An initiative that would privatize Washington’s workers’ compensation system is one of the key issues that will bring the state’s union members to the polls, labor leaders said at a Spokane rally Wednesday.
Al Link, secretary-treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council, joined hundreds of workers at the rally at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center. Link said the workers’ compensation system is “probably the number one priority” for the labor council.
The privatization of the workers’ compensation system “does not resonate well with our voters,” he said.
“(Initiative 1082) basically deregulates our workers’ comp system,” he said. “So that’s a big issue for laborers.”
Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat seeking her fourth term, was the rally’s keynote speaker. Labor Council President Rick Bender predicted Murray’s campaign against Republican Dino Rossi could be one of her “most challenging races yet.”
Independent-expenditure money coming from outside the state is what makes this race particularly challenging, Link said. For example, a group affiliated with Karl Rove, former adviser to President George W. Bush, is “spending big cash” on political ad campaigns, especially in the Puget Sound area, he said.
“They’re actually outspending Patty Murray in independent expenditures,” Link said. “And it’s all corporate money coming in. They’re running more ads. They’re all attack ads. They’re all coming out of D.C. That makes it tough.”
Despite this obstacle, Link said he expects a good turnout from union members at the polls based on previous years’ turnout, which has been more than 70 percent.
“That’s much larger than the general population of registered voters,” he said. “Voters from organized labor are going to vote. They understand what’s on the line as far as them getting compensated for being injured at work … That’s going to bring our voters out.”
Link said 21 percent of workers in Washington belong to a union, and many union members, along with their families, will head to the polls Nov. 2.
“We’ll be working hard to bring them to the polls,” he said. “And they bring their family members with them. That’s usually an average of about three votes.”
Workers at the rally gave Murray a standing ovation when she said she would continue to work to prevent European-based Airbus from getting a $35 billion contract to build new refueling tankers like the ones flown at Fairchild Air Force Base, which could allow Boeing to get the bid.
This issue, along with funding for the North Spokane Corridor, which has been in the planning stages for decades, also will bring Washington laborers to the polls, Murray said.
“From my race, they’re really focused on making sure that we continue to fund projects like the north-south freeway, to make sure the Boeing tanker deal is built here,” she said.
Daryl Romeyn, a former television reporter who is running against incumbent Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers for the 5th Congressional District seat, also spoke at the rally.