WORKERS’ COMPENSATION NEWS:
► Today from AP — State leaders reach deal on workers’ compensation — The proposal announced by Gov. Gregoire and leaders from both parties seeks to improve the long-term health of the system by offering financial settlements to older workers who get injured. Labor groups immediately panned the deal. “It is atrocious,” said Washington State Labor Council President Jeff Johnson. “For workers, it’s a loser.” He said labor officials would discuss Monday their next steps, but he acknowledged that it was unlikely they could stop the bill from passing. The AWB hailed the settlements, saying they would provide much-needed relief for businesses, but warned additional reforms will be needed in the future.
► From AP — Key labor group opposes workers’ comp settlement plan — The Washington State Labor Council said Saturday it opposes a new proposal to overhaul Washington state’s workers’ compensation system, further complicating contentious negotiations that are standing in the way of a final state budget.
EDITOR’S NOTE — See Saturday’s posting at The Stand: Labor rejects latest “settlement” proposal
OTHER LEGISLATIVE NEWS:
► In today’s Kitsap Sun — 25-cent ferry surcharge clears House — The compromise is not what the ferry unions had sought. It moves the state’s Marine Employees’ Commission under the umbrella of the Public Employment Relations Commission and eliminates it in June 2013. The bill also removes captains from the union that they have shared with the pilots and first mates. The bill, however, declares that the captains are not management and are allowed to form their own union. Many captains wanted to stay in the same union as the pilots and first mates. The union issues have created bad blood between Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen and some union members. Haugen told the Port Townsend Leader: “I wouldn’t get on a ferryboat for nothing. There’s no question (ferry workers) would vandalize my car.”
► At SeattlePI.com — State Senate passes liquor privatization bill — The state would take private sector bids to take over its liquor distribution system under a bill approved by the Senate. By a 31 to 14 vote on Saturday, the chamber passed SB 5942, which now heads to the House. The measure directs the state to seek private sector proposals for operating the liquor distribution system.
► From AP — Businesses revive liquor privatization efforts — A group of retailers and restaurants is going to make another attempt at privatizing the distribution and sale of liquor in Washington. The coalition, including Costco, the Northwest Grocery Association and the Washington Restaurant Association, has filed a new initiative. Supporters expect to begin gathering signatures within a month and are confident the measure will be on the ballot this year.
► In today’s Seattle Times — Senator’s bill tries again to extend stadium taxes — Another attempt is being made to pass a bill extending some stadium-related taxes to fund arts and heritage programs, tourism promotion, work-force housing and community development. Sen. Scott White (D-Seattle) introduced SB 5961 on Saturday after a similar bill he had sponsored failed by a single vote Thursday in the Senate.
EDITOR’S NOTE — See Sen. White’s column on this jobs bill that appeared last week at The Stand: Renew stadium taxes for jobs, arts, housing.
► In Sunday’s News Tribune — Average pay rising fast for area government workers — Local government worker pay rose faster on average than inflation over the last six years in several area counties, cities and other large local agencies, a News Tribune analysis shows. The increases occurred even as tax revenues shrank, budgets were cut and services trimmed in many local governments.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Reason #438 why The Stand was created: stories and sensational headlines like these. The commercial media loves to pit working-class people against working-class people. “Your neighbor the public employee makes more money than you, and YOU pay his salary!” “The average salary at Pierce Transit is $57,000?! YOU make less than that, don’t you? It’s out-ra-geous!”
This “analysis” offers first and last comment from the go-to talking head for hostility toward government and its employees, Jason Mercier, yet fails to note that his organization is a corporate-funded right-wing anti-union think tank whose sole purpose to to provide the studies and arguments necessary to defund government and lower corporate taxes. And if you’re paying attention to what’s going on in Olympia lately, they’re doing a heckuva job. Mercier’s solution? You guessed it, less collective bargaining.
More than halfway through this lengthy story, an economist delivers the simple explanation that renders the whole story moot. When public employee jobs are cut despite increases in population and recession-related demand for public services, two things happen. 1) Newer lower-paid employees with the least seniority lose their jobs and 2) the remaining higher-paid employees are asked to do more to maintain services, often resulting in overtime. Fewer workers, same or more work, higher salaries.
Start holding your breath for a News Tribune analysis of local executive pay increases… now.
► In today’s Tri-City Herald — Board may ease claims for ill Hanford workers — A federal advisory board will consider Wednesday whether to make it easier for some Hanford Plutonium Finishing Plant workers to claim compensation for cancer. That could lead to making more plant workers eligible for $150,000 in compensation.
► In today’s Columbian — Land, labor and capital key to Clark County economy — Does Clark County have too many people trained for jobs that have disappeared, and too few possessing skills to work in growing areas? Some Clark County companies can’t find the workers they want, even now, especially in electronics and other high-tech fields.
► In the Spokesman-Review — Protesters balk at lack of forum with Rep. McMorris Rodgers — While Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers made her swing through Spokane this week, meeting with business and agricultural groups, Democrats criticized her for not hosting a public forum to discuss a series of votes she cast that would change and cut Medicaid spending.
► From AP — P0ll: Medicare doesn’t have to be cut — They’re not buying it. Most Americans say they don’t believe Medicare has to be cut to balance the federal budget, and ditto for Social Security, a new poll shows. Americans worry about the future of the retirement safety net, the poll found, and 3 out of 5 say the two programs are vital to their basic financial security as they age. That helps explain why the Republican Medicare privatization plan flopped, and why President Obama’s Medicare cuts to finance his health care law contributed to Democrats losing control of the House in last year’s elections. Medicare seems to be turning into the new third rail of politics.
► From the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities — What’s driving projected debt? — This chart shows that the Bush-era tax cuts and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — including their associated interest costs — account for almost half of the projected public debt in 2019 (measured as a share of the economy) if we continue current policies. Altogether, the economic downturn, the measures enacted to combat it (including the 2009 Recovery Act), and the financial rescue legislation play a smaller role in the projected debt increase over the next decade. Public debt due to all other factors fell from over 30 percent of GDP in 2001 to 20 percent of GDP in 2019.
► At Politico — Labor-Chamber Alliance hits brick wall — When the AFL-CIO and U.S. Chamber of Commerce jointly announced support for President Barack Obama’s call for more infrastructure spending, the news turned heads and raised expectations. Here was a political power couple that could get it done — or so went the conventional wisdom. But even with broad agreement across party lines that the nation’s crumbling roads, bridges and public transit must be updated, the powerhouse duo has so far been unable to pierce the anti-spending mood hanging over Washington.
► At TruthOut.org — Accusing IMF chief of sexual assault took guts – but union protection is essential — As a morality tale about abuse of power, the fall from grace of Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a doozy. Arrested last week for allegedly assaulting and forcing sex on a housekeeper at a luxury hotel in New York, a man who once ranked among the world’s most powerful now sits, forlorn, in a jail cell on Rikers Island — all because an immigrant woman in a lowly position had the temerity to tell a superior that one of her employer’s very important clients had done, by her account, terrible things to her. By any measure, it was a risky thing to do. There’s a reason most rapes go unreported. But there was one thing that housekeeper knew could not be done to her for reporting her account: she could not be fired for having done so, because of her union contract.
► In today’s NY Times — Behind closed, sequentially numbered doors (guest column by a hotel worker) — Housekeepers perform the most physically demanding work necessary to operate a luxury hotel. Assigned 10 to 14 rooms a day on average, they strip beds, dump sheets down laundry chutes, remake beds, scrub bathroom floors, clean tubs and toilets, empty trash, polish mirrors, clean glasses, vacuum carpets — and the work does not end there. On top of that, they have to be sexually accosted by guests? Sadly, yes. And more often than you’d think.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 9 a.m. Make this electronic “clip service” your first stop each morning! These links are functional on the date of posting, but sometimes expire.