Fantastic Friday – Labor Day Update

Happy Fantastic Friday!

Enjoy your Labor Day Weekend!

Dear friends and neighbors,  

It’s already September! I hope this message finds you well, and that you enjoy a fun, safe Labor Day weekend. In this newsletter, I’d like to share a few legislative successes that will help Washington workers and update on wildfire prevention and smoke safety this summer.

Labor Day gif

During the 2023 Session, the Legislature passed multiple bills to help Washington workers get what they deserve — wages and benefits that allow them to support themselves and their families. This means having time to care for loved ones, ensuring they are paid what they are owed, and providing supports for when they are between jobs or need to leave a toxic employment situation. By standing up for workers’ rights to organize and collectively bargain, we are keeping wages higher and workplaces safer.

Below are a few of the most impactful new laws.

Providing rideshare drivers with social insurance programs (HB 1570):
Under this new law, Washington is providing first-in-the-nation access to unemployment insurance and paid family and medical leave benefits to 35,000 rideshare drivers in Washington. This builds on the groundbreaking work we did last session to provide minimum wage, benefits and protections for these workers.

Covering the caregiver gap in Washington’s unemployment Insurance program (HB 1106): The pandemic helped expose the inequitable burden placed on some family members, most often women, for caregiving of a child. Leaving a job due to the need to care for a child or because of the high cost and inaccessibility of childcare is involuntary, and that should be recognized. Thanks to passage of this bill, we are expanding unemployment insurance benefits to working families who have to voluntarily quit their job due to challenges with childcare.

Protecting warehouse employees (HB 1762): Warehouse workers are often put in unfair situations to meet the demands of their jobs. We are protecting warehouse employees by requiring companies operating large warehouses to inform workers of their production quotas and to ensure that their employees do not work through their rest, bathroom or meal breaks to meet those expectations.

Requiring public employers to provide employee information to exclusive bargaining representatives (HB 1200): Union representatives having accurate and timely access to represented employees is essential to protect unionized workers’ rights. We can do so by requiring certain public employers to provide contact information, date of hire, salary, and jobsite location to employees in bargaining units.

Hospital staffing committees (SB 5236): Nurses are leaving the profession in droves due to stress and being overworked and underpaid. We need clear standards that ensure the profession is protected. This establishes hospital staffing committees to make sure our nurses aren’t being overworked, and sets financial penalties for violating staffing plans.

Expanding industrial insurance to nurses affected by PTSD (SB 5454): During the pandemic, nurses went above and beyond to care for people in need. Now, they are
experiencing the effects of that stress. Under this new law, we have expanded access to workers’ compensation for our frontline nurses by creating a presumption of occupational disease for PTSD.

Safe at Work (SB 5217): Risk of repetitive stress and other types of injuries shouldn’t be expected as part of your job. This bill allows the Department of Labor and Industries to set rules to protect workers from musculoskeletal-related workplace injuries.

Strengthening protections for consumers in the construction industry (HB 1534): Bad actors in the construction industry can ruin the dreams of families looking to build or remodel a home. To help address those concerns, this bill increases bond payments for contractors registering with the Department of Labor & Industries under the Contractor Registration Act to establish the Homeowner Recovery Program for better consumer protections. It also requires L&I to deny application for registration if a business entity has an unsatisfied final judgement against it.

Improving worker recovery in wage complaints by authorizing the collection of interest and studying other options (HB 1217): When a worker is denied their earned wages, it has real-world impacts that could dramatically change their life. Employers need to know that if they withhold wages illegally, there are consequences. This bill requires that the resolution of wage theft complaints include interest on money owed.

Requiring AEDs on site for workers operating or maintaining high voltage powers lines (HB 1542): Workers who operate around high voltage power lines are at risk of electrical exposure, and having access to automated external defibrillators (AEDs) will save lives. Under this law, AEDs will be required to be nearby for workers who have jobs operating or maintaining high voltage powerlines.

A Statement on the Recent Wildfires

I want to recognize our Washington State Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz and her team in their continued work to build a wildfire response program with policy relationships at the federal, state, local, and tribal jurisdictions to ensure collaboration to protect us all. In the past several years, we have supported the Agency’s relationships with local and tribal governments and citizen expertise in their homelands. I appreciate their “boots in the ground” approach. 

The Legislature answers the Agency’s call for action across the state to fight wildfire efficiently and protect 13 million acres of private, state, and tribally owned land. We continue to engage with the Agency with sound policy and fiscal requests to cover Washington state’s wildfire fighting force, with more than 1,300 employees trained and available to fight fires as needed. This support includes more than 800 permanent DNR employees, 550 seasonal employees, about 120 wildland fire engines, nine helicopters, and six single-engine air tankers under contract with DNR. (

We know that the Agency can’t do this alone – and with the Commissioner’s leadership and the trust she has built across all governing bodies and with citizens, the Legislature further invested in the Agency’s vision for local and tribal relationships and agreements for coordination, as well as citizen response support programs to address these unforeseen circumstances upon our state and local lands are historical in this state.

I am committed to the vision of working together and continue to coordinate with our local, state, and federal partners to ensure that our communities have the resources, tools, and policies to work together to provide safety for all of our communities.

A note on the Lake Whatcom wildfire

Residents in the area should have received outreach from DNR, which is keeping them appraised of what is happening. While DNR does not believe the fire will reach these residents, they will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates. You can also follow @waDNR_fire to keep up to date on fires throughout the state.

Gov. Jay Inslee issued an emergency proclamation – FEAP assistance

Thursday, August 31st, Gov. Jan Inslee expanded the Family Emergency Assistance Program (FEAP) in the wake of the wildfire state of emergency issued on August 19.

Proclamation 23-06 expands the family emergency cash assistance program to allow families without children to apply for cash assistance, effective August 31 through September 29, 2023. Families with children are already able to apply for cash assistance benefits from the FEAP.

Families who want to apply for cash assistance can find the online application form here. Applications can also be filled out on this printable form.

Proclamation 23-06

Staying Safe from Smoke

Wildfire smoke is a major threat to your health. Smoke from wildfires is the largest source of particle pollution in our state. Breathing in smoke can cause wheezing and coughing, heart and lung disease, and death. The number of acres burned by wildfires is increasing as climate change reduces winter snowpack, and produces hotter and drier summers.

Washington’s Department of Ecology monitors air quality conditions and forecasts smoke levels. They also coordinate with the Washington Departments of Natural Resources and Health, the U.S. Forest Service, and the National Weather Service to track wildfire smoke and protect all of us who live in Washington. Learn more about how smoke affects your health.

Track air quality on the Ecology website, or for more information about wildfire smoke conditions and smoke forecasts, go to the Washington Smoke Information Blog.

Learn more about wildfire prevention this summer from Washington DNR.

One more exciting story my 40th peeps will love – can we add a sentence that gives a shout out to Senator Shewmake- Chair of the Legislative Bike Caucus pleade

Ecology air quality map screen grab

Click the image to visit WA Ecology’s air quality interactive map.

Shout out to Senator Shewmake! 🚲

Congratulations to Sen. Sharon Shewmake from our neighboring 42nd District for being elected Chair of the Legislative Bike Caucus!

Meet with me on September 9th!

Join me at the Tide Pool Coffeehouse on September 9th at 8:30 a.m. (365 N Beach Rd Unit 108, Eastsound, WA 98245)

I would love to meet you and learn more about the issues you feel matter most! I hope to see you there! 

Stay tuned for news on additional public meetings around the district in the coming weeks.

Thank you all for taking to the time to read this week’s Fantastic Friday, and for taking an interest in our progress at the House of Representatives.

Please feel free to reach out to me using the information below, with any questions, inquiries, or concerns you may have.

I am here for you!

All best wishes,

Lekanoff sig

Rep. Debra Lekanoff