(April 20, 2015) — Hundreds gathered in cities across the state on Saturday to honor the people who keep our communities safe, care for the elderly and disabled, teach and protect our children, maintain our roads, and provide other essential services. “Public Service Matters” events celebrated the contributions of our friends, neighbors, family members, and customers who are state employees, and called on the Legislature to fund their negotiated contracts so they can get their first general wage increases in seven years.
State employees — from corrections officers to health inspectors, from nurses at public hospitals to faculty at community colleges — described their work and canvassed local businesses and community members at events in Centralia (pictured at right), Federal Way, Medical Lake, Monroe, Shelton, Steilacoom and Yelm.
“My co-workers and I take a lot of pride in our work, protecting our communities from the state’s most violent felons,” said Joschue Reyes, a Classification Counselor at Clallam Bay Corrections Center and Teamsters Local 117 member who attended Saturday’s Public Service Matters event in Shelton. “The public doesn’t see what we do on a daily basis, so being able to connect with people today and earning their support for our first raises in seven years is very gratifying.”
“An investment in state employees is an investment in the community,” Washington Federation of State Employees/AFSCME’s Pam Carl told the crowd of about 50 near the Centralia Library.
Attendees then fanned out across the business district to encourage small business owners and the public to sign petition cards to their senator, Sen. John Braun (R-Centralia), to support public employees and public services. (In photo at right, some participants gather outside outside the Santa Lucia coffee shop.) Members from the WFSE, the Washington Public Employees Association/UFCW, Professional and Technical Employees Local 17 and SEIU HealthCare 1199 NW participated in the event.
Thornton Alberg, a workers’ compensation unit supervisor for the Department of Labor and Industries, attended the Steilacoom event: “My colleagues and I work to keep people safe on the job, and if they get injured at work, we work to make sure their families get the financial resources they need. We need the community’s support so we can keep doing our job of keeping the public healthy and safe. That support includes the negotiated pay raises that will help attract and keep good public employees — and boost our local economies.”
Becky Turnbull, a paraprofessional library worker at Bellevue College: “The college has changed over the years, but my dedication to helping others just continues to grow. It would be gratifying to finally have a cost-of-living adjustment after so many years without. It’s not just for me and my colleagues, either. Our daughter is in school at one of Washington’s state universities; I’d like the public employees at her university to have a 3% COLA and everything else that was bargained into their contracts in good faith.”
In Olympia, a minority of state senators is making the wrong choice by blocking funding for state employees. The governor, the House of Representatives, and a clear bipartisan majority of senators (29 out of 49) all support fully funding state employee contracts and giving state employees their first general wage increase in seven years. But a minority of senators is blocking it. Even worse, they have proposed cutting 20,000 state employees’ spouses off of their health coverage.