OLYMPIA (July 31, 2013) — The Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, the state’s largest union organization, has released its 2013 Legislative Report and Voting Record, describing the fate of legislation affecting Washington’s working families in the 2013 legislative session(s). It also includes the annual WSLC House and Senate voting records, which are published each year so rank-and-file union members can understand how their elected representatives voted on issues that affect their jobs, wages and working conditions. The report is available at the WSLC web site in both HTML and PDF (printable) formats.
“The 2013 legislative session revealed a huge policy, budgetary, and ideological divide,” said WSLC President Jeff Johnson. “Though $ 1 billion was raised for K-12 education, a bitter fight was played out between advocates for corporate tax breaks and advocates for the middle class. Guess who won?”
Throughout the session, and both special sessions, the middle class and the poor were attacked on workers’ compensation policy, pension policy, and health care benefits. Ultimately ideological policy bills did not pass, but the budget and the people of Washington were held hostage for months. The real shame of the session was that we had a chance to pass the Voting Rights Act, higher education financial parity for “DREAMers” and a robust transportation package, but the Republican Majority Coalition Caucus would have nothing of it. The 2013 Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO Legislative Report and Voting Record gives a sense of some of the most important issues during the 2013 session and how people voted on some of them.
“‘Petty’ partisan politics,” the lead article in the report, succinctly sums up the Labor Council’s take on the Legislature’s performance this year:
In the 2012 elections, Washington voters (again) swept Democratic lawmakers into control of the Governor’s Office, both houses of the Legislature, and eight of nine statewide offices. But one month later, two Democrats announced they were going to do what voters hadn’t done for nearly a decade: hand control of a legislative chamber to the Republican Party. In exchange for leadership positions, Sens. Rodney Tom of Medina and Tim Sheldon of Potlatch established a Republican-controlled majority in the Senate.
They did so vowing bipartisanship. Said Tom, “Governing from the middle, governing from the center, that’s what the citizens in this state expect.”
“This is the sort of cooperation people are hungry for,” said Sen. Mark Schoesler (R-Ritzville).
Instead, what people got was a bitterly partisan 2013 session that narrowly averted a state government shutdown after two overtime sessions. The GOP-controlled Senate held the budget process hostage in an attempt to force votes on unrelated policy bills, such as undermining the workers’ compensation safety net for injured workers. It killed a $10 billion transportation package backed by labor, business and environmental interests, largely over partisan opposition to light rail on the Columbia River Crossing between Oregon and Washington. It not only killed every aspect of the Washington State Labor Council’s “Economic Recovery Agenda” to bolster middle-class families, it also launched aggressive attacks such as blocking paid sick leave ordinances, lowering the state minimum wage, and taking away health benefits from thousands of state employees, to name just a few.
“Senate Republicans took the usual level of brinksmanship over petty policy bills to new and unproductive highs this year,” read an editorial in The Olympian after a government shutdown was narrowly averted.
As you’ll read throughout this 2013 edition of the WSLC Legislative Report, voters in this state didn’t ask for it, but they got a taste of D.C.-style Republican rule in 2013. And it was difficult to swallow.