By Sahid Fawaz
Democrats in the state of Washington wanted greater protections for homecare workers and government employees. The GOP wants to stop the effort in its tracks.
“While state Democrats push a set of labor-union backed bills, Republicans decry the effort as special-interest politics.
Some Republicans object to two bills. The first, SB 6199, would restructure how the state Department of Social and Human Services works with tens of thousands of home health care workers by contracting them under a private vendor.
The bill would also create an administrative board made up of agency employees, union representatives, and staff from the governor’s office, which would set the rate paid to the contractor, and, thus, the workers.
The legislation was requested by the Social and Human Services Department, which argues that it will simplify its relationship with home-health care workers, remove time spent on administrative paperwork, and improve patient care.
Another bill Republicans dislike, SB 6079, would exempt public employees from public disclosure requests. Senate Democrats and Democratic Governor Jay Inslee claim that the bill aims to protect the privacy of public employees from harassment or identity theft.
However, Senate Republicans argue that both bills were requested by SEIU 775 — an labor union representing around 30,000 home-health care workers in Washington. They say the requested policy changes are an effort by the union to maintain its membership base in the face of a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that invalidated laws requiring public employees to pay union fees even if they are not a member.
The 2014 ruling—resulting from the controversial Harris v. Quinn case—stated that mandatory union fees imposed on non-members violate First Amendment rights.”
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