Saturday, September 20, 2008

Why State Employees Support Steve Van Luven

Steve Van Luven is a Republican running for an open state Senate seat in the 40th Legislative District who has received WFSE's endorsement. A number of people have indicated to me they're surprised by this decision, so I thought it might be appropriate to provide an explanation.

Steve served in the state House for 17 years from the 48th District while he lived in Bellevue. During part of that time the Republicans were in control under the leadership of then-Speaker Clyde Ballard. WFSE had been working for years to secure passage of a full-scope collective bargaining bill, but Speaker Ballard was an adamant opponent. Yet, in spite of fierce opposition from his own caucus leadership, Van Luven agreed to be the prime sponsor of our bill.

In 1995, the state Senate passed our bargaining bill on a 30-19 vote, but the House was refusing to consider it. The Federation held a rally on the capitol steps to try to get the Republicans in the House to give our bill a fair hearing. One of the main speakers at our rally was Steve Van Luven. The story of the rally appeared in our April 1995 newspaper:

"The Senate passed ESB 5841 [state employee collective bargaining] March 14 on a bipartisan vote of 30-19. The Senate budget also included $500,000 to implement it.

But a few key House Republicans were refusing to allow the bill up for a committee hearing, even though 17 House Republicans signed on a sponsors of the House version of the bill.

One of those 17 Republicans, Rep. Steve Van Luven, R-Bellevue, the prime sponsor of the House version of ESB 5841, got one of the warmest receptions at the March 24 rally.

'I have to confess I've never been to a union rally before,' Van Luven joked.

'Today there are 17 of us Republicans who signed onto this piece of legislation,' he said, 'We're making ground. Republicans are starting to realize that state work is hard work and we need to be taking better care of you.'

Van Luven said when he first came to the Legislature, he was appalled at how state employees were treated. Both of Van Luven's parents had been long-time state employees and private-sector businesses he came from treated their employees fairly, he said.

'I found out that the Legislature over the years did not properly take care of state employees...,' Van Luven said. 'I got tired of seeing state employees coming down here on their hands and knees begging for 1, 2, 3 percent raises...'

'I can tell you that if the Legislature was not going to take care of state employees, then we need to give you the right to do it yourselves and that's why I'm in favor of collective bargaining.'"

In spite of the strong support from Van Luven and others, Ballard was successful in preventing our bill from coming up to a vote that year. In fact, we had to wait another eight years before the Legislature finally passed a collective bargaining bill. Further, Ballard and other key Republicans were extremely angry with Van Luven for his outspoken support of state workers. Van Luven had to pay a heavy political price for standing up for us.

I have met Van Luven's Democratic opponent this year, Kevin Ranker, and I've been very impressed with him. However, our members wanted to stand with a candidate who had previously stood with them, and I think that was the honorable thing for us to do. Hopefully our members in the 40th District, as well as across the state, will support Steve and let him know we truly appreciate his support for us. -- Dennis

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