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Governor and legislative leaders kill Worker Privacy Bill

Post by News Tribune Staff on March 11, 2009 at 2:08 pm with No Comments »
March 11, 2009 2:08 pm

UPDATE No. 2 (1:54 p.m.)

Statement from Rick Bender, President of the Washington State Labor Council

We regret the incident. It was a result of frustration with the legislature’s failure to protect workers’ rights in the workplace. Our job is to always protect workers’ rights.

We do not believe that any law has been violated and we have no additional comments until we know where this will go.

Thank you very much.

So, I guess the Labor Council is admitting to something, but not to a crime. (Reminds me of the apology that Jason Giambi made a couple years ago, without ever saying he took steroids.)

UPDATE No. 1: House members have been briefed, but many of them are not happy about the sketchiness of the details that the House lawyer, Tim Sekerak, and Frank Chopp’s lawyer, Cathy Maynard, are giving them, or not giving them.

According to someone at the briefing: Someone on the labor side of the Worker Privacy Act, possibly someone at the Washington State Labor Council itself, allegedly sent a threatening e-mail to two senators and two representative. It was something like, move the bill forward or you get no more contributions from us.

“We get stuff like that all the time — ‘if you don’t do this, I’m never going to contribute to you again!'” one lawmaker said. “What’s different in this e-mail?”

(All the stuff below is actually from my first postings on this topic.)

They’re not getting an answer, which makes many of them who favored the Worker Privacy Act very suspicious. It’s a convenient excuse to kill the bill, they say.

“This may be more political than legal,” is what some are saying.

We reporters still don’t know exactly what is going on here yet because beyond the joint statement below, Gov. Chris Gregoire, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and House Speaker Frank Chopp aren’t saying anything.

Apparently, one side of the Worker Privacy issue has linked future campaign contributions to the outcome of that bill. Now, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with that in the rough-and-tumble world of politics and lawmakers. But apparently, if someone makes a connection between any money and any particular bill, it could be consider a sort of bribery.

This is the bill that basically would let workers walk out of meetings that company management holds to bad-mouth unions, hit workers up for charitable contributions (such as giving to United Way) and other stuff.

I contacted Sgt. Freddy Williams at the Washington State Patrol and he said Capt. Jeff DeVere is looking into it and will get back to me.

UPDATE: Williams got back to me, but it’s no help. Read beyond the “Read More” link.

Regardless of what happened, this allows the Democratic leaders to take off the table a terribly contentious issue. The labor supporters wanted the bill; Boeing and other businesses didn’t.

Now, it’s just going to go away. Pretty fortunate, huh?

But with threats like that out there, it would look bad if the Legislature advanced it, wouldn’t it?

I understand that House members will be briefed on the issue pretty soon by their House counsel, Tim Sekerak.

These are the two bills: Senate Bill 5446 and House Bill 1528.


Joint statement from Gov. Chris Gregoire, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and Speaker of the House Frank Chopp on the Worker Privacy Act

"We are no longer considering action on House Bill 1528 and Senate Bill 5446, also known as the Worker Privacy Act.

"Immediately upon becoming aware of an email linking potential action on the bill to campaign contributions, bringing the bill forward was no longer an option.

"The email raises serious legal and ethical questions.

"The matter has been referred to the Washington State Patrol for investigation."

Here’s what the State Patrol had to say:

Worker Privacy Act

Potential Investigation by WSP

March 11, 2009

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