The following story appears in the Washington State Labor Council’s 2017 Legislative Report published in August.
In the Senate, there are 24 Republicans, 24 Democrats, and one guy who calls himself a Democrat but meets and votes with the Republicans. Given that fragile majority, it may come as a surprise that Republicans have chosen to appoint two of their most hostile anti-union members into positions of power.
Sens. Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane) and John Braun (R-Centralia) were the sole sponsors of 2017 legislation to make Washington a “Right-to-Work” state (SB 5692). It’s a bill that’s occasionally been introduced by the most fringe extremists in the caucus and promptly ignored to avoid any backlash against the party. But this year, as Chair and Vice Chair of the Commerce, Labor & Sports Committee, Baumgartner and Braun held a hearing on their bill, drawing hundreds of angry workers to Olympia.
As Chair, Baumgartner has consistently blocked House-approved bills supported by labor from consideration in the Senate. Each session, he also sponsors bills that have no chance of passage but are clearly meant to antagonize labor. This year, he wrote several to gut the state minimum wage/sick leave law overwhelmingly approved by voters last fall.
Braun is also Chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. As the GOP’s lead budget negotiator, Braun engaged in the three-session game of budget chicken and cynically used the state employee contracts as a bargaining chip.
These guys, who added “Sports” to the labor committee’s name this year, are making sport of antagonizing unions. They both hail from safe Republican districts, but they are doing real harm to their party’s standing among unions and working people across the state.