Monday, January 27, 2014
► From AP — Democrats push minority voting rights bill — In another move to differentiate themselves from the Republican-controlled Senate, House Democrats are pushing forward a measure that aims to enhance minority voting rights. The House is expected to vote this week on the measure called the Washington Voting Rights Act, which opens the possibility of court challenges to cities, counties and school districts to push them to switch from at-large to district elections in areas where large minority groups are present.
► From AP — Minimum wage bills pushed in at least 30 states — Minimum-wage increase proposals are getting the maximum push from Democrats in statehouses in more than half of U.S. states, highlighting the politically potent income inequality issue this year.
ALSO at The Stand — Labor backs bill to raise state minimum wage
► In Saturday’s (Everett) Herald — Machinists meet to nominate national leaders — For more than 50 years, the leaders of the Machinists union, one of the country’s largest labor groups, have passed power to handpicked successors, cutting members out of the process. That could change today when members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers across the country meet to nominate candidates for the union’s top offices. Results of the nomination are expected next week after the lodges submit results to national leaders.
► In the News Tribune — City of Tacoma gets around pay freeze with extra benefits — The city of Tacoma’s nonunion workforce received its last pay raise in 2009. But that doesn’t mean these workers haven’t seen any additional pay or benefits in five years.
► In today’s News tribune — City union pay, up 13; non-union, 0. How come? (editorial) — To understand the difference between public union pay and everyone-else pay, look no further than the compensation proposal now before the Tacoma City Council.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Maybe there’s power in numbers. Maybe collective bargaining works. Maybe, although it’s often true, it shouldn’t be assumed that non-union workers are always rewarded for the gains of union members. Just sayin’.
► In today’s (Longview) Daily News — Castle Rock City Council will negotiate contracts with clerks union — The Castle Rock City Council on Monday will renegotiate its contract with the local clerks union (Teamsters Local 58) to raise wages by 3.5 percent.
► In today’s Columbian — C-Tran top executive receives $4,700 pay raise for 2014 — C-Tran Executive Director Jeff Hamm’s 2014 salary will be $131,000, up from $126,308 in 2013.
AFFORDABLE CARE ACT
► In today’s Columbian — Sign-ups for ACA in Clark County, state rise — From Oct. 1 to Dec. 31 of last year, 22,844 Clark County residents enrolled in individual health plans and Medicaid through the exchange, accounting for more than 6 percent of the state’s total enrollment, according to data released Thursday. The number of applicants surged across the state as people rushed to beat the Dec. 23 deadline for coverage that began Jan. 1. By the end of 2013, more than 380,000 people had enrolled in plans through Washington Healthplanfinder, www.wahealthplanfinder.org.
► In the Tri-City Herald — Mid-Columbia residents signing up for insurance at a healthy pace
FROM the Calendar at The Stand — The Healthy Washington Coalition will conduct a Washington Has You Covered “Thank You” rally and news conference Tuesday, Jan. 28 at 10:30 a.m. on the north steps of the State Legislative Building in Olympia. Participants will celebrate the success of Medicaid expansion and giving Washington’s low-wage citizens access to health care.
► At TPM — People who’ve actually tried Obamacare like it — Approval for the Affordable Care Act among those who have actually tried to sign up for it is dramatically higher than approval among the general public, according to a new poll.
► In TPM — GOP candidates suddenly find love for Obamacare expansion — It’s a huge shift from the “defund or repeal” mantra during the government shutdown of October, a possible indicator that some conservatives are recognizing that Obamacare is here to stay — and that proposing to knock the newly enrolled off Medicaid is politically perilous.
► At Huffington Post — Union membership ticks up in private sector — Despite long-term declines in union membership, the proportion of U.S. workers who belong to a labor union held steady overall last year and even grew slightly in the private sector, according to data released Friday from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
ALSO TODAY at The Stand — Union membership up; WA ranks 4th — Washington state posted a strong increase of 106,000 total jobs in 2013 with union membership increasing by 33,000 members. In the state-by-state breakdown, Washington ranked No. 4 in terms of union density in 2013, with the state’s 546,000 union members accounting for 18.9% of the overall workforce — nearly one in five Washington workers.
► In the WSJ — Gap between union and non-union pay is $200 a week — The Labor Department on Friday released its latest data on union membership and pay, and the numbers show that the median union members earn $200 a week more than employees who aren’t unionized. The median pay in 2013 was $950 for union members and $750 for non-union members, and that gap has held between $191 and $209 since 2006.
► In the LA Times — Scalia may be swing vote in union-fees case — The future of public-sector labor unions may rest with conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court debated whether teachers and other public employees should continue to be required to pay union fees, even if they don’t join or support its activities. The surprising tie-breaker in the case might be Scalia, alone among the five more conservative justices. He suggested he was not ready to switch course, noting the court has previously ruled that employees should not be allowed to reap the benefits of union membership without paying their fair share.
► From AP — Wealth gap: What it is and why it matters — From the White House to the Vatican to the business elite in Davos, Switzerland, one issue keeps seizing the agenda: the growing gap between the very wealthy and everyone else.
► From AP — Food stamp participation now highest among working-age Americans –In a first, working-age people now make up the majority in U.S. households that rely on food stamps — a switch from a few years ago, when children and the elderly were the main recipients.
► In today’s NY Times — Proposal to raise tip wages resisted — When the minimum wage inched up — raised to $5.25 in 1996 under President Clinton — Congress agreed, in a concession to the restaurant industry, to let the 50 percent rule on tip wages lapse. Currently under federal law, restaurant owners are required to pay a minimum of $2.13 an hour toward a waiter’s wages as long as customers’ tips lift the waiter’s pay to the $7.25 federal minimum wage.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Thankfully, Washington state doesn’t penalize tipped workers, who make the same minimum wage as everyone else.
► At TPM — Why the GOP wants McMorris Rodgers to respond to Obama, and what she’ll say — In a sense, McMorris Rodgers is just what the GOP needs to rebut Obama: someone who stays on message, is unfailingly loyal to the party’s leaders and comes off as pragmatic and likeable — and, yes, happens not to be an old white man.
► In The Hill — DOT chief: Highway funding shortfall is ‘a serious problem’ — Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said Thursday that the projected funding shortfall for road and transit projects this year is a “serious problem” that needs a long-term solution.
► At In These Times — Why paid sick leave is good for business (by David Sirota) — For all the pro-family rhetoric that dominates America’s political discourse, U.S. law remains decidedly anti-family—at least in comparison to peer countries. This is the world’s only industrialized nation that does not require employers to provide any paid vacation days. It is the only industrialized nation that does not require employers to provide paid maternity leave. And it is the only industrialized nation that does not mandate paid sick days. That’s American exceptionalism at its worst.
In recent years various studies have shown that requiring companies to provide paid sick days, vacation time and maternity leave would likely provide a macroeconomic benefit by limiting workforce turnover, lowering overall health care costs and boosting productivity. In the case of sick leave in particular, mandates could reduce the output losses associated with what economists call “presenteeism”—aka employees coming to work ill and subsequently making customers and fellow employees sick.
ALSO at The Stand — WSLC announces Shared Prosperity Agenda — The Washington State Labor Council’s 2014 legislative agenda includes passing a statewide paid sick days standard.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.