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Tell legislators: Stop this political nonsense, fund the contracts

State workers are getting layoff notices as Senate GOP refuse to do their job


OLYMPIA (May 26, 2017) — Washington state agencies have been instructed to plan for a partial government shutdown on July 1 because legislators are in a political standoff over the 2017-19 operating budget. In fact, amid a second overtime session that began earlier this week, Senate Republicans are still refusing to begin final budget negotiations, apparently believing that House Democrats will concede more under the threat of an imminent shutdown.

That’s the way Senate Republicans have played this game in the past, with complete disregard for the stress, uncertainty and cost associated with preparing for a shutdown. It means that instead of focusing on providing essential public services, agency administrators are sending layoff warnings to state employees informing them that they may be furloughed effective July 1.

TAKE A STANDPlease send an urgent message to your Washington state legislators. Tell them to stop this political nonsense right now and stop the shutdown! Tell lawmakers to negotiate and adopt a budget NOW that values public services, preserves the safety net, and funds state employee contracts.

The same Senate Republicans who are playing this political game of shutdown chicken — every single one of them — voted against funding the state employees’ ratified contracts that include modest 6% cost-of-living increases spread over two years. Adding insult to injury, these legislators themselves are getting a 4% pay raise — plus an extra $120-per-day stipend for every day of these “special” sessions — for not doing their jobs, as The (Tacoma) News Tribune pointed out.

Instead of funding the contracts, Senate Republicans voted to ignore the state’s collective bargaining laws and give state employees a $500 lump-sum increase in their yearly pay. That’s far less than these legislators will get themselves. In fact, Senate Republicans have gotten more than $500 in extra pay just this week for sitting on their asses and not doing their jobs.

Their actions show utter contempt for the hard-working people who keep our communities safe, care for the elderly and disabled, protect our children, maintain our roads and transportation system, instruct and serve students at state universities and colleges, and provide other essential services. These are our family members, friends and neighbors. Their livelihoods — and the essential public services they provide — should not be cynically used as political bargaining chips.

Legislators have heard testimony from many state agencies about low pay making it hard to retain experienced state employees and recruit quality new ones. The state’s own salary survey found that 99 percent of state job classifications are paying below-market wages. Ninety-nine percent!

Please take a stand now on behalf of state employees. Urge your state legislators to stop the shutdown by passing a budget that values public employees and the services they provide. That means funding the state employee contracts!

For more information about preparations for the shutdown, visit the Washington Federation of State Employees website.

► Also today, from the Public News Service — State workers get notice of potential layoffs as budget talks continue — On Friday, the state budget office formally notified AFSCME, the union that represents Washington state employees, that workers could be temporarily laid off if a compromise isn’t reached by July 1. Some employees received notice of potential layoffs earlier in the week.

► Today from KIRO TV — As budget talks drag on state workers feel shutdown anxiety — “For us, we are supervising people out in the community and it involves community safety,” said Judy Kushel, a community corrections specialist in Vancouver. “If you are worried about paying your bills if you are worried about whether you are going to be working, you are not focused on the work at hand.”

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!