November 30, 2011

Medical Interpreter Day at the Capitol -- and legislators began wearing "Take the Vote" pledge buttons

WFSE/AFSCME Local 1671 Medical Intepreters, whose program faces elimination in the governor's budget, met with dozens of legislators over lunch Tuesday on Day 2 of the Week of Action in Olympia. Some legislators, like Rep. Cindy Ryu, D-32, donned one of the union's "Take the Vote" buttons to signal they're ready to vote on cutting tax giveaways to find revenue for public safety, public services and higher education. Others studied the union's compilation of 27 tax giveaways that, if closed, would raise $2.3 billion revenue.

November 29, 2011

Federation members show their colors as they join 3000 at Capitol on opening day of the special session

Several hundred Federation members descended on the Capitol Monday to lobby their legislators and to join 3,000 allies from a wide range of good government groups and social service advocates to set the agenda for this extraordinary moment in time.

Federation President Carol Dotlich summed it up well during the morning briefing of members, who were joined by dozens of Occupy Seattle activists who shared a bus ride to Olympia with UW Local 1488 members.

“We’ve all heard about the drastic cuts proposed by the governor,” Dotlich said. “And we know that some legislators are looking at cutting our health benefits, our wages and trying to figure out how to fill the state’s $2 billion deficit by cutting our programs, dumping our clients, cutting off our students, endangering our neighborhoods by letting felons go unsupervised and increasing an historic unemployment rate by laying us off. That about covers it, doesn’t it? So we’re not going to let that happen!”

Some in the press and corporate special interests have tried to steer our message away from cutting tax giveaways to the wealthiest 1 percent as a way to save public safety, public services and higher education.

Press reports focused on a handful of the 3,000 who were arrested for disorderly conduct, all but one involving protesters trying to get back into the Capitol after the state shut it down at 5:30 p.m. Reports of state troopers tazering protesters are also overblown – it involved a few protesters trying to get back into the Capitol in the evening.

The truth is, throughout the day, the protesters, many of them schooled in the Occupy Movement, praised the troopers, even giving them the peace sign during an afternoon sit-in outside the governor’s office.

As one trooper told the Tacoma News Tribune: “A small number of individuals here were causing trouble. Everyone else, it was very peaceful and no issues.”

It’s not believed any Federation members were involved in any of the arrests. The Federation, as part of AFSCME, has led the coalition’s emphasis on peaceful, non-violent protest modeled after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. King died for striking AFSCME sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn., in 1968.

The press, unfortunately, has drunk the poisoned punch from longtime enemies of state employees, who are throwing up the smokescreen that the debate is not about ending billions in corporate tax giveaways but about blaming public workers.

House Deputy Republican Leader Rep. Joel Kretz was trying to steer the debate away from tax giveaways (telling PubliCola today that state workers “make up a majority of state budget costs”). But House Ways and Means Committee Chair Rep. Ross Hunter said it’s a delusion to peg state employees as the budget cost drivers. “There’s not much money there,” Hunter told PubliCola. “It’s in the tens of millions at best.” He rejected the Kretz plan to blame state employees and cut pay even more. “The question isn’t weather or not you can do it, the question is can you do it and still have an effective workforce,” he told PubliCola. PubliCola also noted that “Hunter, a former Microsoft exec, said the state should take note of the Redmond company’s focus on raises and ‘quality.’”

Kretz says he can’t go back to his district and tell voters they’ll be better off if they cut state employee pay, should instead ask his voters if they’d be better off cutting tax giveways that rob us of billions in tax giveaways.

Starting yesterday, Federation members set out to give each and every legislators a copy of the union’s publication outlining $2.3 billion in tax giveaways that could be cut, as suggested by six authoritative groups. As Dotlich said yesterday:

“$2.3 billion in revenue we give away ever year. A $2 billion budget deficit. You do the math.

“We can cut public safety, vital services or education, or we can restore – even temporarily – the obligations of the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes.”

    Here’s what’s on tap this week.

Week of Action at the Capitol, Nov. 28

NOTE: If your local is planning to bring members down, please contact Diana Whitmore at 800-562-6002 or so we can coordinate your action.

    To get information on and register for our Week of Action in Olympia Nov. 28-Dec. 2, go to the Federation website at

• TUE., NOV 29:  The face of the 99% - personal stories that highlight the impact of budget cuts on the 99%. Our members are standing up for Public Health and against cuts to Basic Health and Interpreter Services. Join them!

On this day, our allies at the Washington Community Action Network (WashCAN!) will occupy the Capitol in Olympia. Their message to Federation members and the entire coalition: “Enough is enough. The 99% Movement and progressive organizations are uniting to Occupy the Capitol during the special session. It’s time to close corporate tax loopholes and raise revenue instead of making more cuts. Big corporations and the wealthy in this state need to pay their fair share. For more information, go to

The Senate Ways and Means Committee looks at the governor’s supplemental budget, 3:30 p.m., Nov. 29, Senate Hearing Room 4, Cherberg Building.
  • WED., NOV 30:  The face of the 1% - identifying tax breaks that take away from the safety net. We're fighting to preserve Public Safety! Help Community Correction Officers fight against cuts to community supervision, community safety. The Senate Ways and Means Committee, K-12 and Higher Education cuts in the supplemental budget, 3:30 p.m., Nov. 30, Senate Hearing Room 4, Cherberg Building.
  • THU., DEC 1:  Which side are you on?  Asking legislators to take the vote to end tax breaks and raise revenue.

    The House Education Appropriations and Oversight Committee take up the education parts of the supplemental budget, 1:30 p.m., Dec. 1, House Hearing Room A, John L. O’Brien Building.

    The House General Government Appropriations and Oversight Committee looks at the budget, recommendations from the Statewide Security Advisory Committee, and the state parks Discover Pass, 1:30 p.m., Dec. 1, House Hearing Room C, John L. O’Brien Building.

    The House Health and Human Services Appropriations and Oversight Committee takes up children’s mental health and regional habilitation centers, 1:30 p.m., Dec. 1, House Hearing Room B, John L. O’Brien Building.

    The Senate Human Services and Corrections Committee looks at proposals for state hospital ward closures, Dec. 1, 1:30 p.m., Senate Hearing Room 1, Cherberg Building.

    House Ways and Means Committee, looks at the budget outlook, Dec. 1, 3:30 p.m., House Hearing Room A, John L. O’Brien Building.

    The Senate Ways and Means Committee looks at human services issues in the supplemental budget, Dec. 1, 3:30 p.m., Senate Hearing Room 4, Cherberg Building.
  • FRI., DEC 2:  It’s about our future. Hearing  from those who are unfairly burdened with student loan debt and a loss of economic opportunities. Local 793 will be here to fight against cuts to Mental Health. Join them!

November 21, 2011

Governor unveils all-cuts budget, proposes ballot measure


    Gov. Chris Gregoire this morning unveiled her all-cuts budget that will go before the Legislature when lawmakers return to Olympia for an extraordinary special session starting next Monday.

    She proposes $1.7 billion in cuts offset by $59 million in revenue requiring only a majority vote of the Legislature and $282 million requiring a two-thirds vote. She said she’s not optimistic about the latter.

    She also proposes sending to voters in March a referendum temporarily raising the sales tax a half penny until 2015. That would raise $494 million -- $411 for education, $42 million for long-term care and developmental disability services and $41 million in public safety.

    She said the revenue referendum would avoid $160 million in cuts to state support of colleges and universities.

    The revenue referendum would also stop the early release (150 days) of offenders assessed at low to moderate risk of reoffending, including sex offenders. It would also maintain the length of post-prison community supervision for all offenders.

    The governor defended not cutting state employee compensation more – she produced a chart showing that public servants’ sacrifices made up $2 billion or 19 percent of the $10.5 billion in budget cuts the past three years. But she is cutting $16 million for funding of your health benefits; but she says the cut in the amount the state pays from $850 per employee per month to $825 per employee a month does not affect your negotiated benefits plan. We believe it’s a slippery slope that could result in higher costs for you if the short-term decline in use rates spikes up again.

    The governor largely discounted calls by the Federation and our allies to cut deeply into tax breaks to raise revenue. The Federation has a plan to cut 27 tax breaks that would raise more than $2.3 billion. She said she proposes closing only a handful of tax breaks because it’s not as easy to do as some think.

    But the special session revenue proposals and the voter referendum are all iffy. The reality is she’s proposing an all-cuts budget we still must fight starting with job actions this week and the special session starting next Monday.

    In no particular order, here are the major cuts in her proposed 2012 Supplemental Budget:

• Eliminate medical interpreter services, specifically discontinuing the subsidy that covers the costs of interpreter services offered by medical providers to communicate with Medicaid clients whose primary language is not English. The budget would also delay the new reforms in delivery of interpreter services from Jan. 1, 2012, to July 1, 2012.

• Eliminate Disability Lifeline and the Basic Health Plan by Feb. 1, 2012.

• In Higher Education, reducing state support by: 17 percent at the University of Washington, Washington State University and Western Washington University; 16 percent at Eastern Washington University, Central Washington University and The Evergreen State College; and 13 percent at community and technical colleges.

• In Corrections, early release of offenders. Specifically, releases 150 days early those offenders assessed at low to moderate risk of reoffending, and sex offenders assessed at low to moderate risk of reoffending. Affects about 370 offenders, according to the budget.

• In Corrections, reduces the length of supervision to 12 months for all offenders except about 3,000 sex offenders, who will be supervised for 24 months. Right now, non-sex offenders are supervised from 12 to 36 months, and sex offenders are supervised for 36 months.

• In Juvenile Rehabilitation, reduce parole services for juveniles by 20 percent – reducing the time in which parole is provided or reduces the numbers of juveniles served. The budget does not mention closing any JRA institution – earlier “budget alternatives” had targeted Naselle Youth Camp – but there’s squishy language about shifting positions and funding “to better align staff and funds with the programs.”

• Closure of four wards at Western State Hospital, including two for patients suffering from traumatic brain injury and dementia. No mention was made of a ward closure at Eastern State Hospital, which was an earlier “budget alternative.”

• Closure of Rainier School in Buckley in the Division of Developmental Disabilities.

• Elimination of several Child Welfare programs, including receiving care centers, foster care assessment program, continuum of care, sex abuse recognition training, children’s advocacy centers, adoption support recruitment, street youth and state funding for educational coordinators.

• In Ecology, holds vacant 14 and eliminates 13 state-funded positions in a number of programs, including air quality, water resources, water quality, toxic clean-ups and hazardous waste management.

• The governor’s budget would lay off another 1,500 state employees.


• Go to the Federation website at for information on job actions this week and actions during the special session starting next Monday, Nov. 28.


    Call 1-800-562-6000 or send an email from our Action Center at

    Tell your legislators to cut tax breaks to raise revenue. Save public safety, public services and higher education.

    The choice is clear.

    • Legislators can yield to the wealthiest 1 percent and cut public safety, public services and higher education.


    • They can stand with the 99 percent – the rest of us – and take the vote to cut billions in tax breaks to raise revenue. We need to create jobs, save the middle class and restore our economy. You can see a series of possible tax breaks that could be closed to cover the $2 billion deficit. Go to the Federation website at

• WHY? We can do better. The future of our state depends on the choices we make now. We have to make the profitable corporations and the wealthiest 1 percent pay their fair share. It doesn’t make sense to hand out tax breaks to big banks and special interests at the same time we’re raising tuition, harming our environment, damaging public safety and putting people with disabilities and mental illness out on the streets.

November 17, 2011

Latest revenue forecast: deficit no worse.

The latest state revenue forecast released today (Nov. 17) was not much worse than the September forecast. The deficit problem remains about $2 billion. That deficit is what’s bringing legislators back to town for an extraordinary special session starting Nov. 28.

And as you know, that will bring the forces against corporate greed in unison with the Federation and others who for 10 years have been calling for a cut to billions in tax breaks to save public safety, public services and higher education.

In today’s revenue forecast, you can’t help but notice evidence that critics of state government – those who want to contract out, lay off and cut your pay and benefits – are cutting their noses off to spite their face.

The Washington economy gained only 500 new jobs since September – the loss of 5,100 public-sector jobs almost negates the addition of 5,600 private-sector jobs.

A job is a job is a job and continuing to attack public jobs is not a recipe to recover our economy. 

We're 11 days away from the special session.

Call 1-800-562-6000 or take action online at

Tell your legislators to cut tax breaks to raise revenue. Save public safety, public services and higher education.

The choice is clear.
  • Legislators can yield to the wealthiest 1 percent and cut public safety, public services and higher education; OR
  • They can stand with the 99 percent – the rest of us – and take the vote to cut billions in tax breaks to raise revenue. We need to create jobs, save the middle class and restore our economy. You can see a series of possible tax breaks that could be closed to cover the $2 billion deficit. 
Take action online at

Jobs and Revenue Summit

The Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO hosts a Jobs and Revenue Summit with remarks by WFSE/AFSCME Executive Director Greg Devereux, WSLC President Jeff Johnson, stories from people receiving services, Occupy Seattle, small business and more.

November 9, 2011

27 Ways to cut the deficit by cutting tax breaks

Tell Legislators to cut tax breaks to raise revenue

Emboldened by election results, defenders of corporate greed waste no time targeting public safety, public services and public servants

Emboldened by the COSTCO-bought passage of Initiative 1183 to privatize state liquor sales, politicians on both sides of the aisle and their supporters in Big Media have wasted no time once again blaming public servants for our economic mess as a smokescreen to protect corporations from paying their fair share.

But they might want to look for lessons from as far away as Ohio and as close to home as Snohomish County.

And we’ve saved the best for last: 27 ways to save public safety, public services and higher education by cutting tax breaks.

But first….

An editorial in today’s The Olympian blamed the Federation-led Health Care Coalition -- who rejected Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire’s request to re-open health care negotiations so you’ll pay more while corporations sacrifice nothing.

The Olympian, echoing the governor’s office,  said state employees who have sacrificed more than 10 percent of their pay – including successive rounds of furloughs, a 3 percent pay cut and health premium costs that increased at least 25 percent – should give even more, while corporations sit on billions in unpaid taxes—otherwise known as “tax breaks.”
The politicians, the corporations and Big Media have their talking points down. Wrote The Olympian: “Union leaders have left open the possibility that lawmakers will order additional cuts in staffing and/or pay cuts for all state workers.”

Translation: Blame public servants. Protect corporate greed.

Now it isn’t just the current Democratic governor who’s trotting out these talking points. Republican state Attorney General Rob McKenna used Tuesday’s Election Day to kick off his bid to be the next governor at a posh Bellevue reception hall. As the Seattle Times reports, McKenna and Gregoire are on the same page. “McKenna also said he’d try to force state workers to pay a higher share of health-care costs, something Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire has already pursued,” the Times reported today (Nov. 9).

Translation: Blame public servants. Protect corporate greed.

And it appears the Republican minority in the Legislature also has their “blame public servants” talking points down, too. They tipped their hand when Rep. Charles Ross of the 14th District appeared on KIT radio in Yakima Friday morning (Nov. 4). Our Community Corrections officers and the police chief came to talk about the harmful impact of the governor’s potential proposal to end community supervision of offenders released from prison. But Ross came armed with charts and graphs and a book of talking points.

Summary: Attack collective bargaining and contract rights.

He said we ought to do in Washington what governors have tried in Wisconsin, Ohio and elsewhere.

“When you look across the nation right now, there are states that are realizing and going back and saying, ‘Hold on a second, that choice to create collectively bargained contracts with one person – the governor – is not working,’” Ross said.

Later, he said, “You have contracts that are in place that we cannot stop, you cannot adjust for a situation like this, to the point where I can review lawsuits where we’ve tried to make adjustments to people’s pay and benefits that now we get sued….”

Without the rollback of collective bargaining and “contract law,” he said, “the only solution is layoffs and that’s the worst solution.”

Still later, said Ross, the state needs to “re-prioritize….And a lot has been done through the whole process of two things, contract law and also entitlement programming to where the courts come back because we’re being sued on that very issue that it we decline those people the benefits, they’re going to come back and enjoin us.”

Still later, he said, “And it’s not just on the poor folks – I want to make sure that’s clear – it’s on pension benefits on auto-pilot, it’s many other facets of we spend the tax dollar that’s truly not in our control.”

And referring to the expected passage of the liquor privatization initiative, Ross said: “I’m telling you anytime the state has an opportunity to remove itself from a function of business it should. We’ve tried that in the DSHS world, in social services, we’ve been sued for sending work out to the private sector. We’ve been sued. It’s been prevented.”

The reference to DSHS was apparently to the union’s victory in court this past May when a judge issued an injunction against the fast-track contracting out of Child Welfare services. He may have also referred to the union’s recent court action on pensions and health insurance.

So Ross, a legislator we deeply respect, was just doing his loyal duty to his party by trotting out the talking points inspired by the Unholy Trinity of the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Koch Brothers and Grover Norquist.

Translation: Blame public servants. Protect corporate greed.

But, as the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

So Gregoire, McKenna, Ross, ALEC, the Kochs, Norquist, Big Media can’t change the facts:


Last night, voters in Ohio rejected their governor’s attempt to strip away public employee collective bargaining rights. It wasn’t close – a nearly 2-1 margin to retain workers’ rights. Ross may use Ohio as a model for rolling back collective bargaining here, but voters saw through the smokescreen there. They’d do it here, too.


After Gov. Scott Walker’s bill stripping public employees of their collective bargaining rights, two of his supporters were recalled, giving the Democrats working control of Wisconsin’s state Senate. Walker and several other senators can’t be recalled until they’ve been in office for a year. But those recall efforts are coming – while the FBI probe of Walker’s campaign and former county executive office continues.


Democratic Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon was considered a goner. He faced a nasty campaign, including a last-minute criminal investigation sparked by an anonymous – and suspicious source. Reardon won in a landslide and in doing so sent a message to other timid Democrats. “I’m not your typical liberal Democrat,” Reardon told KING TV. “If you hit me, I’m going to hit back. I’m a working-class kid from Everett. I think Democrats lose when they sit on their hands. I don’t sit on my hands.”


We believe the special legislative session that starts Nov. 28 will last nearly until Christmas and then they’ll resume when the regular session starts Jan. 9.

The Federation and a broad-based coalition of labor, churches, community groups and others are joining for a week of action Nov. 28-Dec. 2.  
    Guess why the corporate forces and their supporters continue to blame you? They know with the Occupy Movement there’s a movement to force corporations to pay their fair share.
    Everyone cites the billions in tax breaks. But no one’s really toted up the various possibilities of which could be closed to help tackle the newest $2 billion deficit.

    Until now.

    We’ve gathered 27 ideas put forward by just six groups that could roll back more than $2.3 billion in tax breaks that largely benefit corporations. The groups range from the Federation and its 3 percent corporate tax break furlough proposal (to raise $450 million) to the Citizen Commission on Performance Measurement of Tax Preferences, which proposes ending $44 million in specific tax breaks.

    We’ll have this list in a pdf form you can download from our website at It’s printed below, too.

    Some of these ideas may overlap and all members may not support some. But our purpose in compiling this list is to show that many groups of thoughtful citizens are proposing creative ideas to save our state without devastating cuts.

    November 1, 2011

    Seattle Times columnist endorses Federation's 3% corporate tax break furlough plan

    We’ve had our differences with the Seattle Times Editorial Board. But Times columnist Danny Westneat did a little digging and thinks our call for a 3 percent furlough of this state’s corporate tax breaks would bring in a cool $450 million, or nearly a quarter of the money needed to cover the new $2 billion deficit.

    Wrote Westneat:

    “But what if the corporate world was asked to give the same as the unions – three? Not a 3 percent increase in their base tax rates. Just forgo 3 percent of the value of their tax breaks (which by their nature are special carve-outs, anyway)….

    “The union was probably out just to make hay. Maybe it spun a little gold instead.”

    Read the full column here:

    Well, we were serious. And so are you. The 3 percent corporate tax break cut has inspired you to add your voice to why it’s needed. Go to the Federation website at and share your reasons with legislators why they should cut corporate tax breaks to avoid the horrendous budget proposals put on the table by the governor last Thursday.

    And watch the website and these hotlines for calls to action for the week of the special session, Nov. 28-Dec. 4. We’re meeting with our coalition partners and we’ll have lots of information coming soon.

    KOMO TV investigation blows the lid on cuts to DOC Community Corrections

    KOMO TV's Oct. 31 investigation turned up victims of sexual assault who "fear they are living on borrowed time" because of budget cuts to supervision of the sexual offenders who ruined their lives.

    Watch the report here:

    Job actions by DOC members continue

    The peaceful information picketing by DOC members in Yakima continues 4-6 p.m., tomorrow, Wednesday, Nov. 2, at the corner of 40th and Summitview in Yakima. This is just one of many actions Community Corrections members have undertaken and will continue to do.