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Day of Action: State Workers Ask WA Lawmakers to "Do Their Job"

Members of Washington state's largest union are asking state lawmakers to fund their contracts. (Sean Dannen/Washington Federation of State Employees)
Members of Washington state's largest union are asking state lawmakers to fund their contracts. (Sean Dannen/Washington Federation of State Employees)
April 19, 2017

OLYMPIA, Wash. - State employees and their supporters are standing up today at more than 150 sites across Washington to ask state legislators to "do their job" by funding state workers' contracts, public services and safety-net programs.

Budget negotiations in Olympia are likely to send lawmakers past the scheduled end of the session on Sunday and into a special session. State employees hope for passage of the House Democrats' budget plan, which maintains funding for social services and funds employee contracts, providing a 6 percent raise over the next two years.

"State employees are in dire need of not only funding to advocate for the people that they serve, but for modest pay increases to keep good state employees, because there is a recruitment and retention crisis," said Tim Welch, director of public affairs for the Washington Federation of State Employees.

Welch noted that the budget also includes targeted raises for more than 10,000 workers to help address the issue of recruitment and retention. Republicans have said the state must figure out where the money for this plan is coming from before they'll agree. The Senate Republican budget rejects the contract that state employees negotiated with Gov. Jay Inslee last year.

Welch said the lack of competitive pay for the state workforce leads the private sector to raid their ranks after state agencies and resources have trained them. Hiring and training new workers is a costly investment, and Welch said the employees who would benefit from the House budget package are doing jobs that protect the state's most vulnerable.

"It's about respecting state employees' role as fierce and passionate advocates for the people they serve, the people who don't have a voice," he said, "abused and neglected children, and persons with developmental disabilities, and veterans and the elderly."

The state workforce also includes community corrections officers, park rangers, counselors at the state's mental-health hospitals and more.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA