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Largest state-worker union boosts dues by $1.1 million a year…

Washington's largest state-workers union, the Washington Federation of State Employees, has voted to boost member dues from 1.37 percent of pay to 1.5 percent to help pay for its affiliation with a national union.

The increase was approved in Spokane Sunday after the union's biennial convention. It's the federation's first dues increase since 1998.

"Sunday's vote not only capped hours of floor debate but months of discussion at the local and worksite level," the union said in a statement Monday. A member earning $38,000 a year will see a monthly increase of $4.12.

The extra revenue -- $1.1 million next year – will help pay for a dues increase for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The state union covered the first year of that increase -- $800,000 – but doing that again would have meant cutting local union programs or laying off staff, the statement said.

The AFSCME dues increase will help "to grow the union, build political power and build the strength to win," the Federation said. Over the last 7 years, the federation said, local members have received help worth more than $6 million from AFSCME, including grants to pay for collective bargaining, staff help for organizing, educational programs and grants for political work and the 2001 strike by state workers.

"Delegates acknowledged that members back home may be concerned about what happened," the statement said. "But several delegates urged their colleagues on the flor to have the courage to go back to their locals and members and explain the reasons for the increase and that it was the right thing to do."

The more than 400 delegates in Spokane also raised the maximum dues, charged to higher-paid workers, from $57.67 to $75 a month. The increases take effect Jan. 1.

The federation represents more than 40,000 state workers in Washington, including clerical staff, highway maintenance crews, park rangers, engineers, custodial staff and computer technicians.

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