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WSLC’s Johnson: 2013 brings new challenges for unions

johnson-jeff-13The following letter by Jeff Johnson, President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, is being sent to the 500-plus union organizations affiliated with the WSLC.

Dear Affiliated Unions:

On behalf of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, I want to wish you a happy and productive new year. Please let us know if there are ways that we can help you with your contract campaigns, organizing drives, media outreach, political education programs and picket lines during 2013. Let us help you announce your victories and bring a labor movement response to your struggles.

I want to list a few of the accomplishments we achieved together in 2012 and then bring your attention to campaigns at the national and state levels for which I will be asking for your help.

In 2012 we held our first-ever early endorsements for U.S. Senate, Governor and State Attorney General and then went on to help Maria Cantwell return to Washington, D.C., and elect Jay Inslee and Bob Ferguson to the two most powerful seats in state government; we sponsored a televised political forum in the first congressional district; we helped elect Suzan DelBene, Derek Kilmer and Denny Heck to Congressional seats; we supported pro-labor candidates for the State Legislature and we made some qualitative pick-ups in both our state House and Senate; virtual predictive dialing systems were built in the Thurston, Lewis, Mason,  Spokane, Southeast and Southwest Central Labor Councils; we strengthened our Labor Neighbor Program and the DIME PAC with your generous help; our Labor Education and Research Center hired a third labor educator through union contributions and union dollars helped fund the Labor Archives at the University of Washington; we passed a $1.6 billion infrastructure jobs package in the State Legislature; Washington Young Emerging Labor Leaders (WA YELL) had their founding convention; we introduced Mayworks, our labor and culture program, last  spring culminating in labor music  stages, a labor art exhibit, a labor oral history session, and a “We Do the Work” video contest at the Northwest Folk Life Festival; and we had a number of union contract victories.

But Brothers and Sisters we remain under attack. At the national level we face the big lie. Republicans want to divert attention from the jobs crisis by saying we have a budget and deficit crisis. The U.S. has lost 9 million jobs since the start of the Great Recession. Creating jobs should be our highest priority. Putting American workers back to work will get our economy rolling again, create revenue, and bring down the deficit in the medium and long term. Making the 2% pay their fair share of taxes will allow us to cancel the domestic and military spending cuts scheduled by sequestration.

Over the next two months we are mounting a campaign to educate our members and our Congressional delegation on these issues. We are preparing sample letters to the editor and congressional representatives, opinion columns, worksite petitions, and organizing congressional phone-in days and in-district meetings with our U.S. Senators and Representatives. As we develop these materials and plans we will get them to you.

At the state level, we suspect that we will be facing a number of attacks from the new Republican-Plus-Two majority in the Senate. We are likely to see attacks on public employee pensions, collective bargaining, workers ‘ compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, minimum wage and prevailing wage. We will be looking for members to come to Olympia and testify and lobby legislators and to send in letters, emails and calls to the Legislature.

We will keep you updated weekly with the WSLC Legislative Update newsletter, daily on The Stand at, and through email alerts and communications from me. If you would like to sign up for the weekly Legislative Updates, please contact David Groves at

In Solidarity,

Jeffrey Johnson

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