Washington state is facing a potentially history-making decision: whether to support or disregard its public sector workers as it struggles to overcome the coronavirus, writes Mike Yestramski, a psychiatric social worker at Western State Hospital, in the Seattle Times.
Recalling the state’s misguided budget cuts as a response to the Great Recession, and the consequential sluggish economic recovery, Yestramski warns: “…with Washington state expecting an $8.8 billion budget deficit, a chorus of voices…have called on the governor to reopen [public] workers’ contracts, cancel their raises and make ‘bold’ cuts to the services they provide the residents of this state. Doing so would make things worse.”
Yestramski also draws attention to the vital role the public service sector plays in the well-being of communities of color, citing that “the public sector is the most important source of employment for Black Americans. Hundreds of thousands of public-sector jobs were lost during the last recession, and a disproportionate number of them were held by Black civil servants, especially women.”
Washington is facing a choice, he says: to continue investing in tax breaks for millionaires, or to invest in the state’s Main Street: the public sector workers who have continued to put themselves on the line every day. It’s a choice that will have repercussions for years to come.
Read more of Mike Yestramski’s op-ed and his argument for investing in the state’s public sector workers here.