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Teachers strike, cuts loom, pricey privatization…

Today’s news links:




► In today’s News Tribune — TACOMA TEACHERS GO ON STRIKE — More than 1,600 union teachers and other certificated employees — 87% of those eligible to vote — agreed to strike Monday night following months of unproductive contract negotiations between the Tacoma Public Schools and the Tacoma Education Association. School officials plan to go to court this morning to ask a judge to force striking teachers back to work. School is closed today for 28,000 students, and teachers will have pickets at Tacoma’s five comprehensive high schools this morning. District officials say they will decide today whether school will reopen Wednesday.

EDITOR’S NOTE — For the union’s side of the story, visit

► In today’s News Tribune — Playing fields occupied during strike — All coaches, even those who teach, have contracts with the district that are separate from teaching contracts. “Coaches are under a different bargaining agreement,” said Foss High football coach Ken Baker, “so when they told us we could coach, we said ‘Heck, why not?’ We just hoped the district wouldn’t lock us out.”




► In today’s Olympian — State sharpens knife — Gov. Chris Gregoire’s call to plan budget cuts of up to 10% sounded draconian a month ago. But they may become reality — as the governor and others now fear Thursday’s revenue forecast will erase $1 billion to $2 billion more from state coffers. The governor’s worst-case scenario called for cuts across all of state government totaling $1.7 billion. The state Health Care Authority’s share at the 10% cut level was $445 million — a situation that is putting some Medicaid programs and the Basic Health Plan firmly on the chopping block. For state prisons, legislative action would be needed to allow early release of inmates, which is one option for spending cuts cited by the Department of Corrections.

► In today’s Olympian — L&I considers rate boost — L&I says reforms approved by lawmakers in May are making it possible for the agency to break even with existing premium rates and pay all lifetime costs for claims it anticipates getting in 2012. But with no rate hikes, the agency would have too little in reserves, so L&I is recommending an increase of between 4.5% and 8% to get depleted reserves back over the preferred $1 billion level. Washington State Labor Council spokeswoman Kathy Cummings said:

We think that restoring reserves is the responsible choice. This is especially true given that much of the projected ‘savings’ from 2011 legislation are based on unproven assumptions about workers getting lower lump-sum benefits. We are heading into uncharted waters with our state’s workers’ compensation system. Employers have a strong financial incentive to aggressively market these lump-sum buyouts, but it’s anybody’s guess how often workers will sign on the dotted line. Given this uncertainty, it will be especially important that reserves are restored to responsible levels.

► In today’s (Everett) Herald — State Auditor Brian Sonntag to end long political career — Sonntag, 59, called it a “tough decision” to not seek re-election in 2012 to an office he’s led for two decades, and made far more prominent and powerful than any of his predecessors.




► In today’s Seattle Times — Seattle approves paid sick leave requirement — To loud cheers from hundreds of supporters, the Seattle City Council on Monday agreed to require businesses with at least five employees to provide paid sick leave to workers. Seattle becomes just the third city in the country, after San Francisco and Washington, D.C., to mandate paid leave for employees to care for themselves or family members when ill. The state of Connecticut also has approved mandatory paid sick leave. Councilmember Nick Licata, who sponsored the legislation, said the bill allows businesses to succeed while also ensuring good working conditions for employees.

► Also see today’ posting at The Stand — Seattle approves Paid Sick Days ordinance — plus more Paid Sick Days coverage from AP and at

► In today’s News Tribune — Washam recall effort comes up short of signatures — Backers of the effort to recall Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam need 65,495 verified signatures. The count, still unofficial as of Monday afternoon, yielded the following tally: Verified signatures – 64,098; challenged signatures – 20,321.




► In today’s Seattle Times — King County wants to make sure the next generation 737 is built in Washington (by Dow Constantine) — We have a strong foundation on which to build. The factories are here. The work force is here. The ability to move goods is here. King County owns Boeing Field, and nowhere in the region do the air, land and sea transportation facilities tie together as they do in the Duwamish/Boeing Field area. But locally, at the county and regional level, we can do more.

► At AFL-CIO Now — Republican NLRB bill guts worker rights, would shield Boeing, other corporations — House Republicans have turned a routine NLRB complaint against Boeing into a “political and ideological circus,” says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. He says a Republican bill introduced after the NLRB’s complaint, which accuses the aviation giant of retaliating against workers for exercising their legal rights, “is sweeping legislation that would gut the National Labor Relations Act and result in serious harmful changes to jobs and workers’ rights throughout the country.”

► Also see coverage in today’s Seattle Times and The Hill.

► In today’s Washington Post — Romney uses Boeing union issue to appeal to Tea Party — The Republican’s harsh critique of the NLRB’s effort to block Boeing from bringing thousands of non-union jobs to South Carolina was not a new line of attack for Republican presidential candidates who for months have used the conflict to portray the Obama administration as beholden to union bosses.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Once again, the commercial media gets it wrong. The NLRB is charging Boeing with breaking the law by illegally retaliating against Boeing workers here for exercising their legal right to strike. It is not illegal to “bring thousands of non-union jobs to South Carolina” or anywhere else. Companies can and do accomplish this every day.




► In today’s Washington Post — Obama proposes higher taxes on wealthy to fund jobs bill — The White House said Congress should pay for the jobs plan by imposing new limits on itemized deductions for individuals who earn more than $200,000 a year and families earning more than $250,000. Eliminating those deductions would bring in an additional $400 billion in revenue, aides said. The administration also recommended ending subsidies for oil and gas companies and changing the depreciation rules for corporate airplanes. Congressional Republicans immediately announced opposition.

“This proposal doesn’t appear to have been offered in that bipartisan spirit,” said the spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio).

► In today’s NY Times — Obama offers jobs bill, and the GOP balks — Just two hours after President Obama, flanked by firefighters, construction workers and teachers in the Rose Garden, waved a copy of the jobs plan and issued his call for bipartisanship, Republicans took aim at the White House plan to pay for the jobs initiative through tax increases on more affluent Americans.

► At TPM — Over GOP objections, budget hawks say Supercommittee!™ should ‘Go Big!’ — The Supercommittee!™ will meet Tuesday for their first substantive meeting, which will examine the history and driver of the country’s debt, and the risk it poses in the future. It will be the committee’s second meeting overall and its first since President Obama pushed the panel to find significantly more than the $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction they’re required to find, to finance a near-term jobs bill. That pressure has some Republicans saying that Obama’s needlessly complicated the committee’s task — finding $1.2 trillion in cuts, revenues and savings is hard enough! — and members should keep their eyes on the more modest goal spelled out in the debt limit law.




► In today’s NY Times — Government pays more in contracts, study finds — Despite a widespread belief that contracting out services to the private sector saves the federal government money, a new study suggests just the opposite — that the government actually pays more when it farms out work. The study found that in 33 of 35 occupations, the government actually paid billions of dollars more to hire contractors than it would have cost government employees to perform comparable services. On average, the study found that contractors charged the federal government more than twice the amount it pays federal workers.

EDITOR’S NOTE — The belief that contracting out public services saves money is “widespread” only  among the corporations that stand to benefit, the politicians beholden to their interests, and right-wing conservatives whose hatred of government blinds them to the fact that their taxes are higher thanks to privatization. The labor movement and advocates for efficient government have been making the case against privatization for decades.




► In today’s NY Times — Detroit sets its sights on a foundation of two-tiered wages — Four years ago, the United Automobile Workers agreed to allow Chrysler, G.M. and Ford to pay lower wages to new hires to help close the cost gap with foreign carmakers. Now the two-tier arrangement is at the forefront of labor talks between the UAW and the Detroit companies. The union’s president, Bob King, has made an increase in entry-level wages a top priority in negotiations for a new national contract to replace the current agreement, which expires Wednesday.

► In the Lookout — America losing ground in global competition for college-educated workers — One in four of the 255 million people worldwide with a bachelor’s degree or higher live in the United States. But that share is expected to shrink in the coming years, as developing countries such as Korea and China push more and more of their citizens into college.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Meanwhile, right-wing austerity measures imposed by state governments defund the U.S. college system, making it unaffordable for middle-class Americans.




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