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State Workers Make their Case for Keeping their Jobs

March 16, 2009

Olympia, WA – Tuesday is a "Statewide Day of Action" for the Washington Federation of State Employees. Union members will be contacting their legislators to protest the long list of potential cuts to state jobs, agencies and services being proposed to stem the flow of red ink in Washington's budget.

However, lawmakers insist there is no way around cutting some programs and services. When the next state budget forecast comes out Thursday, it is expected to show an $8 billion shortfall.

State government workers say their jobs have never been more critical than they are now, and they want to let lawmakers know how they feel about some of the potential cuts.

One worker who will be calling his legislators is Gabe Hall, a juvenile rehabilitation supervisor at Green Hill School, Chehalis. Green Hill houses the state's most violent juvenile offenders. Hall says a recent suggestion that it be closed to save money is alarming.

"If they were to close Green Hill and try to integrate that population out into the other three institutions, it really wouldn't be feasible. It would cost in excess of $40 million to make the other three institutions capable of taking our population."

Hall points out that employees at his facility have at least two years of training, and the state has spent $67 million updating the campus. The union says this is just one example of potential cuts that could do more harm than good for the state.

The state workers will be on phones and e-mailing to get their message across. They'll also participate in workshops. Hall says banding together with co-workers is an important step.

"It's a way of showing solidarity, at this point. It's a way of showing how important state workers are, and protesting the 'all-cuts' budget that Gov. Gregoire has proposed. It's not a good idea to try and cut state employees at a time when state services are going to be needed more than ever."

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA