At least 50 Washington legislative staffers stage sickout over collective bargaining push

Feb 16, 2022, 1:01 PM | Updated: Feb 17, 2022, 8:34 am

The following is an aerial view from a drone, the Washington State Capitol...

The following is an aerial view from a drone, the Washington State Capitol (Photo: David Ryder, Getty Images)

(Photo: David Ryder, Getty Images)

After a marathon floor session in the Washington state Legislature on Tuesday, the House ultimately failed to bring a bill to the floor which would extend collective bargaining rights to congressional staffers. In protest, at least 50 staffers have called out sick from Wednesday sessions to demand that the proposal not be subject to Tuesday’s cutoff for bills to be voted out of their respective chambers.

Rep. Laurie Jinkins confirmed that the protest was ongoing in a media conference Wednesday.

“There were somewhere near 50,” Rep. Jinkins said. “The numbers are important. But what’s even more important is that we be on a path to get to the place that we want to be, that we all share a desire to be.”

“Legislative employees are not allowed to lobby by statute — they’re prohibited from that,” she continued. “So they have to think about what tools they have to express their opinions. This is one of them, and I hear it.”

In a social media post, Kenmore Mayor Nigel Herbig, a former senior House staffer, said “over 100” of his former colleagues “are out sick” over the failure of the collective bargaining rights for legislative staffers to reach a floor vote.

By law, legislative staffers are exempt from the Personnel System Reforms Act, which enables collective bargaining for state employees. Were House Bill 1806 enacted, it would extend that act to staffers involved in various congressional committees, allowing for leverage to bargain wages and working conditions.

“I care deeply for our legislature as an institution, and as a former State Senate and U.S. Senate staffer, I recognize the dedication and commitment of our staff. These professionals work every day to make things happen — not only for us as elected officials, but for the greater good of the people of Washington,” Rep. Marcus Riccelli, the sponsor of HB 1806, wrote to MyNorthwest.

“For many decades, the State Legislature has diligently expanded the right to collectively bargain to many in our public workforce,” Riccelli added. “These staff deserve the same rights. It was in this spirit that I committed to support legislation that brings fairness and justice to the workplace, including the people’s House and the legislature. I am committed to still bringing forward meaningful steps to address staff needs and concerns this session, and also set legislation up for success next year.”

“It is a benefit to all when people join together and speak with a more collective voice to have a say about their compensation, and the environment they work in.”

HB 1806 has a companion bill in the Senate, sponsored by Sen. Derek Stanford.

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At least 50 Washington legislative staffers stage sickout over collective bargaining push