Washington state labor convention: Resolved; it’s time to act!

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As in every state, workers in Washington have been taking it on the chin as bosses resolve the economic crisis at their expense. This made for an angry and at times rebellious mood among union delegates to the Washington State Labor Council (WSLC) Convention in early August. It also made convention goers receptive to a resolution that called for a statewide week of action to protest deep cuts in public services and escalating layoffs.

The palpable outrage felt by many toward the Democrats was certainly justified. Earlier in the year the Democratic controlled House and Senate teamed up with the governor (you guessed it, a Democrat) to “fix” a state budget hole of $9 billion with drastic cuts in state services and layoffs, pay freezes, furloughs, and attacks on benefits for public employees.

Meanwhile, corporations got unemployment insurance tax breaks, even as they handed out a blizzard of pink slips and outsourced unionized aerospace jobs.

Even labor-sponsored bills that didn’t cost the state a penny were killed in legislative committees. One such bill, which aimed to curb employer intimidation during union organizing drives, was dumped with a cynical maneuver that included sending the state patrol to investigate WSLC staff!

Solutions? Hell yeah! The above-mentioned resolution was a welcome antidote to all the frustration. It was put forth by the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) Local 304, and had backing from three other WFSE locals, the WFSE statewide Executive Board, and other unions and labor groups.

Also pushing the resolution were rank-and-file unionists, many of whom are feeling the impact of budget cuts, in the form of layoffs, furloughs, workplace speedup, and more.

Not only did the resolution call for militant protest, but it demanded the only humane solution to the budget madness – tax the wealthy and corporate profits. It advocated building a powerful labor/community alliance that could win an adequate and fair tax system (Washington has the most regressive tax structure in the nation). It suggested the state’s millionaires and billionaires could help fund the following:

• Rollback of state budget cuts to healthcare, human services, education, natural resources, other public services and state pensions, as well as increases to meet previously unmet needs.

• Distribution of funds to city and county governments to restore and expand services slashed as a result of budget shortfalls.

• Provide jobs programs to the unemployed by pursuing socially beneficial proj¬ects, such as construction of public housing.

The resolution also assailed the Democrats for siding with the corporate elite. It was pointed out from the convention floor that WSLC and WFSE leaders have refused to confront these two-faced capitalist politicians. The lack of any real labor fight against the attacks on workers and public services is totally unacceptable.

At the convention, WSLC leaders did offer a strategy to avoid being sold further down the river by the Dems. They presented a new political donations fund with the catchy acronym DIME, which stands for “Don’t Invest in More Excuses.” Much was made of this, but in reality it’s just a way to give money directly to the same Democratic politicians, instead of funneling cash through the party’s statewide slush fund. DIME is not what is needed: a complete break with the Democratic Party, and running independent labor candidates. But DIME does show discontent with the two boss-party system.

Discuss. Vote. Act! On the convention’s last day the resolution was passed by a nearly unanimous vote. But there is a history of similar resolutions being approved and then languishing. So far there is no action by WSLC on this one, so it’s important to turn up the heat.

Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity (OWLS), who worked hard before and during the convention to gather support for the resolution, is publicizing its passage and urging unions to prod WSLC to act on it.

If OWLS and the union locals that endorsed the resolution are able to push labor officials into motion, it will be a great boost to workers struggling against the devastating effects of the economic crash. Right now, there cannot be a bigger priority for labor than fighting to save services by demanding the taxation of those who have the money.

Published originally in the Freedom Socialist newspaper.