What Workers Want and where we stand

We’re about halfway through this year’s state legislative session and so far the results are…. mixed. Some of the top issues on our What Workers Want agenda are moving forward. Others not so much.

Either way: there’s work to do. But we’re a workers organization, so that’s our thing.

Read on for a quick overview of where things stand, then RSVP to join our March 10th Online Member Meeting to dig in deeper and help decide our next steps.

Here’s where things stand:

Secure Scheduling (HB 1491 / SB 5717)

More than a dozen workers made their way to the State Capitol to speak out before the legislature to give testimony about the crisis of unstable & unpredictable work schedules for food & retail workers, and call for change. And more than 1000 people from all across the state backed them up by sending messages urging legislators to move the issue forward. We even got news coverage in the Tacoma News Tribune, KATU (Portland/Vancouver), KOMO (Seattle), the Spokesman-Review, and the Yakima Herald.

We helped make secure scheduling one of the highest profile issues to come before the legislature this session, and successfully pushed to ensure the bills advanced out of the House and Senate Labor committees and moved on to House Appropriations and Senate Ways & Means. However these committees failed to move the bills forward by a Friday deadline, so the bill is unfortunately dead for the year. It’s not clear yet what got in the way of secure scheduling moving forward — but we intend to find out. Stay tuned, because this issue isn’t going away, and our fight for secure scheduling isn’t going away either.

Strengthen Workplace Protections in the Adult Entertainment Industry (HB 1756)

Dancers from strip clubs across WA have spent the last eight months organizing with WorkingWA to develop and advance this bill. It provides safety and security measures in strip clubs like panic buttons, a customer blacklist, and know-your-rights trainings for dancers. On Tuesday, March 5, after some powerful comments from legislators on the importance of listening to dancers, our stripper safety & security bill passed the State House with a vote of 95-3 — now, it's on to the Senate!

Worker Protection Act (HB 1965)

The Worker Protection Act would strengthen workers’ ability to enforce their rights at work by creating a new legal path for workers to come together and stand up for their rights in the courts. Under this bill, workers or their representatives can sue employers on behalf of the state for violating established labor and employment standards. Workers increasingly face barriers to access justice in the courts, and there aren’t nearly enough government investigators in place to meet the need — the Worker Protection Act can help address both of these issues. The bill passed out of the House Labor committee and has also advanced out of the House Appropriations committee. Now it awaits a vote in the full House.

Build Statewide Capacity for Community-based Enforcement

We continue to push for some of the funds brought in through the Worker Protection Act to be used to expand community-based outreach and enforcement.

Raise Up Gig Workers  and Other Independent Contractors

A landmark bill to raise standards for gig workers was introduced for the first time this year and had hearings in both the House & Senate. This may not sound like much but it’s a huge step forward in what usually an extremely slow multi-year process to advance big new ideas like this.

Even more important: the testimony on this bill from Working Washington leader, pastry chef, and Instacart worker Mia Kelly made such an impact on Sen. Karen Keiser, the chair of the Senate Labor Committee, that she referred to it several weeks later as a key moment that underscored the need to establish minimum pay standards for gig workers.

Restore Overtime Protections

The state Department of Labor & Industries is almost a year into its process for setting new rules to restore overtime protections to underpaid salaried workers. We continue to advocate for a rule that says if you’re paid less than three times the minimum wage (about $75,000/year) you get overtime pay if you work overtime hours, no matter what your job title is. We expect the state to release its draft proposal in the next month or so.