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WA work safety, Benton’s bonanza, river picket, you pay low wages…

Wednesday, May 8, 2013




Workers-Memorial-Day-2012-poster► At — Number of on-the-job deaths falls, Washington ranks third lowest — Jeff Johnson, president of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, says our state has more workplace safety inspectors than many other parts of the country. “We know that when an employer is visited by an inspector or a consultation person, then accidents and deaths go down in the next year or two,” Johnson said.

ALSO at The Stand — AFL-CIO report: Washington has third lowest worker fatality rate in nation

► In today’s (Everett) Herald — Inslee to unveil strategy to win Boeing 777X on Thursday — Gov. Jay Inslee will reveal  on Thursday his plan for keeping design and manufacturing work on Boeing’s 777X in Washington state. The governor also plans to unveil a comprehensive strategy “to support and grow” the state’s aerospace industry.

► In today’s Kitsap Sun — Ferry employees combine to refine 64-car boats — Ferry managers, crew members, rider representatives and legislators met last month to tackle remaining problems with the Chetzemoka, Salish and Kennewick, which were rushed into service to replace four 1927-built steel-electric boats.




► In today’s Columbian — County job means pension bonanza for Benton — State Sen. Don Benton’s new gig as environmental services director for Clark County could triple his state-funded retirement benefit — from an estimated $23,000 a year to nearly $70,000 annually — when compared to the benefit he’d receive from working only as a legislator.

vc-benton-critics► In today’s Columbian — Benton critics stew, vent after public comments delayed — At a meeting that ended at 12:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart (D) said he will ask the board to reconsider Benton’s appointment, as it broke the board rules commissioners signed in January to allow the county administrator to take lead on all hirings.

► In today’s Olympian — Benton appointment shows cronyism alive and well in Clark County (editorial) — One can only marvel at the chutzpah of politicians who exploit fears of “big government” while submersing themselves neck-deep in the pork barrel. For example, Sen. Don Benton (R-Vancouver) and his cronies on the Clark County Commission. Looking more like a banana republic than a progressive metropolitan county, the two Republicans on Clark County’s three-member commission just appointed Benton to a $100,000-plus job as director of environmental services. It’s a position for which he has no obvious qualifications. They hired their pal Benton — both commissioners contributed to his senatorial campaign — without ever posting the job or interviewing any candidates.




Kalama-Temco-grain-terminal-big► In today’s (Longview) Daily News — Pro-union protesters set up river picket at Port of Kalama — Nine boats carrying longshore union supporters blocked a grain ship at the Port of Kalama on Tuesday morning, causing the Coast Guard to board one boat and cite the owner for violating a 200-yard safety zone. The incident is a spillover of a Vancouver dispute between the ILWU and United Grain. Protesters were trying to impede a grain ship partially loaded with non-union labor in Vancouver and then headed to Kalama to load more grain. Union members called the substitute grain workers “strike breakers” brought in to work during a lockout of ILWU workers.

► In today’s Tri-City Herald — Pasco mail carriers honored — The 12 mail carriers honored Tuesday have driven almost 400 accident-free years, covering enough miles to stretch back and forth to the moon 25 times. Each Pasco-based driver was honored for reaching 30 years without a preventable accident — each logging about a million miles.

► In today’s Spokesman-Review — McMorris Rodgers opposes casino — A request to build a casino, resort and retail development on the West Plains should be denied as “clear encroachment” on the nearby Air Force base, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said in a letter to the federal agency that would have to approve the proposal.

► In today’s News Tribune — Tacoma council rejects $4.7 million in raises for nearly 400 workers — Citing fairness issues, Tacoma’s City Council unanimously rejected a measure Tuesday that would have given nearly 400 nonunion Tacoma Public Utilities workers $4.7 million in market-based pay raises over the current two-year budget cycle.

► In today’s News Tribune — Lakewood police lieutenants form their own union — Lakewood’s five police lieutenants have formed their own union, adding another wrinkle in the city’s drawn-out labor negotiations.

► In today’s (Longview) Daily News — Kelso Public Works union negotiates contract with raises — The city of Kelso’s Public Works union (AFSCME 1557) has negotiated a three-year contract that includes a 2% salary increase in 2014 and 2015.




sweatshop► At Crosscut — How Gov. Inslee can make a difference on sweatshops (by Pramila Jayapal) — A new coalition of labor activists, politicians and state employees is working to make all state purchasing sweat-free. But the effort needs a push from Gov. Jay Inslee.

► From AP — Death toll passes 800 in Bangladesh factory collapse — Following protests, authorities also began disbursing salaries and other benefits to survivors of the collapse.

► At Huffington Post — American-made clothing companies find ways to survive as others chase cheap labor abroad — In the wake of the worst garment industry accident in history, consumers are absorbing another reminder that bargains on store shelves in Los Angeles and Philadelphia may come at the expense of people toiling in unsafe conditions in Bangladesh and Guatemala City. For U.S. clothing entrepreneurs — those seeking to buck the trends of global trade by manufacturing at home — the hope is that this consumer awareness may expand their market niche.




► In today’s Washington Post — As red ink fades, pressure recedes for budget deal — After four years of trillion-dollar deficits, the red ink is receding rapidly in Washington, easing pressure on policymakers but shattering hopes for a summertime budget deal. Federal tax revenue is up and spending is down thanks to an improving economy, tax increases that took effect in January and the automatic budget cuts known as the sequester.

Boehner-House-GOP► In today’s Washington Post — Are Republicans gunning for another debt-limit showdown? — The federal debt limit is set to kick back into effect next weekend after a three-month hiatus, marking the start of a political game of chicken likely to culminate in the fall, when Congress will have to give President Obama a higher limit or risk a federal default.

► At Huffington Post — Boehner on debt ceiling: Pay China before U.S. troops — House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday essentially agreed with Democrats’ arguments that a Republican bill to prioritize debt payments would put China before U.S. troops — except he suggested that would be a good thing.

► At Politico — Sen. Warren: Trade talks could weaken bank regulation — Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) raised concerns Tuesday that negotiations over new trade agreements could be used as a backdoor way to water down financial regulations. The secret trade talks are “a chance for these banks to get something done quietly out of sight that they could not accomplish in a public place with the cameras rolling and the lights on,” she said.




health-dollar► In today’s NY Times — Hospital billing varies widely, government data shows — Data being released for the first time by the government on Wednesday shows that hospitals charge Medicare wildly differing amounts — sometimes 10 to 20 times what Medicare typically reimburses — for the same procedure, raising questions about how hospitals determine prices and why they differ so widely.

► At Huffington Post — Extended benefits didn’t keep unemployed from taking jobs, study finds — Extended unemployment benefits Congress put in place at the outset of the Great Recession didn’t discourage people from taking jobs, according to new research from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. The findings are similar to 2011 research by Jesse Rothstein of the University of California, Berkeley.

► In today’s Washington Post — TSA knife rule: Would airborne fistfight have been worse? — A serious fistfight broke out in the first-class section of an American Airlines flight from San Antonio to Dallas-Fort Worth last week. It might have been worse if they’d pulled out their knives, but of course, knives aren’t allowed on airplanes… for now.




uncle-sam► In today’s Washington Post — Study: U.S. taxpayers employ more low-wage workers than Walmart, McDonald’s combined — The report from the consulting firm Demos estimates that taxpayer dollars fund nearly 2 million private-sector jobs that pay $24,000 a year — about $12 an hour — or less. Those workers owe their incomes to government contracts, Medicare and Medicaid spending, and federal infrastructure funds, among other public sources. In contrast, Demos estimates that about 1.4 million workers earn that amount or less at Walmart and McDonald’s, which are two of the largest employers of low-wage workers.

The findings highlight inequality within the government contracting industry; as chief executives of major contractors rake in millions, many contract employees are struggling to get by, the report contends. It is a situation that could be worsened by the budget pressures of sequestration, which is pushing the federal government to spend fewer dollars and pursue lower-priced contracts.


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