Wednesday, August 21, 2013
► In today’s Skagit Valley Herald — Berry pickers call for boycott of Sakuma products — Workers from Sakuma Bros. Farms picketed and called for a consumer boycott Tuesday of that Mount Vernon farm’s berries in response to a wage they said was too low. The verbal agreement regarding test picks with farm president Ryan Sakuma was broken when Sakuma refused to pay the 48 cents per pound workers determined was the correct price after their last test pick, and offered 40 cents instead. Workers handed out fliers about the boycott at SaveMax in Mount Vernon and other workers were scheduled to picket at grocery stores in Bellingham and Seattle, they said.
► In today’s Seattle Times — ILWU pickets Highway 99 tunneling site — Back in April, the union and the tunneling project managers signed a contract saying that longshoremen would be employed to help load dirt excavated from the tunnel onto barges. But in July, an arbitrator ruled that the jobs are covered by the tunnel’s broader project labor agreement. So the work has gone to building-trade workers instead.
► In today’s (Everett) Herald — Reinstated prison workers will get back pay — It will cost about $350,000 to compensate three recently reinstated Washington State Reformatory corrections officers and a demoted sergeant who were disciplined after their coworker, Jayme Biendl, was killed by an inmate in 2011.
► In today’s (Longview) Daily News — Teamsters, City of Kelso agree to pay raises — Teamsters Local 58, representing nine city library and clerical employees, will receive salary increases of 2% in 2014, 2% in 2015 and 3% in 2016.
► In today’s Seattle Times — Labor Council’s Seattle mayor endorsement may get lively — A raucous meeting is expected Wednesday night as the M.L. King County Labor Council votes on an endorsement in the Seattle mayor’s race. Unions are divided between Mayor Mike McGinn and challenger state Sen. Ed Murray.
► In today’s Seattle Times — Republicans ignore blue-state profile, veer farther right (by Danny Westneat) — Republicans, get a hold of yourselves! You’re not in Texas or even Oregon. Our state, like it or not, is pro-gay, pro-pot and pro-abortion-rights. It’s getting less white, less religious and less straight. Meanwhile, your party is viewed as anti-government, anti-science and anti-anything-that’s-not-Christian. Going hard to the right now, even if just to select a state party figurehead, would represent a crazy level of denial. It’s asking to spend another generation in the wilderness.
► In today’s Spokesman-Review — Washington Policy Center loves numbers, loathes context (by Shawn Vestal) — Dramatic statistical techniques — let’s call them “comparing apples and Mobile” — are the hallmarks of the recent report from the Washington Policy Center, a right-wing think tank that produced a report comparing salaries for firefighters and cops in Spokane to certain other cities (like Mobile, Ala.). The report, which is stained red from cherry-picking, emphasizes that firefighters and cops here are overpaid.
I’m sure Mobile is a lovely city, and yet it is a long way from Spokane, geographically, culturally and economically. It is a long way from Washington, whose collective bargaining laws have a lot to do with the way that public safety workers are paid… The road to Mobile is long and steep and downward. If that’s where the city is headed, everyone should go there together.
EDITOR’S NOTE — The Washington Policy Center is the group bringing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to Seattle to help raise money to put out more studies like this one complaining that public safety workers in Washington are paid too much.
► In today’s Seattle Times — State’s ad blitz promotes health-insurance exchange — Washington state is beginning a big effort to get the word out about its new online health-insurance exchange that is at the core of Obamacare. It’s targeting ads at the state’s uninsured, with hopes of signing up 130,000 people by year’s end.
► From AP — State to reduce pensions of 3 ex-firefighters — Washington auditors have determined that pre-retirement salary increases led to more than $30,000 in excess pension payments for three former firefighters, and the state projects it will save the system more than $140,000 by permanently reducing their combined pension values.
► At AFL-CIO Now — Walmart should look in mirror for declining sales cause — Walmart reported last week that sales at its U.S. stores had unexpectedly declined. Walmart tried to explain its shrinking sales away by citing outside factors such as higher gas prices and payroll taxes. But, say many market observers, the real cause lies within Walmart itself — the largest private-sector employer in the United States and the poster child for low-wages.
► In today’s Washington Post — For retailers, low wages aren’t working out (by Harold Meyerson) — While Americans with money are boosting both the housing and auto markets, the growing number of Americans without are curtailing their shopping. Corporate profits — which comprise a larger share of the nation’s economy than at any time since World War II — are being plowed into share buybacks or dividend payments, but decidedly not into wage increases. This is not the first time U.S. mass retailers have faced the problem of under-consumption. In the 1920s, as U.S. cities swelled, the low incomes of the new urban consumers posed a constant challenge to merchants. In contrast to today’s Walton family heirs, however, some of those merchants realized that the solution was to raise workers’ incomes.
► In today’s NY Times — Republicans retreat from a shutdown (editorial) — Whether out of pure self-preservation or a sudden attack of common sense, a growing group of Republicans is saying no to the strident extremists who want to shut down the government this fall if health care reform is allowed to proceed.
► In today’s NY Times — Tacking health care costs onto California farm produce — Insurance brokers and health providers familiar with California’s $43.5 billion agricultural industry estimate that meeting the Affordable Care Act’s minimum health plan requirement will cost about $1 per hour per employee worked in the field. Some farmers seem resigned to higher labor costs. Also, there seems to be widespread agreement among agricultural employers, insurance brokers and health plans in California that low-wage farmworkers cannot be asked to pay health insurance premiums.
Until then, as this clip from A Hard Day’s Night reminds us, even Beatles were occasionally involved in jurisdictional disputes.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.