A crowd of labor union members estimated by organizers to be more than 1,000 came to Olympia’s state capital on Wednesday speaking out against a Right-to-Work proposal.

The state Senate Commerce, Labor & Sports Committee took input on SB 5692, a measure sponsored by the chair of the committee, Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane) and Centralia’s Sen. John Braun, also a Republican. As drafted, the bill would forbid labor contracts that required workers to join and pay dues to a union.

The advocates for organized labor quickly filled all available seats in the designated hearing room and overflow rooms, leaving many more members of building and construction trades unions to congregate outside the J.L. Cherberg building.

“Right-to-Work never has and doesn’t now have anything to do with creating or protecting jobs,” said Jeff Johnson, president of Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, during testimony on the bill. “Its purpose is to curb the power of workers and their unions at the bargaining table and in the Legislature.”

“It doesn’t belong in Washington state now or ever,” said Lee Newgent, executive secretary of Washington Building Trades. 

The proposed legislation has not yet emerged from the Senate Committee deliberations – something that must happen by the end of next week – and faces sure opposition in the state House of Representatives, which has a slim Democrat majority.

Archived audio of this week’s hearing is on TVW website and more detail about SB 5692’s legislative process is at this link.