Up with airports, transportation plan, Walmart woes…

Thursday, November 21, 2013




► In yesterday’s NY Times — Raising wages at airports (Letter to the Editor from the Director of the San Francisco International Airport) — As Seattle-Tacoma International Airport awaits the results of a local ballot initiative that would increase the minimum wage for the airport’s transportation and hospitality workers, I would like to note that raising the minimum wage for 10,000 employees at San Francisco International Airport 13 years ago has been an overwhelming success.

Under the airport’s Quality Standards Program, which began in 2000, all employees at the airport who perform safety and security functions are paid $12.93 per hour, have 12 paid days and 10 unpaid days off per year and have full health coverage, provided by their employers. This group of employees includes airline ground workers, baggage handlers, service providers such as wheelchair operators and ramp workers.

Airport safety is not well served when exhausted employees have to work two jobs just to make ends meet. The program’s success rate can be measured by the extraordinarily high retention rate of our employees. A living wage means a fighting chance.

► At Slog — SeaTac minimum wage initiative leaps to landslide 57-vote lead — SeaTac Prop 1 picked up seven of the nine ballots counted today to extend its lead to a commanding 57 votes out 5,963 cast. Prop 1 now leads by almost a full percentage point, way outside a margin that could produce the slightest drop of drama. Still, expect Alaska Airlines to pay for a recount anyway, because it has plenty of money to spend on just about everything but paying its ground crew and ramp workers a living wage.




► In today’s Spokesman-Review — Senate plan would boost North Spokane Corridor funding, gas tax — Senate negotiators will begin the push today for a package of road projects that could complete the North Spokane Corridor and raise gasoline taxes by 11.5 cents over three years. The $8.7 billion price tag for projects all over the state gets a formal airing this afternoon. Whether it will prompt a special session or just lay the groundwork for more debate next year is unknown.

► From AP — State revenue forecast remains steady — Washington state’s revenue outlook is holding steady as economists expect a continued trend of slow economic growth. An updated forecast released Wednesday shows lawmakers may have $25 million more available to them. It’s a small amount for a state in which the two-year budget cycle is expected to collect some $33 billion for the general fund.

► At Schmudget — While stocks soar, state revenue barely flutters — As Washington state tax revenues continue their slow rebound from the Great Recession, profits from the sale of corporate stocks are breaching all-time highs. But unlike most other states, Washington doesn’t get a share of that windfall, which largely benefits wealthy investors. Washingtonians could benefit greatly from the surging stock market if the state would tax those capital gains, as 42 other states do.

► From AP — AG says more campaign money hidden in I-522 food-label fight — A food industry group that contributed heavily to defeat a measure that would have required labeling genetically engineered foods concealed millions more dollars in campaign contributions than has previously been reported, the state attorney general said Wednesday.

► In today’s Olympian — Sharon Nelson elected to lead Democrats — Sharon Nelson, a first-term senator from Maury Island, is the new leader of the minority Senate Democrats.




► In today’s Seattle Times — Stop doubling down on Boeing with the tax breaks (by Brendan Williams) — Boeing has masterfully made this proud state of its origin feel insecure relative to South Carolina. If I were still serving in the Legislature, I may even have voted to extend Boeing’s tax breaks. Yet it is never enough. Meanwhile, our members of Congress, including current Gov. Jay Inslee during his term in the U.S. House, fought hard for Boeing to win the Pentagon’s air tanker contract. But nothing engenders loyalty. It is as if we are obligated to keep doubling down on a losing investment, because the only alternative is to lose everything we invested in the first place.

Contracting is a bilateral process, and freedom to contract is a constitutional right, but The Seattle Times editorial urged Boeing machinists to accept a unilateral offer from management lest their jobs be shipped off elsewhere. In buying a house, do you accept the seller’s asking price? In what way is this bargaining?

► From NPR — State secret: Why you can’t see Boeing’s tax bill — State lawmakers recently rushed into special session to pass $8.7 billion in aerospace tax breaks. The aim: to land Boeing’s next generation 777 airplane. But how much does Boeing — or any other major company in Washington — pay in taxes? That’s actually a closely guarded secret. Now one state lawmaker wants to change that and a hearing is scheduled for this Friday.




► From AP — Washington loses 9,500 jobs in September, October — Washington state’s unemployment rate was relatively constant over the past two months, but the state saw an estimated loss of 9,500 jobs over the same period, according to numbers released Wednesday. A state labor economists says that while Washington did gain some jobs in both months, the overall drop is due in part to seasonal adjustments compared to normal patterns this time of year, as well as the result of the overall economy.

► In The Onion — Report: U.S. employers created 40,000 jobs for existing employees last month — “Despite unwavering unemployment figures, I’m proud to report that private sector companies continue to add many, many new jobs to their employees’ workloads,” said Labor Secretary Thomas Perez.




► In the P.S. Business Journal — CEO of Washington health exchange receives 13% raise — The board of the Washington state health exchange voted Wednesday to give CEO Richard Onizuka a 13% raise to just over $177,400. Teresa Mosqueda (of the Washington State Labor Council) was the sole board member to vote against the raise. She praised Onizuka’s work, but said, “I can’t in good conscience vote for this… because I don’t think we should be increasing salaries when part of the goal of the Affordable Care Act was to decrease costs to the system.”




► At Think Progress — Walmart workers strike at six stores in Dallas — On Wednesday, Walmart workers called out or walked off the job at seven stores in Dallas, according to OUR Walmart activists, the group that has been organizing strikes and protests against the company. The strike in Dallas comes after workers walked out in Chicago, Seattle, and Los Angeles over the past few weeks and dozens walked out of a Miami store in October. They also come ahead of a promise from workers to strike on Black Friday as they did last year, when 400 workers went on strike.

► At CNN Money — Fired Walmart workers could soon get jobs back — The NLRB said it is ready to bring a case against Walmart for allegedly retaliating against workers who staged Black Friday protests last year. Walmart has up to two weeks to reach a settlement. Under any settlement, Walmart would either have to hire back the people it fired or compensate workers who had been disciplined, the NLRB said.

► At Huffington Post — Walmart still hasn’t paid its $7,000 fine for employee’s Black Friday death in 2008 — Five years after a worker was killed in a crush of shoppers on Black Friday, Walmart still hasn’t paid the $7,000 it was fined for allegedly failing to protect employees on the biggest shopping day of the year. Sitting on appeal with a review commission, the case of Jdimytai Damour’s death highlights how corporations can choose to fend off modest penalties over workplace dangers for years on end, according to occupational health experts.




► At Huffington Post — Voters in key states don’t want Social Security cut — Voters were polled from five House districts — in Arizona, California, Massachusetts and New York — and from five states — Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina and Washington. The incumbent in nine of those districts and states sits on the House-Senate conference committee currently negotiating a new federal budget. Nine of those lawmakers are also facing a tough reelection contest in 2014. More than 70% of those polled in each of nine districts and states said they oppose cuts to Social Security benefits. Conversely, an average 65% of those polled supported increasing Social Security benefits.

► In today’s LA Times — Sen. Elizabeth Warren: Expand Social Security! (by Michael Hiltzik) — We’ve been making the case for years that the proper approach to Social Security is to expand it — increase benefits and bring more people into its embrace, including college-age survivors of deceased workers. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has now made that point more forcibly than anyone before her. As the Democratic Party’s most visible and influential progressive, she has reset the debate.

► In today’s NY Times — Senate Democrats poised to block filibusters of presidential picks — Senate Democrats are on the verge of moving to eliminate the use of the filibuster against most presidential nominees, aides and senior party leaders said Wednesday, a move that would deprive Republicans of their ability to block President Obama’s picks for cabinet posts and the federal judiciary.

► At AFL-CIO Now — DREAMers take arrests protesting GOP inaction on immigration reform — Eleven million dreams will not be stopped. On Wednesday, more than 200 DREAMers took to the halls of the U.S. Capitol office buildings to protest House Speaker John Boehner’s refusal to hold a vote on citizenship for the nation’s 11 million aspiring Americans.

ALSO at The Stand — WSLC’s Dodson, 32 other women arrested calling for immigration reform (Nov. 8)

► From BusinessWeek — Volkswagen trips over touchy Tennessee’s touchy union politics — The company’s desire to install a “works council,” an advisory group that’s part of the operations at nearly all of its assembly plants outside of China, has run into a hornet’s nest of local labor politics in Chattanooga over the involvement of the United Auto Workers.

► At Huffington Post — Wall Street, not workers, to blame for Detroit’s bankruptcy crisis, report says — Wall Street bankers, bad decisions made by elected officials and the Great Recession should be blamed for contributing to Detroit’s fiscal crisis — not the pensions of workers and retirees. That’s according to a report released Wednesday by Wallace Turbeville, a former investment banker with Goldman Sachs, now a senior fellow at the think tank group Demos.

► At Salon — Right-wing pension cutters get humiliated by their own data — Last month, the Pew Center on the States hosted a two-day conference in Washington, D.C. The event’s goal: to gear up for yet another push for pension cuts in the upcoming state legislative sessions. Yet, there was one big embarrassing problem: When the organization released its new poll at the conference in support of its agenda, the survey data showed that the American public is powerfully rejecting the right’s anti-public-worker crusade.


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