Dueling budgets, TPP moves, Amazon beats Walmart…

Wednesday, February 26, 2014




► In today’s Olympian — Outsourcing of public services doesn’t work (by Donald Cohen) — Outsourcing means taxpayers have very little say over how tax dollars are spent and no say on actions taken by private companies that control our public services. Outsourcing means taxpayers cannot vote out executives who make decisions that hurt public health and safety. Outsourcing means taxpayers are contractually stuck with a monopoly run by a single corporation — and those contracts often last decades. And outsourcing too often means a race to the bottom for the local economy, as wages and benefits fall while corporate profits rise. That’s why In The Public Interest is supporting the Washington Taxpayer Protection Act, a new proposal from Rep. Sam Hunt that would give Washington tax payers some of the strongest outsourcing protections in the nation.

ALSO TODAY at The Stand — Tell legislators: Pass the Taxpayer Protection Act

► And then there’s this…




► In today’s Spokesman-Review — Senate Democrats offer budget proposal — Senate Democrats unveil a more ambitious — and more politically difficult — proposal to end four tax breaks and spend another $138 million on public schools. They called for a cost-of-living raise for teachers; more state money to schools for books, labs and heating bills; an increase in all-day kindergarten; and fewer students in second-grade classrooms in high-poverty areas.

► At KPLU — Senate Democrats target tax breaks to fund education — Minority Democrats in the Washington Senate want to tax oil refineries, bottled water, prescription drug resellers and out-of-state shoppers. The proposal released Tuesday could generate $100 million per year for public schools.

► At KPLU — Senate GOP includes nearly two dozen tax breaks in its budget plan — The Senate is proposing the creation or extension of nearly two dozen tax breaks, mostly for businesses. Beekeepers, companies that hire unemployed veterans and data server farms would all benefit. So would alcohol resellers, log haulers, and technology and energy companies.

► In today’s Spokesman-Review — Senate Republican coalition budget dodges challenges (editorial) — The budget released Monday by the Republican-controlled majority coalition in the Washington Senate deserves an un-A, for un-ambitious.

► In today’s Yakima H-R — Care centers feeling left out with lack of Medicaid reimbursements — Nursing homes and assisted-living centers on Tuesday pounced on the proposed Senate budget for excluding $29 million to boost Medicaid reimbursements, saying continued low rates could jeopardize quality of care.

► In today’s Seattle Times — Inslee plans bill requiring state test scores in teacher evaluations — Gov. Jay Inslee met Tuesday afternoon with lawmakers from both parties to hammer out a compromise that would allow the state to keep its waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law — and keep control over some $40 million that comes with the waiver.




► At PubliCola — Report: $15 minimum wage in Seattle will hurt human service providers — The Seattle Human Services Commission says that — while it “fully supports raising the minimum wage for all human services workers (and others) to $15 an hour” — an immediate, across-the-board increase, in the absence of additional revenues, they say, would force human service agencies to cut services and lay off workers.

► In today’s Columbian — Pickets briefly block road near Vancouver port — Pickets marking Thursday’s one-year anniversary at the Port of Vancouver’s grain terminal briefly blocked an entrance to the port this morning, as well as a nearby street.




► At AFL-CIO Now — TPP moves ahead without working families’ concerns addressed — AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka: “We are troubled by today’s announcement that the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade and investment talks are nearing completion, as working families have raised many concerns about this trade deal. As the administration moves quickly to finalize the still-secret text of the TPP agreement, we are deeply concerned that in key areas this agreement is on track to mirror problematic or inadequate provisions in previous trade deals.”

ALSO at The Stand — America surrenders democracy under Trans-Pacific Partnership (by Gordon Lafer)

► From AP — US-led trade deal talks to carry on to next round — Negotiators ended talks on a comprehensive trans-Pacific trade pact on Tuesday without a final agreement, but said they were pleased with the progress they had made in Singapore despite persisting conflicts over agricultural tariffs and other issues.




► At TPM — GOP bill would strip 1 million of health care — A Republican-led bill designed to “save American workers” would cause 1 million workers to lose their health care coverage and increase the deficit by $74 billion, according to Congress’ official scorekeeper. The legislation would change the definition of a full-time work week under the health care law from 30 hours per week to 40 hours. The aim was to mitigate the effect of the law’s employer mandate, which says businesses with 50 or more workers must offer insurance to full-time employees.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Co-sponsors include Reps. Dave Reichert and Doc Hastings (R-Wash.)

► At Politico — Democrats to push minimum wage discharge petition — House Democrats will formally launch a discharge petition Wednesday on raising the federal minimum wage – adding a new pressure tactic against Republicans in their arsenal on a hot-button election-year issue.

► In The Hill — Reid stalling action on minimum wage — Reid has not yet unified his caucus on the issue, which is a constant in the Democrats’ election-year playbook. Of the 55 senators who caucus with the Democrats, only 32 have signed on as official co-sponsors of Sen. Tom Harkin’s (D-Iowa) bill.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Both Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) are co-sponsors of the bill.

► In today’s Washington Post — Unions seek federal pay raise at least three times greater than Obama’s proposal — The president will make his proposal for a 1% pay increase in his budget message next week. But union officials say the pay raise should be at least three times what Obama is seeking.

► At Politico — Obama to urge $302 billion transportation bill — On paper, the bill’s annual price tag would be a 38% boost over the anemic $109 billion, two-year highway and transit bill that Congress enacted in 2012. But the true increase over current spending would be considerably smaller: The CBO has said it would take $279 billion over four years just to keep up with current demands.




► From Salon — Worse than Wal-Mart: Amazon’s sick brutality and secret history of ruthlessly intimidating workers — Amazon’s system of employee monitoring is the most oppressive I have ever come across… At Amazon’s center at Rugeley, England, Amazon tags its employees with personal sat-nav (satellite navigation) computers that tell them the route they must travel to shelve consignments of goods, but also set target times for their warehouse journeys and then measure whether targets are met. All this information is available to management in real time, and if an employee is behind schedule she will receive a text message pointing this out and telling her to reach her targets or suffer the consequences. At Amazon’s depot in Allentown, Penn., Kate Salasky worked shifts of up to 11 hours a day, mostly spent walking the length and breadth of the warehouse. In March 2011 she received a warning message from her manager, saying that she had been found unproductive during several minutes of her shift, and she was eventually fired. This employee tagging is now in operation at Amazon centers worldwide.

► Today from Politico — Amazon signs Norm Dicks — The online retailer Amazon has hired Van Ness Feldman to lobby on federal IT acquisition reform and issues related to cloud computing usage by the federal government. Former Washington Rep. Norm Dicks will lobby for the Seattle-based company, along with Ben McMakin, formerly of Sen. Patty Murray’s office.

EDITOR’S NOTE — To sum up: Amazon, a company the IRS says owes more than $1.5 billion in back taxes, has hired Norm Dicks & Co. to help it secure a federal contract to lease space in its data farms to store U.S. government data.

Oh, the humanity.




► From In These Times — Stamp of disapproval: Activists, union workers fight to stop USPS from shedding buildings, jobs — The U.S. Postal Service eliminated more than 37,000 jobs last year, and “postal jobs are going to keep disappearing — at a faster rate than in any other sector of the labor force,” warns retired postmaster Mark Jamison. The downsizing and privatization have mostly happened under the radar, but they occasionally generate public flare-ups, as when the USPS began opening mini-post offices in dozens of Staples stores nationwide last fall. The outlets are staffed by non-unionized Staples employees, whose hourly wage is estimated at $8.25, rather than unionized USPS clerks, who make about $25 per hour.  In January, the American Postal Workers Union mounted protests against the new USPS partnership with Staples, and it is mobilizing its 222,000 members for a broader, long-term fight.

► In The Onion — American Airlines to phase out complementary cabin pressure — The company is also planning to discontinue complimentary landing gear on flights under four hours.


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

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