Evergreen Workers Push Management for Snow Day Compensation

OLYMPIA, Wash. — When this year’s snow storm hit, the Evergreen State College failed to consider the economic impact on its lowest paid employees, denying them suspended operations pay. But 74 members took action, joining together in a group grievance.

“Everyone who was hourly was shocked. It was electric across campus. People were mad,” said Emmie Forman, a program coordinator in the Academic Dean’s Office since 2008.

To Forman, the issue was clear: similar to the struggle of public employees during the government shutdown, those least able to afford the loss of wages were bearing the brunt of management’s decisions.

 “It struck me that the people who were making these calls on policy didn’t have the lived experience of what that meant— they were salaried and didn’t have to worry about leave,” said Forman.

Many salaried workers could weather the storm by working from home, but that’s not feasible for most hourly workers at Evergreen. A custodian, for example, cannot clean from home.

Forman and her coworkers turned to collective action. United as WFSE members, they hand-delivered their grievance to President George Bridges’ office. The show of solidarity was inspiring, said Forman.  

 “It was really empowering to see how many people from across the campus were signing their names and willing to make a physical display of their presence.”

Salaried workers stood with their union brothers and sisters, too. Jean Eberhardt from the Student Support Services Staff Union publicly called for the college to do the right thing, and accompanied the group that delivered the grievance.

Delivered to the college president by 45 workers, the grievance was settled Friday, April 5. Thanks to those members, all classified bargaining unit employees will receive suspended operations pay for the first day of winter weather closures in February. 

“Only collectively do we have leverage. When we work together, we can actually make a difference, said Forman.