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Washington Federation of State Employees rallies in Olympia

Post by Katie Schmidt on Jan. 10, 2011 at 11:39 am with 9 Comments »
January 10, 2011 11:41 am

State lawmakers are arriving in Olympia today for the start of the legislative session, and the union for state workers is here too, ready to fight for their benefits, their salaries and, in some cases, their jobs.

About 75 members of the Washington Federation of State Employees met this morning and plan to come to the capitol building at noon in an effort to persuade lawmakers not to make deeper cuts to their benefits than those they’ve negotiated with Gov. Chris Gregoire and to protest some of the state service cuts Gregoire proposed in her budget.

“The Washington Federation of State Employees is really under the gun right now,” said Daniel D’Haem, who chairs the union’s internal organizing committee. “We are a target during a time like this for all the politicians who don’t like the labor movement in general.”

Tim Welch, a spokesman for the union, said the WFSE has two main objectives during the session: hold on to the salary and benefit cuts negotiated with Gregoire when she wrote her budget proposal and fight some of her proposed cuts to services such as Basic Health, programs for the disabled and juvenile rehabilitation.

He said that the Legislature would be able to save many of these programs by closing tax loopholes, though he acknowledged that Initiative 1053, which requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to raise taxes, could make this difficult.

Gregoire’s budget would eliminate Basic Health, a state subsidized insurance program, and the staff that administers it, cut state disability support programs and reduce the budget of the Department of Social and Health Services, among other things.

“There is an element of all the interested parties need to make a sacrifice and we’ve done that,” said D’Haem, referring to negotiations with the governor.

Her proposed budget would temporarily cut employee pay three percent, require state workers to pay 25 percent more of their health insurance costs and have employees contribute more to their pension funds. The union has agreed to these cutbacks.

“We’re afraid the legislature is going to take it further,” D’Haem said.

Alexander Park, a union member at the meeting, said he maintains the fire alarm system at Rainier School, a facility for developmentally disabled adults that the Department of Social and Health Services runs in Buckley, Washington. He said he had come to Olympia mainly because he was concerned about layoffs at the school.

“I have a lot of issues with the governor slashing and dashing us,” he said.

Lynette Powell, who works at Western State Hospital in Tacoma, said she had been caring for her 91-year-old mother recently and was worried about cuts to programs for the elderly and disabled in the state.

The one thing that union members said they know for certain at this point is that this will not be the last legislators see of them at the state capitol.

“Today really is kind of a modest turnout,” said Welch. “We’ll be down here in green shirts pretty much all of the 105 days.”

Leave a comment Comments → 9
  1. FreeAmerica says:

    Welcome to Greece…

  2. Pecksbadboy says:

    We are all taking pay cuts, state employees can to. Buck Up you big babies!

  3. tacomajoe says:

    Not a whole lot of protesting by these employees about the sacrifices and cuts their bosses the taxpayers have to make. Such insolence – I have my own family to support, and wonder why these leeches think they are also entitled to my support.

  4. steilacoomtaxpayer says:

    No kiding, tacomajoe!! But the highly dependent, non-competitive state employees are just like the long term welfare set–entrenched, without marketable skills and the sataters are insulated by a strong arm union or two.

  5. comonsens41 says:

    Wow. I read such comments about state employees. I am not one, but If you are so envious of state workers and so petty about the little money that they make you must be a real winner in life. Sorry for your failure. Did you attend school at all?

  6. tree_guy says:

    “Sorry for your failure. Did you attend school at all?” commonsens41

    Not everyone who disagrees with you is uneducated. By inferring that you alone possess an education you tend to invalidate your own position.

  7. the3rdpigshouse says:

    State employees are paid by the taxation of the public at large. When the goverrnment employees pay and benefits surpasses the ability of the private sector to pay the higher values they should be reduced to pay & benefits comparable to the private sector!! No sacred cows!!!

  8. truthbusterguy says:

    The circle of life explained:

    1. Taxpayers pay the tax
    2. State pay workers that are required by law to pay union dues
    3. Unions donate 100% to democrats to get them elected
    4. Once elected they pay back their union friends with higher pay and benifits
    5. Legislators raise taxes to pay for high pay, benifits, helath care and early retirement.
    6. Taxpayer pay the tax

    The gig is up and the public has said enough. There is not one service the state worker do that can’t be contracted out. It’s time to cut the union cord and let them compete for the same jobs with a private contractor. We can’t afford them anymore.

  9. wrsw1969 says:

    Be greatful that you have a job for now, the union is going to do you in

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