Legislative Update

Workers Compensation and Unemployment Insurance protections are both under massive assault this year

 

Legislative Update

Of all the Essential Pieces we use to create the Nursing profession, Politics may at once be the most misunderstood and one of the most important.  This year, we hope to change that.

Last week the Washington State Legislature convened in Olympia, with the monumental task of closing a $4.7 Billion gap in the State Budget.  Even before the opening gavel fell, lobbyists and members from Unions all across Washington began working behind the scenes with Legislators to ensure that the programs our members need stay safe from the wave of cuts that will be coming soon.  We want to take this opportunity to fill you in on some of the activities 141’s Legislative team has been working on this last week and what we will working hard to accomplish over the next few months.

Workers Compensation and Unemployment Insurance protections are both under massive assault this year from business special interests, and the entire Washington State Labor Council has mobilized to protect these essential programs.  Numerous bills have been dropped attempting to undermine these safety nets, as well as a handful that hope to strengthen them.  This week the Governor has also put out a proposal of her own on Workers Compensation containing nearly a dozen massive overhauls meant to streamline the filing process and improve sustainability of its budget.  Some of the Governor’s suggestions are actually quite good, like expanding access to Community Occupational Health Education centers and increasing the window to receive benefits.  A few of her proposals, however, are extremely bad ideas, like cutting off Pensions for persons over the age of 65.  UFCW 141 is working hard with our coalition members and legislators to protect both these programs and to make the changes we need to keep them running well.

Legislative Update

Our second big fight comes from our efforts to protect the Basic Health program and Children’s Healthcare from any cuts in the budget.  In the Governor’s original budget proposal sent out several weeks ago, Basic Health and the Children’s Healthcare program were completely eliminated, potentially leaving over 66,000 people with no access to low cost healthcare for them or their families.  Thankfully, we may already be seeing good results from our talks.  The Legislature’s Budget proposal has already restored some funding to these programs, and we are prepared to keep working and ensure that we can make them as strong as possible for the next year.  This fight is far from over.

The state of Washington’s Budget is not good.  Out of our $28 Billion general fund, the State needs to cut out $4.7 Billion, nearly 20%.  Almost all of those cuts will be from Human Services and Public Safety.  Raising new revenue to offset losses is effectively off the table as well due to the passing of Initiative 1053 last November.  Any increases in taxes or fees would require a 2/3rd vote in both Legislative Chambers, which will simply not happen with the current makeup of the Legislature.  Proposals are being discussed to send funding for certain Human Services to a direct vote by Washington citizens this November, but the requirements for even this would be nearly as daunting and very uncertain.  Despite these difficulties, UFCW 141’s team is confident that they and the rest of the Washington Labor coalition will win on most of our issues this year and protect the programs vital for the health of our State.

In an effort to keep you better informed on the latest happenings, here are the recent articles from the WSLC Website:

  • Grocery chains denying fair deal to rural workers
  • Honor M.L. King by defending public workers
  • Red Lion Airport contract talks drag on

And here are several Labor-related articles from outside Newspapers and reporting organizations:

Amid budget crisis, hard health-care decisions: Where to cut?

Labor Council to push to close tax loopholes

If you would like to get more immediate updates from the State Labor Council, you can sign up for their mailing list by following this link.

We definitely appreciate feedback on the job we are doing and would welcome suggestions and help.  We will send out more updates over the coming weeks.  Thank you everyone for your support, and we’ll talk to you soon.

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