OLYMPIA – Legislation to address diversity, equity, and staffing concerns within the Washington State Ferries (WSF) workforce passed the Senate on a bipartisan 45-3 vote today.  

Sponsored by Sen. Marko Liias (D – Everett), Senate Bill 5550 would require WSF to adopt a formal diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy, and develop an action plan to address issues identified in a newly mandatory annual employee survey.  

“Our Washington State Ferries workers are exceptional at what they do, but it’s no secret that we are facing staffing shortages that are affecting commuters in the 21st District and beyond at every level,” said Liias. “By empowering more diverse communities to seek careers in the maritime field, we can address work shortages while also creating a workforce that looks more like the communities it serves.” 

WSF is currently facing unprecedented and severe staffing shortages, with staffing levels below what is necessary to reliably operate the ferry system. The legislation would also allow WSF employees to gain maritime credentials and pilotage on the job – breaking down barriers towards higher level positions that have previously been difficult to fill. 

The bill now moves to the House for consideration.