Washington State Ferry Workers Fight to Keep "Vomit Pay"

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Most folks get paid a certain rate for all the time they work under 40 hours per week (besides journalists, who don't know the meaning of "overtime pay"). But some professions have varying scales of compensation that depend on what activities are being performed. For example, soldiers get paid more when they are actually fighting in a war zone, truckers get paid more when they transport hazardous material, and Washington State Ferry workers get paid double when they clean up barf. We'll let you guess which of those three examples is making state budget hawks sick.

WSF workers have long received double-time "vomit pay" for cleaning up human waste. But these days the state is broke and cuts are being handed down left and right.

The P-I reports that state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen wants the ferry workers to give up the barf bonus in the spirit of concessions.

"We certainly don't give overtime to some prison guard who cleans up after an inmate or even someone who worked caring for a person in their home and had to do an unpleasant task."

The ferry workers' union, meanwhile, is fighting any changes to the pay structure, saying that upchuck uptick covers a lot more than puke, and that hazardous materials and other waste are included.

"It could be vomit. It could be blood. It could be feces," said Terri Mast of the Inland Boatmen's Union.

But considering it's a boat, it's usually vomit.

Some workers have apparently been cheating on their vomit pay, clocking in double-time hours when there was no vomit or not as much vomit as would require whatever amount of time they claimed to spend cleaning it. The ferry workers and unions say that these cheaters are the exception, not the rule, and they shouldn't be used to justify punishing the lot of the workers.

No doubt that cleaning up puke is gross. Which is why this whole thing would be taken care of with a simple "You-Slop-It-You-Mop-It" policy for seasick passengers.

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