The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Washington state workers walk out

May 7, 2001

Several thousand workers at government offices in Washington state participated in a series of one day strikes between April 18 and April 21.

As is often the case with public employees, it is "illegal" for Washington state workers to strike. But facing a government offer of two% pay raises, increased health care costs, and cuts to social programs for their clients, unionized workers decided to ignore "legality."

The Washington Federation of State Employees (AFSCME) and the SEIU (registered nurses) led "hit-and-run" walkouts.

During the four days of strikes, three dozen different locations organized walk-outs and picketing to send their bosses a message.

The unloading of ships at ports in Tacoma, Vancouver, and Kalama was disrupted when longshoremen honored the picket line of striking state grain inspectors.

During the four days of activity, picket lines were organized to show the public what state workers do. "It raises the attention of the public and the Legislature that we're serious," said one picketer.

Walk-outs occurred at state mental hospitals, schools for the disabled, developmental social-services offices and protective services offices.

A supervisor at a family service office told the media that she backed the strike. At a school for the developmentally disabled, family members of patients walked the picket line with staff.

Walk-outs occurred at juvenile detention homes, veterans' homes, parole offices, community colleges and at the state university.

The strikes concluded with a rally at the State Capitol, with a crowd estimated between 1,500 and 4,000 to send the legislature a message.

Were they listening?

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On May 2, 5000 public school teachers in Seattle, Washington and in four other districts organized their own one-day walk-out. Parents generally spoke in support of the protest.

Last fall, voters in Washington passed a referendum to reduce class size and give teachers automatic cost-of-living raises. Lawmakers in the state are refusing to pass a budget that could fund what the voters requested.