Members of the Washington State Senate remained on the floor into the early morning hours today to debate costly legislation that circumvents constitutional protections for Washington’s individual provider home care workers. Sen. John Braun, strongly opposes the proposed policy and process by which the Senate Democratic Majority attempted to advance the legislation.
“Putting the financial interests of one powerful union ahead of the rights of tens of thousands of workers and interests of millions of taxpayers is wrong no matter what time of day,” said Braun, R-Centralia, in reference to floor action that saw lawmakers work into the early morning hours.
“As many issues as I have with the policy, we also had serious concerns about the process. In an attempt to improve an incredibly flawed bill, we offered a series of substantive policy amendments. Their response was to employ procedural tactics to prevent us from speaking and eventual resignation by the majority from engaging in any meaningful discussion.”
The state Department of Social and Health Services serves as the employer for Washington’s 30,000 individual provider home care providers. Nearly two-thirds of these workers provide care for their own family members who are most often elderly parents or children with developmental
disabilities. Following a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Harris v. Quinn, they are no longer forced to join a union or pay an agency fee.
The proposed legislation establishes a private third-party entity to employ the care providers, which would cost taxpayers $26 million per budget cycle for no expanded or improved service. Braun said that creating a private employer relationship also removes protections from having to join the union to receive reimbursement and communications from public disclosure.
“Moving to a private employer is a poorly disguised and intentional act to circumvent workers’ constitutional protections and prioritize powerful special interests ahead of the rights of lower-paid workers,” said Braun.
In addition to voting on amendments, the Senate Democratic Majority attempted to hold a final vote on the bill early in the morning. They were not able to advance it as Republicans objected. The bill now cannot be brought to the floor until Friday at the earliest.
Braun detailed issues with the proposal, which he called the most cynical and disingenuous bill in Olympia, in the latest edition of Economic Sense.