Earlier this year, PROTEC17 re-envisioned its political program as one where members would join together to get to know candidates running for local and statewide races. For the 2020 general election, the PROTEC17 political action committee (PAC) made over 50 endorsements for candidates and measures that align with our union values to equitably serve and protect working families.
In Washington state, members chose to endorse 40 legislators, 27 of which will represent our workers in Olympia next session. Notably, T’wina Nobles, a mom, educator, small business owner, CEO of the Tacoma Urban League, and University Place School Board Director, will be the first Black State Senator in Washington in a decade. With her election, Nobles flipped the historically red 28th district, beating out incumbent Steve O’Ban. Alongside Nobles, other PROTEC17-endorsed candidates, including Jesse Johnson and newcomer Jamila Taylor in the 30th district, and John Lovick in the 44th, mean that our state legislature will have more Black representatives than ever before.
PROTEC17 also supported the City of Seattle Transit measure, which was approved and funds bus service and other transit programs that will be sure to have positive impacts for our members at Metro, WSDOT, and beyond. Our members also supported Proposition 1 in King County, which will issue $1.74 billion in bonds for renovations and improvements to the Harborview Medical Center.
Making these endorsement decisions involved more engagement than ever, with over 25 PROTEC17 members participating in interviews. Members asked candidates questions about the housing crisis, austerity cuts to budgets, as well as racial justice and union solidarity. For members, this was an opportunity to get to know their elected officials face-to-face — or as close at it gets during a pandemic, virtually.
“I was able to meet face-to-face with future representatives and learn what they are trying to do for our communities,” said Saada Brown, City of Seattle member, PROTEC17 Steward, and endorsement committee participant.
“Being a part of the political action committee has inspired me to pay closer attention to see if these elected officials are going to do what they’ve committed to do,” she continued.
PROTEC17 will urge elected officials to be accountable to their promises during the upcoming legislative session in Washington, which will convene predominantly through virtual meetings starting on January 11. An upside to this is that it will be easier than ever for Washingtonians to testify, without having to trek to Olympia. Since the rise of COVID-19 and a new normal of working and schooling from home, one of the issues that candidates habitually brought up was broadband access and reliability, especially in more rural areas of the state.
Another item on the horizon for the upcoming session is a transportation package led by Chair of the Transportation Committee, Representative Jake Fey. There is also talk of multiple ways to create new progressive revenue for WA, including a capital gains tax, which has remained a possibility in previous years.
In Portland, three new commissioners will create a very different political landscape in City Hall come January. Mingus Mapps will take the seat currently held by Commissioner Chloe Eudaly – who was endorsed by PROTEC17 members – and will join Carmen Rubio, Dan Ryan, JoAnn Hardesty, and re-elected Mayor Ted Wheeler to complete the five-member City Council. PROTEC17 will continue efforts to regularly meet with all members of council to form a productive relationship.
In other Portland shake-ups, the Metro transportation bond that would have provided a significant source of funding for regional transportation, including projects being undertaken by PBOT, failed in the face of major opposition from large corporate donors. However, the Parks operating levy, endorsed by PROTEC17, passed by a wide margin. This will provide critical funding for the Parks Bureau moving forward and averts major cuts that would have occurred due to COVID-
Members across the Northwest and around the country were especially engaged in this election season, as evidenced by the highest voter turnout in history. PROTEC17 members also raised their voices at the many rallies around the region calling for every vote to be counted.