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WSLC delegates swarm State Capitol to ‘reclaim worker power’

OLYMPIA (Feb. 2, 2024) — The priority legislative issues of Washington’s union movement got a major push Thursday as the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO held its 2024 Legislative Lobbying Conference. Hundreds of delegates from unions across the state were briefed on the status of pro-worker bills and then went to the State Capitol to meet with their state representatives and senators to urge their support.

“Today is about exercising our power as working people,” said WSLC President April Sims in her opening remarks. “It’s about ensuring our voices are heard, and that we have an impact on the policies and politics that will affect workers, our families, and our communities.”

WSLC President April Sims and Secretary Treasurer Cherika Carter

“We know 2024 will be a watershed year,” she added. “With major contract fights on the horizon and a pivotal election in November, strengthening worker power is essential. The work we do this session sets the stage for this year’s coming fights.”

Rep. Liz Berry

Delegates heard from two true labor champions in Olympia: Rep. Liz Berry (D-36th), chair of the House Labor & Workforce Standards Committee, and Sen. Karen Keiser (D-33rd), chair of the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee.

Gov. Jay Inslee also addressed the conference, declaring his support for multiple pro-worker bills, including unemployment insurance for workers forced out on strike and the Employee Free Choice Act to ban captive audience meetings, which corporations use as a union-busting tactic or to force their political and religious views upon employees.

Of the latter bill, Inslee told delegates about his personal experience working for a sand-and-gravel company while he was in law school. Some co-workers in the lunchroom brought up the idea of forming a union, but one older worker said they shouldn’t even be talking about this because they could all get fired.

“On his face was this look of fear and anxiety and oppression,” Inslee said. “We ought to make it a law in the state of Washington so that nobody can dragoon and put pressure on people when they want to form an organized bargaining unit. I feel very, very strongly about that.”

(From left) Reps. Sharlett Mena, Rep. Emily Alvarado, WSLC Political Director Osta Davis, Sen. Jeff Holy, Rep. Sam Low, and Rep. Dave Paul.

Delegates also heard from a panel of legislators who shared their backgrounds, described their legislative districts, and discussed the pro-worker legislation they were supporting and sponsoring. The panel included Sen. Jeff Holy (R-6th), Rep. Dave Paul (D-10th), Rep. Sharlett Mena (D-29th), Rep. Emily Alvarado (D-34th), and Rep. Sam Low (R-39th).

WSLC Government Affairs Director Sybill Hyppolite introduces the policy panel.

A policy panel of union members described the priority bills from the WSLC’s 2024 Legislative Agenda. They included (follow the link to see the WSLC summary of each bill):

● Guillermo “Memo” Mogollan of Teamsters Local 117, Employee Free Choice Act banning captive audience meetings (HB 1940 / SB 5778)

● Josh Koopmans of Machinists District 751, Unemployment Insurance for Strikers (HB 1893 / SB 5777)

● Matt Heiszler of the Washington Education Association, PERC Cards: Digital Union Signatures (SB 6060)

● Mallorie Davies of LiUNA (Laborers), Sanitary Conditions in Construction (HB 2266 / SB 6107)

● Natalie Wellen of UAW Local 4121, Fertility Coverage (HB 1151/SB 5204)

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