Fourteen Democratic state senators from Wisconsin are on the lam, avoiding a Republican majority vote that would gut collective bargaining rights for many state employees in The Badger State.
But the missing 14 might find a temporary refuge in The Evergreen State. The Washington Federation of State Employees has launched a survey for its members on whether top offer up The Evergreen State as a sanctuary.
The 14 senators are blocking a vote on Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal at their state capital in Madison simply by staying going into hiding. At least one Democrat is needed for a quorum in the 33-seat Wisconsin Senate that has 19 members.
Washington government workers are feeling sympathy.
"It is spreading like wildfire. Our members have been pushing for this. They've been saying ‘we have to do something to show solidarity for the Wisconsin workers," federation spokesman Tim Welch said today.
The federation says on its web site that:
The disappearing-legislator move conjures memories of Texas Democrats who fled the Lone Star State in 2003 to avoid a Republican-led redistricting move that would have given then U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay more clout in Congress. Under the headline "Hey Wisconsin, that’s our Idea!" Christy Hoppe of the Dallas Morning News wrote:
In Washington, Senate Republicans have sponsored a few bills this year to end collective bargaining or to limit its effects. Republican Sen. Dan Swecker of Rochester has introduced Senate Bill 5345 to prohibit collective bargaining over contracting out – which is putting state services out to bid in the private sector.
Two bills – Senate Bill 5316 from Sen. Joseph Zarelli of Ridgefield and HB 1873 from Rep. Gary Alexander of Thurston County – would create a "competition council" to look at what state services to contract out. Under the major personnel reform law of 2002, Washington allows bargaining with state employee groups over what services or functions might be sent to the private sector.
Of course, federation employees are facing some tough budget cuts this year, and members' ballots are being counted on a contract offer that cuts their pay 3 percent next year and requires them to pay more for health care insurance. But Welch said the difference is that Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire has bargained with unions over the cuts while Wisconsin's governor is "shoving it down their throats."