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Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Waite questions labor’s backing of Riccelli

Candidates haven’t even officially signed up to run for office, but the contest for a state House seat representing central Spokane is heating up.

The race for the seat held by state Rep. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, already has attracted four candidates, in large part because Billig decided last week that he wouldn’t run for reelection as planned so that he could run for the state Senate seat held by Lisa Brown, who announced last week that she would not run for a new term.

The AFL-CIO’s Washington State Labor Council endorsed on Saturday Democrat Marcus Riccelli, Brown’s senior policy analyst, for Billig’s 3rd Legislative District seat without seeking the positions of other candidates.

Democratic candidate John Waite, who owns Merlyn’s Comics and Games, said the labor endorsement indicates that “elite, upper party leaders” are working to control the outcome.

“That’s absolutely, positively not my vision for how our democratic elections process should work,” Waite said.

The other two candidates who have announced their intentions to run are Republican Tim Benn and Democrat Jon Snyder, a Spokane City councilman.

Riccelli, who attended the labor council’s weekend convention where union leaders selected candidates they support in the August primary, said he’s “extremely proud” of the support he earned from the labor council.

Labor unions to join “Occupy” protests

OLYMPIA — The Washington State Labor Council says it will  join with various local versions of the “Occupy Wall Street” protests next week.

The council is in line with national labor leaders who are praising the protests from New York City to Seattle and Spokane for “capturing the imagination and passion of millions of Americans who have lost  hope that our nation's policymakers are speaking for them.”

Unions are planning a “Week of Action” starting next Monday, and want to hook up with Occupy demonstrations for some joint efforts. They haven't yet announced an agenda for their coming week.

Occupy Spokane protests have all been peaceful so far, but Occupy Seattle demonstrations at the Westlake Park resulted in 25 arrests Wednesday after protesters refused a city order to remove their tents. The tents have come down and but protesters remain in the downtown park…

Bob McCaslin, champion of unions?

OLYMPIA —Bob McCaslin scored 100 percent on the state Labor Council’s legislative report card.

Which is a little like Bart Simpson scoring 100 percent on the SATs. You gotta know something strange is going on.

But organized labor’s report of the late legislative session does give the Spokane Valley Republican, who has a lifetime score of 10 percent on votes the unions pick as their most important, a 100 percent for 2010. No liberal Democrat had a percentage that high.

You think the Labor Council is just trying to cheer McCaslin up during his recovery from heart surgery? Not exactly, although that’s a couple steps down the road to the real explanation. Turns out because McCaslin had to miss much of the session because of cardiac surgery and recovery, he was only around for one of the unions’ key votes, a Jan. 22 roll call involving furloughs for state workers. McCaslin and most Republicans voted no, while most Democrats voted yes. Shortly after that, McCaslin was hospitalized and excused from other votes. The seven other tracked votes don’t count against his score, so he’s 1-for-1, not 1-for-8.

Come to think of it, the shock of getting a perfect score from the unions might not be the best thing for McCaslin. Maybe next time the AFL-CIO could just send a card?

Labor council to Democratic leaders: Revive dead bill and vote…

The state labor council is not going quietly, when it comes to a key union prioritiy this year: a bill that would have banned companies from requiring workers to attend meetings to discuss unionization, religion or charitable giving.

The governor and the top two Democratic lawmakers declared the bill dead and called police last week after seeing an email to some lawmakers from a labor council staffer. The note urged union leaders to tell lawmakers that they’d get “not another dime from labor” until the governor signed the bill into law. The state patrol subsequently said the email wasn’t a crime.

Fast forward to today. The labor council is now calling on Gov. Gregoire, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and House Speaker Frank Chopp to revive the dead bill and bring it up for a vote.

From the labor council’s long message, (which I pasted at the “continue reading” link below):

It no longer passes the straight-face test to blame what was clearly an internal email among labor leaders — one that had inadvertently been forwarded, not to you, but to a handful of legislators who already supported the bill — for denying a vote on the Worker Privacy Act.

It is time to take a principled stand.  All we ask is for a fair vote.  If it fails, so be it.  Our elected representatives are adults.  They can explain why they voted “yes” or why they voted “no.”

At this point, maintaining what is already being criticized as a political effort to “shield” legislators from taking a tough vote only exacerbates the embarrassment to the institution of the State Legislature.

It is time for a moment of truth.