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Thousands of union members rally in Olympia

A week of protests over state budget cuts culminated with a large union-led rally Friday at the Capitol in Olympia.

The State Patrol estimated the crowd at 7,000 people. There were signs and chants, and a sea of unionized workers on the steps to the Capitol and Supreme Court. 

Speaker after speaker decried cuts to health care and social services. They called for an end to tax breaks for businesses. Greg Parker, president of the Washington Public Employee Association, demanded that majority Democrats to send a tax measure to voters:

"Repeal the tax exemptions that you know are sitting in front of you. Be brave, put a referendum on the ballot."

Another speaker was one of the Wisconsin State Senators who fled that state during the recent collective bargaining showdown.

After the rally, a firefighter pipe and drum band led marchers through the Capitol building while dozens of State Troopers stood watch and blocked the entrance to the Governor's office.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.