A Big Labor Oops On Washington State Measure
The country's largest labor union, the Service Employees International Union, has been backing legislation and ballot initiatives around the country to establish standards for home health care workers. The bills and measures are part of a strategy to organize more of those workers. It's a fine strategy. But in Washington state, SEIU appears to have made a major error.
Instead of qualifying an initiative directly for the ballot, the union labeled its petitions as an initiative to the legislature. Washington, like some other blockbuster democracy states, permits citizens to gather signatures on a document and present it to the legislature first, instead of the voters. The union didn't really want that. And it's possible that state officials may allow them to get away with the mistake and put the measure on the ballot.
I have no particular problem with the state being lenient. (A Seattle newspaper isn't so forgiving). Mistakes are made in the initiative process, and we should look at the intent of those signing a measure (and widespread publicity about this as a direct-to-voters citizens initiative). But it's worth pointing out the hypocrisy of the union and the labor movement on this. In cases when mistakes have been made by backers of initiatives with whom labor disagrees, SEIU and other unions have screamed to the high heavens about fraud. If a chamber of commerce had made a mistake like SEIU's on, say, a "right to work" measure, the union would be accusing the chamber of all sorts of things. And the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center -- the labor-backed, self-styled police of the initiative process -- would be calling for indictments. The BISC has been not-so-curiously silent about this SEIU screw-up.
Which is fine and understandable. But let's hope our unions brothers and sisters do not get on their high horses about the horrors of the initiative process the next time somebody else makes a mistake.