State’s largest union organization announces its priorities for 2024 session
OLYMPIA (Jan. 8, 2024) — The pandemic altered Washington’s economy and exposed how tenuous economic security is for working families. Now workers are joining together in our state and across the nation to demand better wages and working conditions. But unnecessary obstacles exist for organizing unions, accessing safety nets for injured and unemployed workers, attaining safe and healthy working conditions, and getting benefits that strengthen our families.
In 2024, Washington’s labor movement will call on the State Legislature to remove some of these obstacles that working families face as they seek better jobs and stronger communities. With those objectives in mind, the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO — the state’s largest union organization, which represents the interests of more than 500,000 rank-and file members in more than 600 different unions — has released its 2024 Legislative Agenda for the session that begins today (Monday, Jan. 8). This 4-page document will be updated in the coming weeks with bill numbers and other changes.
“Washington’s union movement is united in seeking legislative changes that will improve the jobs and lives of Washington’s working families,” said April Sims, President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. “Since last session, we’ve been meeting with our affiliated unions to discuss their priority issues. Although this will be a short 60-day session, there’s a lot that our elected officials can accomplish to help workers who are facing economic uncertainty.”
The WSLC’s 2024 legislative priorities include (follow links to PDF fact sheets):
Unemployment Insurance for Strikers — Rather than negotiate a fair contract, some employers weaponize the economic instability of workers — especially low-income workers — to force a strike and “starve them out.” Washington should join New York, New Jersey and Maine in allowing workers to access unemployment insurance after more than two weeks on strike. HB 1893 / SB 5777 will help level the playing field, discourage economic hardship as a bargaining strategy, and promote good-faith contract negotiations.
Employee Free Choice Act — Multiple states have created protections against “captive-audience meetings,” which corporations use as a union-busting tactic or to force their political and religious views upon employees. Washington should join them by passing HB 1940/SB 5778.
TAKE A STAND! — Please send a message to your Washington state legislators in support of these two bills: Unemployment Insurance for Strikers (SB 5777 / HB 1893) and the Employee Free Choice Act (SB 5778 / HB 1940).
Workers’ Compensation Fairness — Workers’ compensation administrators for all employers should be held to standards of “good faith and fair dealing.” But in Washington, only injured workers in the public sector have that protection. Passing HB 2168 / SB 5991 would end this two-tiered system. All workers, public and private, should be entitled to basic fairness if they are injured at work.
Sanitary Conditions in Construction — Construction workers who menstruate and/or express milk lack the necessary accommodations to protect their safety and health on job sites. Washington should pass HB 2266/SB 6107 to remove those barriers to employment, protect these workers, and promote equity in the industry.
PERC Cards: Digital Union Signatures — The Washington State Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) does not allow digital signatures for union authorization cards. Approving SB 6060 would modernize this process and ensure public employees can use digital signatures when they seek to join together and seek union recognition.
Fertility Coverage — Access to fertility services should not be reserved only for the wealthy. Working people should be able to grow their families as well. HB 1151/SB 5204 requires regulated insurance plans in Washington to include fertility coverage so this treatment is more affordable for parents.
The WSLC will also prioritize multiple legislative efforts, including:
- Continuing to improve siting and permitting processes for energy facilities
- Funding high-quality child care
- Improving wages for education support professionals
- Pay equity for part-time and adjunct CTC faculty
- Ensure healthcare mergers don’t restrict access to care
- Clarify collective bargaining units and scope for legislative staffers
- Fully fund supports for public school students with disabilities
- And many other priorities outlined in the WSLC 2024 Legislative Agenda
In addition to this agenda, the WSLC will support other legislation championed by its affiliated unions and community allies on a range of issues to address economic opportunity and justice.
In the coming weeks, the WSLC will be posting more information on these legislative priorities. Look for more details in the State Government section of The Stand and at the Legislative Advocacy section of wslc.org.
The WSLC will host its 2024 Legislative Reception on Wednesday, Jan. 31 and its Legislative Conference on Thursday, Feb. 1 in Olympia. In addition, delegates representing unions from across the state will convene a special COPE Endorsement Convention on Feb. 1 to consider the 2024 race for Governor. Get details and registration information.