Big wins in Washington for labor

WSLC Logo Final 0Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, ended up with much to celebrate in this year’s general election results. All 12 statewide candidates it endorsed won office. All three of its endorsed ballot measures passed, including a measure that will raise the minimum wage to $13.50 over the next four years and guarantee all workers paid sick leave. And the carbon tax measure it opposed — which failed to invest in clean energy and worsened state budget challenges — went down to defeat.

And that’s not all. Puget Sound voters approved $54 billion in transit improvements over the next 25 years, including 62 miles of light rail and new bus and heavy rail service to King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.

And Seattle voters passed a measure — by 77 percent — to improve working conditions for hotel workers. Effective immediately, hotels with 100 or more rooms must provide health insurance to full-time employees and limit housekeeper workload to 5,000 square feet per shift — to protect them from injury. And hotels with 60 or more rooms must take steps to combat sexual harassment and assault by guests.

Then there’s the Washington Legislature, which has been gridlocked for years between a GOP-led Senate and a Democrat-led House. This election, they kept the same 50-48 House majority [The tally has been updated from previous versions because late-counted ballots turned around two apparent Democratic wins – Teresa Purcell in the 19th Legislative District (Longview) and Jason Ritchie the 5th.] And in the Senate, Democrats gained one seat, reaching a 25-24 majority — in theory. The problem is: Mason County Sen. Tim Sheldon, who tells voters his preference is the Democratic Party, has caucused with the Republicans since 2012. Assuming he continues to do so, expect more gridlock. And that’s at a time when Washington lawmakers face a state Supreme Court order to finalize a plan to fully fund public schools by 2018.

Probst defeat a big union loss

Labor had high hopes of retaking the Washington Senate by electing Tim Probst in the 17th Legislative District in eastern Vancouver. But he lost by almost 5,000 votes to state Rep. Lynda Wilson, who is one of the most anti-union Republicans in the Legislature. Wilson is married to a board member of the anti-union Freedom Foundation. Freedom Foundation is the group that has sent mail and canvassers to union-represented home care workers urging them to stop paying union dues.

Worse yet for labor, Wilson’s House seat was won by a Freedom Foundation staffperson, Vicki Craft.

Labor also failed to unseat incumbent Southwest Washington Republican Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler. Jim Moeller trailed her badly 39 to 61 percent. Moeller had to give up his Vancouver state House seat to run. He was succeeded by AFL-CIO-endorsed Democrat Monica Stonier.

SW Washington legislative races

Here’s how WSLC-endorsed candidates fared on election night:

17th Legislative District

  • Senate: Tim Probst  LOST
  • House 1: Sam Kim LOST

19th Legislative District

  • Senate: Dean Takko WON
  • House 1: Teresa Purcell WON LOST
  • House 2: Brian Blake WON

49th Legislative District

  • Senate: Annette Cleveland WON
  • House 1: Sharon Wylie WON
  • House 2: Monica Stonier WON

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