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In Olympia, there’s strength in our solidarity

At the WSLC Legislative Conference, more than 300 union members and leaders support each other’s priority issues at the State Capitol


OLYMPIA (Feb. 8, 2023) — Last week, the Washington State Labor Council hosted its 2023 Legislative Reception and Lobbying Conference at the Olympia Hotel on Capitol Lake. More than 300 members of WSLC-affiliated unions from across the state learned about the priority legislative issues affecting Washington’s working families, and then went to meet with lawmakers from their districts to discuss these and other issues.

“When workers join together in a union, they have a more powerful voice. The same is true in Olympia,” said Sybill Hyppolite, WSLC Government Affairs Director. “When union members go to the Capitol and support each other on their issues and speak with one voice, it’s a powerful message for legislators to hear.

A panel of labor leaders discuss priority bills before the Legislature at the Feb. 3 conference.

“It’s not just about issues where we share a common interest, like protecting all workers in Washington from repetitive stress injuries,” she added. “It’s also about supporting each other. It may be a building trades worker supporting nurses on hospital safe staffing. Or a Boeing Machinist supporting state employees on getting their contracts funded. Or a teacher supporting the creation of good union jobs in the clean-energy sector. When we support each other, we are all stronger. And our lawmakers take note.”

At the WSLC Legislative Reception on Feb. 2, leaders and rank-and-file members of unions got to meet each other and some state legislators in an informal setting. The following morning, under the theme “Better Jobs, Stronger Communities,” attendees at the WSLC Legislative Lobbying Conference learned about several priority legislative issues and then went to the Capitol — by multiple busloads — to meet with their state legislators to urge their support for pro-worker legislation.


The conference included appearances by several legislative leaders, including the chairs of the Senate and House labor committees, Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines) and Rep. Liz Berry (D-Seattle). Both urged union members to connect with their legislators and to stay in contact with them about important issues.

Sen. Karen Keiser addresses the conference alongside WSLC President April Sims.

“Get to know your legislators. We actually are real people,” Keiser said. “Get to know us because that’s how we make progress. So please connect, remain connected, and keep pushing.”

“I want to thank all of you so much for your support,” Berry said. “Hearing from you means the world to us. Please keep in touch and I want you to know that you have the best lobbying team in the biz.”

That lobbying team at the WSLC includes Hyppolite, Legislative Director John Traynor, and Chief of Staff Joe Kendo, with support from department assistant Laurel Poplack and legislative intern Sierra Turner. Multiple unions around Washington also have talented staff and lobbyists who meet regularly as the United Labor Lobby and support each other’s legislative efforts.

At the conference, Hyppolite introduced a panel of labor lobbyists and leaders who provided a summary of the priority bills and their current status. These priorities are part of the WSLC’s 2023 legislative agenda (see a 1-page (front-and-back) summary or a 4-page version with bill numbers). They include the following priorities:

Invest in Essential Public Workers — Fund the contracts and healthcare agreements for state employees, teachers, and other educational staff; increase pay for part-time community and technical college faculty, paraeducators and other low-wage education professionals; expand collective bargaining rights to more workers; and protect private union membership records.

Create Climate Jobs — Improve the state’s siting and permitting processes for energy facilities, invest in climate upgrades at our public schools, and track the environmental and labor impacts of our state’s infrastructure materials.

Healthcare Staffing Standards — Set nursing staff minimums, close loopholes in overtime and rest-break rules, and ensure functional hospital staffing committees.

Worker Protections (Washington Safe at Work, SB 5217) — Repeal antiquated restrictions preventing the state from protecting workers from musculoskeletal injuries.

Housing Options for Working Families — Reform exclusionary zoning, legalize significant density near transit, and make it easier to build affordable housing.

WSLC President April Sims thanked all of the union members who came to Olympia to support each other and offered an inspiring message about the power of solidarity in Washington’s labor movement.

“We all know that too often the deck is stacked against working people,” Sims said. “Bosses and billionaires hold tremendous power in this country. And at times, the sheer scale of that power imbalance can sit heavy on our shoulders… But when you feel that weight, remember that you are not alone. Remember the people you are sitting with now, who’ve come together to advocate for one another. Remember that the 300 people in this room are just a fraction of the over half a million union members in Washington state.

“This is the unparalleled power and potential of our labor movement,” she added. “United, there is nothing we cannot do.”


WSLC Wednesdays is a new feature of The Stand where different departments of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO describe their recent activities and the services they are providing to WSLC-affiliated unions.

CHECK OUT THE UNION DIFFERENCE in Washington: higher wages, affordable health and dental care, job and retirement security.

FIND OUT HOW TO JOIN TOGETHER with your co-workers to negotiate for better wages, benefits, and a voice at work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!