TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 5 (PDF
Bill Cut-off looms in
This year's short session is
speeding ahead. The clock is ticking and any policy bills that are still in
committee by the February 8th cut-off date are dead. Fiscal committee cut-off
is February 12th.
As always your participation
matters. When legislators hear from constituents, the volume of the corporate
lobbyists' voices can be lowered and things can begin to happen that will
benefit working families.
Speak out on the issues you read about here.
Call, email or write your legislators and let them know you are reading, tell
them about the bills you are watching and remind them that you are deciding
how you will cast your own vote in the future. Remember, democracy depends on
individual participation... your voice can make a difference.
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.
Need a Full Time Commitment
For decades the Community and
Technical College system has marginalized its faculty workforce by increasing
the number of part-time faculty to full-time faculty positions. This is a
national problem as well as a state problem. We are now at the point where the
majority of our faculty in the system are part-time instructors. The ratio of
full-time instructors to part-time instructors, is approximately 1/3 to 2/3,
with part-time instructors teaching approximately one-half of all classes
taught in the system.
The dedication of these
instructors ensures that class room instruction doesn’t suffer; but student
services and student achievement does suffer. When a faculty member is
part-time he or she can’t dedicate time to office hours, counseling,
curriculum planning – services that are essential for students to succeed.
What was once seen as a system-wide cost saving measure put in place when
state budgets became tight is now becoming a liability to the entire system.
We cannot reach the state’s overall goal of increasing student achievement
and improving the system with a majority of part-time faculty members.
In a 1999 budget proviso the
legislature commissioned a full-time/part-time faculty mix study. The results
concluded that a serious faculty mix problem existed and that, funding
available, 361 full-time faculty positions should be added to the system which
would bring the ratio of full-time faculty to part-time faculty to a 2/3 to
1/3 mix – the opposite of what exists today.
This finding was repeated
during a 2005 Best Employment Practices Taskforce report by the State Board
for Community & Technical Colleges. Resolution #3 called for addressing
the faculty mix issue through appropriate legislative funding and resolution
#5 called for a level of job security for part-time faculty.
HB 2528 and SB 6393 address
these issues by stopping the erosion of full-time faculty and putting basic
job security protections in place to help part-time faculty members. HB 2528
and SB 6393 are worthy of your support.
Should be a Private Matter
The question is: Should drug
sales representatives be allowed to walk into a doctor’s office and say;
"We have the records of all the drugs you currently prescribe your
patients and instead of using those drugs you should prescribe the drugs we
That is what the Prescription
Privacy bill (HB 2664) is all about. It would ban pharmaceutical companies
from buying lists of doctors’ prescribing records and using them for
marketing purposes. The bill would still allow prescribing records to be used
for research and recall purposes.
Doctor’s are unaware when a
company has purchased their records and they are overwhelmingly against the
practice. We believe that doctors have a right to privacy in what they
HB 2664 is on the House floor
calendar and is poised for a vote. But big PhRMA, pharmaceutical companies and
biotech companies are strongly opposed to this legislation. The army of
pharmaceutical lobbyists is out to kill this bill and only constituent action
will solidify the need for this legislation in the minds of our
representatives. We urge you to send emails or call your representatives and
tell them to vote to stop drug companies from using our doctors’ prescribing
records to market their drugs. Tell them to support HB 2664.
Also on the health care agenda…
The Healthy Washington Coalition is testifying
this week on HB 2536 which creates the Working Group to envision the future of
health care in WA State.
We are also awaiting action in the Senate on
the Working Group (SB 6333) and Prescription Privacy (SB 6241). Also, The
Insurance Rate Accountability bill (SB 5261) passed in the Senate last week by
a vote of 31 to 18. This bill will give the Insurance Commissioner the ability
to review any rate increases proposed by health insurance companies. The
companion bill (HB 1234) is up for a hearing in the house Tuesday at 6 p.m.
Benefits during the Appeals Process
If a worker gets injured on the
job or develops a disease related to a job they apply for Industrial Insurance
benefits through Labor and Industries or their self insured employer. If the
request is granted benefits are paid right away. Too often though, a
self-insured employer will deny benefits, the department will reverse the
decision of the self insured employer and the self insured employer then
appeals the decision to the Board of Industrial Insurance. When the employer
appeals the department's decision, the workers benefits stop until the appeal
is determined. Unfortunately mortgage payments, food and utility bills, and
car payments don’t stop – injured workers still have to pay these when the
employer appeals their workers’ compensation claim.
HB 3139 and SB 6750 (Benefits
on Appeal) will ensure that, if there is an appeal, the benefits already
granted to the worker will not stop while the claim is under review.
Built into the bill is an expedited review
process at the Board (40 days) which allows the employer to make their case
that a claim is really not valid and, if they prevail, then benefits will
stop. This lowers liability for both the employer as well as the worker.
Help for New
The Washington New Americans
Initiative is an attempt to reach out to the 135,000 immigrants in our state
who are eligible to become naturalized citizens but who have yet to start the
process. It is a chance to coordinate policies on the way we integrate
immigrants into our communities, how we help them build stronger lives and
increase their contributions to the state’s economy.
The initiative will establish a
Statewide Policy Council to develop strategies on how to help the immigrant
community follow their pathway to citizenship, develop their English
acquisition skills, familiarize themselves with educational opportunities and
will examine the development of the immigrant workforce.
In 2005, foreign-born residents made up about
12% of Washington’s total population; we have the 10th largest foreign-born
population in the country. The Governor has expressed her commitment to
signing an executive order and the WSLC is in strong support of the effort.
A landmark bill was passed
during the 2002 legislative session that enabled bargaining to go forward
between teaching assistants and research assistants at the University of
Washington and the United Auto Workers Union. Five years later, four thousand
student workers are a part of the union and two successful contracts have been
negotiated and signed without a hitch.
This year HB 2963 and SB 6737
would extend the authority to bargain to teaching assistants and research
assistants at Washington State University.
The truth is student workers
make the Universities function. They teach more than half of the undergraduate
instructional hours; they do the ground-work for the $200 million in federal
and private research grants that WSU gets each year; and they grade the tests
and papers, run the student discussion groups and hold office hours.
WSU is the last remaining research university
on the West Coast that doesn’t bargain with its academic student employees.
It is time to extend collective bargaining rights to these student employees,
many of whom are struggling to raise families on low wages with no benefits.
They deserve the protections a union contract can offer especially in terms of
affordable health care, a fair wage and a say in their working conditions
Needs High-Speed Internet Access
In the 21st century, access to
high speed internet isn't a luxury, it's a necessity. Ensuring that all
Washingtonians have access to affordable high speed internet is an investment
in our future. A true high-speed Internet system across Washington will:
Fuel the state's economy,
create jobs and keep us competitive
Bridge the digital divide and
create opportunity in rural and underserved communities
Improve the health, safety
and educational opportunities for all Washington residents.
In order to ensure that
Washington does not fall behind, we need a systematic and comprehensive
broadband policy. Go to www.speedmatterswa.org and see how you can help get
this legislation enacted. (HB 2559/SB 6348).
hearings this week
TUESDAY, Feb. 5 @ 5:30 p.m. Senate Committee on
Labor, Commerce, Research & Development hearing on defining the term
"employ" for minimum wage purposes. (SB 6867) in SHR4 also @ 6:00
p.m. House Health Care & Wellness hearing on the Insurance Rate
Accountability bill (HB 1234) in HHR A.