Connect with us


Senate hears right-wing bills attacking public employee unions

The following story appears in the Washington State Labor Council’s 2017 Legislative Report published in August.

It’s no secret that right-wing billionaires like the Koch brothers bankroll foundations that are targeting unions for extinction. Millions of those dollars have found their way into Washington state at “think tanks” like the Freedom Foundation and the Washington Policy Center.

So in 2017, the thinkin’ fellers from these groups showed up in Olympia to testify in favor of a series of Senate bills with familiar attacks on public employee unions and the freedom to negotiate for better wages and benefits.

► SB 5533, sponsored by two-time failed gubernatorial candidate Sen. Dino Rossi (R-Sammamish), prohibits state employee unions from contributing to incumbent candidates for governor. This bill—which would never affect Rossi for multiple reasons—died without a vote.

► SB 5551 (also from Sen. Rossi) would require state employees to vote on reauthorizing their union every four years. It also died without a vote.

► SB 5550 (Rossi again) would open a number of services at state agencies and institutions of higher education to contracting out and privatization. It died.

► SB 5339, sponsored by Sen. Steve “Not Rossi” O’Ban (R-University Place), would let public employees who are “religious objectors” to unionization choose from an expanded list of charities for donating their dues equivalent. That list would now include quasi-political groups like… the Freedom Foundation! It passed the Senate 25-24 (see Vote #4) before dying in the House.

The Senate Commerce, Labor and Sports Committee chaired by Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane) held a hearing on these bills on a snowy morning in February.

Testifying against the bills were public workers like Washington Federation of State Employees member Bing Bistol, who had gotten up that morning at 4 a.m. to shovel snow as part of the Department of Enterprise Services grounds crew. His job, the type being targeted for outsourcing, was to keep people — like the tassel-toed right-wing think-tankers visiting the State Capitol that day to try to eliminate his job — safe from slipping on the sidewalks. (Sigh.)

Click here to see more reports from the Washington State Labor Council’s 2017 Legislative Report. Or download the entire 8-page PDF.

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!