FRIDAY, APRIL 10, 2015
promises, broken priorities
by Senate Republican obstructionism
This is what
obstruction looks like.
Washington Gov. Jay
Inslee, the House of Representatives and a bipartisan majority in the Senate
29 of 49 senators all say they want to fully fund state employee
contracts in the 2015-17 budget. But a Senate
vote last week was rigged so that 20 Republicans could block that from
happening. Why? So the people who provide essential public services can be
used as bargaining chips in the negotiations that commenced this week to
reconcile the House and Senate budget plans.
all boils down to a minority of Senate Republicans playing politics with
people's livelihoods so that the wealthy, privileged, and corporate special
interests can continue to avoid paying their fair share to properly fund state
and their families in our communities have suffered enough. The people who
keep our neighborhoods safe, care for the elderly and disabled, teach and
protect our children, maintain our roads and transportation system, and
provide other essential state services have been asked to make many personal
sacrifices. Throughout the recession, our state government asked these workers
to do more for less, with the promise that in the future, things would get
better for them and their families. Now, after seven years of wage freezes and
cuts, unpaid furloughs and out-of-pocket increases for health care, the
economy has improved and it's time to keep that promise by funding the modest
3% and 1.8% raises in the contracts.
That's what the
governor, the House, and a clear majority in the Senate all want to happen.
Senate budget written by Sen. Andy Hill (R-Redmond) rejected the
amendment was proposed by Sen. Jim Hargrove (D-Hoquiam) to accept and
fully fund them. But Senate Republican leaders changed the rules to require a
30-vote supermajority for any budget amendments. That meant that, despite 29
senators (all Democrats and six Republicans) voting last week to approve and
fund the contracts, and just 20 Republicans voting "no," it failed.
cynical obstruction by a minority of senators led by Sen. Andy Hill
disrespects public employees, disparages the sacrifices their families have
made to help the state weather the recession, and devalues the work they do
every day to keep our communities safe and healthy.
Why are these
Republican senators doing it? Because they've put the interests of the
wealthy and well-connected corporate groups ahead of public employees and
their families. House Democratic leaders have proposed that the wealthiest
households pay a capital-gains tax as they do in 41 other states and
that some corporate tax breaks be allowed to expire so our state can meet its
obligations to fund our schools and other essential public services. It's a
positive step toward fixing the state's archaic revenue system that is the
most unfair in the nation. Here in Washington, those with the most pay less
than their fair share, while the rest of us pay more.
Republicans are so desperate to protect the 1% from paying their share that
they are willing to throw public employees under the bus. They say they're
fighting for "no new taxes," but nobody is proposing to raise your
taxes. No one is proposing that the 99% of us who already pay
our fair share including small businesses pay any more. It's only the
wealthy, the privileged, and the politically connected special interests who
benefit from Senate Republicans' no-new-taxes ideology.
legislative session scheduled to end in about two weeks (April 26), many are
predicting lawmakers will require yet another overtime session to agree on a
budget and the critically important transportation funding package waiting in
the wings. Overtime could still be avoided if cynical obstructionism and games
of political chicken, particularly those that disrespect and devalue public
service, could be set aside.
Prosperity bills killed
Three key bills
from the Washington State Labor Council's 2015 Shared
Prosperity Agenda that passed the House were killed in the Senate. No
votes were held on bills to raise the state minimum wage, allow all workers to
earn paid sick leave, and to promote equal pay in Washington, so voters won't
know where their senators even stand on these important issues.
Baumgartner (R-Spokane). chairman of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee,
held a Mar. 30 hearing on the bills before a standing-room-only crowd of
supporters. But he wouldn't allow a committee vote on the following bills, so
they died on the April 1 cutoff day:
MINIMUM WAGE HB
1355, sponsored by Rep. Jessyn Farrell (D-Seattle), would have raised the
state minimum wage to $12 an hour, roughly in 50-cent increments over the next
four years. In 2015, full-time minimum wage workers here still earn less than
$20,000 per year. The minimum wage is supposed to assure "the maintenance of
the minimum standard of living necessary for health, efficiency, and general
well being of workers." But families don't meet this standard with such low
pay and taxpayers end up subsidizing their poverty-wage employers because
their workers can't afford to meet their families' basic needs and require
public assistance for food, housing, and health care.
PAID SICK LEAVE HB
1356, sponsored by Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma), would have allowed all
workers to earn paid sick leave to take care of themselves or a loved one when
they are sick. One million people in this state lack paid sick leave and must
make the cruel choice of working sick or losing a day's wages. It endangers
public health when cooks, servers, and health-care workers expose others to
their illnesses by working sick. Paid sick leave will provide some economic
stability to families who are at the margins, and will promote good public
EQUAL PAY OPPORTUNITY ACT HB
1646, sponsored by Rep. Tana Senn (D-Mercer Island), would have updated
our state's 1943 equal pay law to ensure that employees are able to openly
discuss and inquire about their wages without fear of retaliation. This kind
of pay transparency is a vital step toward ensuring that the persistent gender
wage gap is finally closed. The bill had bipartisan sponsorship and passed
with bipartisan support in both House committee and on the House floor. But in
the Senate, equal pay didn't even merit a vote.
ignored to death in the Senate
Those weren't the
only bills that died on the killing floor of Sen. Baumgartner's committee.
COLLEGE FACULTY STEP INCREASES HB
1863, sponsored by Rep. Chris Reykdal (D-Olympia), would have allowed
colleges to use local funds to fulfill the bargaining agreements they
negotiate with faculty unions. It would create a shared responsibility between
the colleges and the state for investing in part- and full-time faculty, who
have not only been denied cost-of-living pay raises for six years but also
step pay increases amid higher education budget cuts. HB 1863 passed the House
on a bipartisan 64-34 vote, but it didn't even merit a Senate hearing.
PATIENT AND HEALTH CARE WORKER SAFETY HB
1732, also sponsored by Rep. Reykdal, would have ensured that nurses and
certain other health care employees can get uninterrupted meal and rest
breaks, and prohibit mandatory overtime for certain health care employees.
This is important for the safety of both health care workers and their
patients. It passed the House but died in Baumgartner's committee without a
There were many
other positive working family bills that died in Baumgartner's and other
Senate committees. We will report on all of them in the WSLC's 2015
Legislative Report and Voting Record after the dust settles.
to unveil transportation plan
On March 26, the
House Transportation Committee held a three-hour public hearing on the Senate's
transportation funding package, SB 5987. The plan calls for billions of
dollars of desperately needed road and transit improvements across the state
funded by an 11.7 cent per gallon increase in the state's gas tax.
was near unanimous support at the hearing for this new revenue, but there also
was outspoken opposition to "poison pills" embedded in the Senate plan. Under SB
5987, transit funding is held hostage to a 16-year ban on gubernatorial
action to reduce carbon pollution.
"This is a reckless
denial of the serious effects of a worsening climate-change crisis and pits
the growing need for multi-modal transportation choices against the need for
clean air," said
Jeff Johnson, President of the Washington State Labor Council.
SB 5987 also makes
the transportation package contingent on passing the package of "reform" bills
that further redirect and weaken environmental and labor priorities.
Since that March 26
hearing, state representatives on the transportation committee have been
weighing the public testimony and developing amendments to the Senate plan.
Next Tuesday, April 14, House Transportation Chair Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer
Island) is expected to release that panel's plan. So stay tuned
much more legislative coverage, check out The
of the 2015 WSLC Legislative Update newsletter:
23 -- Can we get fair hearings? -- Three key bills in the
Washington State Labor Council's Shared Prosperity Agenda -- raising the
minimum wage, granting paid sick leave, and the Equal Pay Opportunity Act --
will get hearings in the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee on March 30. In
the meantime, what of the many other bills -- those that haven't received as
much publicity, but are nonetheless important legislation affecting many
working families? PLUS: America's most unfair tax system, and Don't rob
pensions to balance budget
12 -- Cutoff carnage: The good, the bad and the undead -- March 11
was the cutoff deadline for policy bills to pass their houses of origin, which
led to a flurry of floor votes this week. Key bills affecting working families
-- some in positive ways and some negative -- have either advanced to the
opposite house or are now dead for the session. Here's a summary of some of
the working families bills and their status.
5 -- The dismantling of workers' comp -- ProPublica and NPR
reported the results of a ground-breaking national investigation into the
systematic destruction of the safety net for workers injured on the job, which
they found has been "steered by big business and aided by the recent
Republican takeovers of state legislatures." Washington's state-run
workers' compensation system has not been immune from such cutbacks. Check out
the list of Senate bills that would weaken our system. PLUS, the House passes
minimum wage and paid sick leave bills, and the Senate approves an
"unclean" transportation package.
-- Which side are they on? -- Washington voters will soon find out
which side their representatives are on. Three key pieces of the Washington
State Labor Council's 2015 Shared Prosperity Agenda are ready for a full vote
of the House any day now: protecting workers from retaliation
for speaking up about wage theft
and simply trying to earn a hard day's wage, increasing the state's minimum
wage over four years to create a new floor of $12 an hour, and allowing all
workers in Washington to earn sick leave to take care of themselves or a loved
one when they are sick. PLUS, hold the ideology on transportation, and more
cutoff deadlines loom.
-- We're being taken for a ride -- Because our aerospace tax incentives lack the accountability standards
required in most states, Washington taxpayers are subsidizing one of biggest
corporations in the world even as it sheds jobs in our state. PLUS, we are
subsidizing low-wage aerospace companies that have employees who can't meet
their families' basic needs. Plus, shared prosperity bills to be heard, and
Reception, Rally, Conference!
3 -- Giving companies what they want -- Instead of supporting
popular efforts to raise the minimum wage and promote paid sick days, some
Senate Republicans are focused on cutting injured workers'
benefits and establishing a new sub-minimum wage. Not exactly what we remember
them campaigning on, unless it was behind closed doors in meetings with
corporate executives and lobbyists. PLUS, get the details on the WSLC
Legislative Reception & Conference, plus a rally on the Capitol steps on
28 -- Give the people what they want -- It's hard
to find legislative issues more popular across party lines than raising the
minimum wage and allowing all workers to earn paid sick leave. But
more importantly, these proposals are the right thing to do -- especially at a
time of growing income inequality and stagnant wages. That
was the message delivered in the House Labor Committee during testimony on HB
1355 to accelerate the state's minimum wage increases so it reaches $12 an
hour in four years and HB 1356 to allow all workers to earn at least 40 hours
of paid time off per year. PLUS: Discouraging wage theft and retaliation; WSLC
backs Equal Pay Opportunity Act; Johnson: Create good jobs and tackle climate
20 -- Some bills are smart, some are just ALEC -- Legislators lined
up to support good bills to raise the minimum wage and set a standard for paid
sick leave. But in the Senate, a number of bills drafted by the "corporate
bill mill" ALEC have appeared to create new collective bargaining
obstacles for public employees. PLUS, hearing Tuesday on "ag gag"
bill, President's Report on Week 1 surprises, and meet WSLC Legislative Intern
12 -- Let's rise to the challenge! -- In 2015, the
Washington State Legislature has the opportunity not only to meet the
significant budget challenges, it can also take steps to help rebuild our
state -- and its middle class. PLUS, what's changed in 2015; Senate GOP taps
anti-union Sen. Baumgartner to chair labor panel; Same old transportation