EVERETT - Labor unions are expected to spend generously this election year to support some initiatives, oppose others, and unseat a few lawmakers.
Dennis Eagle, the director of legislative and political action for the Washington Federation of State Employees, said it will probably spend more money this season than ever before. But the decisions this election also could affect their lives more than other election have in the past.
“The possibility of what happens on the ballot measures making what happens next year exponentially worse is sobering. Yet we can’t back away from our legislative program either,” Eagle said.
Six initiatives that could affect organized workers appear destined for November’s ballot. Each one may require a multimillion-dollar campaign.
Initiative 1098 would raise $1 billion for public schools, colleges and health care programs through a new income tax on high-wage earners. Its passage is a top priority for unions representing public employees, health care workers and teachers.
The Washington State Labor Council wants to beat Initiative 1082. This measure, pushed by the Building Industry Association of Washington, would let private insurers compete with the state to provide workers’ compensation insurance. Unions worry the change would lead to delayed or denied claims.
United Food and Commercial Workers will be opposing two measures that would allow private businesses to sell liquor. Initiatives 1100 and 1105 would close the state liquor stores where union members are employed.
Beyond initiatives, organized labor intends to spend money to ensure its champions in the Legislature are re-elected. And they hope to defeat several other lawmakers.
“It’s a pretty interesting, and complex, landscape,” said Mary Lindquist, president of the Washington Education Association.
Initial decisions on where WEA invests itself most heavily will be made in August, she said.
“I see my job as keeping my eyes on the prize of making sure we have the funding to support a strong education system,” she said. “At the same time, we will be driven by the enthusiasm our members have for their local candidates.”
Adam Glickman, vice president of Service Employees International Union Local 775, said it’s not a matter of choosing either initiatives or candidates this election cycle. Unions can and will do both.
“This whole election is about whether we’re going to let the corporate interests continue to run this state and run this economy,” said Glickman, whose union represents 40,000 long-term-care workers.