► In today’s NY Times — Postal Service to end Saturday delivery of letters — The Postal Service is expected to announce on Wednesday morning that it will stop delivering letters and other mail on Saturdays, but continue to handle packages, a move the financially struggling agency said would save about $2 billion annually as it looks for ways to cut cost. The agency has long sought Congressional approval to end mail delivery on Saturdays. But Congress, which continues to work on legislation to reform the agency, has resisted. It is unclear how the agency will be able to end the six-day delivery of mail without Congressional approval.
ALSO TODAY at The Stand — NALC president: Plan to end Saturday mail ‘misguided, counterproductive’
► In today’s Washington Post — By one measure, we have best Postal Service in the world — Researchers sent letters to 10 fake addresses in 159 countries to test government efficiency by seeing how long it took to return the letters to the senders. Only 60% of the letters actually came back to the researchers. Among the countries that returned all 10 letters, the USPS was far and away the fastest to do so.
► In today’s Tri-City Herald — Postal Service seeks new home to close its Richland spot — The agency wants to relocate the post office to save money at a time when mail volume is falling nationwide, along with revenues.
► From AP — Family leave debate continues in Olympia — A day after a state Senate committee approved a measure to repeal an as-yet unfunded law giving parents five weeks of paid time off to be with a new child, a House committee on Tuesday heard arguments on why that same program should be expanded.
ALSO TODAY at The Stand — Bills would grant paid family leave, sick days
► In today’s Seattle Times — ‘Training wage’ bill on State Senate’s table — The Republican-sponsored SB 5275 would establish a “training wage” for the first 680 hours a new employee works. Instead of paying the current state minimum wage of $9.19 per hour, businesses would be able to pay $6.89 per hour.
EDITOR’S NOTE — After all, that’s what this last election was all about, CUTTING the wages of people who earn the lowest pay allowed by law. That’s why voters put the Republican-Plus-Two Caucus in the majority!
► At TheNewsTribune.com — Health secretary Mary Selecky to retire — Mary Selecky, one of the longest-serving Cabinet officials who was first appointed by then-Gov. Gary Locke in 1998, has announced plans to retire once Gov. Jay Inslee appoints a new secretary.
► At PubliCola — One question for L&I — Is the workers’ compensation fund — which pays for time lost due to injuries on the job, medical bills, and ongoing disability — solvent? The answer we got from L&I was that the fund was definitely in trouble during the Great Recession… However, as the economy rebounds, the fund doesn’t look so bad anymore. The contingency fund went up by $80 million this year and premiums stayed flat — no increases.
► In today’s Seattle Times — Keep reforming workers’ compensation (editorial) — The unions argue that workers will get less money out of a settlement, which is usually true. But some workers can use upfront money to set up a new way to make a living. The choice should be the worker’s.
EDITOR’S NOTE — But what about when the money runs out and that “choice” forces an injured worker to rely on the social safety net to survive? Other states are adding new restrictions to discourage these settlements because these costs have simply shifted from businesses to taxpayers.
And of course, this is the conservative, anti-labor Times editorial board opining. They supported the workers’ compensation privatization initiative that was rejected by voters in every county in the state, and overwhelmingly rejected in the Times’ circulation area. But hey, the Times has been ideologically opposed to this safety net for injured workers for more than 100 years. Let’s go back in the Times’ Bombastic Way-Back machine…
► In the March 12, 1911, Seattle Daily Times — A legislative body that will go down in history as the most vicious in the annals of Washington (editorial) — “For absolute disregard of duty — of the best interests of the public — and for the creation of burdensome laws and the squandering of the public moneys — the Twelfth Legislature of Washington surpasses all the efforts made along these lines by the preceding eleven legislative bodies which have met since Washington became a state . . . (The new workers’ compensation law) places a burden upon the industries of this Commonwealth that will break many of them — entirely destroy the profits of others and will prevent new capital entering the state at all.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: That editorial was written by Times Publisher Alden “Colonel” Blethen regarding the implementation of Washington State’s 1911 Workmen’s Compensation Act. Today, several generations of Blethen publishers later, the Times still spends much time and energy warning the Legislature not to put any “burdens” on industry by providing people with safety nets or public assistance. In fact, the Times is now financing Republican candidates who share those beliefs. Although we’re not sure that helped McKenna much…
► From AP — NTSB ‘weeks away’ from finding cause of 787 woes — The nation’s top accident investigator says lithium ion batteries like the ones that caused a fire in one 787 and smoke in another aren’t necessarily unsafe for use in aviation, but safeguards are needed.
► In today’s Seattle Times — Boeing South Carolina gets extra bump in pay — Employees at Boeing’s new manufacturing complex in South Carolina, which is non-union, will get a higher annual incentive bonus this month than those in the Puget Sound region.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Curious, given that Puget Sound-area Boeing employees are the only ones that build profitable airplanes.
► At LeehamNews.com — 787 to cost Boeing $6 billion in cash, says UBS — “Even assuming a relatively quick solution to battery issue, we still see 787 as a worse cash drag in 2013,” writes UBS Securities.
► In today’s (Everett) Herald — Worksource aerospace career fair set for Feb. 20 — The event will be followed by a discussion by aerospace employers, who will give insight into what it takes to get hired in the industry.
► In today’s Seattle Times — Immigration committee examines skilled vs. unskilled workers — Democrats and Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee showed sharply contrasting views on granting eventual citizenship for 11 million undocumented residents as well as whether lifting caps on visas for high-skilled workers should be part of a comprehensive reform.
► From NPR — How the labor movement did a 180 on immigration — The AFL-CIO begins a big push this week to build momentum for comprehensive changes to the nation’s immigration laws. But it wasn’t long ago that organized labor viewed illegal workers in the U.S. as a threat — and fought against proposals that would lead to citizenship.
► In today’s Washington Post — Obama makes immigration comeback — Americans have given President Obama a major ratings boost on immigration as he and Congress debate the biggest immigration reforms in decades, according to a new poll. In addition, two key elements of current reform discussions receive even broader support than Obama: 83% support stricter border security, and 55% back a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
► In today’s NY Times — Obama urges Congress to act to stave off cuts — President Obama on Tuesday called on Congress to quickly pass a new package of limited spending cuts and tax increases to head off substantial across-the-board reductions to domestic and military spending set to begin on March 1, but his appeal for more revenue was dismissed by Republicans.
► At AFL-CIO Now — Sen. Levin calls for end to corporate, hedge fund tax loopholes — The AFL-CIO is urging Congress to close loopholes for Wall Street and the richest 2% of Americans and to oppose benefit cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid instead of allowing the automatic cuts to take effect. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) is set to offer a plan that would be an important part of that package and start Wall Street down the path of paying its fair share.
► In today’s NY Times — Health insurance companies get in shape for 2014 — Insurers will have to offer a policy to anyone who wants one, regardless of their health, and will not be allowed to charge more in premiums to people with expensive medical conditions. The plans the companies offer will be highly regulated through government-run exchanges that are still getting their final regulatory touches.
► From Reuters — Shrinking U.S. labor unions see relief in marijuana industry — The Venice Beach Care Center is one of three medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles that are staffed by dues-paying union members. Another 49 in the city plan to enter into labor agreements with the UFCW this year, the union says. Together, the dispensaries are a symbol of the growing bond between the nascent medical marijuana industry and labor unions.
For more info, visit UFCW Local 5’s Cannabis Division site.
► In The Hill — Unions push White House on stalled worker safety bill — Decades in the making, the proposal to set new limits on workers’ exposure to harmful silica has languished since February 2011 at the White House Office of Management and Budget, where officials say it is under review.
► From Reuters — Obama taps REI chief Sally Jewell for Interior secretary — Jewell is the first woman Obama has announced for his second-term Cabinet, which has been criticized as lacking diversity. She is a graduate of the University of Washington, where she now serves as a regent.
► From McClatchy — Gregoire a possibility for EPA — Seattle’s Bill Ruckelshaus, the first administrator to lead the agency, wants the job to go to Gregoire.
► At TPM — Republicans mask their conservative agenda — Since the election, Republican operatives have become practitioners of a new kind of alchemy, attempting with little success to convince voters that the right’s long-standing agenda — reduced regulation for big business, lower taxes for the wealthy and big corporations, privatized and diminished social services — is actually an array of policies that coincidentally meets the needs of the middle class. Enter House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who’s hit upon a new plan. If you can’t turn lead into gold, go out and buy some gold paint.
► At TPM — Main Street Partnership dropping ‘Republican’… not Republicans — The Republican Main Street Partnership, the group focused on supporting and electing moderate Republicans, is in the process of dropping the “Republican” from its name. But the group still says it won’t support Democrats.
EDITOR’S NOTE — “Let’s keep ‘Republican’ out of it. I know! Let’s call it the Majority Coalition Caucus!”
► Last night on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart:
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