Committee hears bill to ensure a stable, legal workforce for Washington businesses

Editor’s Note: A link to the committee hearing is included at the bottom.


Several small businesses from around the state testified on House Bill 1896, which would create an essential worker pilot program. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Bruce Chandler, R-Granger, who said he is concerned about access to an adequate, stable, legal workforce for Washington businesses.

A florist from Belfair explained how difficult it is to prove a companies’ need for more employees. A frustrated orchardist from Cashmere encouraged the committee to take leadership on the issue for the rest of the nation to follow.

One small business owner said he feared being sent to jail because too many seasonal workers may be illegal. He urged the committee to push the legislation forward because he sees the federal government taking no action.

“This bill is not supposed to solve the immigration problem,” Chandler said. “My concern is with the two to five percent of agricultural production that is left in the field because only 75 to 80 percent of the work force needed is available.”

Chandler said the reality of Washington’s labor shortage is shown by a federal worker program that requires employers to seek local labor before seeking labor from a host worker program.

“Employers put out requests for hundreds of positions in their area and receive maybe a handful of applications,” Chandler said. “The labor shortage here is very dynamic, so we need to have options. We have to ensure we’re creating jobs, but still growing the economy, which sometimes means we have to look for work elsewhere.”

The bill awaits executive action to be taken by the Commerce and Labor Committee.

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Washington State House Republican Communications