contact will help solve issues that AAGs have historically struggled with, such as heavy caseloads, salaries that have lagged behind other public agencies, and the lack of salary schedule, which leads to unpredictability and insecurity.

In addition to the 3% general wage increase scheduled for July 1, 2020, all AAGs will receive additional wage increases as they are placed on the salary schedule. That’s on top of the 4%-8% step increases, which will be based on years of service since their law school graduation. 

The bargaining team persuaded management to adopt a salary schedule that provides for the largest increases the Attorney General’s Office has seen in almost 20 years.

“We’re excited about coming together to form a union and go back to the bargaining table next year to collective bargain for another contract for 2021-2023,” said Nelson. “There is a bunch of work to do but we’re excited about doing it.”

At WFSE’s convention this month, AFSCME President Lee Saunders praised the AAGs for their victory.

“The affiliation of 600 assistant attorneys general earlier this year was a groundbreaking win,” said Saunders.  “It’s not just in Washington state that the Mean Green Machine is gathering a head of steam. Your union family across the country is racking up win after win.”

Saunders went on to cite recent organizing and contract victories secured by AFSCME members in Nevada, California and Oregon. Saunders also praised Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson for supporting the new AAG bargaining unit certified in time for raises to be included in the current budget.