After five long years of gridlock and our efforts to elect pro-worker candidates to the state senate, we had high expectations. And our assessment of this session is – it’s mixed. On one hand, the Legislature passed many bills that will protect our union and make Washington a more fair and equal place where every voice is heard. On the other, members of our union worked hard on several priorities that were not successful in this short session. Here’s an update on many bills SEIU 925 members worked on this year, including our regents bill:
- The capital budget will put nearly a billion dollars into school construction and upkeep, fund a grant and loan program for child care facility upgrades, and invest more than $800 million for projects in higher education and environmental and clean water protection, and is estimated to produce 75,000 jobs over the life of the included projects.
- The state budget included $18.5 million to reduce the State Need Grant waiting list and serve an additional 4,600 students. The College Promise Coalition lobbied to make this a reality. UW Faculty Forward joined this group at the beginning of the legislative session to meet our union’s mission of increasing access and opportunity for Washington students.
- SB 6029 creates a new student loan bill of rights, creating an advocate to review borrower complaints, requiring loan servicers in WA to be licensed, and installing more protections for borrowers in Washington.
- The supplemental budget reduces property taxes by 30 cents per $1,000 assessed value, and puts nearly $900 million in additional salary support into K-12 schools, and additional funding into mental health and opioid addiction services.
- HB 2861 creates a task force to expand training for trauma-informed child care and will include a seat at the table for a union representative.
- A budget proviso creating a partnership between the Imagine Institute and community and technical colleges to develop a training module for managing and sustaining a child care business for providers. We fought to make sure providers would drive the curriculum development.
- HB 2751, one of several bills introduced to protect our union in a post-Janus world, clarifies that our union says who belongs to our union, not the employer. The Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court case is part of a decades-long, well-funded campaign by wealthy special interests to divide us from our co-workers and limit the power we have to fight for better wages, benefits, and fairness in our workplaces. Sen. Annette Cleveland has a not-to-be-missed floor speech about how her father’s union membership helped keep her family in their home – we need more elected leaders who talk like this!
- The Legislature passed Initiative 940, which increases police accountability! This truly momentous achievement, driven by families and community impacted by unjustified deadly force, was supported by hundreds of members of SEIU 925 who signed the initiative. To avoid a divisive ballot campaign, initiative sponsors and law enforcement came together to compromise on a tough but fair new law to increase police accountability and transparency.
- HB 1506, the Equal Pay bill, passed, with enforcement teeth! This updates the 1943 Equal Pay Act to address gender income disparities, employer discrimination, and retaliation practices. Thanks to our friends at the Economic Opportunity Institute.
- Washington became the first state to pass a local internet neutrality bill in response to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule change this year. This bill would ban blocking, throttling content, or premium-priced “fast lanes” from any internet service provider (ISP) that serves residents in Washington.
A whole slate of bills making it easier for people to vote and elect candidates that will represent marginalized communities, including:
- SB 6002, the Washington Voting Rights Act, which creates a process for local election districts to address racially polarized voting.
- SB 6021, creating same-day voter registration. The bill, unfortunately, doesn’t go into effect until June 2019 but will be a game changer on college campuses.
- Expanding voter registration through HB 2595 and HB 1513, which allows 16- and 17 -year olds to pre-register to vote.
Unfortunately, some significant bills for our union came up short. Most disappointingly, a bill that would add a voting faculty member to the UW and WSU Boards of Regents did not get voted on in the Senate by the final deadline in a short legislative session year (it did pass the House, though). Faculty members of our union lobbied hard for this bill, and it’s disappointing that we ran out of time to pass it.
Additionally, the CARE Act would have expanded child care by incentivizing employers to help with the cost. This bill was first introduce this year, and passed the House, but we weren’t able to get it included in the final budget deal. And our efforts to reform our upside-down tax code came up short as the capital gains tax once again did not make it out of the House.
This session made it clear there is still much work to do in making our legislature work for working people. As we turn our sights to this year’s mid-term Congressional and state legislative elections, we need faculty like you making calls and knocking doors to hold elected leaders accountable for the votes they took – and the ones they let die. We also need to continue to elect champions for working people, who will help us grow our union, protect the rights of Washingtonians, and stand up for working families.
Despite efforts from the Freedom Foundation and other anti-union extremists, we know that by standing together, we are stronger and WE RISE.