Tim Welch of the Washington Federation of State Employees said the state employee union's offer of refuge to 14 Wisconsin Democrats was more a heartfelt gesture than any expectation the lawmakers-on-the-lam would actually hide out in Washington.
Still, Welch said he emailed the offer over the weekend to all 14 lawmakers who are at the heart of a nationally watched showdown. The 14 fled their state rather than let majority Republicans get a quorum for a vote that would reduce collective bargaining rights for state employees.
The federation got replies from three lawmakers who said they were inundated with thousands of emails of support from around the country. "They said thank you, but said they have so much going on they couldn't respond (further) right now," Welch said Tuesday.
Federation president Carol Dotlich pledged the state's support Monday during a rally that drew about 2,000 people to the Capitol, according to the Everett Herald.
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The union still might send personnel back to Madison, Wis., in support of the absent lawmakers, as they did a few years ago when Minnesota employees went on strike. But "it depends how long the stalemate goes on We hope the spirit of compromise emerges and clear minds prevail," Welch said.
The federation membership ratified a two-year contract with the state last week. But Welch said the union has plenty to do here, too – with more budget cuts proposed in Olympia for state programs.
There also is a chance that Ohio and Iowa could become similar flashpoints as Wisconsin. "In fact, Congressman Kucinich was going back for a rally in Columbus today," Welch said. "Also in Iowa the governor has proposed to make health care prohibited from bargaining."
In sharp contrast, workers in Washington agreed through negotiations with Gov. Chris Gregoire to accept 3 percent pay cuts starting July 1 and to pay a higher percentage of health-care insurance premiums. Ratification was by more than 86 percent last week with just a fraction of WFSE's 25,000 eligible members actually voting.
"There was give and take and there was compromise," Welch said. "In turn we got drastic improvements in workplace language. (Gregoire) got $300 million in savings and we got stronger protections against (workplace) bullying and that sort of thing."
The pollster said it found 51 percent of that states voters now view Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker unfavorably while 62 percent view the state’s public sector workers favorably. And it found a majority backed the absent senators and a majority was opposed to the position of the governor.