Rossi bills to tackle corruption, support workers get hearing Monday

Senator seeks to ban some collective-bargaining units from contributing to gubernatorial candidates

Whether or not corruption is actually occurring, says Sen. Dino Rossi, it sure doesn’t look right when public employee unions make deals with a governor behind closed doors at the same time they are contributing big amounts of money to the governor’s re-election campaign.

That is why Rossi has introduced three bills aimed at addressing the undue influence of public unions over government policy and the potential corruption that influence can cause. The Senate Commerce, Labor and Sports Committee will hold hearings on all three measures on Monday, Feb. 6.


Ending the appearance of corruption

“Since 1947 insurance companies cannot contribute to candidates for state insurance commissioner, because of the appearance of corruption,” said Rossi, R-Sammamish.

“No such restriction exists involving the governor, even though multimillion-dollar collective-bargaining agreements involving state employees are regularly negotiated with the governor in a back room in Olympia that no one ever sees. We have to make sure that in the state of Washington there is never an appearance of corruption. My bill would clean this up.”

Senate Bill 5533 would prohibit any entity that engages in collective bargaining with the office of the governor or its representative (the Labor Relations Division of the Office of Financial Management) from making campaign contributions to any candidate for the office of governor, directly or through an intermediary.


Making sure unions represent their members

The second bill introduced by Rossi would allow public employees to vote on union representation every four years.

Under state law, a union seeking to represent a group of public employees can be certified as the exclusive bargaining representative if it collects cards from a majority of the members of the bargaining unit. This arrangement means that, in some circumstances, no secret-ballot vote is ever required.

Senate Bill 5551 would change this.

“This is really a workers’ rights bill,” explained Rossi. “The union is going to have to offer a service that workers actually want – not just force it down their throats. Right now, if you are hired as a state employee, you are forced to join a union and pay dues. If you don’t join, and pay, you will lose your job.

“Many of the public-employee unions in our state were certified when I was in grammar school and have never gone back to their members to see if this is really what they still want. The goal of my bill is to make sure that the union serves the employees, and not the other way around.”


Getting the best value for taxpayers

The third measure in Rossi’s good-government package, Senate Bill 5550, would prohibit agencies from agreeing to collective-bargaining agreements that restrict the agency from contracting for services. It also would repeal all previous restrictions on higher-education institutions and state agencies contracting for services with businesses, nonprofit organizations and individuals.

“Right now in Olympia, you can’t even get a toilet unclogged without calling a state employee,” Rossi pointed out. “Let’s find out where we can get the best deal for the taxpayers. Besides, there may be some functions in state government that the private sector can just do better. Why shouldn’t we ask?”


Bills to be heard in committee on Monday

All three bills will be heard in the Senate Commerce, Labor and Sports Committee on Monday. Rossi, who serves on the committee, believes that his reforms should gain traction in the closely divided Senate.

“This should be a bipartisan effort,” said Rossi. “I think the committee will move these bills forward, and I am going to work with my colleagues to get them through the Senate. 

“They are good-government bills – cleaning up state government, going after the appearance of corruption. I don’t think any lawmaker wants to be on the wrong side of that.”