With Democratic control of Washington's House, Senate, and governor's mansion, there's never been a chance that the kind of brazen union-busting bills advanced in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Idaho, Alaska, and elsewhere could ever get far. That, however, doesn't mean that state Sen. Joe Zarelli isn't going to introduce one anyway, just to grab headlines.
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 to see, like potential annual cost-of-living raises, sick-time pay-outs, and limits on the amount workers pay for their health-care premiums.
These are all nice-sounding talking points, but the few added concessions would likely add only a tiny increase in savings to the $330 million already cut under the new contracts--a laughable amount in the face of the state's $5 billion 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 debate floor--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 and say that "these contracts are not good enough and I'm putting my foot down!" And then he gets to 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 Wisconsin, Michigan, Idaho, etc. (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 concerned with finding a decent job than making sure state unionized workers take a 3.5 percent pay cut instead of 3 percent.