Could Wisconsin Style Protests Come Here?
Could Wisconsin style protests over collective bargaining issues pop up in the Evergreen State?
Because Washington has the same style of collective bargaining process as Wisconsin, it could. While the Governor in Wisconsin was beseiged by protestors over eliminating the process, Governor Gregoire is less likely to strike down this provision. More likely are legislators to push to eliminate the "closed door" collective bargaining between the Governor and public sector state employee unions. Decisions made on salaries, benefits, pensions and other financial issues for state employees are not done in public-they are done privately in closed door sessions, not allowing legislators or the public to comment on or oversee the process that involves their tax dollars. The process is literally closed to anyone but the direct parties involved. As the state's budget woes grow, tensions over this issue could potentially become a hot button issue. Recently, Governor Gregoire asked union officials to allow their state employees to contribute 26% of the funding for their health benefits, a figure that matches much of the private sector. The Unions refused, allowing only a modest 3% increase to their workers. Gregoire asked for the increase this year as one method of lowering the state's multi-billion dollar defecit. On average, WA state taxpayers fund about $850 of each state employees health benefits; a figure that budget analyists say is a significant part of the growing defecit.