Ferry unions back GOP’s pick, rather than Haugen

Last year, state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen fought to strip state ferry workers of their bargaining power.

This year, those workers are trying to take away the Camano Island Democrat’s political power.

Three unions representing most Washington State Ferries employees are endorsing and giving money to Haugen’s opponent, The bad blood between Haugen and state ferry worker unions dates back to 2010. That’s when the “Waste on the Water” series on KING 5 television described how a handful of employees padded their income with tens of thousands of dollars through a contract provision allowing workers to be reimbursed for mileage and time traveling to and from terminals when filling a shift.

Ferry workers found themselves scrutinized by the public and on the defensive with Haugen.

legislation to strip workers of most of their collective bargaining rights. The final version, which Bailey supported in the House and Gov. Chris Gregoire signed, restored most rights.

But it busted the Masters, Mates and Pilots union by forcing captains to leave and set up their own group. The bill also abolished the Marine Employees commission created in 1983 to mediate labor disputes. At that time, workers gave up the right to strike in exchange for the commission.

Haugen said her legislation last year aimed to bring more control to the state ferries’ budget and operations

“People were milking the system. We had a bill to address the concerns of the series,” she said. “It was nothing personal. They took it personally. I was just trying to save the ferry system.”

Eliminating the commission saved $450,000, she said. “To me, it was a no-brainer,” she said.

Haugen is apologetic about comments made after she received “really nasty letters” during the debate on the bills.

“I said I’d be nervous about going on the boat in my car,” she recounted. “I was feeling threatened. I said some things that were inappropriate and I apologized. I probably overreacted.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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