Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Washington State Labor Council’s Annual Legislative Conference
February 22, 2002

Thank you for that introduction, Rick (Bender). I’m honored to be here.

Rick Bender has been the most outspoken and effective advocate for working men and women since the days of Dave Beck a half-century ago.

So much of what we take for granted today -- including the eight-hour work day, health care, vacation time, unemployment insurance, prevailing wages, safety and health protections -- flows from the blood and sweat of the women and men in this room, standing on the shoulders of generations past.

I embrace that legacy -- the principled voice of organized labor in Washington state.

I have vigorously supported collective bargaining, the safety and health grants program, apprenticeship set aside, transportation, family-leave issues and increased worker re-training slots for dislocated workers.

And I have some good news and progress to report: good news and progress on our efforts to strengthen and expand collective bargaining, good news and progress on our efforts at apprenticeship programs, good news and (hopefully) some progress on my 10-year transportation plan that will create 20,000 new jobs annually.

But there’s a storm cloud building and it’s not just looming on the horizon, but is directly overhead. We can’t avoid it. Our state faces a $1.5 million budget gap and the revenue stream continues to shrink. We face the fallout of a national economic recession and the impacts of the September 11th terrorist attacks.

Sacrifices will be made and real people will suffer. I don’t want working people to be hurt and I will do everything in my power to minimize that impact, including the impact on state employees.

We will look at closing outdated tax exemptions and loopholes to increase revenues and soften the blow to important state services.

The Union Role
When unions are strong, we know that the American middle class is strong.

For minorities and women, the wage benefits from unions are even greater.

Union women earn 35 percent more than nonunion women; African American union members earn 39 percent more than their nonunion counterparts and for Latino workers; the union advantage totals 55 percent.

But today, some of those historic gains are being eaten away for tens of thousands of workers who don’t have the protection of a strong union contract.

Today in fact we must find ways to extend the reach of collective bargaining if we want to sustain a decent standard of living for Washington’s working people.

In that regard, we have several reasons to celebrate:

Our state employees civil service reform, HB 1268, passed the House with bipartisan support, including the support of five Republicans.

In addition, faculty at four-year higher ed institutions will be empowered to bargain collectively under HB 2403, sponsored by <>Representative Kenney and passed by the House.

Teaching and research assistants at the University of Washington will have that same right if HB 2540, sponsored by Representative Conway, becomes law.

This year, we’ve also worked to re-establish the Safety and Health Grants Program. Our Department of Labor and Industries offered a bill (HB2427, sponsored by Representative Conway) to re-establish the program, and I’ve once again included $5 million (non-general fund) in my supplemental budget to continue it.

Apprenticeship: An effective tool
I’d also like to thank organized labor for creating the world’s best model for adult training and education -- apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships are our state’s most effective education and training program.

A study by the State Workforce Board indicates that apprentices earn the highest wage and placement rate of any education or training program.

Apprenticeships offer tens of thousands of citizens the opportunity to earn more while they learn more. It just seems obvious.

As all of you know, in 2000 I issued an executive order on apprenticeship utilization.

I want to thank Representative Conway and the building trades for their tremendous efforts this session to try and turn my order into statute. I’m grateful to them.

I know that ergonomics is a critical issue for organized labor as well. I respect and appreciate that -- because we’re talking about the health and safety of our fellow workers!

We must work to prevent the 50,000 ergonomic-related injuries that occur each year in this state. That is simply unacceptable.

I support reducing these injuries and will look to the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel for guidance.

A 60-day legislative session is not a lot of time to tackle so many complex and critical issues.

To some, there is never a good time to invest in the future. But now is that time! Record low interest rates give us tremendous buying power. And transportation projects will create more than 20,000 new jobs.

I appreciate the support of organized labor for my 10-year transportation plan that will stimulate our state’s economy, just as it will employ thousands of people.

My plan is straightforward: It builds on last year’s recommendations. It was a good plan then. It is a good plan now. We will rebuild the roads and bridges in every region of our state. In this plan, we also authorize regions to raise additional funds to speed up construction of their big projects, partnering with the state and federal government.

Demands on our transportation system have never been greater and our ability to meet those demands hasn’t kept pace. Adjusted for inflation, today we spend fewer state dollars on transportation than we did 10 years ago, even though our population is a million higher and in the next 10 years, we can expect another million.

Transportation is central to our economic wellbeing. The futures of our communities, our families and our children rest with the transportation decisions we make during this session. We must work together in common cause and for a common purpose -- to enhance the lives of ALL the people of the state of Washington.

A few weeks ago, I spoke at the dedication of the new Everett Transit Station. At that ceremony I stood near the hallowed ground of this state’s labor heritage: I stood a mile from where Eugene Debs addressed a restless crowd of young laborers. I stood a couple of miles from the spot near Port Gardner Bay where so much blood was shed in the Everett Massacre in 1916.

At the Everett Station, I saw the Kenneth Callahan murals that celebrate this region’s labor heritage -- images of working people. They are symbolic of the “spirit of Everett,” but that spirit extends to communities and cities across our state, east and west.

Because the soil of that community, like the soil of all our towns and cities, is consecrated with the sweat and labor of dedicated, working people.

I know that and I will never forget it.

Thank you.
Related Links:
- Washington State Labor Council
- Locke touts union role in improving workers’ lives
- Washington State Legislature
- Rep. Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney (D-46)
- Rep. Steve Conway (D-29)
- Department of Labor and Industries
- Blue Ribbon Panel on Ergonomics
- Safety and Health Grant Program
- Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board
- Transportation: New Roads, New Jobs
- Everett Station
- University of Washington

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