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Open season on pensions, rallying for 15Now, wither the NLRB…

Monday, January 13, 2014




► In today’s Seattle Times — Bill would phase out pensions for state employees — After Boeing’s successful campaign to pressure Machinists into surrendering their pensions, some state lawmakers are renewing calls to phase out public-employee pensions, too. Taking a page from Boeing’s playbook, state Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale) plans to introduce legislation Monday that would offer a $10,000 incentive to state workers who agree to move from the state pension system into a 401(k)-style retirement package. Says Ericksen: “If it’s good enough for Boeing, it should be good enough for the employees of Washington state.”

ericksen-toastEDITOR’S NOTE — Sen. Ericksen seems to think Machinists at Boeing opted to undermine their own retirement security because they preferred 401(k)s to real pensions, as opposed to doing so under threat of losing their jobs and under pressure from the state’s political and media elite. At which free lunch with lobbyists, do you think the Ferndale senator hatched this idea?

► From KPLU — Inslee’s optimism may not be enough for gas-tax package — Gov.  Jay Inslee says he will continue to push for a gas tax package in the 60-day session that starts Monday. But a key transportation leader in the State Senate signaled Thursday that prospects for a deal may be dimming.

► In the (Longview) Daily News — Will local lawmakers have any luck with million-dollar road, rail wish list? — Transportation funding will be the hot topic, and local officials say the county urgently needs millions of dollars in state money to start road and rail improvements along state Route 432, Longview’s primary industrial corridor along Tennant and Industrial ways.

► In the News Tribune — Lawmakers must close the deal on state transportation — Last fall, the stars seemed to be aligning for the statewide roads-and-transit package Washington desperately needs. But the stars have strayed since then, and it’s going to take some bipartisan leadership to line them up again.

► MORE local previews of the legislative session in the Columbian, “There were not enough projects in Southwest Washington for me to vote ‘yes’ on the bill,” says Rep. Paul Harris (R-Vancouver) who fought to keep funding for the Columbia River Crossing out of the transportation bill; the (Everett) Herald, “Everything we’ll want to pass, they’ll hate. Everything they’ll want to pass, we’ll hate. It’s 60 days and out of here,” says Rep. Hans Dunshee (D-Snohomish); in the Olympian/(Tacoma) News Tribune; the (Spokane) Spokesman-Review, and the Tri-City Herald, “(We) gave a $9 billion tax break to Boeing, what are we going to do with the rest of the businesses in the state?” asks Sen. Sharon Brown (R-Kennewick).




Boeing-McNerney-thanks► MUST-READ in the (Everett) Herald — What’s the price of Boeing’s victory? (by Hedrick Smith) — Boeing’s stingy treatment of its highly skilled workforce offers a vivid example of how America’s new economy has created gaping economic inequalities and steadily squeezed the economic life out of the U.S. middle class over the last three decades, even as corporate profits and CEO pay have skyrocketed. Boeing’s case epitomizes that sharp economic divide. For just as the company was wringing concessions from its workers, its board of directors approved a 50 percent increase in the company’s stock dividend and a $10-billion stock buyback that will richly reward investors and executives who get paid in Boeing shares.

► In today’s (Everett) Herald — Everett, Frederickson vie for 777X wing work — The interstate competition to win the Boeing Co.’s 777X line has given way to a much smaller in-state contest to secure the wing fabrication work for the new airplane. Boeing is being characteristically silent on the question, but aerospace industry insiders say the most likely locations are Everett and Frederickson, in Pierce County.

► Today from AP — Airbus logs record 2013, but still behind Boeing — The European aerospace conglomerate said Monday it delivered 626 planes last year, a company record but still 22 fewer than U.S. rival Boeing Co.




► At Slog — Supporters pack labor temple at rally as minimum wage momentum builds — An overflow crowd packed into the main hall at Seattle’s Labor Temple this afternoon for a rally kicking off the launch of, a grassroots campaign dedicated to passing a $15 an hour minimum wage in Seattle. If the establishment types thought (or hoped) that both Socialist Alternative and the broader agitation for a $15 dollar an hour minimum wage had peaked in November, they couldn’t be more wrong. Indeed, if today’s rally is any indication, local support for this struggle is only growing and broadening, both among the grassroots and within the traditional Democrat power base that is organized labor.

st-15-now-rally► Or, if you prefer more haughty coverage that focuses on what type of people would actually attend such an event and sit through so many speeches, in today’s Seattle Times — Maximum energy at Seattle rally to push for $15 minimum wage — Even after more than two hours of speeches for a new group called 15 Now, the crowd of some 350 to 400 people that packed the hall Sunday afternoon at Seattle’s Labor Temple still managed to chant and show enthusiasm.

► In today’s Bellingham Herald — Low-wage jobs remain dominant in Whatcom County, but not growing — With more than half of all jobs in the low-paying retail and service industries, Whatcom County’s median household income has remained below state and national levels for the past decade.




long-term-unemployment-chart► At AFL-CIO Now — Five reasons Congress must extend unemployment benefits — Congress has offered extended emergency unemployment benefits in every major recession since the 1950s, and it has never failed to extend benefits when facing a long-term unemployment crisis as severe as the current one. Read the five key reasons why Congress must extend federal unemployment insurance.

► From AP — Cutoff of unemployment benefits leaves many Americans with bleak options — Without their unemployment checks, many will abandon what had been a futile search and will no longer look for a job — an exodus that could dwarf the 347,000 Americans who stopped seeking work in December. Beneficiaries have been required to look for work to receive unemployment checks.

► At The Daily Beats — The deficit excuse is fading fast — The idea that the spending of a measly $6.4 billion on unemployment benefits — a mere 0.3 percent of total budgeted spending — needs to be offset by cuts is absurd. Especially at a time when the deficit is shrinking rapidly, and when the government is actually turning a significant profit (for a few weeks anyway). Indeed, so far this fiscal year, which started in October, we’ve had about $10 billion of deficit reduction every week — even while paying extended unemployment benefits.

► At Politico — Closing in on a budget deal — With the last major issues resolved, House-Senate negotiators worked toward filing a $1.1 trillion government-wide spending bill by Monday night in hopes of quick action by Congress this week. The timetable remains tight. The current stopgap continuing resolution, which has kept agencies operating thus far, is due to expire Wednesday.

EDITOR’S NOTE — If this was how you paid your family’s bills — living life on the edge of default, repossession and eviction — your credit would be worthless.

► In the NY Times — It’s time to update overtime (by Ross Eisenbrey) — Most presidential actions that could help significant numbers of middle-class workers require congressional participation. But here’s one that doesn’t: raising the salary threshold for the exemption to the overtime rules of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.

► In today’s NY Times — Enemies of the poor (by Paul Krugman) — It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that right now Republicans are doing all they can to hurt the poor, and they would have inflicted vast additional harm if they had won the 2012 election. Moreover, G.O.P. harshness toward the less fortunate isn’t just a matter of spite (although that’s part of it); it’s deeply rooted in the party’s ideology, which is why recent speeches by leading Republicans declaring that they do too care about the poor have been almost completely devoid of policy specifics.




► In the NY Times — Wanted: More worker-owners  — A surprisingly large share — 47 percent of full-time wage and salary earners in the United States — enjoy some share of company profits, but the amount they receive is typically quite small and they are seldom offered much voice in management. Some Republicans as well as Democrats favor policies that could help turn more workers into owners.




No-NLRB-No-Voice► From Reuters — Supreme Court case highlights labor agency’s political divide — When the U.S.Supreme Court hears arguments on Monday in a case involving soda bottler Noel Canning Corp., presidential appointment power will be the main dispute, but the case will also put on display one of Washington’s most politically polarizing agencies — the National Labor Relations Board. Created nearly 80 years ago to supervise union elections and protect workers’ rights to organize, the NLRB is a battleground for pro-labor Democrats and pro-management Republicans.

Monday’s case began as a labor dispute. The NLRB found in February 2012 that Noel Canning, a Pepsi bottler in Yakima, had reneged on a verbal contract during union negotiations. The company appealed to the courts, attracting the support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, conservative interest groups and Republican leaders in Congress. The case evolved into a constitutional challenge to the president’s power to make appointments to key posts without Senate confirmation.


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