Monday, December 16, 2013
► If you want information about Boeing’s latest contract extension offer, visit IAM751.org, where Machinists District 751 has posted a comparison between the company’s latest offer and the one already rejected by the union.
► In the Seattle Times — 777X offer puts Machinists, Boeing at ‘rock and a hard place’ — If the Machinists union and Boeing could agree to a contract deal, Washington state would secure decades of work fabricating the 777X airliner’s advanced wing and assembling the jet here. Yet the union is divided and in turmoil over what the company calls its best and final offer.
► In the Seattle Times — Two key players in the Machinists’ contract drama — Profiles of Rich Michalski, the longtime right-hand man of Machinists union International President Tom Buffenbarger, and Tom Wroblewski, President of Machinists District 751.
► In the Washington Post — Higher profits, smaller paychecks (by Harold Meyerson) — It’s not as if Boeing is a clothing manufacturer scrambling to meet the price competition of rivals that make their goods in Bangladesh. Boeing’s sole competitor in the large-scale passenger-plane market is Airbus, the European conglomerate whose workers’ wages are comparable to those in the United States. But Boeing has already located one major plant in South Carolina, where workers make about $10 an hour less than their Puget Sound counterparts. It’s through such moves, and the threat of further such changes, that U.S. manufacturers have increased their profits at the expense of their workers’ paychecks.
► In the Tri-City Herald — Tank farm workers approve labor contract — Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council workers at the Hanford tank farms approved a new collective bargaining agreement Friday by a vote of 290 to 239. The 650 workers for contractor Washington River Protection Solutions had been given a choice of approving the proposed collective bargaining agreement or giving their authorization to proceed to a possible strike.
► In today’s NY Times — Amazon strikers take their fight to Seattle — Amazon employees in Germany have been battling the retailer with a series of wildcat strikes, most recently at the end of November. (EDITOR’S NOTE: They’re striking again today!) These protests, involving hundreds of Amazon workers at two fulfillment centers, have been the first strikes against the e-commerce leader anywhere in the world. On Monday the strikers are hoping to increase the pressure by taking the battle to the retailer’s Seattle headquarters. A rally is scheduled for 10 a.m., with the organizers hoping to draw in local union workers as well as sympathetic members of the public.
ALSO at The Stand — Support Germany’s Amazon workers on Monday
► In the P.S. Business Journal — Judge to rule on SeaTac minimum wage law after Christmas — A King County Superior Court judge says she will rule after Christmas whether to uphold the nationally watched SeaTac minimum wage initiative, which would increase many airport-related workers’ pay to $15 per hour.
► In the P.S. Business Journal — Alaska Airlines, flight attendants reach tentative deal — Alaska Airlines said it’s reached a tentative five-year contract deal with its 3,300 flight attendants.
EDITOR’S NOTE — “Now we can focus our efforts on the legal battle against the voters of SeaTac so our contractors can continue to pay poverty wages there,” a company executive thought, adding, “I didn’t say that out loud, did I?”
► From AP — Oregon governor awards disputed Port of Portland jobs to ILWU — The dispute over which union workers at the Port of Portland should perform the task of plugging and unplugging refrigerated shipping containers has been resolved, but it’s unknown if it will be enough to keep the port’s most important container carrier from abandoning the city.
► In The Olympian — Inslee seeks more health privatization — Washington’s experiment with privatizing the oversight of mental-health treatment could expand from Pierce County to other parts of the state. Under a proposal from Gov. Jay Inslee, insurance companies would be able to compete with county governments for regional mental health contracts. Federal officials say Washington state must open most of those services to competitive bidding.
AFFORDABLE CARE ACT
► In the Oregonian — Oregon health exchange technology troubles run deep due to mismanagement, early decisions — Oregon made an enormous and high-risk bet on California–based Oracle, handing over the lion’s share of the developmental responsibility to the giant software firm and paying it to date $90 million. In return, the state got substandard software code, repeated broken promises and perhaps the least functional exchange site in the country.
► From McClatchy — Attacking Obamacare without all the facts — Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers shared Garfield resident Debbie Brown’s story with fellow lawmakers in the U.S. House on Wednesday as an example of problems inherent in the Affordable Care Act. Unfortunately for the congresswoman, Brown’s very real problems have no apparent connection to Obamacare.
► In today’s Seattle Times — Expanded Medicaid’s fine print holds surprise: ‘payback’ from estate after death — As thousands of state residents enroll in Washington’s expanded Medicaid program, many will be surprised at fine print: After you’re dead, your estate can be billed for ordinary health-care expenses. State officials are scrambling to change the rule.
► From AP — Federal workers’ pensions targeted in budget deal — Most federal civilian employees hired beginning in January will contribute 4.4% of their pay to their pension plans under the House-passed budget bill the Senate is expected to approve this week. Government workers hired in 2013 will continue paying 3.1% of their gross pay to help cover their pensions; those on the federal payroll before then, 0.8%.
► In today’s Washington Post — After Senate budget vote, few hopes for productive 2014 — The bipartisan budget compromise that passed the House by a wide margin last week has inspired House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to blast outside conservative groups that he said were using Republican members of Congress for their own gain. It has inspired kind words between the two legislators — Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — who hammered out the deal. And it has inspired hope that, after years of governing by crisis, Congress may begin returning to something resembling regular order. But that hope masks a deeply divided Senate, where ill will over recent rule changes has heightened a bitter partisan divide. As the Senate prepares to take up the budget deal this week, both sides say it is likely to be one of the final pieces of significant legislation to pass the 113th Congress as midterm elections loom.
► In The Hill — Ryan signals new fight on debt limit — Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Sunday said Republicans will insist on more concessions for raising the debt limit in early 2014, indicating that the fiscal ceasefire he brokered in a budget deal may not last long.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Really? Is that how one restore his right-wing bona fides these days? Taking the government hostage (again) by threatening another shutdown?
► In The Hill — Airlines, unions resist sleep tests for pilots — Business and labor are trying to slow down the Obama administration’s push to require that pilots be tested for sleep disorders.
► In the Washington Post — Supreme Court drops case on employer-union ‘neutrality agreements’ — The Supreme Court announced that it will not decide whether a type of agreement between employers and unions that has become increasingly important to the labor movement violates the law.
► At Huffington Post — How a for-profit college created fake jobs to get taxpayer money — Everest College paid contractors $2,000 to hire its graduates and keep them on the payroll for at least 30 days, part of an effort to boost its official job placement records. The college paid more than a dozen other companies to hire graduates into temporary jobs before cutting them loose, a HuffPost investigation has found.
► In today’s NY Times — Why inequality matters (by Paul Krugman) — The discussion has shifted enough to produce a backlash from pundits arguing that inequality isn’t that big a deal. They’re wrong.
► At MSNBC — When a job can’t get you out of poverty — Krystal Ball runs through organized labor history in the United States as the Up guests examine the current lack of protection for unions and low-wage workers.
► Bill Moyers: The End Game for Democracy — “Sometimes I long for the wit of a Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert. They treat this town as burlesque and through satire and parody, show it the disrespect that it deserves. We laugh and punch each other on the arm and tweet that the rascals got their just desserts. But the last laugh always seems to go to the bold-faced names who populate this town. To them belong the spoils of a looted city.”
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.