Washington State Labor Council (WSLC), AFL-CIO, has released its 2017 ratings for Washington legislators, and as usual, lawmakers from Southwest Washington are some of the best and the worst in the state on issues identified by the state’s labor federation.
What lawmakers accomplished
This year it took the Washington Legislature one regular session and two-and-a-half special sessions called by the governor before they were able to agree on a package providing school funding as well as funding to make good on the collective bargaining agreements the Gov. Jay Inslee negotiated last fall with state workers. [After years of wage freezes, the new contract gives workers 6 percent raises over the next two years.]
The gridlock resulted once again from the fact that Democrats control the state house while Republicans control the state senate.
But thanks to support of one Republican — Sen. Joe Fain (R-Auburn) — Democrats in the legislature were able to pass a paid family and medical leave law. The law sets up a public insurance program funded by employers and employees. Beginning in 2020, it will guarantee workers up to 12 weeks paid time off for the birth or adoption of a child, to take care of an ill family member, when a family member is deployed or wounded in the military, or for the worker’s own serious health condition. The program will replace up to 90 percent of wages.
Building trades unions also celebrated the passage of a “responsible bidder” law that bars businesses from competing for state and local public works contracts if they have willfully violated wage statutes in the past three years.
But lawmakers failed to pass other bills that organized labor pushed hard for, including a bill to add a jobs requirement to a massive tax break lawmakers gave Boeing.
WSLC’s ratings tell how legislators voted, but in some cases, other actions were more revealing than votes to show whose side they were on.
Vancouver House Democrat Monica Stonier co-sponsored bills to tie the state’s multi-billion aerospace tax incentives to job creation and maintenance, to protect workers from retaliation for reporting wage violations, and to allow workers to file liens against employers for unpaid wages. None of them became law.
On other side, Chehalis-Centralia Senate Republican John Braun was once again unrelentingly hostile to unions and working people. He co-sponsored a bill to make Washington a so-called “right-to-work” state (unions mobilized to defeat it, with more than 1,100 people signing in to testify in opposition.) He also co-sponsored bills to tax union dues; to allow state and local governments to charge a 5 percent “administration fee” for union dues deduction; to authorize state agencies and colleges to contract out for services; and to exempt Uber drivers from unemployment insurance. And he voted for bills to allow employers to pay an 85 percent sub-minimum wage to minors; and to allow individuals to sue unions for “unfair or deceptive acts.” None of those bills became law.
MORE: See more detail about which bills they voted for and against in WSLC’s complete 2017 legislative report.