Mar. 8 -- Senate
compromises injured workers -- By
a 34-15 vote on March 5, the Democratic-controlled Senate approved a revised
SB 5566 that converts our state's workers' compensation system from one that
provides "sure and certain relief" to injured workers into an
adversarial process that allows employers to lawyer-up versus injured workers
and negotiate lump-sum "compromise and release" buyouts. Twelve
Democrats sided with all Republicans in voting for SB 5566.
28 -- Better care,
injury prevention cut workers' comp costs -- Organized
labor supports efforts to cut Washington's workers' compensation costs
associated with long-term disability pensions. But the best way to do that is
by utilizing best practices that have demonstrated success in achieving that
outcome, NOT by simply cutting off benefits when injured workers reach a
certain age or allowing "starve-and-settle" agreements. This week's Legislative
Update newsletter includes an explanation of which workers' compensation
bills labor supports and opposes, plus post-cutoff status reports on
previously reported legislation.
18 -- Creating
jobs, fixing workers' comp & more -- The deadline for
policy bills to pass committee in their house of origin is Monday (Presidents'
Day), for fiscal bills to pass committee in their house of origin is Friday,
Feb. 25, and for all bills to pass their house of origin is Monday, March 7.
See some summaries of important legislation the Washington State Labor Council
is following, including providing public-works bid preferences for in-state
contractors, creating aerospace apprenticeship opportunities, preventing work
injuries and implementing best practices to address the issue of rising
long-term disability claims, and more.
Feb. 14 -- A
measure of temporary relief for the unemployed -- After weeks of
negotiation, the Legislature approved legislation last week addressing both
taxes and benefits in our Unemployment Insurance system. In addition to
granting businesses permanently lower U.I. tax rates, it provides federal
extended benefits, plus enhancements to the existing training benefit program
and a temporary $25 boost in weekly benefits for all new claimants. Plus,
news regarding liquor privatization, workers' compensation changes, Washington
Film Works, and an opportunity to support state employees on Presidents Day,
Feb. 8 --
What will we do to help struggling families? -- Having
already decided how to help struggling businesses to avoid a Unemployment
Insurance tax increase, the question is: what will we do to help families
struggling with unemployment? The House is considering amending the
Senate-approved U.I. legislation to make its temporary business tax cuts
permanent and to provide additional temporary U.I. benefits for struggling
families. While it's not the permanent children's benefit increase supported
by the United for Washington Families coalition, getting an additional $20-$25
on the kitchen tables of Washington's unemployed families will provide some
measure of relief, and create nearly $200 million of purchasing power in local
economies. Plus, the WSLC urges legislators not to risk precious jobs
in Centralia by imposing an aggressive new timeline for the TransAlta power
plant to meet new greenhouse gas emission standards, and some Republicans want
to impose the "McKenna Minimum Wage," a creative interpretation of
1998's popular minimum wage initiative that would block its annual increases
in certain years. Bad idea.
Jan. 31 --
Don't take it out on ferry workers! -- There's no
question about it, the Washington State Ferries system is struggling. But it's
not because of its dedicated hard-working employees made it that way. Yet
legislation is being proposed to fix the WSF essentially by taking away ferry
workers' bargaining rights, unilaterally cutting their wages and benefits, and
privatizing parts of the system. These bills are blunt instruments that take
out a decade of frustration on the wrong people, trample on fundamental
workplace rights, and circumvent the collective bargaining process. Plus,
news on legislation to "build a better speed bump" on home
foreclosures, putting state money to work creating jobs with a State
Investment Trust, and updates on unemployment insurance and workers'
25 -- House panel
passes balanced U.I. bill -- The
House Labor and Workforce Development Committee chaired by Rep. Mike Sells
(D-Everett) has amended HB 1091, the governor's initial proposal for changes
to the state Unemployment Insurance system, to balance proposed business tax
cuts with a children's benefit to help families struggling with unemployment.
This change, supported by the growing United for Washington Families coalition
of community and labor groups, is a win-win-win to help families, businesses
and the economy, which are all suffering right now. Plus, news of a
so-called "right-to-work" bill filed by Republicans, Gov. Gregoire's
proposal on workers' compensation, and misguided efforts to deal with the
immigration issue at the state level.
18 -- Businesses
AND families are suffering -- Advocates
for Washington families support balancing Unemployment Insurance tax cuts
(price tag: $478 million) with a $15 children's benefit (price: $202 million)
to help 170,000 struggling families, instead of enacting a proposed training
benefit that might impact 1,900 people. While many in business lobbying groups
remain dedicated to tax cuts without relief for our families, friends and
neighbors, this may be one of the only opportunities our state legislators
have to make positive change in 2011. That's why we remain hopeful that
legislators on both sides of the aisle will set aside historic differences and
embrace this win-win-win proposal that helps business, families and our
economy. Plus, updates on paid family leave insurance
and a referendum to temporarily suspend tax breaks we can no longer afford.
Jan. 13 --
Balance U.I. tax cut with aid for children -- A
coalition of unions and other organizations is proposing an alternative more
balanced approach to Unemployment Insurance changes that recognizes the shared
struggles of businesses, families and communities. While we believe that Gov.
Gregoire's initial proposal is a good start to this discussion, it is not the
best path to economic recovery. Its modest improvements to training benefits
fall short of what is needed to address the immediate needs of families in
crisis and our state economy. We strongly believe MORE must be done for
families struggling to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads.
Thanks to the relative health of the U.I. Trust Fund, this may be the only
opportunity this year to do something positive for struggling families, while
also avoiding a U.I. rate increase for employers.