Seattle teachers on strike, September 2015
Seattle teachers on strike, September 2015

Hap­py cham­ber of ori­gin cut­off day! In an overnight ses­sion, the Wash­ing­ton State House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives vot­ed 53 to 44 to pass a top pri­or­i­ty bill for Cas­ca­di­a’s work­ers and the pro­gres­sive movement.

House Bill 1893, spon­sored by Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Beth Doglio (D‑22nd Dis­trict: Olympia) would remove the pro­hi­bi­tion against receiv­ing unem­ploy­ment insur­ance (UI) ben­e­fits for work­ers unem­ployed due to an employ­er-ini­ti­at­ed lock­out result­ing from a strike against anoth­er employ­er in a mul­ti-employ­er bar­gain­ing unit, accord­ing to a non­par­ti­san staff analy­sis. It would also allow strik­ing work­ers to qual­i­fy for UI ben­e­fits on the Sun­day fol­low­ing the first day of a strike.

“Employ­ers can refuse to nego­ti­ate fair con­tracts with work­ers, force strikes, and use fam­i­lies’ finan­cial dis­tress as a bar­gain­ing strat­e­gy,” notes the Wash­ing­ton State Labor Coun­cil, AFL-CIO, which is cham­pi­oning the bill, in a fact sheet.

“Because strik­ing work­ers lack access to unem­ploy­ment insur­ance assis­tance, employ­ers can use the threat of evic­tions, repos­ses­sions, and oth­er eco­nom­ic hard­ships to sup­press wages and work­ing conditions.”

“By approv­ing HB 1893/SB 5777, Wash­ing­ton can join New York, New Jer­sey and Maine in allow­ing work­ers to access unem­ploy­ment insur­ance after more than two weeks on strike. This leg­is­la­tion, spon­sored by Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Beth Doglio and Sen­a­tor Karen Keis­er, will help lev­el the play­ing field, dis­cour­age eco­nom­ic hard­ship as a bar­gain­ing strat­e­gy, and pro­mote good-faith con­tract negotiations.”

Repub­li­cans sig­naled even before the House vote that they would be opposed, with Sen­a­tor Cur­tis King even pen­ning an op-ed to crit­i­cize the legislation.

“UI ben­e­fits are meant to help work­ers who become unem­ployed through no fault of their own, not to sub­si­dize those who vol­un­tar­i­ly go on strike,” argued King (R‑14th Dis­trict: Cen­tral Wash­ing­ton), the rank­ing mem­ber of the Sen­ate Labor and Com­merce Com­mit­tee. “Most unions main­tain a strike fund to help work­ers who make that deci­sion, paid for with dues col­lect­ed from members.”

“Expand­ing eli­gi­bil­i­ty to include strik­ing work­ers flies in the face of the UI system’s pur­pose and ignores the fact that strik­ing work­ers typ­i­cal­ly have a job to return to once a strike ends. Employ­ees who have been laid off do not, nor do they have access to a strike fund to replace lost income.”

The House stayed in ses­sion well past 2 AM to work on the bill. Sev­er­al Repub­li­can amend­ments were accept­ed, while oth­ers were rejected.

The roll call was as follows:

Roll Call
HB 1893
Unemp ins/strikes & lockouts
3rd Read­ing & Final Passage

Yeas: 53; Nays: 44; Excused: 1

Vot­ing Yea: Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Alvara­do, Bate­man, Berg, Bergquist, Berry, Bronoske, Callan, Chopp, Cortes, Davis, Doglio, Don­aghy, Duerr, Fari­var, Fey, Fitzgib­bon, Fos­se, Good­man, Gregerson, Hack­ney, Klo­ba, Leav­itt, Lekanoff, Macri, Mena, Mor­gan, Nance, Orms­by, Ortiz-Self, Orwall, Paul, Peter­son, Pol­let, Ramel, Ramos, Reed, Reeves, Ric­cel­li, Rule, Ryu, San­tos, Senn, Shavers, Sim­mons, Slat­ter, Stearns, Stonier, Street, Tay­lor, Tharinger, Tim­mons, Wylie, Jinkins

Vot­ing Nay: Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Abbarno, Barkis, Barnard, Caldier, Cham­bers, Chap­man, Cheney, Chris­t­ian, Con­nors, Cor­ry, Cou­ture, Dent, Dye, Enten­man, Eslick, Goehn­er, Gra­ham, Grif­fey, Har­ris, Hutchins, Jacob­sen, Klick­er, Kretz, Low, May­cum­ber, McClin­tock, McEn­tire, Mos­bruck­er, Orcutt, Robert­son, Rude, San­dlin, Schmick, Schmidt, Springer, Steele, Stokes­bary, Thai, Volz, Walen, Walsh, Waters, Wilcox, Ybarra

Excused: Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Chandler

Repub­li­cans unan­i­mous­ly opposed the bill.

The fol­low­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic mem­bers joined them in vot­ing nay:

  • Mike Chap­man, 24th District
  • My-Linh Thai, 41st District
  • Debra Enten­man, 47th District
  • Lar­ry Springer, 45th District
  • Amy Walen, 48th District

NPI con­grat­u­lates the House on its pas­sage of House Bill 1893. This is encour­ag­ing news for work­ing fam­i­lies in our region, and once again demon­strates that Wash­ing­ton is a state that val­ues and pro­tects col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing rights.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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