Marching for real raises

August 21, 2008

OLYMPIA, Wash.--Some 500 Washington state workers rallied and marched for real pay raises on August 12. After a rally on the state capitol campus, workers marched to the governor's office to present Gov. Christine Gregoire with a petition demanding real pay raises.

The march included the chants "What do we want? Real pay raises. When do we want them? Now!"

Negotiations between the workers' union, the Washington State Federation of State Employees, and the governor's office must be completed prior to October 1. That is when the governor's budget request, including any recommended pay raises, is due at the legislature. The legislature convenes in January, 2009 to pass a budget for the period July 1, 2009, to July 1, 2011.

By real wage increases, workers mean increases that, at least, allow them to keep up with inflation. The last biennial budget provided raises of only 3.2 percent on July 1, 2007, and 2 percent on July 1, 2008.

Tim Rolfe, a claims manager at the Department of Labor and Industries found that the latter increase only put him behind. After retirement costs and other deductions, he only cleared an extra $6 in his paycheck. "My rent went up $50," said Rolfe, "and then there are higher fuel and food costs."

This will be a tough fight. Because of decreasing state revenues, due to the sluggish economy, the state is facing a budget shortfall of $2.7 billion. Legislators have traditionally solved these problems on the backs of state workers by denying pay raises. Workers will have to keep up the pressure in order to gain anything meaningful this time around.

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