► In Northwest Labor Press — Standoff at grain terminals: ILWU at work, but without contract — Beginning Dec. 27, union longshore workers at grain terminals in Portland, Vancouver and Seattle continued to show up for work, but without a union contract. They’re free to strike at any time, but the employers are also free to replace them, and they’re reportedly prepared to do so, with strikebreakers and nonunion tugboats reportedly at the ready. Meanwhile, TEMCO indicated to the union that it’s comfortable with the previous agreement, and reportedly is maintaining the old contract terms at its terminals in Tacoma and Portland.
► In today’s Columbian — 58 people in state fatally injured at work in 2011 — Washington recorded 58 fatal work injuries in 2011, down 46 from the previous year and lowest total since publication of the data began in 1992, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Wednesday.
► In today’s Kitsap Sun — Tension over county-union negotiations mostly dispelled — The tension that was palpable at an October meeting has since dissipated, and contracts that were pending for 2012 have been ratified. The county and its 13 bargaining units, all without contracts for 2013 and still operating under 2012 terms, now can turn their focus to the new year.
► In today’s Peninsula Daily News — Fire destroys DNR building in Forks
► In the Daily World — Walmart expansion more extensive than expected
► At Labor Heritage.org — Jon Fromer (1946-2013) — Our good friend and activist Jon Fromer made his transition today after a long battle with cancer. Jon’s stellar career includes several CDs, television productions and awards for his work in both TV and music. In 2011, Jon was awarded the Joe Hill Artist Lifetime Achievement Award from the Labor Heritage Foundation at the Great Labor Arts Exchange. (Fromer sang for delegates to the Washington State Labor Council’s 2011 Convention. He will be missed.)
► At Crosscut — ‘Bipartisan’ State Senate means rejecting voters’ values (by Sen. Kevin Ranker) — Senate Republicans have hijacked the legislative process under a cloak of bipartisanship, in order to block critical legislation supporting women’s rights, social programs, education and the environment. This does not reflect the values of our great state. These policies were thoroughly rejected at the ballot box in November, and will make harmful, polarizing public policy or, worse, stop positive policies from advancing or even seeing the light of day.
ALSO at The Stand — Nobody’s “crying out” for this Senate Tom-foolery (by D. Nolan Groves)
► In today’s Seattle Times — Tepid backing, backtracking from state’s delegation on fiscal deal — All four House Republicans from Washington state endorsed higher income taxes on top earners — despite their earlier signed pledges not to raise new taxes. And two Democrats from the Puget Sound area voted against the compromise deal they say accepts too few concessions from Republicans in return for potentially devastating spending cuts later.
► From AP — Fiscal cliff deal ‘kicks the can down the road’ — AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka praised elements of the deal. But he said that in postponing $1.2 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years, and leaving the debt ceiling unresolved, it is “setting the stage for more fiscal blackmail.”
ALSO at the Stand — AFL-CIO: Fiscal cliff deal ‘a breakthrough’
► In today’s Washington Post — The cliff deal is better than it looks (by E.J. Dionne) — We should at least consider the possibility that this week’s Midnight Madness was actually a first step down a better road. This will be true if Obama hangs as tough as he now says he will; if he insists on more revenue in the next round of discussions; and if he immediately begins mobilizing business leaders to force Republicans off a strategy that would use threats to block a debt-ceiling increase to extract spending cuts. Real patriots do not risk wrecking the economy to win a political fight.
► In today’s NY Times — Lawmakers gird for next fiscal clash, on debt ceiling — Even as Republicans vow to leverage a needed increase in the federal debt limit to make headway on their demands for deep spending cuts, President Obama — who reluctantly negotiated a deal like that 18 months ago — says he has no intention of ever getting pulled into another round of charged talks on the issue with Republicans on Capitol Hill.
► At TPM — Filibuster reform uncertainty worries proponents — Filibuster reform is in trouble, proponents warn, at the hands of a scaled-back proposal they say would enhance rather than diminish the Senate minority’s power to obstruct.
► In today’s NY Times — Dereliction of duty on Hurricane Sandy aid (editorial) — There is a lot of finger-pointing in Washington about who is responsible for the mess made of the so-called fiscal-cliff negotiations, but there is no doubt about who failed thousands of residents and businesses devastated by Hurricane Sandy and still waiting for help: Speaker John Boehner.
► In today’s NY Times — Immigration change to ease family separations — Obama administration officials unveiled rules on Wednesday that will allow many American citizens — perhaps hundreds of thousands — to avoid long separations from immediate family members who are illegal immigrants as they apply to become legal residents.
► At AFL-CIO Now — CWA, AT&T West reach agreement — The 22,000 CWA members employed at AT&T West in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas and Missouri will soon vote on a new contract after a tentative agreement was reached late last month.
► Today from AP — Safeway CEO Steve Burd to retire in May
► In today’s Orlando Sentinel — Union-busting’s the secret filling inside Twinkies’ demise (by Mary Sanchez) — For all the bluster about makers and takers, job creators and moochers off society, one group is habitually left voiceless. They are the people who actually perform manual work, the blue-collar employees. They operate forklifts, stand on assembly lines, drive trucks and, yes, put sugary cream into yellow cakes.
► At Huffington Post — Conjuring a high-tech labor shortage (by SPEEA’s Stan Sorscher) — Microsoft is currently campaigning to flood the high-tech labor market by dramatically opening our immigration system to foreign high-tech workers. Microsoft’s talking points (that it can’t find enough qualified engineers) align with their policy demands for more foreign workers. However, labor market statistics and graduation rates say we have plenty of workers, a conclusion backed up by the life experience of thousands of unemployed and underemployed domestic workers.
More and more, employers see themselves as global companies, who want “flexible” labor practices. That means less commitment to long-term careers, more global outsourcing, and more frequent layoffs. Microsoft and countless other employers are making a conscious business decision to commoditize work, and turn to the labor market to satisfy their precise demand, just-in-time. But if, as a result, they have a “problem” with labor shortage, it’s a problem of their own making.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 9 a.m.
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