Washington labor legislation update


Two priority bills for the Washington State Labor Council look likely to pass, but another has died in committee.

  • A bill to give farm workers the right to overtime pay is on track to pass. In a bipartisan 91-7 vote on April 9, the Washington House of Representatives passed a bill to make Washington the first state to give agricultural employees the right to a 40-hour work week and overtime pay. Because a technical amendment was adopted, SB 5172 now returns to the Washington Senate for concurrence. It earlier passed the Senate 37-12 and was expected to do so again. “SB 5172 will end a racist legacy and correct an injustice that has existed for too long,” said Washington State Labor Council President Larry Brown.
  • COVID-19 workers’ comp presumption bill is near the finish line.  Frontline workers who are infected with COVID-19 will receive medical coverage and partial wage replacement for lost work hours under SB 5115, which passed the state Senate 48-1 on Feb. 23 and the state House 68-30 on April 5. The bill was amended in the House, so it must return to the Senate for concurrence. It will create a presumption that frontline employees infected by COVID-19 qualify for workers’ compensation, unless it is proven they caught it outside work. It would also require businesses to be more transparent about cases and potential exposure during a pandemic. It would provide protections to virtually all workers who have significant interaction with the public, including first responders, health care workers, food service workers, teachers, grocery workers, and farm and food-processing workers. It had an emergency clause and would have taken effect as soon as it was signed, but the House removed it.
  • A top labor priority, the Worker Protection Act, has died in the state Senate. The Worker Protection Act (HB 1076), would have allowed workers to seek justice in court if their employer violates wage, work safety and discrimination laws. It passed the Washington House 53-44 on March 5 but died April 2 when it failed to advance from the Washington Senate Ways and Means Committee by a cutoff deadline. The bill was a top legislative priority for the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, which vowed to push the proposal again next year.


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