Happier days: The SEIU endorses Gregoire before clashing with the union over raises.
The state Supreme Court today essentially told 25,000 home health care workers to suck it up.
In a 5-4 decision, the court rejected a plea by the workers union, SEIU Healthcare 775NW, to make the governor pay out $87 million in salaries and benefits that an arbitrator had awarded in 2008. The workers contract with the state to provide care to Medicaid patients.
Governor Chris Gregoire, citing the state's financial woes, had left out money for the raises in the budget she proposed for the 2009-2011 biennium. The court could have ordered Gregoire to reverse course. (The union was asking for a "writ of mandamus," used to compel state officials to do their job correctly.)
But Justice James Johnson, writing the majority opinion, showed not the slightest inclination to do that.
First of all, he asserts, it's well within the governor's discretion to make decisions about the budget.
And Johnson goes further to strongly suggest that Gregoire's decision was the right one. The pay increases demanded by SEIU are ones "that most state workers neither receive nor support," he opines. What's more, he says: "Such pay increases will almost certainly go unfunded again. Indeed, our ever-worsening economy may ultimately require some pay reductions rather than pay raises."
The lesson for SEIU and perhaps for garbage collectors and other workers might be: One of the nation's worst economic recessions is not the best time to go to the mat for higher wages.