OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington state employees who make sure workers are safe on the job are rallying today in Olympia for competitive wages.
Employees from the Department of Labor and Industries’ Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or DOSH, want the state’s help retaining more of its workers.
The rally is taking place ahead of a bargaining session also scheduled for today.
Dan Skinner, who works with DOSH, says Washington businesses and workers are concerned about the number of safety inspectors leaving state work.
“We really are in a crisis here as it relates to the safety of workers in the state of Washington, and that crisis is being generated from the lack of competitive wages,” he maintains.
Skinner says other West Coast states, Oregon and California, pay their state inspectors far more. DOSH workers and their union, the Washington Federation of State Employees, submitted a request asking lawmakers to address recruitment and retention issues in this year’s supplemental budget, but no provisions were included.
According to Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries, it costs more than $200,000 to train new safety workers over a two-year span.
The department says since 2008, nearly a third of safety and health professionals has left Labor and Industries after two years. Skinner is concerned that once these workers get their training from the state, the private sector scoops them up and pays them more.
“When you’re spending over $100,000 a year to train one employee, and you’re losing them after a couple of years, and you’re training two classes of 20 people, there are hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he points out. “We basically have become private industry’s training program for safety and health.”
The rally is taking place on the state Capitol Campus before the bargaining session begins at 9 a.m.
State employees across every sector are concerned about workers leaving for jobs elsewhere. Around 600 state employees leave state service each month, according to the Office of Financial Management.
Eric Tegethoff is a journalist covering the Northwest. Eric has worked as a reporter for KBOO, XRAY FM, and Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland, Oregon, as well as other print and digital news media. In 2012, Eric traveled to North Dakota to write about the Bakken region oil boom. He's also worked at a movie theater, as a campaign canvasser and quality assurance at a milk packaging factory. Eric is originally from Orlando, Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida in 2010.