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Grocery vote, road woes, crappy health plans, staffed NLRB…

Wednesday, October 30, 2013




grocery-webcam-thank-you2► In today’s News Tribune — Union voting continues on grocery contract; results out on Thursday — Union grocery workers in the Puget Sound area began voting Tuesday on a contract offer from four major supermarket chains. Voting will continue through Wednesday, with the results available Thursday morning.

► In today’s Seattle Times — Grocery contract has small gains, no major takeaways — A union summary says the proposal maintains health benefits for both current employees and new hires, with no increases in weekly premiums or deductibles, and secures workers’ pension plans.

ALSO at The Stand — Tentative agreement averts Puget Sound-area grocery strike (Oct. 22)

► In the Skagit Valley Herald — Worker files suit against Sakuma — The potential class-action lawsuit claims the Sakuma Brothers berry farm denied up to 400 workers 10-minute rest breaks for every four hours of work and then did not pay workers for any breaks. The suit follows a summer of distress for farm that included a number of strikes and a call to boycott company products by migrant farm workers who complained of mistreatment and pay discrepancies between migrant and guest workers.

► In today’s Columbian — Oil terminal foes pack hearing — Among those against the plan are members of the ILWU Local 4, who have voted to oppose the terminal, said President Cager Clabaugh. That’s despite the fact that the union would benefit from some of the jobs the facility promises. “The risk is not worth the reward, plain and simple,” he said. “We don’t want it.”

► In today’s (Everett) Herald — Report from an aerospace supplier’s open house — The CEO at Umbra Cuscinetti’s Everett plant says his biggest challenge is finding people. “We are struggling to get machinists, and are talking about going out of state. We really expect to grow. Finding machinists is paramount to us.”

EDITOR’S NOTE — Common translation: “We are really having trouble finding skilled people who are willing to work for what we’re paying.”




WSLC-agenda-investing► In today’s Yakima H-R — Gov. Inslee: Road infrastructure woes could cost ag industry — Asking for urgency, Gov. Jay Inslee called Tuesday for the Legislature to pass legislation that would fix the state’s ailing roads and bridges. Later in the day in Yakima, Inslee said that he will meet with legislators today in Olympia to see if an agreement can be reached on a transportation package.

ALSO at The Stand — Coalition urges special session to fix transportation problems (Sept. 6)

► In today’s Spokesman-Review — Washington prisons want more space — Washington needs to start planning for more prison space, especially for women, the Department of Corrections says. The department is asking Gov. Jay Inslee to include $1.8 million in his proposed adjustment in December to the state’s two-year budget. The money would start planning for a $17 million expansion at the women’s prison at Purdy and a $175 million renovation of the former Maple Lane youth detention center at Grand Mound.

► In today’s Spokesman-Review — Builder who stole given new contractor’s license — A Spokane building contractor twice imprisoned for stealing from customers managed to get a new state contractor’s license this summer after his March release.




WA_healthplanfinder► In the PS Business Journal — 140,000 seek coverage through Washington’s Healthplanfinder — Nearly 49,000 people have enrolled in insurance plans through the state’s health exchange since the Washington Healthplanfinder launched Oct. 1. Another 52,000 applications, which would provide coverage to another 91,000 people, have been completed and are awaiting payments due by Dec. 23.

► In today’s Seattle Times — Why states didn’t have problems that hit federal health-exchange site — Thirty-six states chose not to create their own exchange and to use the federal government’s. Some analysts argue that the complexity of doing the job at the federal level is just too great, as it must be capable of integrating with multiple-state eligibility databases.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Good thing we didn’t listen to the Republicans in our State Legislature. They fought against (and voted against) establishing our own Washington Health Benefits Exchange, in favor of accepting whatever the feds set up.

► Today in hypocrisy, from MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow — ‘There are bound to be glitches’ — Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) on the Bush administration’s flawed Medicare Part D rollout: “This is a huge undertaking and there are going to be glitches.” (He serves on the panel that’s berating Kathleen Sebelius today.) Some other GOP quotes on the Part D problems:

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas): “I think it needs to be understood that in a major reform, an improvement of a program like this, there are bound to be glitches.”
Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.): “Kinks” in Part D got “worked out.”
Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) to CMS official: “You guys have done a super job.”
Fmr. Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.): “This is a major change in the Medicare program and it is not surprising that there have been implementation pitfalls along the way.”

► In today’s NY Times — Cancellation of health care plans replaces website as prime target — After focusing for weeks on the technical failures of President Obama’s health insurance website, Republicans on Tuesday broadened their criticism of the health care law, pointing to Americans whose health plans have been terminated because they do not meet the law’s new coverage requirements.

You_lie► At Wonkette — Obama’s ‘you can keep your plan’ failed to anticipate how much Americans love cheap crappy plans that cover nothing — One CBS story looked at a Florida woman, Dianne Barrette, whose $54/month plan is going to be cancelled, but failed to point out that it pays just $50 of most of the services it covers, and it doesn’t cover many. It doesn’t cover a single bit of inpatient hospitalization. So basically, Barrette had a plan that allowed her to pay $648 a year for the privilege of going broke a little more slowly in a healthcare emergency. To make matters worse, the insurance company’s letter informing her that the plan would be discontinued recommends a replacement, at $591 a month, that is far more expensive than many plans available on the exchange. With the ACA’s subsidy, her actual cost for a basic plan would come to an estimated $209 a month. But none of that got reported by CBS, and now, Dianne Barrette has three interviews lined up with Fox News.




NLRB-sign► At Huffington Post — Senate confirms Obama’s choice for NLRB General Counsel — The Senate confirmed President Barack Obama’s choice for general counsel at the National Labor Relations Board on Tuesday, writing the last chapter in a Capitol Hill spat that nearly shut down the federal agency earlier this year. Richard Griffin, who was nominated by the president in August, passed by a vote of 55 to 44, along party lines. Once Griffin assumes his post at the board, which is tasked with enforcing labor law on companies and unions, it will mark the first time in more than three years that the agency’s general counsel was acting with Senate approval.

► In today’s NY Times — Business-conservative alliance presses for immigration reform — An unlikely coalition of business executives, evangelical groups and prominent conservatives coming together to urge House Republicans to put broad immigration legislation on the House floor, ideally before the end of this year.

► In today’s NY Times — Deal reached in inquiry into visa fraud at tech giant — Infosys, the giant Indian technology outsourcing company, has agreed to pay $34 million in a civil settlement after federal prosecutors in Texas found it had committed “systemic visa fraud and abuse” when bringing temporary workers from India for jobs in American businesses. The payment is the largest ever in a visa case.

murray-patty► At TPM — There may be a budget deal — if conference committee thinks small — When the big, bipartisan budget committee kicks off with its first meeting Wednesday, conferees will be given a daunting task: bridge the chasm that has divided Congress for years and left the country lurching from one crisis to the next. The prospects for a comprehensive agreement — or a “grand bargain” — are virtually nonexistent. Republicans won’t touch tax revenues and Democrats won’t agree to cut Social Security or Medicare without significant new revenues. But there is a possibility — not a very promising one, but a possibility nonetheless — for a small deal that replaces some of the sequester with a mix of targeted discretionary cuts and new revenue via one-time sales or fees — instead of raising tax rates or curbing loopholes.

► From AP — Social Security benefits to go up by 1.5% — The increase is among the smallest since automatic adjustments were adopted in 1975. It is small because consumer prices haven’t gone up much in the past year.

sanders-bernie► At TPM — Stop the Social Security stupidity: A Q&A with Bernie Sanders — Despite the fact that poll after poll shows that the American people – Democrats, Republicans and Independents – overwhelmingly do not want to cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, very powerful Big Money interests and campaign contributors are pushing Congress and the President to do just that. People like the Koch brothers, a family worth $71 billion, believe in a very different kind of America than we currently have. To a significant degree, they want Congress to end or drastically reduce government involvement in retirement programs (Social Security) and health care (Medicare and Medicaid) while, at the same time, giving more tax breaks to the rich and large corporations. The Koch brothers and other ultra-conservative individuals have contributed hundreds of millions into the political process.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Which brings us to…




black-duncan► From Pacific Standard — How a frustrated blogger made expanding Social Security an acceptable idea — In late 2012 Duncan Black embarked on a sustained crusade, on his blog and in a series of columns for USA Today, to inject a single idea into America’s policy discourse: “We need an across-the-board increase in Social Security retirement benefits of 20 percent or more,” he declared in the opening of a column for USA Today. “We need it to happen right now.”

The proposal was not exactly attuned to the political winds in Washington. Indeed, for anyone inclined to think in terms of counting potential votes in Congress — especially this Congress — the idea of expanding Social Security is the epitome of a political non-starter. Black’s proposal was attuned, however, to a mounting pile of research and demographic data that describes a gathering disaster. The famously large baby boom generation is heading into retirement. Thanks to decades of stagnant wages and the asset collapse of the Great Recession, more than half of American working-class households are at risk of being unable to sustain their standard of living past retirement. To put it even more starkly, according to research by the economists Joelle Saad-Lessler and Teresa Ghilarducci, 49 percent of middle-class workers are on track to be “poor or near poor” after they retire.


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