OLYMPIA (April 29, 2014) — The 2014 session of the Washington State Legislature was “another bitter taste of Washington, D.C.-style political gridlock” as Senate Republicans blocked votes on dozens of pro-working family policies and job-creating infrastructure investments. Instead, the GOP launched aggressive election-year attacks against public employees and workplace standards that had no chance of passage in this blue state.
That is the assessment of the 2014 Legislative Report and Voting Record released today by the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, the state’s largest union organization which represents the interests of some 400,000 rank-and-file members in the state. The report describes the fate of 2014 legislation and includes the annual WSLC House and Senate voting records, which are published each year so 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.
In particular, the report describes the WSLC’s “Shared Prosperity Agenda” for 2014, which included legislation to discourage unscrupulous employers from committing wage theft, to allow all workers in the state to earn paid sick leave, to close loopholes in the Affordable Care Act that let large corporations shift their employee health care costs onto taxpayers, and to raise the state minimum wage to $12 over the next three years. Those efforts and other labor priorities, including passage of a statewide transportation package and a capital budget focused on school construction, failed to pass in 2014.
“It was another year of lost opportunities on job creation, infrastructure investment, and even basic fairness for workers whose wages are literally stolen from them by their bosses,” said WSLC President Jeff Johnson. “Voters didn’t ask for this, but they got D.C.-style gridlock thanks to political gamesmanship in the Senate. As a result, basic governance has fallen victim to pointless partisanship. Important public priorities like the transportation and capital budgets, which have passed with bipartisan support in the past, fell victim to ideological arguments and inaction.”
Now, writes Johnson in his column for the Legislative Report, “It is time for us to reflect on our values and priorities at the ballot box this fall.”
Hundreds of delegates representing the WSLC’s affiliated unions from across Washington state will soon be looking at the WSLC’s 2014 Voting Records as they determine which legislators and which challengers deserve labor’s support this fall in the elections. The WSLC’s political endorsement convention will be held Saturday, May 10, at the Machinists 751 Hall in Seattle. Delegates will vote on endorsements for Congressional, judicial, and state legislative candidates, plus statewide ballot measures.
The following excerpt from the WSLC’s 2014 Legislative Report and Voting Record summarizes the session:
In 2013, two erstwhile Democrats traded control of the Washington State Senate to Republicans in exchange for better job titles and bigger offices.
In 2014, the real consequences of those partisan political machinations are clearer than ever. Progressive policies and job-creating infrastructure investments supported by both Gov. Jay Inslee and the Democratic-controlled House were blocked by Senate Republicans. They killed dozens of House-approved labor-backed bills on everything from wage theft to electricians’ certification, in most cases without a public hearing.
For a second straight session, Senate Republicans refused to allow a vote on a desperately needed House-approved transportation package. GOP leaders talked (a lot) about “reforming” transportation first, but never produced a proposal their own caucus could support.
Right up to the session’s final day, Senate Republicans obstructed efforts to create jobs, blocking a school construction bill that had passed the House on a bipartisan 90-7 vote.
Instead, Senate Republicans spent the 2014 session launching aggressive attacks on labor standards and public employees. Pushed by national right-wing groups, these bills had little chance of passage in blue Washington. It was all about election-year posturing.
As you’ll read throughout this WSLC Legislative Report, voters in Washington state didn’t ask for it, but in 2014 they got another bitter taste of Washington, D.C.-style political gridlock.