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State workers: Don’t take us for granted

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on April 19, 2010 at 11:59 am |
April 19, 2010 2:33 pm

Sen. Pam Roach is the only senator who did enough this year to avoid a scolding from a major state employees group.

The Washington Federation of State Employees is denying endorsements to most legislators for now, saying they “waged a systematic campaign to dismantle human services and inflict extraordinary and unnecessary sacrifices on state employees.”

In case you’re scratching your head trying to remember these sacrifices, a quick recap of this session:  Democrats raised taxes as unions requested, didn’t cut pay for state workers, and ponied up an extra $65 million for worker health insurance, but they also closed three state institutions and downsized two others, cut about 3,000 state-employee and educator jobs, and furloughed as much as a quarter of the workforce.

The rhetoric may have bothered unions as much as the actions: Republicans demanding reopening of worker contracts; centrist Democrats complaining their party wasn’t doing enough to outsource non-core functions of government like the state print shop and liquor stores.

The result: Only 18 House members, mostly liberals, and the conservative Roach received backing Saturday at the union’s Endorsements Conference. The stamp of approval puts them on the fast track for the group’s endorsement — and the promise of fundraising help that comes with it.

In more than 100 other races, the committee declined to support candidates. That doesn’t mean the group won’t end up endorsing, but it wanted to send a message.

“We’re tired of being under constant attack,” the group quotes Dennis Eagle, its legislative director, as saying.

Senate Democrats came in for special blame for pushing for facility closures and program cuts.

Roach, though, pushed this year to keep open Rainier School for the developmentally disabled. The endorsement could help balance out some of the controversy that has led Democrats to make her one of their few targets to unseat in November, in an election where they will mostly be playing defense.

Other South Sound legislators to win backing include Republican Reps. Tom Campbell of Roy and Skip Priest of Federal Way, and Democratic Reps. Tami Green of Lakewood, Steve Conway of Tacoma, Sam Hunt of Olympia, Mark Miloscia of Federal Way, Dave Upthegrove of Des Moines, Geoff Simpson of Covington and Pat Sullivan of Covington.

UPDATE: Getting thrown out of her party caucus room might have helped Roach win the endorsement.

“She, as we viewed it, wasn’t part of the senate Republican drumbeat that the Democrats weren’t doing enough to hit state employees,” federation spokesman Tim Welch told me. “The Republicans don’t even want her, so it’s fitting that we want her.”

Nor was she aligned with Senate Democrats, whose cuts irked the union. Roach fought against a proposed cut in her own area, the closure of Rainier School. Welch said it’s part of a pattern of her support for state employees over the years.


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He also noted her support for allowing collective bargaining for independent interpreters who contract with state government to translate during health-care appointments. Roach voted against the final version of the bill, but still wins appreciation from the unions for voting yes earlier.

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