State government workforce fails to keep pace with growth

WFSE says raises needed to retain, attract public servants


The following is from the Washington News Service:

OLYMPIA (Jan. 19, 2023) — Washington state workers face a bevy of challenges, but they hope to get a lifeline from lawmakers this legislative session.

Along with lagging pay, the Washington Federation of State Employees said the workforce has not grown at the same pace as the population. While the population has increased 26% over the past two decades, the state workforce has grown just 5%.

Brian Edwards, office administrator at the University of Washington Harborview Medical Center, said state jobs have lost the luster they might have had 20 or 30 years ago.

“Folks don’t aspire to get a good-paying state job with a good pension and benefits because the private sector is outcompeting us,” Edwards pointed out.

A state survey on compensation from 2022 found state jobs across the board lag the market by more than 16%. Workers have proposed raises in their new contracts for 2023 to 2025 and hope lawmakers will ratify the agreements.

Andrew Stubblefield, highway maintenance worker for the Washington State Department of Transportation, said the risk of getting hurt or killed on the job has increased over the past few years.

“The people who were coming here from out of state with job skills, a lot of whom were paid more than what they could get here, were paid more in those other states,” Stubblefield explained. “And so looking for a low-paying, high-risk job is just not on their agenda.”

Stubblefield added Department of Transportation workers provide a crucial service, and he hopes legislators will keep it in mind this session.

“If we weren’t there, it would only take just a couple of days before roads would fall into disrepair,” Stubblefield contended. “We’re just barely keeping up with it with the people we have, and that’s because we can’t get anybody else interested in this because of the low wages.”

The legislative session is scheduled to last through April 29.

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