2013: Not a good year for labor in Olympia


The Washington State Labor Council distributed its legislative report at its July 25-27 convention, and to summarize, 2013 wasn’t a good year for labor in Olympia. Democrats Rodney Tom of Medina and Tim Sheldon of Potlatch defected last December and handed Senate leadership over to Republicans. From that point on, Washingtonians got a bitterly partisan Legislature and a near-shutdown of state government. It took the regular session plus two special legislative sessions for lawmakers to agree on a budget, and major works of legislation — including a $10 billion transportation funding bill — were left unfinished, with Senate Republicans refusing to vote on them.

Under its Republican leadership, the Senate voted seven times to cut workers’ compensation benefits, but those bills went nowhere in the Democratic-led House. Neither did a Senate-passed bill to undermine Seattle’s paid sick leave ordinance by exempting employers not headquartered in Seattle. Other Senate-passed bills that died in the House would have created a “good faith” defense for employers that violate minimum wage and overtime laws; made it easier to fire teachers; created a punitive letter system for grading schools; eliminated health insurance benefits for part-time state employees and college faculty; replaced state employee pensions with 401(k)-style defined contribution plans; expanded payday loans; weakened a state prevailing wage law; and repealed a paid family leave law that has yet to be implemented.

Meanwhile, modest labor-backed bills passed by the House got nowhere in the Senate, including proposals to add a labor representative to community college boards, expand apprenticeship and vocational rehab programs, and give interpreters the right to unionize.

All those votes produced stark divides in legislative rankings. WSLC ranked Washington’s 49 state senators on 12 votes they took. Seventeen  senators, all of them Democrats, voted in accord with WSLC 100 percent of the time. But 22 senators voted against the WSLC 100 percent of the time — 20 Republicans, plus turncoat Democrats Tom and Sheldon.

WSLC then ranked Washington’s 98 state representatives on 10 House votes; 48, all of them Democrats, voted the WSLC recommendation 100 percent of the time. No state representatives voted against the WSLC recommendation 100 percent of the time, but 12 House Republicans came away with 10 percent rankings.

Southwest Washington lawmakers voted along the lines of their party majorities. Republican  Sens. Don Benton and Ann Rivers were ranked at 0 percent, while Democrat Annette Cleveland had 100 percent. In the House, Democrats Jim Moeller and Sharon Wylie had 100 percent, Democrat Monica Stonier had 80 percent, and Republicans Paul Harris, Liz Pike, and Brandon Vick had 20, 10, and 10 percent respectively.


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