July 18, 2011

Inslee first major candidate to seek WFSE/AFSCME forum

Inslee greets board members after Saturday appearance.

Congressman Jay Inslee became the first candidate for governor in 2012 to see a forum before the Federation Statewide Executive Board Saturday (July 16) and received a warm reception as he invoked the can-do spirit of Harry Truman and defended state employee collective bargaining, pensions and contracting out rights.

“The heat is going to be on when you’re governor because it’s the place where the kitchen is and where the heat is,” said Inslee, the member of Congress from the 1st Congressional District that straddles Puget Sound in the Seattle area. “All I can tell you is I’ve shown you I can take the heat. I know who cooks the food and that’s working class people, including your brothers and sisters.”

Inslee said he understands the disappointment of state employees who’ve been whipsawed by management over the past several years.

“I think I know how you feel about being burned…about what has happened to you in the last couple of years and that’s a deep sense of disillusionment in what has happened in state leadership,” he said.

Inslee said the fight to protect collective bargaining rights is a fight to save the middle class.

“This is an American value and needs to be respected,” he said.

He put an exclamation point on that at the end of his remarks to the board, which was meeting in Seatac.

“I view that organizational rights, collective bargaining rights, the right to be heard in state government is fundamental to the preservation of the middle class,” Inslee said.

He said as governor he’d consult state employees about better ways of getting the job done, but he’s skeptical of the promises of privatization. He cited the contracting out of airport security, which, he said, brought “lousy service, we got less security and we really got no savings for the taxpayers.

“And we cannot allow people to spread rose petals on the path to privatization that ends up not saving a buck and actually diminishing services.”

He was asked if he’d take a look at the recent legislation that consolidated several agencies into the Department of Enterprise Services and Consolidated Technology Agency. Inslee reeled off numbers and facts that showed he had studied up on the issue. He voiced grave concerns about stripping away collective bargaining rights from more than 100 employees and prohibiting those employees from competing for work proposed for privatization.

“Now, if there’s some rational necessity for doing that (taking away those collective bargaining rights), I haven’t heard that,” he said. “Until I hear it, I think we should have those collective bargaining rights restored.”

The employees in the new consolidated agency should also be able to compete for contracted out work under existing law and collective bargaining provisions, he said.

“I cannot understand why if you’re going to have an open bidding process, you essentially take one team out of the bidding and say they’re ineligible…,” Inslee said. “If you’re going to have a fair bid, why would you take one team out of the bidding process – the team that actually has expertise in the work?”

Questioned about media reports of his supposed position on pension fund investment, Inslee welcomed the opportunity to set the record straight.

He said he never said he’d take any funds away from pensions to invest in companies in Washington, but only ask the pension board if they should slightly increase the percentage of investments made by the board in Washington state private equity funds to help boost this state’s economy.

He said 98.6 percent of the funds invested by the pension board in private equities goes out of state. Inslee suggested boosting the investment in Washington private equity from the current 1.4 percent to 2 percent.

“But the question is where do we invest?” he said. “Do we invest all in California or New York, or do we invest some of it here.”

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