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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Sunday Spin 2: Demonstration was union made


The number of Americans who are part of a labor union may be declining – around Labor Day each year some business publication waxes on about the death of organized labor – but you wouldn’t have known it by a Senate hearing last Wednesday.

The Commerce, Labor and Sports Committee had a hearing on a proposal by Spokane Republican Mike Baumgartner to turn Washington into a “right to work” state. Such laws basically say that a person can’t be required to join a union and pay dues as a condition of employment. Baumgartner’s bill included government employees as well as those in the private sector.

Unions generally refer to these bills as “the right to work for less” laws. They have been passed in many states, including Idaho, but not yet in a state where unions were once so strong that it was referred to as “the soviet of Washington.”

Those days may be gone, but unions managed to flex their muscles on Wednesday, packing the main hearing room and spilling into an overflow room. Many were building trades workers, who came wearing their hard hats. That prompted someone to post a sign on the door advising “No hats in the hearing room.” 

Can’t remember another time such a sign has been posted, or security requiring other spectators to doff the various ball caps that are sometimes worn.

Testimony was overwhelmingly against the bill. It has until Friday to get a vote in the committee.

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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