Also: Rest breaks for health care workers passes House, bill status reports as Wednesday cutoff approaches
This is the latest edition of the weekly Legislative Update newsletter from the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. If you didn’t receive it via email, subscribe to The Stand and you’ll get the Legislative Updates and all of the WSLC’s other legislative reports.
OLYMPIA (March 11, 2019) — With the Trump administration’s escalation of reprehensible federal policies on the arrest and detention of immigrants, every week there’s a new heartbreaking story about the targeting of immigrant families. Federal agents have targeted children in schools, families at healthcare facilities and courthouses, and in other public spaces, spreading fear throughout Washington communities and effectively taking away immigrant families’ access to important family services.
Nearly one million Washingtonians – one in every seven people in this state – are immigrants, and they are an integral part of our communities and workforce. When they are targeted and don’t feel safe in their community, this not only takes away basic human rights and dignity, it destabilizes the workforce of many of Washington state’s most critical industries, particularly our multi-billion dollar agriculture sector.
SB 5497 is the Keep Washington Working Act sponsored by Sen. Lisa Wellman (D-Mercer Island). It establishes a statewide policy supporting Washington state’s economy and immigrants’ role in the workplace, and ensures their access to state services. It develops strategies to protect our immigrant workforce, and secure their rights as workers and members of our communities. And last week, it passed the Senate, 30-16, with every Democratic member and three Republicans — Sens. Curtis King, Maureen Walsh and Judy Warnick — voting “yes.”
During committee testimony for SB 5497, immigrant workers told disturbing stories about their experiences. One saw an unknown man jumping over the fence into his yard at night and called the police. But when the police came, he was arrested for immigration offenses, taken to detention, and separated from his family for four months before being released. He said he has lost his faith in the police and no longer feels safe when he sees a police car driving through his neighborhood.
“Keep Washington Working is an important priority for the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO,” said WSLC President Larry Brown. “When members of our community have the reality or perception that their private information will be shared with federal agents when they go to school, seek medical care, go to a courthouse, or call the police or fire department, it affects us all — and we are all less safe. It also harms Washington’s economy and competitiveness by destabilizing its workforce.”
SB 5497 is now in the House Civil Rights & Judiciary Committee. The WSLC strongly urges the passage of this critically important legislation from committee and the full House.
Also passing the Senate last week was SB 5438, sponsored by Sen. John McCoy (D), which aims to create some state oversight of the H-2A program in Washington. That federal program allows the agricultural industry to bring foreign “guest” farmworkers into the country on temporary work visas. In some cases, H-2A workers in our state have reported working conditions likened to “indentured servitude” and alleged multiple violations of state and federal labor laws. In the absence of sufficient federal oversight of such abuses, SB 5438 would empower the state Employment Security Department to process and investigate complaints of violations.
SB 5438 passed the Senate, 26-21, and is now before the House Labor & Workplace Standards Committee. The WSLC urges its passage.
Patient safety legislation passes House
Unions representing health care workers and hospital staff have been working for a decade on legislation that would ensure frontline health care workers receive uninterrupted breaks, and close a dangerous loophole in the mandatory overtime law. Last week, that effort took a strong step forward with a bipartisan 63-34 vote in the House to pass HB 1155, sponsored by Rep. Marcus Riccelli (D-Spokane). It provides for uninterrupted meal and rest breaks, and prohibits the use of prescheduled on-call time to fill foreseeable staff shortages.
“When health care workers experience fatigue and burnout, patient safety is put at risk. That’s something you shouldn’t have to worry about when you or your loved is admitted to a hospital,” Riccelli said.
HB 1155 now heads to the Senate, where similar House-approved legislation died last year without a vote amid opposition from hospitals and their lobbying groups. The WSLC strongly urges the Senate to pass this important patient safety and worker fairness measure.
Important bills need votes before Wednesday’s cutoff
This Wednesday, March 13 is the deadline for bills to pass from their houses of origin. Here’s an update on some of the WSLC-supported bills that have recently passed, and some that still need floor votes before that cutoff:
ALLOWING AAGs TO JOIN TOGETHER — SB 5297, sponsored by Sen. Sam Hunt (D-Olympia), would extend collective bargaining rights to assistant attorneys general. Read more about it. — SB 5297 passed the Senate 27-18 and is now in House Labor & Workforce Standards.
HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT FOR ALL (HEAL) ACT — SB 5489, sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle), creating a definition of environmental justice, directing agencies to address environmental health disparities, and creating a task force to recommend strategies for state agencies to incorporate environmental justice principles into their responsibilities. — It passed the Senate, 27-21, and is now in House State Government & Tribal Relations.
LONG-TERM CARE TRUST ACT — HB 1087, sponsored by Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma), would establish a Long-Term Care Trust to reduce the biggest uninsured risk Washingtonians now face. It will help protect future taxpayers from the cost of long-term care, both to their families and to the state budget. Most of all, it would give families the security of knowing they will get the care they need when they need it most without the added stress of how to pay for it. Read more about it. — HB 1087 passed the House, 63-33 and it is scheduled for a public hearing in Senate Health & Long-Term Care this Friday at 8 a.m.
100% CLEAN ENERGY — SB 5116, sponsored by Sen. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle), would transition all electric utilities away from coal-fired power by 2026 and would make all retail sales of electricity greenhouse gas neutral by Jan. 1, 2030. A committee amendment to this bill reflects that tax incentives are tied to important labor standards like prevailing wage, apprenticeship utilization, preferred hire for women- and minority-owned businesses. Also, higher rebates are available for signing a project labor or community workforce agreements. — It passed the Senate, 28-19, has had a positive public hearing in House Environment & Energy, and is scheduled for a committee vote later this week.
PLAN 2 DEFAULT — SB 5360 / HB 1308, sponsored by Sen. Steve Conway (D-Tacoma) and Rep. Derek Stanford (D-Bothell), would change the default retirement plan for public workers from Plan 3 to Plan 2, if they fail to choose a plan within 90 days, to ensure more retirees are protected by defined-benefit pensions. — On Friday, SB 5360 passed the Senate, 39-9, and on Saturday HB 1308 passed the House, 74-22.
REGULATE NON-COMPETITION CONTRACTS — SB 5478, sponsored by Sen. Marko Liias (D-Lynnwood), would regulate non-competition agreements in Washington state to ensure they aren’t being used to exploit workers and deny them the opportunities to find better jobs. Read more about it. — It was amended and passed the Senate 30-18.
STILL NEED FLOOR VOTES
UPDATE COLLECTIVE BARGAINING LAWS — HB 1575 / SB 5623 sponsored by Rep. Monica Stonier (D-Vancouver) and Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim), are companion bills that would update Washington’s collective bargaining statutes to reflect common practices, promote consistency for certifying union elections, assign record-keeping responsibility, and generally bring our state laws into compliance with the Janus decision. Read more about this bill or download this one-pager for more details. — Both bills passed policy and fiscal committees, and are in Rules.
CLEAN BUILDINGS FOR WASHINGTON ACT — SB 5293 / HB 1257, sponsored by Sen. Carlyle and Rep. Beth Doglio (D-Olympia), which aims to increase energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse gases, and create jobs by making buildings healthier places to live and work. — SB 5293 has passed Senate Environment, Energy & Technology and Ways & Means, and is now in Rules. HB 1257 didn’t make it out of Appropriations before Friday’s cutoff.
INTEREST ARBITRATION FOR CORRECTIONS OFFICERS — HB 1042, sponsored by Rep. Brian Blake (D-Aberdeen), would provide interest arbitration for employees at the Department of Corrections. Read more about it. — It is in Rules.
INTEREST ARBITRATION FOR CAMPUS POLICE — HB 1043, sponsored by Rep. Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland), would provide interest arbitration for police officers at four-year colleges and universities. Read more about it. — It is in Rules.
INTEREST ARBITRATION FOR D.F.W. SERGEANTS — HB 2037, sponsored by Rep. Mike Sells (D-Everett), would provide interest arbitration under certain circumstances for sergeants at the state Department of Fish & Wildlife. — It is in Rules.
SIMPLE MAJORITY SCHOOL BONDS— SJR 8201, sponsored by Rep. Lisa Wellman (D-Mercer Is.) at the request of Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal, would allow Washington voters to decide this fall whether to change the constitution’s unreasonable 60 percent supermajority hurdle required to approve school bonds. This has doomed many critical public school projects to failure, despite support from a majority of voters, and contributes to overflowing classrooms and unsafe crumbling schools. — It passed Early Learning & K-12 Education and Ways & Means, and is still in Rules.
SIMPLIFY EMPLOYEE CLASSIFICATION — HB 1515, sponsored by Rep. Marcus Riccelli (D-Spokane), would simplify “independent contractor” definitions and improve enforcement when workers are incorrectly classified, which strips them of wages and access to worker safety nets, creates an unlevel playing field for businesses, and siphons away state revenue. Read more about it, or download a one-page PDF on the issue. — HB 1515 was amended in House Labor & Workforce Standards to create a work group of labor and business representatives to study this issue and present its findings to the Legislature this fall. The amended HB 1515 was then approved by the committee but is still in Rules Committee.
TAXPAYER PROTECTION ACT — HB 1521, sponsored by Rep. Laurie Dolan (D-Olympia), would ensure taxpayers are getting the best return on the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on for-profit contractors and private groups that provide public services. It would adopt performance metrics and accountability measures for all contracts. Read more about it. — It is in Rules.
TRANSPARENCY IN AGRICULTURAL SUPPLY CHAINS ACT — SB 5693, sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle), would provide transparency and corporate accountability for any labor abuses within the agricultural supply chain. Read more about it. — It passed Senate Labor & Commerce and is still in Rules.
WORKER PROTECTION ACT — HB 1965, sponsored by Rep. Drew Hansen (D-Bainbridge Is.), allows whistleblowers to sue on behalf of the state to enforce labor laws. — It passed the House Labor & Workforce Standards and Appropriations, and is on the 2nd reading calendar.
The WSLC Legislative Update is a weekly newsletter of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. It describes legislation of particular concern to Washington’s working families during throughout the state legislative session. Links to previous editions are available here. Additional legislative news is posted at The Stand’s State Government section.