At a recent hearing before the Washington State Senate's Commerce, Labor and Sports Committee, the Freedom Foundation documented how Gov. Jay Inslee's administration has allowed SEIU 775 to violate the terms of its collective bargaining agreement with the state, to the detriment of state operations, without facing any consequences.
State law requires individual providers (IPs) serving Medicaid-subsidized disabled or elderly clients to complete a certain amount of initial training and to periodically undertake additional continuing education (RCW 74.39A.074, RCW 74.39A.076, and RCW 74.39A.341). In addition, RCW 74.39A.360 establishes that,
"Beginning January 1, 2010, for individual providers represented by an exclusive bargaining representative under RCW 74.39A.270, all training and peer mentoring required under this chapter shall be provided by a training partnership. Contributions to the partnership pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement negotiated under this chapter shall be made beginning July 1, 2009. The training partnership shall provide reports as required by the department verifying that all individual providers have complied with all training requirements. The exclusive bargaining representative shall designate the training partnership."
Article 15.1 of SEIU 775's collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the state specifies that all training for IPs must be provided by the SEIU Healthcare NW Training Partnership (TP). Article 15.4 of the CBA requires the state to contribute 38 cents for every hour an IP works to the TP to fund its training costs. The TP reported receiving $18.6 million in total revenue on its 2015 990 form filed with the Internal Revenue Service.
Furthermore, Article 15.13 of SEIU 775's CBA provides:
"The Partnership shall provide all statewide training schedules for all basic training, advanced training and continuing education courses, including dates, locations, times, seating capacity and the primary language in which the class will be taught, to facilitate the Employer's observation of training courses. The schedules shall be available to the Employer through the Training Partnership's intranet portal."
In Oct. 2015, the Freedom Foundation requested that the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) provide the schedule of provider training sessions under the state Public Records Act. Instead of providing the records, DSHS notified SEIU 775 and the TP of the Freedom Foundation's request. When both objected to the release of the records, DSHS delayed releasing the schedules long enough to give the TP time to file a lawsuit seeking to block their release. In addition, the TP shut off the state's access to the "intranet portal" containing the training schedules and other TP information, according to court records.
Lorrie Mahar, Office Chief of the Training, Communication, Development and Quality Unit within Home & Community Services, Aging & Long Term Support Administration of DSHS, noted the following in a declaration filed in Dec. 2015:
- "Prior to December 4, 2015, DSHS employees regularly accessed the Training Partnership's web portal in order to retrieve information necessary to ensure that providers were in compliance with training requirements…"
- "On December 4, 2015, the Training Partnership revoked access to its web portal for all DSHS employees."
- "Since December 4, 2015, DSHS has had no means to independently verify whether a provider is in compliance."
Even though cutting off the state's access to the intranet portal is a clear violation of Article 15.13 of the CBA, the state has not filed a grievance or unfair labor practice against the union or taken any action to rectify the situation and enforce the CBA.
In fact, the Office of Financial Management (OFM), which handles labor relations with state employees' unions on behalf of the governor, informed the Freedom Foundation that "…there is no mechanism for the state to file grievances against a union" and reported that Inslee's administration has never once filed an unfair labor practice charge against SEIU 775. The union, on the other hand, has filed nearly 30 grievances against the state during Inslee's tenure.
Adding injury to insult, the lack of cooperation from SEIU and the TP tangibly impaired state operations.
Writing in a Jan. 13, 2016 email, Grace Kiboneka, planning and development manager in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Aging and Long-Term Support Administration at DSHS, warned other DSHS staff and contractors working on development of a new payroll system for IPs against relying on the TP for information:
"I would have advised against relying on TP data to supply bargaining info data under the CBA—that exposes us to a higher level of risk, as the TP may refuse to play then what? We are currently dealing with a similar issue related to reporting training completion. So, if we are the source of the data, we need to use our data." (Errors in original)
Not only does Kiboneka's email indicate the general uncooperativeness of the TP, but it indicates the TP may be violating state law as well as the CBA.
RCW 74.39A.360 requires the TP to "provide reports as required by the department verifying that all individual providers have complied with all training requirements." If, as Kiboneka's email indicates, the TP is not sharing IPs' training completion info with DSHS, it could be a direct violation of the statute.
State and union officials were invited to explain these events and defend their actions at a work session of the Senate Commerce, Labor and Sports Committee on May 17. All declined to attend, however, leaving the Freedom Foundation to lay out these facts. SEIU 775's secretary-treasurer, Adam Glickman, did submit a brief letter to the committee claiming that, "…the Training Partnership is continuing to provide class schedules to the State in a timely and appropriate manner."
To verify Glickman's claim, the Freedom Foundation submitted another public records request to DSHS for the schedule of IP trainings on May 26.
DSHS responded to the request this week, confirming to the Foundation that, "The Training Partnership does not send class schedules to the Department" and that DSHS "does not have the records requested."
In other words, Glickman and other SEIU officials were not only too cowardly to explain their actions before the committee in person, but they lied to the committee in the written comments they submitted.
The behavior of state officials similarly leaves much to be desired. The fact that Inslee's administration has taken no action to rectify the disruption to state operations caused by the TP's actions means one of two things: Washington's collective bargaining laws are broken or Inslee is simply unwilling to enforce the law against a prolific campaign donor. Neither possibility is reassuring.