Washington State Labor Council (WSLC), AFL-CIO, has released its rankings of state lawmakers for their work in this year’s legislative session in Olympia. It’s not a cheery report.
WSLC called the 60-day session another taste of “D.C.-style political gridlock” because the Republican-led state senate blocked votes on infrastructure spending and dozens of labor-backed bills — and approved anti-labor legislation that had no chance of passing the Democratic-majority House or being signed by Washington’s Democratic governor Jay Inslee. It was Washington’s second year in a row of political impasse, created when two Democratic senators defected in late 2012 and turned control of the Washington Senate over to the Republican minority. Washington voters will have a chance to change the partisan makeup of the Legislature this November.
As a state labor federation, WSLC coordinates political work for its affiliated unions and their 400,000 members. This year it promoted a package of bills it called the “Shared Prosperity Agenda.” Some of that agenda passed the House, but failed to get a vote in the Senate, including bills to:
- Require businesses with five or more employees to provide paid sick leave;
- Establish the union wage as the prevailing wage for public construction contracts;
- Crack down on wage theft; and
- Curb contracting abuses by requiring cost analysis before outsourcing, mandating that contracts to have performance objectives and a cancellation clause, requiring agencies to monitor contracts to ensure they are meeting performance objectives, and instituting a five-year ban on contractors who commit fraud or other crimes.
WSLC said Senate Republican obstruction killed even uncontroversial bills that had House Republican support — like a school construction bill that passed the House 90-7.
But other WSLC proposals didn’t make it even in the Democratic majority House, including a bill to raise the state minimum wage to $12 over three years, and a bill to assess a fee on large employers that don’t provide health insurance to their low-wage workers.
Meanwhile, the Senate took up an anti-labor agenda, passing bills that link teacher evaluations to student test scores, amend the state constitution to require a two-thirds supermajority vote to raise taxes, and create a “good faith” defense when employers violate minimum wage and overtime laws. None of those proposals went anywhere in the state House.
One bill passed both chambers over labor’s objection and would have become law if it weren’t for the governor’s veto. That was a bill pertaining to a program of state grants and loans to local jurisdictions for infrastructure projects intended to promote business development and job creation. The program requires that the jobs created pay at least the county median wage, but Sen. Brian Hatfield (D-Raymond) amended it to eliminate that wage standard. After the House refused to agree with that amendment, a “compromise” was reached to remove the wage standard from half of the program’s grants. It passed the Senate 39-10 and the House 53-44.
WSLC counted just one legislative win: The “DREAM Act,” which allows children of undocumented immigrant workers to receive state need grants to attend public institutions of higher education.
Here’s how legislators stacked up in Southwest Washington, where many readers of this newspaper live. For each legislator, the first figure is the percentage of pro-labor votes in the 2014 session; the second figure is the lifetime percentage.
Senator Annette Cleveland (D) 100% / 100%
Position 1 Rep. Sharon Wylie (D) 90% / 87%
Position 2 Rep. Jim Moeller (D) 100% / 90%
Senator Don Benton (R) 13% / 27%
Position 1 Rep. Monica Stonier (D) 90% / 85%
Position 2 Rep. Paul Harris (R) 0% / 32%
Sen. Ann Rivers (R) 0% / 15%
Position 1 Rep. Brandon Vick(R) 0% / 5%
Position 2 Rep. Liz Pike (R) 0% / 5%
Rep. Liz Pike (R-Camas) also sponsored a bill to create a sub-minimum “training” wage for new hires — 75 percent of the minimum wage for the first 680 hours (four months of full-time work).
WSLC publishes House and Senate voting records each year so union members can understand how their elected representatives voted on issues that affect jobs, wages, and working conditions. The full report is available here.