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WSLC’s Johnson: State, nation face the future with confidence

15-Jeff-Johnson(Jan. 13, 2016) — Jeff Johnson, President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, issued the following statement today in response to yesterday’s State of the Union address by President Barack Obama and the State of the State address by Governor Jay Inslee:

Governor Inslee and President Obama struck a common theme of facing the future with confidence in their respective State of the State and State of the Union addresses yesterday.

Governor Inslee outlined four priorities for the session that included: addressing the K-12 teacher shortage by increasing starting teacher salaries from $36,000 to $ 40,000 and giving all other teachers a 1% raise; addressing forest fire costs by using funding from the Budget Stabilization Account ($ 180 million) and community recovery costs by using funding from the Disaster Response Account ($ 29 million); investing in mental health care services; and a framework for future K-12 education investments.

Importantly, Governor Inslee explicitly cited his support for the labor, community, faith-based minimum wage and paid sick and safe day initiative filed with the Secretary of State’s office on the first day of legislative session.

16-inslee-SOTS-obama-SOTUGovernor Inslee said, “Our economy is not working for everyone… I’m seeing Washingtonians — hard working people in every corner of the state — struggling with rising housing prices, with student loan debt, with medical bills. That’s why I’m supporting the initiative that was filed yesterday that phases in a true minimum wage and provides paid sick leave for hard-working Washingtonians. I stand on this rock-solid belief: If you work 40 hours a week, you deserve a wage that puts a roof over your head and food on the table. Period. And you shouldn’t have to give up a day’s pay if you or your kids get sick.”

President Obama made similar arguments by way of saying that income inequality and the difficulty of young people finding work “offends our traditional belief that if you work hard, you can get ahead.” The president went on to say that he will continue to push for a higher minimum wage and leave policies and that now was the time to strengthen Social Security and Medicare.

In a pointed shot at congressional gridlock and Republican campaign rhetoric, the president made an appeal to civility in politics, even though major disagreements are inevitable. He posed the question that we need to figure out how to make politics reflect what is best in us and not the worst. And that we need to reject politics that targets race or religion.

In a brief argument in support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the president argued that with TPP, China doesn’t set the rules for trade in Asia, but that we do. We continue to believe that this analysis is wrong and short-sighted and based on a trade deal that was written for and primarily benefits the corporate world.

In this election year, we expect little of substance to come through either the State Legislature or Congress. Nonetheless we will continue to fight for policies that broadly share prosperity and that give the average person a sense that our voices matter.

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!