The Stand

Worker Protection Act dies in Senate; WSLC says it’ll be back

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OLYMPIA (April 6, 2021) — The Worker Protection Act (HB 1076), legislation approved by the Washington State House of Representatives to allow workers to seek justice in court when if employer violates existing wage, work safety and discrimination laws, died last Friday when it failed to advance from the Senate Ways and Means Committee by that day’s cutoff deadline. The Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO expressed disappointment that this priority labor bill failed to pass in 2021, but vowed to return with the proposal again next year.

“Withheld wages, dangerous workplaces, and racial and gender discrimination — although already illegal under state law — are real problems that continue to hurt workers in Washington state, particularly workers in Black and brown communities,” said WSLC President Larry Brown. “It’s disappointing that the state Senate failed to approve the Worker Protection Act this year because this illegal behavior will continue to harm both workers and other employers who follow the rules. It’s a shame that state senators could not come together to pass worker-first legislation that working people on the frontlines have been asking for.”

State legislators received hundreds of emails, letters and phone calls in support of HB 1076 during the legislative session and heard compelling testimony from workers who said the legislation would protect them on the job. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Drew Hansen (D-Bainbridge Island), passed the House on a 53-44 vote on March 5. It was approved by the Senate Labor, Commerce & Tribal Affairs Committee, but hit a roadblock in the Ways and Means Committee where a handful of Democratic senators sided with business interests and Republicans who opposed the bill.

The WSLC vowed to continue work on HB 1076 and to take it up with senators who wouldn’t support the bill this year. While work remains during the interim, make no mistake, the Worker Protection Act will be back.

“This will continue to be one of our top legislative priorities until it is signed into law,” Brown said. “When the state is unwilling or unable to investigate complaints of illegal employer behavior, workers must be given another opportunity to seek justice and fairness by blowing the whistle in court. This has worked elsewhere to protect workers and improve employer compliance, and one day, it will work here in Washington.”

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