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UPDATED DAILY -- M-F by 9 a.m.

Links to press stories are functional at the date of posting.  In some cases, free registration is required at newspapers' sites.  Links sometimes "expire" when the source would like to begin charging for old news. WSLC Reports Today  links to all stories of interest to organized labor; some positive, some negative. The intention is to inform. The creation of a link does not constitute an endorsement of that story's content.

Reports for January 24-28, 2005

Previous weeks' news: Jan. 17-21 -- Jan. 10-14 -- Jan. 3-7

FRIDAY, Jan. 28 -- State tax system "unconscionable" (WSLC Legislative Update)

Also today -- U.S. union membership still dropping; Washington ranks 6th -- IAM plans informational picket Jan. 31 to save Alaska Airlines jobs
— In today's Seattle P-I -- Boeing lands key order -- After months of negotiations, delays and political intrigue, Boeing will finally get its long-awaited order today from Chinese airlines for 60 787 jetliners. That's right: 787s. Boeing will also announce this new name for the Jet Formerly Known As 7E7.
— Today from AP --
Boeing draws line, calls for "full elimination" of European subsidies to Airbus
— In today's Bellingham Herald --
WWU faculty debates union eligibility -- Vote on campus union will be delayed as WWU administration seeks to exclude department chairs and others from joining.
— In the Centralia Chronicle -- Would-be workers learn about the original 4-year degree -- In 2003, Paige Tracy was referred to the apprenticeship fair. The Chehalis resident was unemployed, going through a divorce and raising five children. Laborers Local 252 thought she was a good candidate and sent her for training and testing. She scored 98 out of 100. Two days later, she was working, getting paid a minimum of $14.06 per hour plus benefits. “I raised five children on this program,” said Tracy.
Today from SEIU 775 -- Take action: Help stop the DSHS cuts in homecare workers' hours
— In today's Seattle P-I -- Budget writers see ray of hope; state revenues are up as economy improves
— In yesterday's (Vancouver) Columbian --
Legislative panel OKs bill to scrutinize tax breaks
— In today's King County Journal --
Gregoire seeks revenue-neutral tax cut for small businesses -- The
$52 million tax break would be financed by taking some existing tax exemptions off the books.

— Today from AP --
Gregoire: Let's manage the state better -- Governor aims to require agencies to set up systems to measure the effectiveness of services and whether intended results are achieved. -- Nip, tuck... and tax? Bill seeks "vanity tax" to elective cosmetic surgery -- Sen. Karen Keiser, the bill's sponsor, says she's never gone under the knife for beauty, but wouldn't rule it out.
Today from AFL-CIO -- Sweeney: Bush's civil service changes endanger public safety
— In today's NY Times -- Four unions sue over new rules for Homeland Security workers
— In today's Wash. Post --
Hill urges caution on civil service changes -- Bush should wait and see how personnel systems work before spreading them government-wide, say key members of Congress. -- Bush faces new skepticism from Republicans on Hill -- Bush is accustomed to getting his way with Congress, but mid-level and rank-and-file Republicans have begun to assert themselves on issues including intelligence reform, immigration and a major restructuring of Social Security.
— In today's Seattle P-I -- A smart experiment -- Editorial: A group of 60 corporations is experimenting with a new way to extend health insurance to workers who don't qualify for traditional benefits, including part-time workers, contractors, temporary workers, consultants and early retirees.
— In today's LA Times --
Costs make employers see smokers as a drag -- Pointing to rising health costs and the oversized proportion of insurance claims attributed to smokers, some U.S. employers are refusing to hire applicants who smoke and, sometimes, firing employees who refuse to quit.

THURSDAY, Jan. 27 -- Sweeney to unionists: Are you ready to fight for what's right? -- Festival of Workers' Culture will be Feb. 18-20 at Seattle Labor Temple
— In today's Bremerton Sun -- Felon voting charge diluted (or "Why the GOP will lose in court") -- BIAW alleges 11 felons in Kitsap County illegally voted, and forwards that list to the GOP for their suit. But a Sun investigation shows just two of the felons on the list actually voted illegally. The rest didn't vote, had voting rights restored or had them stripped after the election. But here's the kicker, both felons The Sun was able to interview, including one of the "illegal voters," say they voted for Rossi!  Why?  Because Rossi was the preferred candidate of felons and dead people.
— In today's Seattle P-I --
GOP says 300 voted illegally -- Boss Vance refuses to provide list (see above).
— In the Seattle Weekly -- The minus touch -- A study of electronic voting in Snohomish County suggests the machines switched votes for Rossi. But there's no way to prove it. Rossi, who says he's suing to "restore public confidence," doesn't seem too concerned by these unvetted touch-screen votes, despite the study's conclusion that his Snohomish victory was "a mathematical impossibility."
— In today's Yakima H-R --
Rossi concedes his decision to sue risks his political future -- Rossi: "Some people were saying, 'You've got to preserve your political future,' and not contest it. And I said I resigned from the Senate. I don't need a political future."
— In today's Olympian --
School levy supermajorities focus of bill -- Firm: Give state leaders a raise
— In today's News Tribune --
Quirky process begins for state leaders' raises -- “I just don’t think it’s right for legislators who aren’t allowing state workers to receive an increase to receive one themselves,” says one especially astute, thoughtful member of the citizen's commission that will decide the issue.
— In today's Seattle Times --
Judge rejects suit over Western State Hospital firing --
Bigger 737 gets a closer look -- A high-level review begins today in Seattle, as company officials weigh whether to offer a new, bigger version of the 35-year-old best-seller.
— Today from AP --
China gives 7E7 a long look; carriers balancing jet's virtues against Airbus A380
Todat at -- Charles Schwab: Don't pick our pockets to line yours! -- Protests held outside Schwab offices in response to the financial firm's advocacy for Social Security privatization. Of course, it's not just Schwab and Wall Street pushing Bush's plan, Boeing and other companies based in Washington are also pushing privatization because they're afraid payroll taxes might go up.
— In today's NY Times --
Chile's retirees find shortfall in private plan -- Chileans find that their pension system, which Bush cites as a model for Social Security privatization, is falling short of expectations.
— In today's Washington Post -- Civil service system on the way out at Homeland Security -- Bush unveils a new personnel system dramatically changing the way workers are paid, promoted, deployed and disciplined -- and soon will ask Congress to grant all federal agencies similar authority. "They are encouraging a management of coercion and intimidation," says AFGE President John Gage. -- Unions strongly disagree with Ridge on new personnel rules
— In today's NY Times --
Republicans squaring off over Bush plan on immigration -- Love for sale -- Dowd column: I'm herewith resigning as a member of the liberal media elite. I'm joining up with the conservative media elite. They get paid better.
— In today's LA Times -- L.A. hotels face NLRB charges that they improperly declared impasse -- Hotel spokesguy downplays significance of NLRB action, saying the appeal process can take years. Welcome to workplace justice, American-style. This is exactly why we need labor law reform.

— Today from Reuters -- 36 U.S. troops die in Iraq in their bloodiest day

President George W. Bush declares an end to major combat operations in Iraq aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003.

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 26 -- WFSE sets up rapid response to distortions about state workers' contracts
— In today's Tri-City Herald -- Report blasts meat companies -- Human Rights Watch accuses U.S. meat and poultry companies, including Tyson Foods Inc., of exposing workers to hazardous working conditions and using unethical tactics to fight union organization. (Don't forget Saturday's event in Pasco to support Tyson workers.)
— In today's Everett Herald --
Issues for talks haven't changed -- SPEEA has started contract talks with BAE Systems, which bought Boeing's commercial airplanes electronics division, and IAM is surveying workers about health care concerns, in preparation for its Boeing contract talks.
— In the Seattle Weekly --
Tough times -- The Seattle Times offers a severance package to union in exchange for "flexibility" in which 110 employees they fire.
— In today's Daily World -- Grays Harbor backs Sierra mill -- "All we hear these days is cuts," said one AWPPW rep. "It's nice to hear about the creation of family-wage jobs."
— In today's Yakima H-R -- There's hope for growers of asparagus; might not be "train wreck" after all
— In today's Seattle P-I --
Payroll cause of Seattle schools' budget woes (op-ed by school board's Dick Lilly)
Olympia news: — Today from AP -- State legislators look to Canadian drugs
— In today's News Tribune -- Your company's entitled to cash in on your death (Voelpel column)
— In the Seattle Weekly --
The minus touch -- A study of touch-screen voting in Snohomish County suggests that machines favored Dino Rossi. But there's no way to prove it. Republicans who are suing for a new election, don't seem too bothered by the unvetted touch-screen votes.
National news: — In today's LA Times -- $427 billion budget deficit to set record -- In July, the White House projected this year's budget deficit would be $331 billion. Today they say Bush will still keep his promise to cut the deficit in half by 2008. Meanwhile, they will fight to make Bush's tax cuts permanent and to privatize Social Security despite its more than $1 trillion price tag.
— In today's SF Chronicle --
Bush's Social Security plan pressures workers -- Lazarus column: It's gradually becoming clear what Bush means by an "ownership society": You're on your own.
— In today's NY Times --
Senators urge Bush to sell overhaul of Social Security -- Republican senators caution Bush that his privatization plan is faltering because the public was not convinced that a fundamental overhaul was necessary. They urge him to "calm the seniors and win the youth." --
The wrong Attorney General -- Editorial: Gonzales's tainted record makes him unqualified to ensure that justice prevails at home or to represent the American justice system to the world.
— In today's Washington Post --
A degrading policy -- Editorial: Alberto Gozales was vague, unresponsive and misleading in his testimony to Congress the Bush administration's detention of foreign prisoners. In anticipation of today's vote on his nomination as attorney general, he was clearer -- disturbingly so. He has now confirmed that the Bush administration is violating human rights as a matter of policy.
— In The
Onion -- U.S. children still traumatized one year after Super Bowl breast exposure -- "Mommy has dirty chest bumps," said a 5-year-old boy in one of the thousands of FCC case studies. "She's like the bad lady on TV. I'm afraid Mommy will take off her shirt and scare everyone. I hate Mommy."

TUESDAY, Jan. 25 -- ACTION ALERT: Tell legislators to support apprenticeship!

At -- Meat, poultry workers often risk their lives on job, report finds -- Read this report and then make plans to support Pasco's Tyson Foods workers this Saturday.
— In today's Seattle P-I -- Group Health ratifies pacts -- GHC succeeded in introducing medical insurance premiums for the first time, but workers beat back the steeper premiums than GHC pushed last year. --
Audits can provide psychic payback -- Virgin column: The Washington State Labor Council is a big proponent of (performance audits for tax breaks), but the benefits of such audits are often oversold. That said, as fads go, this one is relatively harmless, and could even deliver some benefit.
— In yesterday's Columbian --
Legislature likely to approve reviews of tax breaks
— In today's Olympian --
HB 1070 limiting retro fees is pure retaliation -- Editorial: (The bill) is little more than sweet political payback. It strips the BIAW of a major source of their campaign cash. But political retribution is bad public policy. So is censorship of free speech. And that's what HB 1070 is.
— In Sunday's News Tribune --
Bill benefits unions at workers' expense -- Op-ed by the former campaign manager for right-wing radio host John Carlson's gubernatorial campaign (no recount necessary on that one). He argues that the evildoing public-employee unions and Governor Locke negotiated a collective bargaining agreement that forces "mandatory dues" on state employees. He forgets to mention that state workers elected their own bargaining representatives and VOTED for this contract. Apparently, democracy has no place in the American workplace, only in oil-rich Middle East nations.
— Today from AP --
New sawmill at Port of Everett is a pleasant surprise
— In today's Seattle Times --
Hanford shipping extends its lease at Port of Seattle until 2015 
— In today's King Co. Journal --
Black employees at Boeing get class-action status in discrimination suit
— In today's Seattle Times -- Crackdown unlikely on felon voters
— In today's Bremerton Sun --
WSF should stay out of foot ferries (editorial) --
"This will destroy the community" -- Despite neighbors' vocal opposition, a private ferry firm  insists on using a community dock instead of Southworth because they "don't want to operate from a facility in which Washington State Ferries' labor unions have a stake." Kitsap Transit obliges.
— In today's News Tribune --
Two hats are tight fit for State Senator -- Ethics Board considers GOP Sen. Don Benton's new business, selling an electronic clipping service that compiles articles published each day on government, politics and public policy. (What a great idea!)
— In today's Seattle Times --
"Waiting for Lefty" is a labor-movement history lesson (theater review)
National news: — Today from AP -- AARP digs in heels on Social Security, opposes privatization --
Feds halt survey of migrant farm workers -- DOL has decided to quit collecting data on migrant farm workers even as its reports showed the share of illegal immigrants holding those jobs grew from 7 percent to more than 50 percent in just a decade. Sgt. Schultz approves.
— In today's LA Times --
Grocers, union in Bay Area reach deal; two-tier wage system avoided
— In today's NY Times --
Bush looking for ways to ease opposition to Social Security plan -- One way being suggested is to champion a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
— In today's Washington Post -- Report sheds light on changing role of federal regulation

MONDAY, Jan. 24 -- Group Health caregivers overwhelmingly ratify new contract
— In Saturday's Olympian -- BIAW, WSLC clash over member lists -- In response to WSLC efforts to identify public entities in the BIAW's retro group, the BIAW acquired a list of all unionized public employees. For what? "The only way I would use that list is if they use ours," said BIAW boss Tom McCabe. Should such a list of public employees be public? Without irony, the man who fought to keep his list secret, says he's opposed to limiting public documents "on principle." Learn more.
— In Sunday's Tri-City Herald --
Pesticide test's focus must stay on workers -- Editorial: Critics of the testing have valid concerns, but the the agricultural community must work with the state to ensure that everything possible is being done to help L&I's monitoring efforts protect workers.
— In today's Olympian --
Democrats push agenda backlog -- "Fast-track" bill list includes performance audits of agencies AND tax breaks, prescription drug bills, mental health parity and apprenticeship.
— In Sunday's Columbian --
The right thing -- Editorial: Republican objections to regular performance audits of tax breaks sound thin. (Approving this legislation) is the right thing to do.
— Sunday from AP --
Delicate dance surrounds state taxes -- The early talk is "sin taxes" and an array of fees, and not an increase in the Big 3 -- sales, business and property taxes.
— In the PS Business Journal --
Coming soon: toll roads -- "There's no question that tolls will be a part of new infrastructure," said Senate Transportation chair Mary Margaret Haugen (D-Camano Island).
— Today from AP --
Constitution, not felons and dead voters, key to election challenge
— In today's Seattle Times -- Democrats prefer election fight at Capitol -- Down payment on children's health -- Editorial: Gov. Gregoire showed the right priorities in launching her term by reversing rules that could've cost 19,000 children their health-care coverage.
National news: — In today's NY Times -- Some see risks for the GOP in new strength -- Bush's new clout is already being tested by Republican doubts about his domestic agenda, rising national unease about Iraq and the threat of second-term overreaching, officials in both parties say. --
A bridge to sell -- Editorial: All told (under Bush's proposals), by 2030, the national debt would be as big as the economy itself. To compare, consider that in the last 50 years, national debt has equaled only 38 percent of the economy, which includes the tremendous debt from World War II.

Previous weeks' news: Jan. 17-21 -- Jan. 10-14 -- Jan. 3-7

U.S. union membership still dropping, Washington ranks 6th

The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics released its annual report on union membership Thursday and unionization rates continue to drop nationally. The overall number of American union members fell last year to 15.5 million, down 300,000 from 2003, and the union membership rate dropped from 12.9% in 2003 to 12.5% in 2004. That national rate has steadily declined from a high of 20.1% in 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available.

In Washington state, the number of union members climbed 8,000 to an estimated 510,000, but the overall union membership rate dropped from 19.7% in 2003 to 19.3% in 2004 as the state emerged from the national recession and added some 106,000 jobs. Washington now ranks 6th highest in the nation in terms of the unionization rate.

Note: The DOL news release on union membership statistics is posted in HTML at

The drop in national union membership was fueled by President George W. Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress which stripped many federal employees of their right to be union members. The three states suffering the biggest declines in union membership rates were Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C., which combined to lose more than 120,000 members, accounting for more than a third of nationwide membership losses in 2004.

That trend may continue at a state level in 2005 as Republican governors move to strip state employees of their right to be union members. This month, when the new Republican governors of Indiana and Missouri took office, they immediately ordered an end to collective bargaining rights for state employees.

The DOL's latest report on declining union membership comes at a time when organized labor is debating how to reverse its steady decline. A number of international unions have called for a restructuring of the AFL-CIO to increase its focus on recruiting new members and better assist affiliated unions in their organizing campaigns. (For more information, visit Strengthening Our Union Movement for the Future, a website where union members, activists and leaders can add their ideas about the union movement’s challenges and opportunities, and keep up-to-date on proposals for change.)

"The numbers illustrate the convergence of two painful trends for America's working families," said AFL-CIO spokeswoman Sarah Massey. "The climate for workers who want to organize unions to better their economic situation is increasingly antagonistic, and good jobs are still disappearing."

Recent surveys have indicated that about half of all American workers say they would join a union today if they could.  But unscrupulous employers and a multi-billion dollar union-avoidance consulting industry routinely fire, harass and intimidate workers who express interest in joining unions -- even though that's illegal.

Cornell University scholar Kate Bronfenbrenner studied hundreds of organizing campaigns, and found:

  • When faced with employees who want to join together in a union, 92 percent of private-sector employers force employees to attend closed-door meetings to hear anti-union propaganda; 80 percent require supervisors to attend training sessions on attacking unions; and 78 percent require that supervisors deliver anti-union messages to workers they oversee.

  • 75 percent hire outside consultants to run anti-union campaigns, often based on mass psychology and distorting the law.

  • Half of employers threaten to shut down partially or totally if employees join a union.

  • In 25 percent of organizing campaigns, private-sector employers illegally fire workers because they want to form a union.

  • Even after workers successfully form a union, in one-third of the instances, employers never negotiate a contract.

That's why the national AFL-CIO has undertaken Voice@Work, a multi-year campaign to restore the freedom of U.S. workers to join unions. The AFL-CIO, its affiliated international unions, and its state and local federations -- including the Washington State Labor Council -- have made growing unions their No. 1 priority.

As part of that campaign, historic legislation called the Employee Free Choice Act was introduced in Congress last year. This bill is intended to articulate the kind of labor law reform that will ultimately be necessary level the playing field for American workers. All of Washington's Democratic representatives in Congress have signed on as co-sponsors, but the measure has little chance of passing given Republican control of the White House and both houses of Congress.

So union activists are reaching out to community groups, religious leaders and elected officials to involve them in workers’ efforts to join unions. These allies educate the public about how unions help lift up communities by raising the standard of living and show workers they’re not alone in their struggle. Click here for more information.

IAM plans informational picket Jan. 31 to save Alaska Air jobs

The Washington State Labor Council urges all union members and community supporters to attend the following rally and support Alaska Airlines workers:

Machinists Union Informational Picket
to Save Hundreds of Jobs at Alaska Airlines

SEATAC – The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers has organized an informational picket and rally to protest Alaska Airlines proposal to subcontract their ramp jobs to an outside vendor. These are family-wage jobs represented by the Machinists Union that should remain a part of Alaska Airlines.

WHAT:  Rally to Save 500+ Machinists Union Jobs at Alaska Airlines in the Puget Sound Region

WHO:   IAM Members, Other Unions, Concerned Citizens

WHEN:   Monday, January 31, 2005
              10 a.m. to noon and 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

WHERE:  Alaska Airlines Corporate Headquarters
               19200 Pacific Hwy S. in SeaTac

WHY:    Alaska Airlines has proposed subcontracting these 600 area jobs to the lowest bidder.  IAM members have proudly done this work for Alaska and should continue as Alaska Airlines employees.  Don’t let these family-wage jobs be subcontracted

CONTACTS:   Mark Walker 253-228-8247 or 206-878-5498

For more information about Alaska Airlines threat to contract out the IAM jobs, see the Jan. 19 Seattle Times story: Alaska might outsource 500 jobs; SeaTac baggage handlers at risk

Festival of Workers' Culture planned at Seattle Labor Temple

Following is a recent press release from the Pacific Northwest Labor History Association:

The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association, RiseUp! Productions and the Seattle Labor Chorus have teamed up to present an exciting celebration of workers’ culture.

On February 18-20, 2005, A Festival of Workers’ Culture will be held at the Seattle Labor Temple.  This Festival of labor music, art, poetry and theater will highlight the 100th anniversary of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

Three general sessions will explore such issues as free speech, the culture of itinerant workers, and the use of culture in organizing -- historically in relation to the IWW, as well as in the context of the present day labor movement.

We will be bringing performers and presenters together with other interested trade unionists and friends of labor to not just exchange songs, stories and ideas, but to devise ways of integrating this culture into the life of workers and their unions.

A participatory feature that will run throughout the festival is the “Arts Exchange,” during which time festival attendees can sign up to “be on stage” for five minutes to perform a song, recite a poem, tell a story, etc.  A number of interesting workshops will also be presented, on such topics as The Use of Video in Organizing, Racism and Labor, The Soldier as Worker, and Library Workers as Cultural Workers.

The Saturday evening session will feature a presentation of “Hold The Fort,” written and performed by singer and songwriter John O’Connor.  It is a narrative of IWW history in the Pacific Northwest, interspersed with Wobbly songs as well as songs written by Mr. O’Connor.

The entire festival will culminate Sunday evening with a public concert featuring both nationally acclaimed performers and the songs, stories and poems created by the festival participants.

For more information on the festival program, schedule and registration, contact:  Ross Rieder at (206) 524-0346 or; or Janet Stecher at (206) 524-7753 or

Sweeney to unionists: Are you ready to fight for what's right?

Following is an open letter to union activists written by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney that was distributed Wednesday. For more information, visit the AFL-CIO website.

Dear Union Activist:

Every day I hear from working family activists who are ready and eager to fight for what we believe is best about America. They are not discouraged by the start of President Bush’s second term, even though he and his allies in Congress attack our jobs, paychecks, health care, retirement security and basic rights. In fact, they are more revved up than ever.

Everywhere around the country, working people are telling me they won’t allow our country to be hijacked by an agenda based on corrupt principles. We have a vision of what this country should be, they say, and we are not giving it up.

The president was re-elected by the narrowest of margins. He has not won a mandate for his proposed assaults on basic security, basic decency and our basic values. We won’t accept his effort to privatize Social Security, cut taxes for the wealthy and raise them for workers, slash investment in schools and health care, roll back environmental protections, free corporations from accountability and pack the courts with ideologues intent on turning back the rights of women and others.

I believe America will reject his agenda designed to benefit the wealthy, corporate special interests and right-wing extremists at the expense of working families.

But it’s going to be a battle. Let me tell you what’s coming.

Social Security: We are going to stop President Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security that would cut benefits drastically, make retirement less rather than more secure and saddle our children with $2 trillion in debt in the first 10 years alone. You’ve already made a difference by getting more than 500,000 copies of the Petition to Protect Social Security to lawmakers and urging investment companies like Charles Schwab to drop support for privatization. In the coming weeks we will do much more together as the fight for Social Security heats up.

Good Jobs: Together we’re going to turn around the trend of rewarding companies for exporting good U.S. jobs and hold corporations accountable for the Wal-Marting of jobs and benefits. No more trade agreements that sell out America to the lowest bidder. No more sweetheart deals for rich companies that pay so little and offer such lousy benefits their workers end up on Medicaid. We need jobs that pay living wages and provide family health care coverage and secure retirement benefits. We’re through taking a backseat to corporate greed and the politicians who coddle it.

Freedom to Choose a Union: U.S. and international law promise us the basic right to choose for ourselves whether to join together with coworkers to bargain with our employers for safe jobs, decent working conditions and the best way to get work done. Today that’s an empty promise because employers routinely harass, intimidate and even fire workers who try to form unions. Our labor laws are too weak and our government, led by the most anti-union administration in modern times, fails to enforce even those inadequate protections. Together we’re going to blow the whistle on worker abuses—we’re going to take the fight for workers’ freedom to form unions and bargain to the boardroom, city hall, the state house and the U.S. Capitol and say in our loudest voices: "No more!"

Again and again over the coming months we are going work together for what we believe in—we’re going to rally, picket, phone and fax, e-mail and talk to everyone we know to enlist a powerful army in the fight for working families. It’s going to take determination, nonstop commitment and unlimited energy. It’s going to take every one of us. And it’s going to succeed.

I’m not ready to give up on what I know America can be and should be and will be. I know you are not either. I look forward to our work together.

In solidarity,

John Sweeney
AFL-CIO President
Jan. 26, 2005

WFSE sets up rapid response to distortions about contracts

Following is an excerpt from the newsletter of the Washington Federation of State Employees, AFSCME Council 28 newsletter to its members. It concerns an op-ed in Sunday's News Tribune by -- Bill benefits unions at workers' expense -- written by the former campaign manager for right-wing radio host John Carlson's gubernatorial campaign who now runs a business-funded think tank.


As the Senate holds its first hearing today (Tuesday) on your negotiated pay and benefits, several groups are waging a war in the editorial pages to undermine your efforts to win the first pay raises in four years and stabilized health costs.

The Tacoma News Tribune on Sunday ran an “op-ed” piece penned by the president of the Washington Policy Center, a conservative “think tank” founded years ago by conservative talk radio host John Carlson, who ran for governor and lost in a landslide in 2000.

The author said those covered by the contract and legislators were somehow aren’t well served by the law and the process. Now, you know what your Federation leaders and the hundreds of bargaining team members think of the negotiated contracts. We know there’s controversy among non-members about the union security clause. 

But whatever you think, do you think the Washington Policy Center really has your best interests in mind? After all, this is a group whose website boasts that it helped write the state’s new contracting out rules. Is the Washington Policy Center really interested in your economic well being? Or is its prime interest the economic well being of its board members from business interests that would benefit from contracting out? A group whose board also includes a former congressman and several legislators who rarely if ever supported better pay and benefits for you. This makes it odd that this group would attack a law and process (including fair share/union security) that was approved in 2002 by a bi-partisan majority that included such Republican stalwarts as Sen. Don Benton, Sen. Pam Roach, Sen. Dan Swecker and former Sen. Don Carlson. What does the Washington Policy Center know that Sens. Benton, Roach and Swecker didn’t?

The biggest distortion is that legislators somehow gave up power under collective bargaining. The fact is the 2002 law required that a select committee of legislative leaders be consulted during bargaining. There are other checks and balances in the law -- lawmakers can turn thumbs down on pay and benefits, but that rejection would trigger new negotiations, not a death sentence to the negotiated economic terms of the agreement. And there are other safety valves in the case of a serious economic crisis, as determined by the governor or Legislature. The Legislature maintains its prime role in the process. The only way that wouldn’t be true is if the collective bargaining law bypassed the Legislature -- something it did not do and constitutionally could not do.

The final major distortion is union dues. The Washington Policy Center op-ed article said the contracts increased your dues. That’s false. Union dues are set by the membership at convention; it requires a change in the union’s constitution. And union dues have not been raised by the convention in several years -- and certainly were not raised at the last convention in October 2004.

Many of you have asked for help writing letters to the editor to respond to these ongoing attacks. Feel free to use any of the information to write letters to the editor responding to the Tacoma News Tribune. You can send letters to: The Editor, TNT, P.O. Box 11000, Tacoma, WA  98411; fax (253) 597-8451; e-mail If you’d like to be part of the Federation Rapid Response Team, e-mail us at And if you see or hear attacks in your local media, let us know, too.

ACTION ALERT: Tell legislators to support apprenticeship!

HB 1028 and SB 5097, companion bills to promote apprenticeship utilization in Washington state, are on the move in Olympia. But so are the construction lobbying groups that oppose them.

HB 1028 would codify and make permanent the rules that have been in place for nearly five years requiring 15 percent of work hours on major public works projects be performed by state-approved apprentices. (See the WSLC's Jan. 21 Legislative Update for details.)  On Monday, it was approved by the House Labor and Commerce Committee and is now ready for a vote on the House floor where Speaker Frank Chopp has included it on his list of fast-track bills to move early. Likewise in the Senate, SB 5097 is expected to advance from committee later this week.

But construction lobbying groups have mounted an effort to oppose this "government mandate" and are urging contractors to call their legislators in opposition to the bills. That's why supporters of family-wage job opportunities and effective earn-while-you-learn job training must respond in kind.

ACTION ALERT:  Please call the Legislative Hotline today at 1-800-562-6000. Leave a message for both your State Representatives and your State Senator to SUPPORT HB 1028 and SB 5097. Tell them that apprenticeship is a model job training program, a proven success in creating family-wage careers, and doesn't cost the state government precious tax dollars. The state should promote this "other four-year degree" when it spends our money on major public works projects.

Thank you for taking the time to make this phone call.

Group Health caregivers overwhelmingly ratify new contract

The following press release was distributed this afternoon by District 1199NW of the Service Employees International Union:

Group Health Caregivers Contain Health Costs, Make Improvements to Boost Recruitment and Retention for Quality Patient Care


SEIU Members Vote Overwhelmingly to Approve Tentative Agreements


WASHINGTON STATE—Registered nurses, medical assistants, licensed practical nurses, social workers, therapists, clinic team assistants, custodians, and other SEIU members at Group Health Cooperative statewide have voted overwhelmingly in favor of new contracts that contain health care costs and make other improvements to boost recruitment and retention of frontline staff. Over 96 percent voted in favor of the agreements.


“We’re proud of the stand we took for the principle that working families need affordable health care,” said Vicki Neumeier, a RN at Group Health. “Attracting and retaining quality staff helps our patients. What we have won will help accomplish that. At the same time, we know that everyone needs health care and the only way that will happen is to organize a strong grassroots movement in our communities.”


The new contracts:


  • Roll back health care cost increases that Group Health imposed on LPNs, medical assistants, and other workers in service job classifications in October of 2004.

  • Contain costs to maintain affordable care for frontline staff. At the time of the five-day strike in August 2004, Group Health had demanded that an RN making the average salary pay a $2,404 annual premium for family health care coverage and threatened to impose a $1,200 per year surcharge to cover spouses who chose Group Health coverage instead of another employer’s. Under the new agreements, the annual premium for family coverage will increase to $480 per year in July 2005, go up to $720 per year in 2006, stay at that level for the duration of 2007, and then increase to $840 per year in 2008. SEIU members will not pay a spousal surcharge.

  • Expand coverage. Caregivers won a new vision care benefit that will provide $150 per year for frames, lenses, and contract lenses.

  • Improve pay to attract and retain staff. RNs, LPNs, medical assistants, and service staff in Western Washington won across-the-board pay increases that raise wages a minimum of 15 percent between now and July 2007. Eastern Washington staff won raises ranging from 12 to 13 percent. All hourly service and social worker employees won a $1 per hour premium for working on weekends. SEIU employees also significantly improved annual wage steps that reward longevity and encourage staff retention. Because of the period that staff went without pay raises while the contracts were expired, SEIU members won “Catch Up Pay” bonuses of up to $1,375.  

By standing united, SEIU Group Health caregivers turned back a powerful campaign by GHC management to dramatically weaken their contracts by undermining overtime protections and making other changes. SEIU members won key victories that strengthen their union voice for the future: all SEIU bargaining units will have common contract expiration dates and Group Health agreed to recognize that all staff will be part of organization-wide bargaining groups. (GHC had previously tried to separate Spokane and Northern Idaho staff into different contracts. The LPN/MA/Service contract previously expired on a different timeline than the other groups.)


The three organization-wide contracts covering three different groups of workers—registered nurses, social workers and therapists, and LPNs/medical assistants/service employees—will expire on June 30, 2008 .


SEIU 1199NW members at Group Health negotiate contracts for three bargaining groups: approximately 1,060 LPN/medical assistant/service workers; about 1,000 RNs; and about 115 social workers and behavioral therapists.


Group Health caregivers are united in Service Employees International Union District 1199NW, which includes more than 18,000 nurses and health care employees working in hospitals and clinics across Washington State . SEIU is the nation's largest and fastest-growing health care union, with more than 760,000 health care workers united for quality patient care and good careers.

For more information, contact SEIU 1199NW Communications Director Carter Wright at 425-917-1199.

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Copyright © 2005   Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO