In session that begins today, Legislature urged to focus on policies that benefit workers, improve lives
UPDATED (Jan. 25, 2022) — With more details, including printable one-pagers on priority issues.
OLYMPIA (Jan. 10, 2022) — The Washington State Legislature begins its 2022 session today at the State Capitol with another hybrid session of mostly remote hearings, debate and floor action amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Much attention will be paid this year to supplemental adjustments to the 2021-23 budget, but Washington’s working families will also be supporting a number of policies to improve economic opportunities and protect workers amid this ongoing crisis.
With that in mind, the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO — the state’s largest union organization, which represents the interests of some 550,000 rank-and file members in more than 600 different unions — today released its Workers’ Recovery Agenda for the 2022 legislative session. (Download a printable PDF.)
As we adjust to the ongoing presence of COVID-19, the WSLC believes the Legislature must prioritize policies that equip workers and families with tools to improve their lives. Legislators must invest in job creation and the human infrastructure necessary for workers to obtain those jobs. Legislators must address the crisis experienced by workers in our healthcare system by ensuring we retain, respect and reward them for the immense commitment they have made to the rest of us.
And as we continue advancing and modernizing our energy systems, all levels of government in our state must examine the barriers to building out green energy infrastructure, including siting and permitting challenges. The WSLC will be supporting aggressive approaches to strengthening our workforce systems, securing safe and healthy workplaces, and providing support and opportunities to working families in transition.
Those WSLC legislative priorities include:
Healthcare workers are in crisis after nearly two years on the front lines caring for people amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As emergency rooms and ICUs filled with sick people, our nurses, techs, medical assistants, CNAs, nutrition workers, and EVS workers showed up every day to meet people’s needs despite short staffing and high burnout even prior to the pandemic. Long-term caregivers helped people get discharged from our overwhelmed hospitals, stay safe and recover at home. The Legislature must correct substandard compensation across the healthcare spectrum, and enforce minimum staffing standards so that workers can access basic meal and rest breaks that make work safe, reliable and balanced. (Get more information.)
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Apprenticeship is a proven pathway to the middle class for workers, and has served people in construction and skilled crafts in one form or another for hundreds of years. The Legislature should take steps to expand capacity and opportunity for current state-registered apprenticeship programs, while also providing resources for the successful adopting of joint labor-management programs in new industries. Further, the state should ensure that apprentices have access to a broad suite of student support services, and greater academic acknowledgement of their education and training. (Get more information.)
The Stand (Jan. 13) — Apprenticeship bills will boost opportunities
While Washington state is a leader in environmental and energy policy, its siting and permitting processes have hindered the construction of the infrastructure necessary to realize the transition to a green energy economy. The Legislature should modernize the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council to provide streamlined and predictable siting and permitting processes without harming environmental standards and the rights of Tribal nations. (Get more information.)
The Stand (Jan. 25) — Energy facility permitting needs upgrade to meet climate goals
The Legislature should take proactive steps to create job opportunities in industries with good wages, supportive benefits, and strong labor protections, while meeting the infrastructure needs of Washington families and businesses. By passing a significant transportation investment package, supporting new decarbonized aluminum jobs, and extending job-supporting tax incentives for data centers and jobs in film, the Legislature can create middle-class opportunities to more families in all regions of our state. (Get more information.)
The Legislature should invest in the workforce that has provided essential public services through-out the pandemic. It can do this by funding mid-contract MOUs for state employees, higher ed COLAs, and Corrections interest arbitration; correcting K-12 COLAs; and supporting behavioral health, child care, and home care workers. (Get more information.)
The WSLC will also support the following priorities:
- Bus Driver Benefit Parity — Ensure that contracted K12 bus drivers have quality health care.
- Buy Clean, Buy Fair — State contractors should track the labor and environmental impact of materials.
- Repetitive Stress Injuries — Eliminate the prohibition on the state Dept. of Labor and Industries to issue rules to prevent repetitive stress injuries.
- Pension Improvements — Provide benefit improvements for LEOFF, PERS 1, and PSERS plans.
- Paid Family Leave Adjustments — Make technical fixes to improve PFMLI for people who apply for benefits.
- Prevailing Wage for Workers with Disabilities — End ability-based discrimination in prevailing wage.
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)—Expand awareness of and increase access to PSLF for public employees.
- Rail Worker Sick Leave — Protect rail workers from retaliation when they need to use sick leave.
- UI Reporting Enforcement — Put teeth in to our unemployment insurance wage and hour reporting laws to fight employer fraud.
- UI Voluntary Quits — Support caregivers on UI who have limited availability to take jobs.
- WACares Improvements — Improve WACares, the new long-term services and supports program.
- Workers’ Compensation IME Reporting — Allow injured workers to record their independent medical exams.
The WSLC and its affiliates will also work toward advancing several other issues in 2022, either through legislation or the budget. These include securing benefits similar to unemployment insurance for undocumented workers; allowing legislative staff to join together to form their own unions if they wish to do so; funding workforce development through apprenticeship and our college and university system; and securing funding for state employee, teacher, classified staff, and faculty mid-contract agreements and COLAs. We will also continue working with community partners to make housing more affordable and secure, to make health care more accessible, and to defend against attacks on workers’ rights.
In addition to this 2022 Workers’ Recovery Agenda, the WSLC will support other legislation championed by its affiliated unions and a range of issues to address economic opportunity and justice.
In the coming days, the WSLC will be posting more information on these legislative priorities. Look for that information at the State Government section of The Stand and at the Legislative Advocacy section of wslc.org.