December 1, Olympia.
Day four of protests against proposed budget cuts at the special legislative session. Services Employees International Union (SEIU) and Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) sponsored today’s events. Although there were about 200 unionists in attendance, there was not the swarm of unionists about the capitol campus.
The multi-generational SOS contingent included an SEIU member, a student, part-time workers, and retirees. We were determined to outreach to others about he need to raise funds by taxing the rich rather than another regressive sales tax. Priority was put on distributing the “Flip the Funding” brochure, which explains how revenue can be raised by going to the 1%. Plans were made to attend a scheduled teach-in, a rally in the rotunda, and a 3:30pm Ways and Means hearing. Unfortunately, the teach-in and rally were both cancelled. The SOS contingent instead attended a couple of committee meetings: the House Education Appropriations & Oversight Committee hearing on the cuts to education; and the Agriculture, Water, & Rural Economic Development Committee work session.
The House Education Appropriations Committee heard from educators, parents, and the community about how the cuts to Washington State’s educational system will hurt the future of the younger generation and overall society. University of Washington students also voiced concerns about tuition increases.
At the Agriculture, Water, and Rural Economic Development Committee work session, panelists discussed the farm labor shortage. On the one hand, were farm operators who testified about their crops being wasted due to the labor shortage. On the other hand, labor representatives pointed out the lack of skilled farm workers is due to the low pay and terrible working conditions. Lyle Morse, Corrections Industries director, advocated using inmate labor as a solution. The Corrections Industries, a division of the Department of Corrections of Washington State, is designed to facilitate the use of prison labor for private businesses. They put out a nice colorful flyer that claimed inmate labor would reduce the taxpayer burden for the criminal justice system. This is deplorable!
Over two hundred people attended the Ways and Means Committee – enough to fill two hearing rooms. At the beginning of the hearing, people testified how the cuts to a particular program or service would be devastating. The audience enthusiastically applauded any mention of taxing the rich. Representing SOS, I highlighted the “Flip the Funding” brochure and stated that there is more than enough money to fund all social services and education by taxing corporate profits. Ally Stacey, speaking for Radical Women, made a case for shifting the tax burden to the 1 percent. She further testified that a tax increase for poor people means it will come out of their rent or grocery bills and a tax increase for the rich will mean they have less money for their yachts. Bernadette Logue told committee members that they should pressure D. C. to divert war funds to pay for state services.
Going to Olympia was an uplifting experience. Though it is unclear if elected officials will ever give serious consideration to any of our messages, it was worth testifying as it is important to reach out to those impacted by the budget cuts. This is the reason why SOS has been Olympia all week with our clear message (see previous blog posts).
My tesimonial at the same hearing: