Two of the state’s largest unions defend their relevance

Jul 31, 2013, 6:28 PM | Updated: Aug 1, 2013, 5:35 am
"Unions are still a way to police companies and keep them honest," says a Machinists spokesman as he explains why employee organizations are as necessary now as they were decades ago. Here Boeing 787s are lined up at the assembly plant in Everett (AP file photo)
(AP file photo)

Unions have been in the shadows of several recent stories.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn threatens to stop a Whole Foods grocery store development in West Seattle claiming the chain doesn’t pay its workers enough.

A campaign letter, signed by female hotel workers and sent to female voters, seeks support for the incumbent mayor.

State Senator Michael Baumgartner readies a bill to make Washington a right-to-work state.

Boeing lays off 800 workers on the factory floor and shifts more engineering jobs out of the Puget Sound area.

Two of the largest unions in our state are coming out of the background to explain how they think their employee unions are still necessary today.

The International Association of Machinists District 751 and the Washington Education Association both think their unions are as relevant now as they were when first formed, as you would expect, but in different ways.

“Unions are still a way to police companies and keep them honest. You’ve agreed to do certain things in a contract and we’re going to hold you to it,” says Bryan Corliss with IAM 751.

He points to their most recent success in “holding Boeing to it.”

“We lobbied the federal government – the Department of Labor – to make sure that the 850 union members that are getting laid off at Boeing are eligible for Trade Act funds which says we’re going to give you a big pool of cash that you can spend over the next two years to retrain for a new career and we’ll pay you some living expenses while you do that,” he says.

Corliss has gotten into heated discussions with “union bashers” who think Washington should be a right-to-work state, or as he calls it “right to worse.”

“One in five Washington workers is represented by a union and we know from statistical data that union workers make 27 percent more than non-union workers for doing the exact same job,” he says.

“So if we want to go in and pick one out of five people in this state and give them all pay cuts that’s going to devastate the economy.”

Washington has among the highest union membership rate in the nation at almost 19 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Our state is behind New York with the highest rate of 23 percent, followed by Alaska at 22 percent and Hawaii’s 21 percent.

One of the larger unions in the state is the Washington Education Association representing about 82,000 educators.

The WEA’s new leader bristles at a commonly-held parent belief that the union protects lousy teachers.

“That would not be correct,” says Kim Mead, an Everett teacher who became president of the WEA last month. “Public educators really want to have the best in the classroom.”

One example of the progress the union is making toward improving education, she says, includes a new teacher evaluation system beginning this fall with the 2013-14 school year.

The new evaluation system stems from an education reform bill the legislature passed in the 2010 session.

The evaluations introduce a four-level ranking, compared with the current two-level evaluations. Most school districts only have satisfactory or unsatisfactory marks for teachers and principals.

Mead says there might be some “bumps along the way” implementing the evaluation system, but it ultimately will hold teachers more accountable. A part of the evaluation includes how well a teacher communicates with parents and interacts with students.

Evaluations will be more uniform throughout the state, she says, making it more difficult for those who aren’t performing well to stay within the education system.

“You can take a look at an individual teacher’s strengths as well as their weaknesses, instead of waiting until the very end when you have multiple areas maybe to work on,” Mead says. “We’ll be able to focus on one area to improve it for each teacher in the state.”



No Author

Enter to win Ringo Starr Tickets!

KIRO Newsradio has your chance to win two tickets to see Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band. They’re coming this fall to Benaroya Hall in Seattle on Tuesday, October 11th, 2022! See Ringo Starr live with Steve Lukather, Colin Hay, Warren Ham, Gregg Bissonette, Hamish Stuart and Edgar Winter. The band is excited to play after […]
1 month ago
Kalles Junior High (Kalles Junior High PTSA Facebook)...
Dori Monson

Dori: ‘A huge step backward,’ says Puyallup mom of school meeting reserved for BIPOC community

"Alarming” and “surreal” are words a Puyallup mom uses to describe an event to discuss racism in Puyallup schools.
1 month ago
Worker Ruslan Trishchuk, 40, smokes a cigarette while taking a break outside the crematorium of Bai...
Associated Press

As Mariupol hangs on, the extent of the horror not yet known

LVIV, Ukraine (AP) — As Mariupol’s defenders held out Monday against Russian demands that they surrender, the number of bodies in the rubble of the bombarded and encircled Ukrainian city remained shrouded in uncertainty, the full extent of the horror not yet known. With communications crippled, movement restricted and many residents in hiding, the fate […]
2 months ago
Sounder train...
MyNorthwest Staff

Sounder trains canceled between Seattle and Everett for landslide

Sound Transit has canceled Sounder N Line service between Seattle and Everett until Thursday due to a landslide that has covered the tracks.
4 months ago
Seattle garbage...
MyNorthwest Staff

Garbage, recycling pickup resumes for Seattle area

Garbage and recycling pickup resumes in Seattle after last week's snowstorm.
4 months ago
MyNorthwest Staff

Monday commuters to face icy roads across Puget Sound region

Freezing temperatures have settled in over Western Washington after a day of several inches of snow for most locations, creating an ice rink for commuters on Monday morning. 
5 months ago

Sponsored Articles


Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, initiative provides […]

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
Two of the state’s largest unions defend their relevance