Lawmaking season in Oregon and Washington



Oregon’s union movement would like the Democratic  majority to do a few things when the Oregon Legislature begins its every-other-year ‘short’ session Feb. 5.

For Oregon labor unions, some top legislative priorities include bills to:

  • Make striking workers eligible for unemployment benefits  Union workers and their families shouldn’t have to go hungry in order to resist unfair contract offers by employers. Three other states provide unemployment benefits to workers who are out on strike. Oregon should become the fourth.
  • Let us pay in cash  Cash is supposed to be legal tender, right? But we’re seeing retailers emerge that won’t accept cash, only cards. You wouldn’t think you’d need it, but a bill backed by UFCW would require retailers to accept cash.
  • Say no to non-competes It’s an employer abuse that’s lately grown rapidly: Making employees sign promises not to go to work for a competitor for a while after leaving a job. Oregon lawmakers have passed laws to rein in the practice. A bill this session would limit non-competes further, setting a maximum six month term, and disallowing them for workers making under $97,311, with annual adjustments for inflation.
  • Give our college teachers health benefits  As public universities and community colleges shift course load onto part-time faculty, many  instructors end up working part-time gigs at more than one institution that add up to full time. They should have health benefits.
  • Say no to IRAPs Proposed by the Trump Administration, industry-recognized apprenticeship programs (IRAPs) would be a new kind of loosely-regulated training program that doesn’t require the same instruction, pay scales or journeyman graduation rates as existing federally registered apprenticeship programs. A bill backed by Oregon building trades unions would bar state or local public money from being spent on IRAPs.
  • Guarantee adequate public defense A bill backed by AFSCME, which represents public defenders, would put Oregon on course to end the severe underfunding of the public defender system.


Washington’s Legislature has been in session since Jan. 13. Union leaders don’t expect great leaps forward in the short 60-day election year  session, but there’s still good lawmakers can do for workers.

Top priorities for the Washington State Labor Council include bills to:

  • Protect public employee privacy Anti-union canvassers have been showing up at the homes of public employees, trying to talk them into dropping out of the union. How’d they get there? The state is releasing names and birthdays, and the anti-union group uses that to track them down. Unions are asking lawmakers to make birthdays exempt from disclosure.
  • End scheduling abuses A bill would give workers at large food and retail businesses the right to two-week notice of schedules, adequate rests between shifts, and flexibility to swap shifts. Oregon has it; Washington should too.
  • Require bid listing Some public works contractors alter their lists of subcontractors after winning bids so they can pay lower wage and boost profits at the expense of taxpayers (and project quality). A bill would end “post-bid shopping” by having subcontractors listed in all bids.

[MORE: See WSLC’s full agenda here.]


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