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House Democratic Caucus staff say ‘Union YES!’

More than 80% of newly empowered legislative staffers sign cards to unite with WPEA


The following is from the Washington Public Employees Association (WPEA)/UFCW Local 365:

OLYMPIA (May 29, 2024) — Earlier this month the Washington Public Employees Association/UFCW Local 365 filed for representation on behalf of the Washington State Legislature’s House Democratic Caucus staff.

Legislative staff were prohibited from forming or joining a union until a 2022 law that went into effect on May 1 of this year. WPEA has actively supported legislative staff’s right to collectively bargain, an effort that goes back to a 2011 bill proposed by former staff-turned-member Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-West Seattle).

The proposed unit includes over 80 staffers working as Legislative Assistants, Policy Analysts, Communications Specialists, Constituent Services staff, and more. More than 80 percent of the workgroup signed cards indicating their desire to be represented by WPEA.

“The legislative staff have been waiting a long time to be able to form a union. We’re honored that when the time came, they asked WPEA to represent them. The legislature might be a unique workplace, but their contract can be unique, too. We look forward to bargaining a contract that starts to address the issues they’ve been facing,” said Amanda Hacker, the President of WPEA.

House Democratic Caucus staff cited a variety of reasons for coming together to join WPEA, including compensation, workplace conditions, overtime (which is still excluded from bargaining until the 2027 contract), and more.

“During my time in the HDC I have worked in all three workgroups. While I was a Legislative Assistant I had to get a second job to pay my mortgage – so I would spend my days talking to constituents who were struggling with affordability in Washington, and then I would clock out and go pour beers until 11 p.m.” said Alice Palosaari, who now works as a Policy Analyst with the HDC. “Now, a few years farther into my career, I am struggling to balance this incredibly demanding job with having a family. I love this job and I want to be able to keep doing it and serving Washington for a long time, but we need some better work conditions to make that possible.”

Samantha Cruz-Mendoza, a Legislative Assistant who is just shy of two years with the caucus, also talked about how a union will help improve the workplace for staff, legislators, and constituents.

“Though I would be considered relatively new in other workplace environments, here I am considered seasoned staff, due to the massive turnover” said Cruz-Mendoza. “This union feels long overdue for legislative staff, and will give us the chance to work on compensation, housing stipends, professional development, and other significant workplace concerns.”

The next steps are for the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) to schedule a vote, and if the unit is able to be confirmed before July 1 we look forward to bargaining for the first contract which would go into effect summer of 2025.

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!