Tuesday, May 6, 2014
► In the Seattle Times — Unions are back with city-by-city wage campaign (by Danny Westneat) — Remember how unions were supposed to be dying? True they’ve been slip-sliding in a general decline for 50 years. But suddenly these are looking like the best days for unions in decades. For starters, it’s an unexpected growth industry. Last year the number of unionized workers in this state shot up by 33,000, the largest increase since the mid-1990s. More surprising, all of that growth was in the private sector…. Instead of trying to organize workers business by business, the idea is to wage broader, public-spirited campaigns like the $15 wage fight.
ALSO at The Stand — Union membership gains; Washington ranks 4th
► At PubliCola — Seattle City Council takes up mayor’s minimum wage proposal — The city council started work today on Mayor Ed Murray’s minimum wage plan. Council members seemed generally pleased with the plan; even socialist and 15Now activist Kshama Sawant, who voted against the proposal in the committee because she felt it capitulated too much to “big business,” praised the mayor and his staff. “I think this was incredible work and very historic,” Sawant said.
► At Labor Notes — Seattle: $15, for real? — The impetus for this struggle came from fast food workers, both locally and nationally, striking to demand a $15 wage. It was bolstered by the 2013 referendum establishing a $15 minimum wage for certain airport-related work in nearby SeaTac, and by Kshama Sawant’s run for city council. Sawant said the “incredible pace of development since the late 2012 fast food walkouts” has meant that “big business and the political establishment were not able to speak out against $15.”
► In the Seattle Times — Seattle off to promising start on plan to raise minimum wage (by Jerry Large) — The steps Seattle has taken give voice to frustration and anger over economic inequality, while making a concrete first step toward a better, more-democratic society. This is not the end of the battle, but an encouraging first win for equality.
► In the Seattle Times — How the $15 wage deal came together in Seattle — To reach a historic agreement on raising the city’s minimum wage, business and labor had to compromise on big issues. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray threatened to introduce his own proposal that was less business-friendly. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how the deal came together.
► In the P.S. Business Journal — Machinists’ votes on union reform ticket will be counted this week — Ballots will be counted starting Wednesday in Washington, D.C., from a historic union vote on whether to replace the leadership of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. The vote, which grew out of contract negotiations in the Puget Sound area between Boeing and the union’s District Lodge 751, could result in replacement of longtime President Tom Buffenbarger with reformer Jay Cronk.
► In Sunday’s (Everett) Herald — Boeing got huge tax breaks, state got no job guarantees — When Washington lawmakers rushed to extend a monster tax break to Boeing Co. for the 777X, a few argued in vain for assurances the aerospace giant wouldn’t ax engineering jobs in the process. Democratic lawmakers wanted provisions to stem the flow of billions of dollars in savings to the company if it didn’t sustain its workforce at generally the same levels through the life of the tax break. But their concerns were shelved by House and Senate leaders and by Gov. Jay Inslee, who didn’t want to risk losing thousands of jobs associated with assembling the new jetliner to another state.
Now leaders of unions for the Machinists, who will get many of those jobs, and the engineers, whose ranks are getting thinned, are going to press lawmakers to take another shot at it in 2015.
► In Sunday’s (Everett) Herald — Boeing: Northwest’s fickle partner (editorial) — Sen. Bob Hasegawa (D-Seattle), a veteran of the labor movement, pushed language to keep engineering and design jobs for the 777X based in Washington. But Hasegawa was rebuffed. “We’ve got a very clean bill. We are going to keep it this way,” Sen. Andy Hill (R-Redmond) said at the time. It was clean enough to blow a thousand engineering jobs through. Hasegawa was prescient.
► In the Post and Courier — No vote set yet for union trying to organize Boeing South Carolina in North Charleston — Union representatives are still trying to educate workers on the benefits of joining the group and there are many other steps that must take place before an election can be called.
► In Sunday’s Skagit Valley Herald — Wider use of H-2A angers farm workers — Workers are angry over local farmers’ use of the H-2A guest worker program after learning that some who went on strike at Sakuma Bros. Farms last summer won’t be able to work there this season. Those workers, many of whom are members of the labor group Familias Unidas por la Justicia, say Sakuma Bros. is using the guest worker program to displace local workers.
ALSO TODAY at the Stand — Sakuma Bros. aims to replace farm workers who struck
► In today’s Seattle Times — Ron Sims to lead board overseeing state’s health insurance exchange — Ron Sims has been appointed to Gov. Jay Inslee to take the helm of Washington’s Health Benefit Exchange Board, which oversees the state’s health insurance exchange. The exchange, called the Washington Healthplanfinder, was created under the Affordable Care Act and is the marketplace where Washington residents can enroll in Medicaid and purchase insurance coverage, including insurance plans subsidized by the government.
► In today’s Olympian — Washington tuition among fastest growing — A national report shows tuition at Washington’s public universities increased more during the recession than in any state except Arizona.
► In today’s NY Times — Mortality drop seen to follow 2006 health law in Massachusetts — The death rate in Massachusetts dropped significantly after it adopted mandatory health care coverage in 2006, a study released Monday found, offering evidence that the country’s first experiment with universal coverage — and the model for crucial parts of President Obama’s health care law — has saved lives, health economists say.
► In the USA Today — Bonuses for federal workers cut in half, figures show — Bonus pay for 1.3 million federal workers fell off a proverbial fiscal cliff last year, dropping nearly 50% as a result of draconian budget cuts tied to a partial government shutdown and recent caps on employee awards.
► In The Onion — Income inequality emerges as key topic to avoid in 2014 elections — “The well-documented and steadily increasing gap between the rich and poor has come to the fore as the hot-button issue that all congressional candidates will be dodging at town halls, in televised debates, and at voter meet-and-greets in 2014,” said political analyst Rebecca Diemer.
► If you’ve heard about the new book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by economist Thomas Piketty, you probably know it is reframing the discussion about income and wealth inequality in America and what it means for our society. If you haven’t had time (yet) to read this 700-page book, then set aside 24 minutes to watch Bill Moyers and Paul Krugman discuss why it is so important and why the 1% would prefer that you not read it.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.