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Professional Exempt Staff Win First Contract, Unite with AFT Faculty at Grays Harbor College

Grays Harbor Pro Staff members, Chris Macht, Kelsey Stegner, Lori Christmas, Berta Gibby

Student success navigators, coordinators, associate directors, and more professional exempt staff at Grays Harbor College have successfully organized with AFT and bargained their first-ever union contract. Improvements in the agreement include the right to file grievances, new wage bumps for seniority, more paid time off, and most importantly, a real voice on the job.

Associate Director of Running Start Lori Christmas was there throughout the entire campaign. “When we called AFT, people were fearful of losing their jobs because admin was making our lives super difficult,” she says. “Looking back, it was totally worth the journey, since we are now successfully pushing back when management tries to throw new job duties our way. We can finally say no without being afraid.”

In January 2021, with the support of more than 70% of her coworkers, Lori and the rest of the AFT organizing committee filed to organize their union through the state’s Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC).  “It was not an overnight process,” Lori says, “but we spent the time doing surveys, building up our bargaining team, and preparing ourselves to finally get to the place we needed to be: the bargaining table across from Grays Harbor College administration.”

The group also decided to join the currently existing AFT local that represents faculty, the Grays Harbor Federation of Teachers Local #4984. “We just thought it made sense for us to have one local, since we’re all here for the same reason: student success. We don’t need to be in separate silos. And they agreed!”

The new members unanimously ratified their first union contract in October 2022, and now they are looking forward to organizing on a bigger stage. “I want to be involved in improving things for students at a statewide level now,” Lori says. “And that includes helping other college employees overcome their fear and go union. When you have a bigger voice at work, you can make a difference.”

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