EHB 1575 brings clarity, strengthens freedom to join together in unions
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 (April 15, 2019) — The Washington State Senate on Friday approved landmark collective bargaining legislation that brings state laws into compliance with last year’s Janus decision by the U.S. Supreme Court and provides clarity and consistency for public employee union membership in Washington state. SHB 1575 passed the Senate on a 25-21 vote. It now returns to the House, which passed an earlier version of the bill 57-41, and then will head to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk for his signature into law.
“This legislation is a big priority for the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, and all of our affiliated unions that represent public employees,” said Larry Brown, President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. “For 40-plus years, fair-share representation has been the law of the land. With the imposition of Janus, state laws required realignment. We are grateful that our state legislators are doing so in ways that strengthen workers’ rights, clarify the rules and responsibilities of public employers and employees, and protect the freedom to join together in unions.”
Since 1977, Washington state statutes and policies regarding public employee bargaining rights have adhered to the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous Abood decision. That decision found that public employees covered by a union contract could withdraw from their unions, but that it was fair and legal for these non-members to pay a representation fee — or “fair share fee” — that is a fraction of full union dues, to help cover the costs of negotiating and enforcing that contract.
But the court’s Janus decision, announced last year after the State Legislature had adjourned, reversed Abood and imposed so-called “right-to-work” restrictions on all public employee unions nationwide. This outlaws fair-share representation fees and allows workers to withdraw from the union and not pay anything while still requiring the unions to represent them.
Unanswered by the Janus decision — and left for states to decide — was how and when workers can withdraw, and whether unions complying with existing laws prior to Janus had any liability for charging fair-share fees in the past.
● Strike fair-share representation fee and automatic dues-deduction provisions from state law according to the requirements of the Janus decision. It would also clarify that unions that relied upon and abided by state law and previous Supreme Court precedent prior to Janus, in terms of deducting fair-share fees from non-members, are not liable to refund them.
● Clarifies public employee unions’ responsibilities for processing and maintaining membership applications and resignation requests, and establishes the public employers’ responsibilities in terms of dues deduction. It also modernizes member organizing by recognizing electronic signatures and voice authorizations for joining a union.
● Makes cross-check certification consistent. Under current law, there are multiple thresholds for the percentage of public employees that must authorize union representation for the union to be certified as exclusive bargaining representative. SHB 1575 makes these “cross-check” certification processes uniform. If a majority of employees — more than 50 percent — want union representation, they would get it. (That’s already the case for most public employees.)
The WSLC thanks Democratic state senators for standing in solidarity with Washington’s working people at a time when their freedom to join unions is under attack, and for standing in solidarity with each other as they rejected a barrage of Republican-sponsored amendments last week intended to weaken the bill and discourage unionization.
STATUS REPORT ON LABOR BILLS
Policy bills — those not related to the budget — have until 5 p.m. this Wednesday, April 17 to pass from the opposite house, so the action continues to be fast and furious. Here is a status report on some of the bills we’ve been following in these WSLC Legislative Updates and at The Stand. (Click on the bills numbers for their up-to-the-minute status.)
100% CLEAN ENERGY — E2SSB 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. Read more about it. — Passed Senate, 28-19. Passed House, 56-42. Must return to Senate for concurrence.
ALLOWING AAGs TO JOIN TOGETHER — SSB 5297, sponsored by Sen. Sam Hunt (D-Olympia), would extend collective bargaining rights to assistant attorneys general. Read more about it. — Passed Senate, 27-18. Passed House, 61-35.
COLLEGE COUNSELOR STAFFING STANDARDS — ESHB 1355, sponsored by Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self (D-Mukilteo), would create a joint legislative task force to examine issues related to minimum standards and staffing ratios of counselors in the community and technical college system. — Passed House, 72-24. Passed Senate, 30-16.
HEALTH CARE: MEAL & REST BREAKS — SHB 1155, sponsored by Rep. Marcus Riccelli (D-Spokane), is patient safety legislation that would ensure frontline healthcare workers receive uninterrupted meal and rest breaks and close a dangerous loophole in the mandatory overtime law. Read more about it. — Passed House, 63-34. In Senate Committee on Labor & Commerce and Ways & Means; now in Rules.
TAKE ACTION! Please visit BreaksAreALifesaver.org to send your state senator a message to vote YES on SHB 1155.
HEALTH CARE: PATHWAY TO UNIVERSAL COVERAGE — 2SSB 5822, sponsored by Sen. Emily Randall (D-Bremerton), would set up a work group to make recommendations for publicly funded, privately delivered health care for all Washington state residents. The group will have representatives from various stakeholders in the state’s healthcare system, including from labor with knowledge of Taft-Hartley trusts, and would report its finding and make recommendations to legislators by Nov. 15, 2020. — Passed Senate, 28-21. Passed House Health Care & Wellness Committee and Appropriations. Now in Rules.
HEALTH CARE: STANDARDIZED INSURANCE PLANS — ESSB 5526 and E2SHB 1523, sponsored by Sen. David Frockt (D-Seattle) and Rep. Eileen Cody (D-Seattle), aim to increase the availability of quality, affordable private health coverage in the individual market. They would require the state to create a standardized insurance plans and contract with health insurance carriers to offer those plans. — ESSB 5526 passed Senate, 36-13. Passed House, 54-38. Must return to House for concurrence. E2SHB 1523 passed House, 57-41, passed Senate Health & Long Term Care and Ways & Means. Now in Rules.
HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT FOR ALL (HEAL) ACT — 2SSB 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. Read more about it. — Passed Senate, 27-21. Passed House State Government & Tribal Relations and Appropriations. Rules Committee relieved of further consideration and it’s ready for a floor vote.
H-2A OVERSIGHT — E2SSB 5438, sponsored by Sen. John McCoy (D), will create some state oversight of the H-2A program, the federal program allows the agricultural industry to bring foreign “guest” farmworkers into the country on temporary work visas. Read more about it. — Passed Senate, 26-21. Passed House, 96-0. Must return to Senate for concurrence.
INTEREST ARBITRATION FOR CAMPUS POLICE — SB 5022, sponsored by Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Kent), would provide interest arbitration for police officers at four-year colleges and universities. Read more about it. — Passed Senate, 45-2. Passed House, 68-24. Must return to Senate for concurrence.
INTEREST ARBITRATION FOR CORRECTIONS OFFICERS — 2SSB 5021, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim), would provide interest arbitration for employees at the Department of Corrections. Read more about it. — Passed Senate, 47-0. Passed House, 83-9. Must return to Senate for concurrence.
KEEP WASHINGTON WORKING ACT — E2SSB 5497, sponsored by Sen. Lisa Wellman (D-Mercer Island). 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. Read more about it. — Passed Senate, 30-16. Passed House, 57-38. Must return to Senate for concurrence.
LONG-TERM CARE TRUST ACT — 2SHB 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. — Passed House, 63-33. Passed Senate Health & Long-Term Care and Ways & Means. Now in Rules.
PLAN 2 DEFAULT — SB 5360 / ESHB 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. — SB 5360 passed Senate, 39-9. Passed House Appropriations; now in Rules. ESHB 1308 passed House, 74-22. Passed Senate Ways & Means; now in Rules.
REGULATE NON-COMPETITION CONTRACTS — ESSB 5478 and ESHB 1450, sponsored by Sen. Marko Liias (D-Lynnwood) and Rep. Derek Stanford (D-Bothell), 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. — Both bills were amended. ESSB 5478 passed Senate, 30-18; passed House Labor & Workplace Standards; was pulled from Rules, and is ready for a floor vote. ESHB 1450 passed House, 55-41; passed Senate Labor & Commerce; now in Rules.
WORK VIOLENCE / SEXUAL HARASSMENT — ESSB 5258, sponsored by Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Kent), requires companies that employ custodians, security guards, hotel or motel housekeepers, or others who spend a majority of their working hours alone to adopt a sexual harassment policy, provide sexual harassment training, provide a list of resources to employees, and provide panic buttons to isolated workers. — Passed Senate, 47-0; passed House, 57-35. Must return to Senate for concurrence.
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.