Monday, September 30, 2013
► In Sunday’s Seattle Times — Howard Schultz makes right choice not blaming Obamacare (by Danny Westneat) — “Starbucks won’t use the new law as an excuse to cut benefits or lower benefits for its workers,” Schultz declared recently. Note his use of the term “excuse.” Because that is exactly what’s going on right now around the region and nation: Corporate CEOs are slashing health benefits, mainly for part-time workers, and then declaiming that “Obamacare made me do it!”
Take the big grocery-store chains — QFC, Safeway and so on. They have proposed dropping health coverage for part-time employees around here, which may end up touching off a strike. It’s Obamacare, they insist. But is it? No. … Obamacare is complex and confusing and so provides a convenient opportunity — an excuse — for companies to slash medical benefits and then blame the federal government. It could be they’re doing it because this is their big chance to shift more costs to the workers. And then, when some of those workers need subsidies, to further shift the costs to the taxpayers.
EDITOR’S NOTE — I agree that Schultz deserves kudos for speaking this truth. He’s got it right in the case. However, he’s got it wrong when it comes to interfering with his employees’ freedom to choose — without employer intimidation or harassment — whether they want a union or not. And then there’s the whole Sonics thing.
► From Leeham News — 777X decision due in October; where will it be assembled? — The Boeing Co. Board of Directors is expected to decide in October. Boeing doesn’t reveal the date of its board meetings, but they are typically toward the end of the month. We believe Everett is the only logical place to assemble this derivative of an existing program, and there are many who think so, too. But there is a smaller group that thinks Boeing Chicago favors Charleston, S.C. Will the desire to move out of unionized Washington be the deciding factor? For a derivative aircraft, we don’t think it makes sense. A clean-sheet, new design aircraft is a different matter.
► In today’s Spokesman-Review — Senate tour lets public share transportation priorities — Completing the North Spokane Corridor from Francis Avenue to Interstate 90 remains a top priority for local elected leaders seeking state funding for the project. On Wednesday, two state senators will bring a statewide transportation listening tour to Spokane Valley to hear what improvements residents want, and elected officials said that includes the new freeway’s completion. The forum will be from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Central Valley High School theater, 821 S. Sullivan Road.
ALSO at The Stand — Citizens to state legislators: Keep Washington rolling!
► In the P.S. Business Journal — How L&I is rebuilding workers’ comp reserves, and why (by L&I Director Joel Sacks) — During the Great Recession, L&I used reserves to hold down rates. It was the smart thing to do to help struggling businesses. Now the smart thing to do is to rebuild those reserves, with moderate rate increases benchmarked against inflation and continued efforts to reduce costs and improve results.
ALSO at The Stand — L&I proposes modest 2.7% workers’ comp rate increase
► In the Tri-City Herald last week — HAMTC, Hanford contractors reach tentative agreement — The Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council is recommending that members approve the latest collective bargaining agreement proposal after 20 months of contract negotiations. A ratification vote has been set for Oct. 9 at the Richland Labor Temple.
► In today’s Bellingham Herald — BTC unions ratify contracts; strike officially over — Bellingham Technical College will hold its first day of classes Monday, Sept. 30, after two unions that represent the faculty and the college’s classified, clerical, technical, instructional and retail support staff ratified contract agreements late Sunday, Sept. 29. The board of trustees will hold a special meeting Monday to approve the agreements.
ALSO TODAY at The Stand — BTC instructors ratify contract, end strike
► In Sunday’s Seattle Times — Port of Seattle deserves more from region (editorial) — Seattle’s port brings good jobs: 21,695 directly and more indirectly. That the city takes an interest in technology companies is good. They are Seattle’s future — part of it. The city also has an industrial and maritime future, and the people should not forget that.
► In today’s Washington Post — D.C. braces for first government shutdown of national government in 17 years — The U.S. government was bracing on Monday for its first shutdown in nearly two decades, with frustrated and weary lawmakers expected to gather at the U.S. Capitol with little hope of finding a compromise that would keep the government in operation past midnight.
► From AP — How budget showdowns could squeeze U.S. economy — Unless Congress acts before Tuesday to fund federal spending, some of the government would shut down. Separately, the government will run out of money to pay its bills by late October unless Congress raises the federal borrowing cap. A 2011 fight over the borrowing cap rattled consumers, businesses and investors and likely slowed growth.
► In today’s Columbian — Clark County federal workers brace for possibility of government shutdown — The looming shutdown is inconveniencing agencies in Clark County and the state. As officials who oversee health programs, social services and parks brace for the impact, many say the negative effects on their agencies would depend upon how long a shutdown lasts. The same holds true for the economy.
► In The Hill — Speaker Boehner on the cliff edge — By embracing the Tea Party’s strategy aimed at thwarting ObamaCare, Boehner (R-Ohio) is betting he can win the public relations battle against President Obama’s bully pulpit. It is a huge gamble; the political fallout from it could be felt for years to come.
► At TPM — Republican senator denounces House GOP’s Obamacare strategy — Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) spoke out Sunday against her GOP colleagues in the House for threatening to force a government shutdown in an effort to defund or delay the Affordable Care Act.
EDITOR’S NOTE — OK, Republicans from Washington state, what’s it going to be? Do you have the same courage to speak out against shutting down the federal government unless the Senate and the President approve a laundry list of right-wing policies? Or will you join House Republican leadership in trying to blame everyone else for the shutdown?
► In today’s NY Times — The House rushes to a shutdown (editorial) — Scorning the impending deadline, Republicans piled high their ideological demands.
► In today’s NY Times — Rebels without a clue (by Paul Krugman) — A U.S. government default, which will happen unless Congress raises the debt ceiling soon, might cause financial catastrophe. Unfortunately, many Republicans either don’t understand this or don’t care.
► At AFL-CIO Now — The latest government crisis: Obama’s ‘make my day’ moment (by Damon Silvers) — There will be great pressure on the president from Wall Street and Washington insider types to cave in yet again. But working people have to stand with the president. The stakes could not be higher. The very idea of a working government, one that does the peoples’ business, is at stake. Clearly, there is no end to the destruction the radical elements of the Republican party will do if they get away yet again with holding our nation hostage in this way.
AFFORDABLE CARE ACT
► In today’s Seattle Times — Obamacare: State says it’s ready for big day — The Washington Healthplanfinder exchange website is set to open for business Tuesday. State officials are looking forward to a relatively smooth start, though they expect there may be a few problems as residents use the website to compare and shop for health plans.
► In today’s News Tribune — State health exchange CEO: Prices may surprise — Washington’s health-insurance exchange opens for business Tuesday, offering a new way for individuals to buy coverage from private companies.
► At Politico — Poll: Most will get health insurance — Asked whether they plan to get insurance when the requirement takes effect or pay the fine for not doing so, 65% of uninsured Americans said they would get health insurance, while 25% said they would pay the fine.
► In the (Longview) Daily News — St. John preparing for more patients with health care — St. John Medical Center is bulking up its primary care staff to prepare for the increase of newly insured patients taking advantage of health care coverage they’ll purchase under the ACA. By June, the hospital plans to add eight people to its staff of 24 primary care clinicians.
► At AFL-CIO Now — Need some wheels? See UAW’s 2014 union-made car list — The UAW’s 2014 Union-Built Vehicles List features quality, variety and fuel-efficient vehicles along with a number of new additions that represent new jobs for America’s workers. For example, as a result of 2011 bargaining between the UAW and Ford, Fusion sedans are being made at the Flat Rock, Mich., Assembly Plant. The Fusion was previously made only in Mexico. Also, the Ford Transit Connect van, insourced from Europe, is now being produced at the Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo, Mo. The Chevrolet Equinox is being made for the first time in Spring Hill, Tenn., as a result of 2011 bargaining between the UAW and General Motors. Also new on the list are GM’s Cadillac ELR hybrid/electric-powered luxury sports car and the revival of the Jeep Cherokee.
► In today’s NY Times — A wave of sewing jobs as orders pile up at U.S. factories — Factories are finding that years of doing business overseas has withered what once was a thriving textile and apparel work force in the United States.
► At Politico — Sneaker maker wants Congress to Buy American — New Balance is leading a charge to force the military to buy U.S.-made running shoes for recruits, meeting with members of Congress and the Obama administration to press its case.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.