Sen. Joe Zarelli's Anti-Union Bill Is Worthless

Here's why it doesn't stand a chance of passing.

With Washington's House, Senate, and governor's mansion under Democratic control, there's never been a chance that the kind of brazen union-busting bills advanced in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Idaho, Alaska, and elsewhere could get far here. That, however, doesn't mean that state Sen. Joe Zarelli (R-Ridgefield) didn't introduce one anyway, just to grab headlines. His proposed bill, SB 5870, would reject the contracts hammered out between Gov. Chris Gregoire and state workers and send the parties back to the bargaining table. The contracts negotiated already save some $330 million and include steep cuts to the workers' pay and benefits, including a 3 percent cut in salary and in state contributions toward their health-care premiums. Zarelli has yet to say what he actually wants to see in the contracts, listing only things he doesn't want, like annual cost-of-living raises, sick-time payouts, and limits on the amount workers pay for their health-care premiums. These are all nice-sounding talking points, but the few additional concessions would add only a tiny increase in savings—a drop in the bucket in the state's $5 billion (and counting) projected budget shortfall. That's on top of the fact that Democratic Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Ed Murray has already said he has no intention of letting the bill anywhere near the floor for debate—and without his blessing, the bill is DOA. So why propose an unprecedented contract-revoking bill with no significant savings, no realistic list of goals, and zero chance of passing? Most likely because Sen. Zarelli gets to be a mini–Scott Walker for a few days. He gets to rattle his saber, say that "these contracts are not good enough and I'm putting my foot down!"—and then walk away and boast about having the biggest anti-union balls in the Washington conservative locker room. Zarelli claims that, despite the fact that a bill that overrules a governor-approved contract negotiation between the state and workers has never been proposed before in Washington, it has nothing to do with the union-steamrolling in the Great Lakes states (aka the biggest political story in the country right now). Maybe, but if there's one thing state politicians like, it's becoming part of a national story. So the kabuki song-and-dance that Zarelli and a few other supporters of the bill are performing right now is just that—an act, and a waste of time when the average Washingtonian is more focused on job-hunting than political point- scoring.

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