Eye On Olympia

TUESDAY, JAN. 6, 2009, 8:13 P.M.

Third lawsuit filed by union members unhappy with Gregoire budget

A new lawsuit was filed Tuesday by child care providers, asking a court to force the governor to ask lawmakers for more money for the workers.

It's the third such suit involving a proposed union contract. After negotiating agreements covering thousands of state-paid workers last summer and fall, Gregoire's budget director said last month that the deals were not feasible in the face of the state's budget shortfall. Gregoire didn't include the proposals – including millions of dollars in cost-of-living increases, more training, and additional benefits – in the budget she proposed to lawmakers Dec. 18.

Service Employees International Union Local 925 filed the suit Tuesday with the superior court in Olympia.

A second local of the same union, SEIU Healthcare 775NW, has filed a similar suit. At stake are raises of 22 cents to 25 cents over the next two years for 23,000 home care workers. The health aides, who earn less than $11 an hour, are paid by the state to help senior citizens and the disabled.

The home care workers' contract included nearly $27 million in raises, health benefits and training, none of which Gregoire included in her budget suggestion.

Gregoire says the workers deserve the raise, but that the state – wrestling with an unprecedented $6 billion budget shortfall over the next two years – can't afford it.

Also suing Gregoire over raises and contracts is the Washington Federation of State Employees, which represents about 40,000 workers.




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