FRIDAY, JANUARY 24 (PDF
Lobbying Intensifies as
Session Heats Up
Two weeks into the session and
bills are flying. During this short session everyone is scrambling to get
their issues heard. We have a round-up of bills in this issue as well as a
report on the state of the health care reform legislation.
WSLC President Rick Bender was
busy testifying on a couple different issues this week. First in the House
Appropriations Committee Rick emphasized the need for a dual focus when
preparing our youth for life after high school. He agreed that there must be
high standards for kids who want to go on to college, but pointed out that the
highest growth industries in our state are in desperate need of well-trained,
high-skilled workers in the trades. He was a strong voice in emphasizing the
need for technical training and apprenticeships to prepare workers for these
Rick also submitted testimony
on Governor Gregoire's Climate Action and Green Jobs bill saying the
legislation would "build pathways to prepare people for good family wage
jobs in non-polluting employment as well as promoting sustainability of our
The Apollo Alliance has brought
a diverse group of leaders together to sponsor this legislation including
labor, business, environmental and anti-poverty communities.
Dave Johnson, Executive
Secretary of the State Building Trades Council said: "Labor is committed
to the development of environmentally sustainable technologies here in
Washington. We agree with Governor Gregoire that these emerging industries are
an excellent opportunity to create family wage jobs, support area wage
standards, and make a commitment to help our environment."
Dave explained how the Building
and Constructions Trades industry is already equipped with an existing
infrastructure to ensure quality, up-to-date education and training through
state-approved apprenticeship programs for individuals seeking building and
construction careers in green technology fields. He said: "We are pleased
to be a partner in this effort to begin building a better future for
Washington's citizens today."
Legislative Conference will be Feb. 14
Leaders, staffers and
rank-and-file members of WSLC-affiliated unions are invited to get a progress
report on labor's legislative agenda at the Washington State Labor Council's
2008 Legislative Conference, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 14
at the Olympia Red Lion Hotel. As always, there will be a reception from 6:30
to 8:30 p.m. the preceding evening on Wednesday, Feb. 13 at the hotel with
many legislators and other state officials in attendance. The conference
registration fee, which includes materials, lunch and one admission to the
reception, is $50. Get more information, including registration forms, at www.wslc.org.
Families Tax Credit
In these times of escalating
gas, food and health care costs low-wage working families are caught in the
cross-fire. Finally a much needed tax break has been introduced for low-wage
workers. Representative Tami Green introduced HB 3234 and Senator Craig
Pridemore introduced SB 6809 to create a Working Families Credit equivalent to
10% of the Federal Earned Income Tax credit.
"Workers with lower wages
face a daily challenge to make ends meet." said Rick Bender, President of
the Washington State Labor Council. "The Working Families Credit will
help families who need it the most."
It is estimated that 350,000 of
the lowest paid Washingtonians will benefit from this tax credit. We urge your
support of this legislation.
Where do school yard bullies
go? They continue bullying at the workplace. According to Zogby International
an astonishing 37% of US workers have been bullied at the workplace. According
to the poll 72% of the bullies are supervisors or bosses. This explains why in
62% of the cases, when made aware of bullying at their workplace, employers do
Senator Rosa Franklin introduced SB 6622, which
was heard in Senate Labor on January 22, to give remedy to workers who faced
relentless bullying at work. Three cheers to Senator Franklin for standing up
to bullies and we encourage the rest of the legislature to do the same and
pass SB 6622.
Twists and Turns
According to the largest,
broadest coalition ever to come together to change health care in WA State,
the Healthy Washington Coalition (HWC), slow and steady progress is the only
way to create the changes that will improve quality, contain costs and
increase access to health care for all Washingtonians.
We thought it was working ….
The Insurance Rate Accountability Act (SB 5261) addresses costs by insisting
that the huge, profiteering insurance companies (supposedly nonprofits) in the
individual market must justify any rate hikes to the State Insurance
Commissioner. It is the right thing to do. We must stop the 20 to 30% yearly
rate hikes we have seen.
The Democratic majority wanted
to bring the bill to the floor for a vote today, but the Republican caucus
blocked the effort. Apparently they care more about the health care insurance
industry than they do about their constituents. The bill will now be brought
to the floor for a vote next Wednesday at 10 a.m.
The Prescription Privacy bill
will, we hope, move out of both the House (HB 2664) and Senate (SB 6241)
committees next week. That is the legislation that stops pharmaceutical
companies from purchasing the prescribing records of physicians for marketing
The bill to create a Working
Group to study health care proposals (HB 2536 and SB 6333) took some
interesting twists and turns this week but is now out of the House Health
Committee. We were surprised when appointment of the Working Group was
assigned to the Office of the Insurance Commissioner, but we were pleased to
hear that decision will be amended so that appointments will be handled by the
Governor while the contract is managed by the Office of Financial Management.
We anticipate that an
Independent Working Group will objectively analyze the 5 or 6 health care
proposals and have a robust discussion with citizens throughout the state
before their report is due in December, 2008.
Fairness for Truckers
For the last twenty-five years
workers who work directly for a farmer on products produced by that farmer
have not gotten overtime pay– this includes transporting the product to the
packing house or to market. However when outside workers in the trucking
industry were hired to transport a farmer's goods to the packing house or to
market they did get overtime pay.
In 2006 things changed. The WA
State Supreme Court decided in Cerrillo v Esparza that the convoluted
language of the law covering OT for farm workers didn’t fit the twenty-five
year practice of paying overtime to workers in the outside trucking industry.
As a consequence, workers in the trucking industry had their overtime pay
taken away. This is not right and it is not fair. HB 2979 corrects this
problem and restores the overtime pay to workers in the trucking industry. The
WSLC is working to pass this bill.
Brinks Company workers won a
Supreme Court decision last October that ensures that they get paid while
driving their company trucks from their home to their first job site of the
day and from the last job site back to their home. This may seem trivial, but
Brinks requires their drivers
to take their trucks home at night. The trucks essentially act as the workers’
office, housing the tools and supplies workers use to install home security
systems. Each morning, the drivers find out the location of their first
assignment, they get into their trucks and they drive there; when they finish
their last assignment they drive back home. Brinks didn’t want to pay
drivers for this commute time. The drivers went to court and won.
Now some in the business
community want to overturn the Brinks decision with legislation this session.
This is unfair to workers in the state of Washington. The Brinks decision did
not address normal commute time to and from a traditional workplace in an
employers’ vehicle. That would not be considered work time. But when a
worker goes directly to an offsite work location it is fair they be
compensated for that drive time. Labor is willing to work with L&I and the
business community to clarify this regulation if indeed this needs to be done.
Hearings Next Week
TUESDAY @ 10 a.m. House
Judiciary Committee: hearing HB 3104 that makes important technical fixes to
the domestic partnership bill passed last year. @ 1:30 p.m. House Commerce
& Labor: hearing HB 3121 Underground Economy; HB 3122 to clarify
independent contractor definitions; HB 2967 Unemployment Insurance benefits
for workers leaving work to enter apprenticeship training; and HB 2864 a
prevailing wage bill. @ 1:30 p.m. Senate Government Operations: SB 6776
THURSDAY @ 3:30 p.m. Senate
Labor & Commerce: hearing SB 6737 to allow collective bargaining for TA’s
and research assistants at WA State Univ. and they will also hear SB 6750
which provides injured workers benefits on appeal when the Department has
found that they are entitled to their benefits.
FRIDAY @ 1:30 p.m. House
Commerce & Labor: hearing HB 3139 regarding benefits on appeal and they
will also hear HB 2142 which addresses the problem of workplace bullying.