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Hundreds rally in Olympia to protect strikers with HB 1893

Washington State Senate has until Friday to stand with workers, vote on bill to allow strikers to access unemployment insurance


OLYMPIA (Feb. 29, 2024) — Hundreds of union members and supporters rallied in the rain Wednesday on the Capitol Steps to call on the Washington State Senate to pass legislation allowing striking workers to access unemployment insurance benefits. The state House has approved HB 1893, but the Senate only has until Friday’s cutoff deadline to do the same.

“The House has already taken a stand for Washington’s working families by passing HB 1893,” said April Sims, President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. “Now it’s time for our State Senators to stand with workers. Bring HB 1893 to the Senate floor now and vote YES!”

TAKE A STANDSend a message to your state senator today urging them to pass HB 1893.

At Wednesday’s rally, hundreds of union members from multiple trades across the state gathered to hear from labor and legislative leaders about why striking workers should get unemployment benefits. They also heard from workers struggling to get fair contracts, including Tom Bosserman, an 18-year barista at a unionized Starbucks store in Everett.

“I’ve personally worked with baristas who have been living out of their cars and I myself have experienced being on the verge of homelessness,” Bosserman said. “How do workers who are barely earning enough to afford groceries fight for better working conditions when striking means starving? A credible strike threat is what moves bargaining forward.”

Without HB 1893, intransigent employers can use the threat of evictions, repossessions, and other extreme economic hardships as a bargaining strategy. In particular, this harms low-wage workers who can never afford to exercise their right to withhold their labor. If HB 1893 is approved, Washington would join New York, New Jersey and Maine in allowing striking workers access to this critical safety net. This would help level the playing field, discourage extreme economic hardship as an employer bargaining strategy, and promote good-faith contract negotiations.

“This bill levels the playing field just a little bit,” said Rep. Beth Doglio (D-Olympia), prime sponsor of HB 1893 (pictured at right). “Executives who are sitting on the other side of the bargaining table from workers, they’re not standing out in the rain… They need to bargain with you all.”

Under HB 1893 as approved by the House, workers on strike would have a 14-day waiting period before they could apply for unemployment benefits, which would be limited to four weeks. Now, even with its limitations on benefits, lobbying groups representing some of the biggest corporations in Washington are fighting hard to kill this bill. They don’t want striking workers to have any lifeline at all.

Paula Isla-McGill, President of the AFA-CWA Council 19 representing 3,000 Alaska Airlines flight attendants, described how her union hasn’t reached a new contract in 10 years.

“A lot has happened since 2014,” she said. “We’ve gone through a pandemic, we’ve gone through a merger, and we’ve had contentious contract negotiations over the past year. A couple weeks ago, over 99% (of our members) voted to authorize a strike. It’s the first time we’ve taken such a drastic step in over 30 years. That’s because management refuses to bargain in good faith… Access to economic support (during a strike) doesn’t just even the playing field, it is essential to the survival of workers.”

After the rally, participants poured into the Legislative Building to talk to their senators and/or send written messages to them on the Senate floor urging them to bring up the bill and vote “yes.”

Here are some clips of union members explaining why they support HB 1893.

Find more videos and pictures from Wednesday’s rally at #UIforStrikers and #HB1893now.


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

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