Connect with us


Stinking portables, deadly refineries, drained 401(k)s, #TBT…

Thursday, May 8, 2014




KUOW-portable-classrooms► From KUOW — ‘They need to go:’ The environmental and health costs of portable classrooms — Billie Lane teaches in modular classroom at Kalles Junior High in Puyallup. She’s taught in the box for 16 years. And she takes care of it. But not every portable classroom is like hers. “Some of them smell really bad,” she says. “Some of them, the lighting is really bad. It’s dark. It’s dank. And when it’s that kind of an atmosphere, it sets a tone for your meetings or for your classroom. It doesn’t feel very welcoming. It’s not a good place to be.” The Puyallup School District where she teaches has 205 such boxes. They form 20 percent of the district’s classroom space. They hold more than 4,000 students — so many that a new high school, a new middle school and two elementary schools wouldn’t provide enough classroom space for them all.

EDITOR’S NOTE — State lawmakers had the opportunity to step up in 2014. HB 2797, a bipartisan bill to sell $700 million in bonds backed by lottery revenue to construct classrooms across the state, passed the House 90-7. But following a theme for the 2014 session, the Republican-controlled Senate took no action. Meanwhile, voters in Bridgeport just rejected a bond to build an addition at its elementary school to replace its 37-year-old portable buildings. Due unhealthy air quality from mold, the school just had to evacuate one of its portables and find room for the four classrooms in another part of the school. So much for public education being the state’s “paramount duty.”

► From KPLU — Would Seattle transit initiative prompt state lawmakers to expand bus service — Some state lawmakers who are supporting a Seattle initiative to undo King County Metro bus cuts say it could give them some bargaining power in Olympia.





► In The Stranger — $15 Now What? — For all the hoopla around the mayor’s announcement, it wasn’t necessarily an announcement of anything. Sure, his personally appointed committee came to an agreement on what they think a minimum-wage law should look like, and the mayor’s office will transmit legislation to the city council reflecting that. But the council, the city’s legislative body, still has to pass it, and they’ve given themselves a month to tinker with the plan.

► At HA Seattle — Protecting port workers — Now that SeaTac has and Seattle will likely have $15 minimum wages, we ought to look at what that means for the Port. Since the lawsuit is still underway in SeaTac, maybe there won’t be a gaping hole. But for now, it looks likely that jobs at SeaTac Airport and Port of Seattle facilities in Seattle won’t be covered by the minimum wage laws.




safety-tesoro► In today’s Seattle Times — Make refineries safer after Tesoro explosion (editorial) — The final report, approved last week by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, does not represent any kind of closure for the deadly explosion four years ago. Instead, it is a template for change at U.S. petroleum refineries where accidents, injuries and fatalities are routine… The greatest weight falls on the refinery industry to confront its casual attitude toward safety.

► From KPLU — More Washington nuclear weapons workers to be screened for cancer — The federal government and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance are offering free cancer screenings to a particular slice of the workforce: construction workers who helped build and maintain America’s nuclear weapons industry. The program, which began in Tennessee and more recently in eastern Washington, has now expanded into western Washington as well.




► In today’s Seattle Times — Boeing’s Charleston crew set to earn catch up bonus — Boeing’s South Carolina employees have achieved catchup-productivity targets set by management in February and are on the way to fixing the significant lag in production that earlier this year left the 787 fuselage plants mired in unfinished work.




► From KUOW — Detainee hunger strike in Tacoma prompts federal bill — A hunger strike at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma recently ended after nearly two months, but the ripple effects continue. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Bellevue) plans to introduce a bill Thursday that would change how federal agencies operate and audit detention centers.

murray-patty► At Yahoo! News — Murray bill would force Social Security to pay same-sex spouses survivor benefits — For months, the Social Security Administration has put survivor benefit applications from same-sex spouses who live in states that don’t recognize gay marriage on hold. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) hopes to change that. Her bill would amend the Social Security Act to grant survivor benefits to any individual legally married anywhere in the United States, regardless of whether he or she lives in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage.

► In today’s NY Times — Called by Republicans, health insurers give unexpected testimony — Health insurance executives summoned to a House hearing Wednesday refused to go along with any G.O.P criticism of the health care law, undercutting some arguments against it.

► At Politico — Poll: Opposition to tea party rises — Opposition to the tea party is at its highest level in four years, a new poll says. Thirty percent of Americans say they are opponents of the tea party, tied for the highest level since Gallup began tracking the question in 2010.




► At Think Progress — Subway CEO comes out in favor of minimum wage increase — The founder and CEO of Subway says a minimum wage increase wouldn’t be such a bad thing for his stores and workers and believes it should be changed so that wages rise automatically with inflation.

► From CNN Money — Subway leads fast food industry in underpaying workers — McDonald’s gets a lot of bad press for its low pay. But there’s an even bigger offender when it comes to fast food companies underpaying their employees: Subway. Individual Subway franchisees have been found in violation of pay and hour rules in more than 1,100 investigations spanning from 2000 to 2013, according to a CNNMoney analysis.




► In the L.A. Times — Rising use of ‘perma-temp’ workers stirs up California legislative fight —  Employers across California increasingly are cutting labor costs by using long-term temporary workers — and not employees — to pick crops, sew garments, clean hotel rooms, flip burgers and toil in a range of low-wage industries. The use of these workers and their treatment are the focus of a major battle in Sacramento this year between organized labor and business groups.

► At AFL-CIO Now — L.A. becomes first city with more than a dozen unionized car washes — The 133 new unionized carwasheros are represented by the United Steelworkers Local 675. The carwash owners where these employees work also have agreed by contract to comply with all labor, health and safety regulations and give their workers a 2% raise.

► At Daily Kos — Alaska Republican is sorry if comparing union dues to slavery offended anyone — Dan Sullivan, a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in Alaska, has had to sorta-apologize for comparing union dues to slavery.

► In today’s AFL-CIO Now — Make it a union-made Mother’s Day — Mother’s Day is this Sunday and our friends at Labor 411, the union business directory from the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, can help you out.




For Boeing executives and certain politicians who say traditional pensions are a luxury Americans don’t need and corporations/governments should no longer provide because 401(k) savings accounts are sufficient…

wfse-pension-cuts► From MSN — Early tap of 401(k) replaces homes as American piggy bank — For decades, Americans’ homes were their piggy banks. As values rose, they refinanced or took out second mortgages. Since the housing collapse of 2008, that’s often no longer an option. Taking money from a 401(k) — and worrying about the consequences later — became a more attractive alternative and a record number of Americans made early withdrawals in 2010. In that year, Americans took out about $57 billion from retirement funds before they were supposed to. The median size of a 401(k) is $24,400 as of March 31, with people older than 55 having $65,300, according to Fidelity Investments. Those funds can disappear quickly in retirement, and the early withdrawals indicate that the coming retirement crisis could be even more acute than expected.

EDITOR’S NOTE — And of course, what do the aforementioned Boeing executives and certain politicians have in common? They have pensions.





At the Washington State Labor Council’s 1996 COPE Convention at the IAM District 751 Hall in Seattle, (from left) WSLC Secretary-Treasurer Al Link, WSLC President Rick Bender, Norm Rice, Nita Rinehart, Gary Locke and Jay Inslee. The WSLC’s 2014 political endorsement convention is this Saturday, May 10. Get details.

If you have labor-related photos from Washington state that you’d like to share on Throw Back Thursdays, email us.


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

CHECK OUT THE UNION DIFFERENCE in Washington: higher wages, affordable health and dental care, job and retirement security.

FIND OUT HOW TO JOIN TOGETHER with your co-workers to negotiate for better wages, benefits, and a voice at work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!