House passes bill allowing unionization for staff in 2024

OLYMPIA — The state House has approved a measure that will allow legislative staff to begin collective bargaining in 2024.

The Spokesman-Review reported that the bill passed on a 56-41 vote Tuesday and now heads 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 called in sick to protest. While the new measure doesn’t go as far as the original proposal, it does start the process for allowing staffers to unionize.

Under the proposal, staffers can begin bargaining on May 1, 2024. Agreements would take effect on July 1, 2025.

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

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

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

The proposal also creates an Office of State Legislative Labor Relations, which would be charged with conducting collective bargaining negotiations for the Legislature, as well as considering frameworks for grievance procedures and disciplinary actions. The office must also study issues related to the implementation of bargaining and give a final report to the Legislature by Oct. 1, 2023, according to the bill.

If the Legislature does not pass any additional legislation clarifying the process during the 2024 legislative session, staffers’ bargaining rights will go into effect automatically on May 1, 2024.

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