On April 20, eleven Food Safety Officers from the Department of Agriculture traveled to Olympia to advocate for public employee contracts. They met with their senators to explain the importance of food safety and of investing in public employees. “Our primary message highlighted the importance of our jobs not only to promote commerce in Washington state but throughout the world” said Jeff Freshley, a Food Safety Officer and WPEA bargaining team member.
Most of the members had not talked to their legislators before. For many, it was their first time visiting the capitol. “I must say this was a positive and interesting process,” said Jeff. “Many in government don’t know who we are or what we do.”
The meetings came at the tail end of regular session, as the legislature was still divided as to whether to fund state employee contracts. The House released a budget that fully funds our contracts, while the Senate released a budget that explicitly rejects the contracts. On Monday, April 24, the legislature started a 30-day special session. They have until June 30 to reach a deal to avoid a government shutdown.
While many lawmakers expressed support when meeting with the FSOs, we cannot guarantee the contracts will be funded unless we keep up the pressure. Call your senator at 1-800-562-6000 and ask them to invest in Washington, adopt the House budget, and fund our vital state employee contracts.
Jeff summarized the experience: “Bottom line I would say it was positive and something we need to do each and every session.”