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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Washington Republicans Take Aim At Union Influence

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Washington Senate Republicans are taking aim at organized labor. They’ve scheduled a series of public hearings beginning Monday on measures designed to reduce the influence of labor unions.

One of the proposed bills would prohibit unions that collectively bargain with the governor’s office from making political contributions to gubernatorial candidates. The sponsor, state Sen. Dino Rossi, said it’s about eliminating any “appearance of corruption.”

On Wednesday, Republicans will hold a public hearing on a so-called right-to-work bill to make union membership and dues not compulsory.

Nationally the right-to-work movement has momentum in Republican states like Kentucky and most recently Missouri. This is from KSDK TV in St. Louis:

“After years of trying to pass right-to-work legislation through Jeff City, a Republican supermajority finally has what it needed, a Republican in the governor’s mansion.”

In Washington, Democrats still control the state House and the governor’s office. They are sure to block efforts to reduce the power of unions.

A spokesman for the state’s largest public employee union said Republicans here want to make Washington like Wisconsin -- where in 2011 Republican Gov. Scott Walker rolled back collective bargaining for public employees. Wisconsin also later became a right-to-work state, although that law has been the subject of ongoing legal challenges.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."