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State pensions, IAM boosts Guide Dogs, Walmart, Warren…

Monday, November 26, 2012




► In The Olympian — Pension ruling could hobble state budget— A judge has ruled that the Legislature acted illegally last year when it eliminated an annual increase in benefits to retirees in two older state pension plans. “It’s definitely a big victory, and really says that when you promise something, you are obligated to give it,” said the WFSE’s Tim Welch. “I think realistically though, the state is going to appeal Judge Wickham’s decision, so I don’t think the Legislature will grapple with that issue for some time.”

► In the News Tribune — State considers private bids for mail, Web work; printer is next — Decisions could come soon from Gov. Chris Gregoire’s administration on whether it would be more efficient to turn to the private sector for those services. Those are preludes to a decision with more expensive consequences — whether to turn over more state printing to private companies. The state expects go out to bid for those services in the first week of December, but it likely will fall to Gov.-elect Jay Inslee’s administration to make the final call.

► In today’s Seattle Times — As charter schools get going here, best-known charter chains may stay away — Assuming the new law survives a legal challenge, Washington likely will start out with kitchen-table charters, cooked up by a teacher or principal or two with a passion to try something new. The first charters also probably will not open until fall 2014, a year later than supporters initially hoped.

► In today’s Seattle Times — USPS cuts could affect state’s mail-in voting — State elections officials say the planned closures of five mail-processing centers in Washington would require voters in rural areas to submit their ballots earlier on Election Day — and possibly delay ballots arriving at county elections offices.

► At PubliCola — GOP responds to Ed Murray; Brown skeptical of Tom scenario — Outgoing Republican leader Sen. Mike Hewitt (R-Walla Walla) sends a friendly response to Sen. Ed Murray’s cordial letter. But rather than calling Murray the “Senate Majority Leader,” Hewitt calls him, notably, the leader of the Democratic caucus.




► In the (Everett) Herald — SPEEA counters Boeing wage offer — The union countered a Boeing wage proposal, asking for 6% annual raises for its 22,765 Puget Sound area members over the next three years. Boeing had offered wage increases of 3% to 4.5% annually over four years. Last month, SPEEA members strongly rejected the company’s first contract offer, which included raises of 2% to 3.5%.

► In today’s Seattle Times — Boeing undecided about pension survivor benefits for gay spouse — Boeing has indicated in a round of contract talks with its engineering union that it might not provide survivor pension benefits to married gay employees.




► At IAM 751’s blog — Machinists raise $299,000 for Guide Dogs of America— District President Tom Wroblewski presented the California-based charity with a check for $298,949.66 at the annual Guide Dogs Banquet Nov. 17 in Las Vegas. That’s a record one-year fundraising total for District 751, which is Guide Dogs of America’s top fund-raiser across North America.

ALSO at The Stand — Guide Dogs of America: Machinist union’s labor of love

► In the Seattle Times — Microsoft push for worker visas raises concerns, exposes loopholes — Microsoft intended to jump start stalled immigration reform — and help fill thousands of job vacancies — when it offered to pay the government a bounty for extra visas to hire more foreign workers. But the offer has stirred up new concerns about the federal guest-worker program.

► From The Oregonian — Port of Portland, union security officers avert strike — In 11th-hour negotiations Saturday, union security officers and the Port averted a strike set for 6 a.m. Sunday that officials had said would cause an economic disaster. State government’s top mediator helped the two sides reach agreement on a contract that had eluded them during 17 months of intermittent negotiations.




► From Reuters — Nine arrests in Walmart protests; business still brisk — Hundreds of protesters, including some Walmart workers who skipped their shifts on the retail industry’s busiest day, spoke, chanted and sang outside of Walmart stores around the United States, making pleas for higher wages and better healthcare for Walmart hourly workers.

► At Huffington Post — One Walmart striker’s story — The St. Clous, Fla., store’s walkout included just one worker — Vanessa Ferreira, age 59. She informed her manager publicly Wednesday morning that she was going on strike. The other employees watched her walk out of the store, then went back to doing their jobs. Within a half hour, Ferreira would be told by police outside that she was trespassing and ordered to leave.

► In the Seattle Times — Consider retail workers’ pay on Black Friday (by LeeAnn Hall and Will Pittz) – Despite working for an employer that pulls in $15.8 billion in annual profits, Walmart workers collectively are the largest recipients of food stamps in the country. Walmart also ranks first in the number of employees who receive state assistance for their health care, with $1.4 million in public funds spent monthly to cover employees and their dependents in Washington. That’s right. The people of Washington are essentially subsidizing a business model that dramatically underpays its workers.

► At — The 10 companies that pay Americans the least — With the Great Recession over, not only are many of these low-wage companies now hitting record profits, but their executive pay remains spectacularly high. These employers fall into one of two categories. They are are either large national restaurant chains such as McDonald’s, Burger King, and Starbucks, employing tens of thousands of cashiers and cooks. The others are large national retailers, employing tens of thousands of cashiers and salespeople, like Walmart, Target, and Sears.

► From AP — Factory fire the deadliest of many in Bangladesh — The fire alarm: Waved off by managers. An exit door: Locked. The fire extinguishers: Not working and apparently “meant just to impress” inspectors and customers. That is the picture survivors paint of the garment-factory fire Saturday that killed 112 people who were trapped inside or jumped to their deaths in desperation. The factory in Saturday’s blaze is owned by Tazreen Fashions Ltd., a subsidiary of the Tuba Group that has produced clothing for Walmart.




► In today’s Washington Post — Consensus on increasing revenue; wide gulf on how to do it — For the first time in decades, a bipartisan consensus has emerged in Washington to raise taxes. But negotiators working to avert the year-end “fiscal cliff” remain far apart on crucial details, including how taxes should go up and who should pay more.

► In today’s Washington Post — New White House report makes case for extending middle-class tax cuts — The White House warned Monday that the average family will pay $2,200 more in taxes next year if Congress does not freeze tax rates for the middle class.

► In The Hill — Dems, GOP signal room for compromise ahead of ‘fiscal cliff’ talks — More senior Republicans distanced themselves from conservative activist Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge this weekend in an apparent effort to signal their willingness to broker a deficit-reduction plan.

► At Huffington Post — CEO council demands cuts to poor, elderly while reaping billions in government contracts, tax breaks— The corporate CEOs who have made a high-profile foray into deficit negotiations (including Boeing’s Jim McNerney) have themselves been substantially responsible for the size of the deficit they now want closed. The companies represented by executives working with the Campaign To Fix The Debt have received trillions in federal war contracts, subsidies and bailouts, as well as specialized tax breaks and loopholes that virtually eliminate the companies’ tax bills.

► At TPM — The 3 most likely Obamacare cuts in debt deal — Neither party expects the major pieces of the law to suffer in any deal. But various smaller items will be part of the discussions as the two parties look for savings in the federal budget.

► In today’s NY Times — Fighting fiscal phantoms (by Paul Krugman) — It’s time for Washington to stop worrying about the phantom menace of an imminent debt crisis — and to stop listening to the deficit scolds who have been peddling this scare story in an attempt to get their way.




► In today’s NY Times — A minimum tax for the wealthy (by Warren Buffett) — Let’s forget about the rich and ultrarich going on strike and stuffing their ample funds under their mattresses if — gasp — capital gains rates and ordinary income rates are increased. The ultrarich, including me, will forever pursue investment opportunities. And, wow, do we have plenty to invest. The Forbes 400, the wealthiest individuals in America, hit a new group record for wealth this year: $1.7 trillion. That’s more than five times the $300 billion total in 1992. In recent years, my gang has been leaving the middle class in the dust… I support President Obama’s proposal to eliminate the Bush tax cuts for high-income taxpayers. Additionally, we need Congress, right now, to enact a minimum tax on high incomes.


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