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Senate Republicans take hard right turn with ALEC attacks

Republicans demote Democratic chair;
push ALEC-written attacks on workers

The Stand

OLYMPIA (Jan. 28, 2014) — A year ago, the new Majority Coalition Caucus of Senate Republicans and two defecting Democrats vowed “governing from the middle, governing from the center” when they seized control of that body from the Democratic majority elected by voters. The MCC promised a new era of bipartisanship and moderation.

What a difference a special election makes.

angel-jan-ALECWith the addition of another Republican senator, Jan Angel of Port Orchard, the MCC no longer needs both Democratic defectors to vote with them and on Monday they demonstrated that the era of bipartisanship (such as it was) is finished.

Over the objections of Senate Democrats, Republicans voted to make Angel the new co-chair of the Financial Institutions, Housing and Insurance Committee. Democratic defectors Sens. Tim Sheldon of Shelton and Rodney Tom of Medina both voted with Republicans to demote their former Roadkill Caucus compatriot, Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-Lake Stevens), who had been sole chair of the committee. Afterwards, Hobbs declared that the moderates have lost control of the Senate.

Also on Monday, the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee heard SB 6300, a bill sponsored by Sen. Randi Becker (R-Eatonville) that would create new administrative reporting burdens for all public employee unions and require them to file multiple reports with the Public Employment Relations Commission, including financial reports listing all of the unions’ expenditures, and to have that information posted publicly online.

The bill’s co-sponsors include Angel, state chairwoman of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate-funded organization that pushes controversial right-wing agenda in state legislatures across the country. An investigation of ALEC by The New York Times found that “corporate interests effectively turn ALEC’s lawmaker members into stealth lobbyists, providing them with talking points and signaling how they should vote.”

Sen. Angel is among several state legislators who have received thousands of dollars worth of “scholarships” to attend ALEC conferences, but during last fall’s campaign she portrayed herself a “moderate” and called criticism of her role with the corporate group “a bunch of hooey.”

senate-alecSB 6300 turns out to be cookie-cutter “model legislation” from ALEC called the “Union Financial Responsibility Act.” The heart of SB 6300 is its proposed new Section 2, which lists the contents of the new reports that would be required. It is an identical list — word for word — to the list under the ALEC model legislation’s Section 3. ALEC’s language has literally been copy-and-pasted into the Washington bill.

Greg Devereux, Executive Director of the Washington Federation of State Employees, AFSCME Council 28, testified in opposition to the bill on Monday, calling it “unnecessary, duplicative, burdensome and punitive,” noting that his union is already subject to federally required reporting and that information is already posted on U.S. Department of Labor website.

Geoff Simpson of the Washington State Council of Fire Fighters also testified in opposition, pointing out that unions are democratic, transparent organizations with information about their finances readily available to their members. On the other hand, he noted that the Freedom Foundation, a right-wing think tank that testified in support of the bill, is secretly funded and refuses to disclose where it gets money and how it’s spent.

The angry chairman of the committee, Sen. Janéa Holmquist Newbry (R-Moses Lake), did not appreciate the comparison, claiming that union dues are “mandatory” and Freedom Foundation funding is voluntary.

“I’d ask that you not bring this argument before our committee,” she said, raising a few eyebrows in the room.

Watch the testimony and exchange here:

stop-alecOn Wednesday, Sen. Holmquist Newbry’s committee will hear SB 6307, another ALEC-inspired bill, that would set aside Republicans aversion to state government control over local issues by preempting any county, city or town from setting employment standards. The goal is to repeal the voter-approved $15 minimum wage in SeaTac and the City Council-approved paid sick leave ordinance in Seattle, and block any local jurisdictions from creating any similar standards in the future.

The bill is part of a national campaign by ALEC to block pro-worker policies adopted in cities and counties across America.

CHECK OUT THE UNION DIFFERENCE in Washington: higher wages, affordable health and dental care, job and retirement security.

FIND OUT HOW TO JOIN TOGETHER with your co-workers to negotiate for better wages, benefits, and a voice at work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!