Labor to Legislature: Pass budgets, go home

OLYMPIA (June 4, 2013) — Jeff Johnson, President of the Washington State Labor Council, sent the following communication to all members of the State Legislature and to Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday. (Note at the end that many individual labor unions are signatory to the letter.)

An Open Letter to the Washington State Legislature

Re: Raise Revenue and Protect Workers and Families

Well into the Special Legislative Session it is clear to us that it is time to sweep aside policy bills that have become an obstacle to ending the Special Session and passing responsible budgets. Washingtonians need an operating budget with sufficient revenue to make a real down payment on education funding, a capital budget that will help our state’s infrastructure needs and create thousands of needed family wage jobs, and a transportation revenue package that will invest in maintaining and preserving our existing transportation system and invest in critical economic corridors to make us competitive in the 21st century.

Over a week ago, leaders in the Republican-controlled Senate demanded that 33 policy bills be considered as part of the budget negotiating process. If the Legislature only has to complete three budget-related items this Special Session, why is the Republican-controlled Senate demanding 33 policy bills be considered part of the negotiation process? These bills have become a distraction from reaching agreements on the operating and capital budgets and a revenue package for financing transportation. This is wrong, and a waste of taxpayer money.

Not only is the process of dumping 33 policy bills into the budget process a distraction, but the bills themselves would hurt Washington workers, families, seniors and our education system. The time to argue over these bills is during the 2014 legislative session, not as part of 2013 Special Session.

Please reject the following bills that harm middle class workers and families:

ESSB 5127: Structured Settlements/Workers’ Comp — Further erodes the workers’ comp system by reducing the age restriction on settlements, and removing the ability for the board to look out for the best interest for workers with attorneys.

SSB 5851: Defined Contribution Plan — Creates a 401(k)-type savings plan to replace the defined benefit pensions for new state employees. The Senate hopes putting more financial risk on workers will save the government money.

SB 5856: Defined Contribution Plan — Creates a 401(k)-type savings plan to replace the defined benefit pensions for state employees. Again, another bill to make government more “efficient” by betting on the pensions of state employees.

ESSB 5811: Employee Wellness Programs — Restricts state employee collective bargaining rights over health care issues so the state can impose employee “wellness” programs.

SB 5159: Repeals Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act — Seeks to repeal the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act of 2007.

ESB 5726: Geographical Restrictions on Local Paid Sick and Safe Leave — Puts restrictions on the right of local jurisdictions to implement family and medical leave insurance.

ESB 5728: Local Paid Sick and Safe Leave — Prohibits enactment of local laws and ordinances that require or regulate paid sick leave or paid safe leave in excess of standards adopted by the state.

SB 5903: Family and Medical Leave Insurance — Sets up a task force to recommend funding and repealing the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act if not funded by 2015.

SSB 5905: Part-Time State Employee Health Benefits — Eliminates health care for part-time public employees without a guarantee for alternative coverage options.

ESSB 5328: Grading and Labeling Schools — This would grade schools and result in labeling schools as “failing” to push a charter agenda.

SB 5898:  Education Funding — Cuts local levy and levy equalization funding before the state fully meets its obligation to fund basic education.

SB 5883/5936/5937 – Tuition Rates and Higher Education Appropriations — Reduces tuition and caps state appropriations for higher education at historically low levels.

SB 5893: International Students — Imposes an unfair tuition surcharge on international students.

SB 5901: Education Reforms — Freezes the ability to bargain at a local level and mandates merit pay.

SB 5916: Attack on Pensions — The bill goes way beyond trying to fix “pension spiking” by attacking legitimate use of overtime, especially at state institutions and in public safety in all pension plans.

SSB 5242: Mutual Consent/Certified Instructional Staff — Eliminates collective bargaining concerning transfer procedures for teachers.

ESSB 5312: Payday Lending — Undermines the protections gained in the 2009 Payday Lending Reform Act by reclassifying payday lending as ‘installment loans’ and allows lenders to offer loans with interest rates up to 218% APR.

E2SSB 5688: State and Local Tax Systems — Takes the first steps to make some significant changes to the B&O taxing structure, including the elimination of B&O without sufficient thought to how state services will be funded.

ESSB 5895: Arbitrary Spending Limit — Imposes an arbitrary cap on spending for health and human services, and would force cuts to important services, including programs for children, families, seniors and people with disabilities.

We urge members of the House and Senate to oppose these detrimental bills that impose harmful cuts and unnecessary, irresponsible changes that harm middle class workers and families. Instead, we ask members to focus on the purpose of this Special Session – passing budgets that increase funding to protect the safety net for workers and families, and help secure the middle class by protecting working families and investing in jobs.

We the undersigned organizations stand united in our request to members of the Legislature to focus on the budgets that matter most to Washington citizens, not 33 bills that hurt workers, families and the most vulnerable in Washington State.

Jeffrey G. Johnson, President
Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO

 Open Letter Signatories:

American Federation of Teachers/Washington

Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers Union

Certified Electrical Workers of Washington

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 77

International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, District Council 5

Martin Luther King, Jr. County Labor Council, AFL-CIO

Professional and Technical Employees Local 17

Service Employees International Union Healthcare Local 775NW

Service Employees International Union Local 925

Service Employees International Union Local 1199NW

Teamsters Joint Council 28

Teamsters Local 117

United Auto Workers Local 4121

United Faculty of Washington State

United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 21

United Transportation Union Washington State Legislative Board

Washington State Association of the United Association of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada

Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO and on behalf of:

Boilermakers Locals 242, 502

Bricklayers Locals 1/OR, 1/WA, 3

Carpet Layers Local 1238

Cement Masons Locals 72, 478, 528, 555

Elevator Constructors Local 19

Glaziers Local 188

Heat & Frost Insulators Locals 7, 82

IBEW Locals 46, 48, 73, 76, 112, 191

Iron Workers Locals 14, 29, 86

IUPAT Locals 10, 300, 364, 427, 1964

Laborers Locals 238, 242, 252, 276, 292, 335, 348, 791, 901

Operating Engineers Local 302

Operating Engineers Local 370

UA Locals 26, 32, 44, 290, 598

Roofers Locals 54, 153

Sheet Metal Locals 16, 55, 66

Sign Painters Local 1094

Sprinkler Fitters Locals 669, 699

Street Pavers Local 440

Teamsters Local 174

Washington State Council of County and City Employees

Washington State Council of Fire Fighters

Washington Education Association

Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO

Washington State Nurses Association


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