OLYMPIA (Jan. 10, 2019) — The Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO (WSLC), the state’s largest union organization with more than 600 affiliated unions representing some 450,000 rank-and-file members, today announced its 2019 Shared Prosperity Agenda for the session of the Washington State Legislature that begins on Monday, Jan. 14.
“Last fall, voters elected and re-elected pro-labor candidates because, despite a relatively strong economy, working families are facing more uncertainty, fewer protections on the job, and rising costs to meet basic needs,” said WSLC President Larry Brown. “With our 2019 legislative agenda we are urging the Legislature to take proactive steps to promote the creation of good jobs, secure reliable benefits, improve how government delivers services, and invest in healthy communities. That’s how to ensure that our current economic prosperity is truly shared.”
Among the WSLC’s priority labor issues for 2019 are:
SIMPLIFY EMPLOYEE CLASSIFICATION — Incorrect worker classification strips hard-working Washingtonians of earned wages, creates an unlevel playing field for businesses, and siphons away state revenue. By simplifying “independent contractor” definitions and improving enforcement, Washington state will support both workers and law-abiding employers.
BALANCE OUR TAX CODE — Our infamous tax code is the most unfair and regressive in the nation. Closing the capital gains tax break on sales of stocks/bonds and other special interest tax loopholes, reforming the Real Estate Excise Tax to make it more progressive, and enacting a Working Families Tax Credit will help balance our tax code and fund state services.
PUBLIC SECTOR BARGAINING — As the federal government upends decades of public sector labor law, Washington should update its bargaining statutes to ensure that our public employees retain the freedom to join together and negotiate a fair return on their work.
KEEP WASHINGTON WORKING — Many of our state’s most important industries rely on the dedicated work of immigrants. The state should bring communities together to develop strategies to protect our immigrant workforce, and secure their rights as workers and as members of our communities.
In addition, the WSLC will be advocating for legislation the following areas:
BUILDING UP OUR WORKFORCE
● BUILDING PUBLIC RETROFITS — The Legislature should conduct an inventory of public buildings, and put them on an energy and environmental health retrofit schedule to extend these buildings’ lives, and to create high-quality construction jobs for years to come.
● INVEST IN POST-HIGH SCHOOL EDUCATION — As the backbone of our workforce development system, our state’s community and technical colleges connect K-12 students with career opportunities. After decades of defunding, we must invest in our CTCs to prepare students to thrive and achieve economic security as our state’s need for skilled and knowledgeable residents increases.
● SECURE SCHEDULING — Workers should be able to have private lives, not just working lives. Short-term schedule management, last-minute cuts to hours, and just-in-time additions to shifts make it impossible for people to plan their lives. Basic standards for scheduling changes and notice will help workers also be more engaged members of their communities and families.
● INCUMBENT WORKER TRAINING — Legislators should align and fund programs that support workers and employers in upskilling for the next generation of work.
MORE EFFECTIVE, ACCOUNTABLE GOVERNMENT
● TAXPAYER PROTECTION ACT — Our state pays hundreds of millions to for-profit corporations and private groups to perform public services. The Legislature should ensure the best return on these dollars by adopting performance metrics and accountability measures for all contracts.
● SIMPLE MAJORITY SCHOOL BONDS — The unreasonable super-majority hurdle for approving school bonds dooms many critical projects to failure, contributing to overflowing classrooms, and unsafe crumbling schools. This harms the quality of education in school districts across the state.
HEALTHY FAMILIES, HEALTHY COMMUNITIES
● INVEST IN HOUSING — Many communities face a crisis in housing affordability, but the state has failed to equip cities and counties with the tools to solve the problem. The Legislature should streamline zoning and permitting, enact eviction reform, and support public financing of housing and homeless services.
● GUARANTEE HEALTH CARE TO AGE 26 — The Affordable Care Act was designed to guarantee healthcare coverage for young people to age 26 by extending coverage provided by their parents. But Medicaid has left these workers out in the cold. The state should close this loophole and deliver on the promise of the ACA for youth in our communities.
● HEALTHCARE MEAL & REST BREAKS — Hospitals have failed to ensure that their employees – our healthcare providers, like nurses and medical technicians – are able to take meal and rest breaks. This can lead to life threatening, but preventable, medical errors due to fatigue. These healthcare employers should be held accountable.
● RAILROAD STAFFING — Rail disasters involving trains hauling hazardous materials may have been prevented had more than one worker been assigned to the train. Ending single-member crews for hazardous material trains will limit these derailments and better protect communities.
● FIRE SERVICE OCCUPATIONAL DISEASE — Our workers’ compensation laws should be updated to reflect the latest science on occupational disease exposure for firefighters, EMTs, and fire investigators.
● ASBESTOS EXPOSURE — Workers in Washington face significant exposure to cancer-cusing asbestos, particularly at industrial facilities built prior to 1975. The Legislature should create a 10-year plan to identify, contain and remove all asbestos materials that constitute a health hazard in the state’s industrial facilities.
JUSTICE FOR WORKERS
● REGULATE NON-COMPETITION CONTRACTS — A rapid expansion in noncompetition contracts — up to 20% of all workers are now bound by them — is blocking workers from seeking better jobs. The Legislature should strictly regulate the use of these contracts that limit competition for labor.
● OVERTIME FOR FARM WORKERS — The people doing some of the most strenuous work in our economy — harvesting our food — are denied access to overtime pay. Washington should close this discriminatory loophole.
● WORK VIOLENCE / SEXUAL HARASSMENT — Lawmakers need to lead the way on preventing abusive treatment, bullying, inappropriate behavior, and sexual harassment that Washington workers face on the job.
● LONG-TERM CARE TRUST ACT — Long-term care in Washington is very expensive. The Trust Act would give families the security of knowing they will get the care they need when they need it most, without having to spend down their life savings to access Medicaid.
● PLAN 1 COLA & PLAN 2 DEFAULT — In 2018, the Legislature finally funded a modest one-time COLA for Plan 1 retirees. In 2019, the COLA should be made permanent. Also, the state should change the default retirement plan for public workers from Plan 3 to Plan 2 to ensure more retirees are protected by defined-benefit pensions.
● MEDICARE SUBSIDY — To support our seniors’ against healthcare inflation, the state should increase the financial support for retired public employees.
In addition to this Shared Prosperity Agenda, the WSLC will support other legislation championed by its affiliated unions on a range of issues to address economic opportunity and justice.