Submitted by Washington House Democrats.
Last year, Washington state saw 440,000 acres burned due to wildfires. In response to the wildfire crisis, National Guard members are often called up for wildland fire emergency response duties. Unfortunately, due to a 30-year old law, those Guard members are paid less than minimum wage. In her first bill to pass from the floor, Rep. Mari Leavitt, D-University Place, seeks to increase pay for Guard members who are called to serve wildfire duties.
“The increase in fires is the new normal in Washington and requires an increase in demand for firefighters. Our National Guard members answer the call to serve in extremely dangerous situations, but under current law, they make less than entry-level fast food workers. That is unfair and I am proud to pass this legislation to increase Guard member pay,” said Leavitt.
The current National Guard State Active Duty compensation statute has not been updated in 30 years and it ties state-activated National Guard member pay to the federal minimum wage. But, when called to duty by the governor, they do not receive benefits or retirement when in state status. Despite doing the same labor-intensive, dangerous, emergency response work, National Guard members are paid less than the state minimum wage.
HB 1137 updates the state active duty compensation statute to provide wildland fire response at a rate consistent with Department of Natural Resources rates, creating better parity for National Guard members with state firefighters.
HB 1137 passed the House with a unanimous vote and heads to the Senate for consideration.