House passes bill allowing staff to unionize in 2024

The Washington State House has approved a measure that will allow legislative staff to begin collective bargaining in 2024.

Spokesperson-Review reported that the bill passed by a vote of 56 to 41 on Tuesday and is now heading to the Senate for consideration.

A previous version of the bill died earlier this session, but Democratic Rep. Marcus Riccelli revived the idea after more than 100 staffers took sick in protest. Although the new measure does not go as far as the initial proposal, it does start the process of allowing staff members to unionise.

Under the proposal, staff members can start trading on May 1, 2024. The agreements would come into effect on July 1, 2025.

“This legislation brings us one step closer to fairness and justice in the workplace,” Riccelli said on the court.

Currently, legislative staff are not covered by state civil service laws that grant certain state employees the right to unionize.

The bill gives employees the right to organize, bargain collectively or abstain from doing so. It does not give them the right to strike or refuse to work.

The proposal also creates an Office of State Legislative Labor Relations, which would be responsible for conducting labor negotiations for the legislature, as well as reviewing frameworks for grievance and disciplinary procedures. The office must also study issues related to the implementation of the negotiation and submit a final report to the Legislative Assembly by October 1, 2023, according to the bill.

If the Legislative Assembly does not pass additional legislation clarifying the process during the 2024 legislative session, staff bargaining rights will automatically come into effect on May 1, 2024.

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