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Tesoro unsafe, McNerney unrepentant, fool’s gold, Obamatrade…

Thursday, January 30, 2014




tesoro-explosion-anacortes► In today’s Seattle Times — Safety and equipment flaws, lax standards cited in refinery blast — An April 2010 explosion that killed seven people at an Anacortes refinery occurred in part because Tesoro Refining failed to use safe equipment, had poor inspection procedures and allowed its employees to regularly work in unnecessarily dangerous situations, according to an early draft of a federal investigation released late Wednesday night. After a four-year investigation, the federal Chemical Safety Board determined that the deaths happened after cracks and fissures in a damaged heat exchanger caused a metal pipe to rupture as it was filling with flammable material. The process of restarting the refineries heat exchangers had led to so many leaks and fires in the past that workers had come to view that risk as normal. Tesoro didn’t even investigate all the previous incidents, the chemical board found.



mcnerney► In today’s Seattle Times — Boeing CEO talks of rebuilding relationships with Machinists — Boeing Chief Executive Jim McNerney said that emotions will subside after the hotly debated 10-year contract extension Machinists union members narrowly approved this month, and predicted “a period of 10 years of stability.” McNerney was asked what he would tell the Machinists, now facing frozen pensions, who have questioned the fairness of him keeping his own defined-benefit pension — which will pay out more than $3.6 million a year, or more than $300,000 a month. In response, McNerney spoke not about his own pension specifically, but more generally about the defined-benefit pension plans that survive within Boeing. The company says about 75,000 current nonunion employees retain such plans, as do the engineers represented by SPEEA. McNerney made clear that these pensions are also targets for shifting to 401(k)-style benefit plans.

He said Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief Ray Conner and his management team are already reaching out to the local union officials at District 751. “There’s more interaction right now between 751 and the management in Seattle than there has been in a long time,” McNerney said. “They are beginning to come together.”

► In today’s P.S. Business Journal — Boeing sees harmony, Machinists disagree in aftermath of contract vote — Machinist Wilson Ferguson, who is now acting president of District Lodge 751 in the wake of Tom Wroblewski’s departure, said the only evidence of communication since the Jan. 3 vote he’s seen are two emails from Ray Conner. He added that those emails, which are upbeat messages about moving ahead, seem more like they’re talking “at” Machinists rather than two-way communication. “If he talks to us, he’s not likely to like the message,” Ferguson said about Conner. “I think we’re in that period now, there’s a lot of bitter feelings. Actions speak louder than words; they proved by their actions they don’t really value our productivity.”




baumgartner-michael► In today’s News Tribune — Teens could see lower minimum wage — SB 6471, introduced by Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane), would create a summer training wage for teens. The bill would allow employers to pay 14- to 19-year-olds hired on a seasonal basis in summer months the federal wage of $7.25. Minimum wage in Washington is currently $9.32.

ALSO at The Stand — Labor backs bill to raise state minimum wage

► In today’s News Tribune — Finance industry pushes back on retirement-savings plan idea for small business — State lawmakers have begun looking at proposals that could create a new state retirement savings plan catering to small businesses and low-wage workers.

► In today’s Olympian — State plans for potential future of pay-by-the-mile — Next year, some Oregon drivers will start paying a cent and a half for every mile they drive — rather than a 30-cent tax on every gallon of gas they pump. Washington, while far behind, has quietly been inching down the same road.




trumka-13► In today’s Washington Post — House GOP’s immigration proposal is ‘fool’s gold,’ says AFL-CIO’s Trumka — AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka, a major backer of President Obama’s immigration push, said in an interview Wednesday that a border plan being developed by House Republicans was a “nonstarter” because it would stop short of offering citizenship to the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.

► In The Hill — Immigration showdown to take center stage at Republican retreat — Top House Republicans will face growing skepticism from reform-minded conservatives when they pitch their principles for an immigration overhaul Thursday at the party’s annual retreat.

► From Buzzfeed– Some Republicans see racism as a factor in immigration stalemate — “Part of it, I think — and I hate to say this, because these are my people — but I hate to say it, but it’s racial,” said the Southern Republican lawmaker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “If you go to town halls people say things like, ‘These people have different cultural customs than we do.’ And that’s code for race.”




► At AFL-CIO Now — Don’t let USPS hit ‘easy button’ to privatization — More than 200 APWU members and supporters demonstrated outside Staples stores in San Francisco and San Jose on Tuesday, challenging an arrangement between the company and the U.S. Postal Service that staffs “postal” counters in Staples stores with non-postal employees. The deal threatens good-paying union jobs and jeopardizes public post offices.

► At Salon — House passes farm bill, cuts food stamps by $8 billion — After nearly two years of stasis and bickering, the House of Representatives passed a nearly $1 trillion farm bill on Wednesday with a bipartisan 251-166 majority.  A majority of Democrats, however, voted against the bill, primarily due to the roughly $8 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, aka food stamps.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Democratic Reps. Jim McDermott and Adam Smith were the only members of Washington’s Congressional delegation to vote “no.”




(Image credit: Flickr user TX Corporate Power Partnership)

(Image credit: Flickr user TX Corporate Power Partnership)

► At In These Times — Hated on the left, TPP also draws conservative foes — If “Obamatrade” catches on as a right-wing rallying cry against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, it will probably have something to do with a sparsely attended press conference on Tuesday. The American Jobs Alliance and the U.S. Business and Industry Council — pro-business groups wary of trade’s impact on America’s national interests — joined with Tea Party Nation and the socially conservative Eagle Forum to rail against the TPP and President Obama’s support for “fast-tracking” the measure.

On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid came out against the existing fast-track bill, but that doesn’t quite mean it’s dead. A “yes” vote in the House could put enough pressure on the Senate to take action or legislators could choose to craft a gentler version of the bill that appeals to Reid — one that allows more time for debate, for example.


The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.

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