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SPEEA in SC, pesticide drift, our crumbling infrastructure…

Tuesday, May 13, 2014




SPEEA-12► In the P.S. Business Journal — Boeing engineering union takes steps toward organizing in South Carolina — Workers’ dissatisfaction with Boeing’s increased pressure on its unions seems to opening the door to unionization in South Carolina. Representatives of Boeing’s engineering union will meet with Boeing workers in North Charleston on Tuesday, primarily to inform just six union members who live in the Charleston area about their payouts under the $47 million arbitration award the union won in April. But while they’re there, SPEEA representatives will also be talking organizing.

► In today’s Seattle Times — Boeing fallout: Larsen snubbed as unions endorse Democrats — U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, was noticeably absent from the Washington State Labor Council’s endorsement roster. The labor council backed a Democrat in every other congressional race, but declined to endorse anyone in the 2nd Congressional District, where Larsen is seeking reelection. The union snub stems from Larsen’s stumping for a controversial Boeing Machinists contract ratified earlier this year.

ALSO at The Stand — WSLC delegates make election endorsements




sr-sta-driver-gabe-fernos► In today’s Spokesman-Review — STA bus operator named best driver in North America — Gabe Fernos’ urge to compete has driven him — quite literally – to attain one of the most respected honors in his profession. The 48-year-old driver for Spokane Transit Authority was named the best driver in North America after finishing first in his class last week at the 2014 International Bus Roadeo in Kansas City, Missouri.

► In today’s Seattle Times — County, city take variety of routes on bus rescue — To stave off service cuts, Seattle may see a city-only proposal to raise the sales tax and hike car-tab fees. King County has a plan that would allow cities and big employers to purchase bus-service hours for routes of their choosing.

► From KUOW — Us too! King County considers minimum wage for employees — In the “me too” department, King County is jumping on the bandwagon to consider a higher minimum wage for its employees. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray issued a similar proposal for city workers soon after he took office in January.




pesticide-drift► In today’s Yakima H-R — Pesticide illness cases show jump this spring — The state Department of Heath reports a spike in pesticide-related illnesses, with 60 people becoming ill so far this spring, including two cases in Yakima County. All of the recent cases have occurred in Eastern Washington in counties with lots of orchards. Most of the exposures are believed to be the result of pesticide drift — when the chemical spray drifts away due to wind or improper application.

► From KUOW — Sudden rise in pesticide-related illnesses in Eastern Washington — The number of pesticide drift events in just the last few months is double the number seen all of last year.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Two years ago, Rep. Chris Reykdal (D-Olympia) sponsored legislation to establish standards to protect people from exposure to pesticide drift by airplane or air-blast sprayers. Proponents pointed out existing laws do a better job protecting plants and animals than they do human beings. Farm workers, in particular, are vulnerable to pesticide-related illnesses. But Republicans called the effort an “attack” on the agriculture industry, and the legislation was killed.




► In The Hill —Insurers give $1.5 billion in rebates under Obamacare — Insurance companies returned over $1.5 billion in rebates to consumers between 2011 and 2012, according to a report issued on Tuesday. The reason is an ObamaCare requirement meant to force companies to spend a higher proportion of premiums on medical costs or quality improvements. The new law states that 80-85 percent of premiums must be used by companies to pay for treatment and medical costs. Companies that fail to meet that ratio must pay rebates.

► At HA Seattle — Misleading Seattle Times headline spins Obamacare win into Obamacare failure — “Insurers propose up to 26% increase in health-plan rates,” the headline on the front page of the Seattle Times website warns. But as the story indicates: “The proposed rate changes range from a decrease of 6.8 percent — from Molina Healthcare of Washington — to an increase of 26 percent from Time Insurance, a national company with relatively few Washington policyholders.”

► In today’s NY Times — More insured, but the choices are narrowing — Consumers seem to be willing to give up some choice in favor of lower prices, but critics, including opponents of the new health care law, are wary about narrowing networks.



► From AP — NYC area airport workers vote to join union — Several thousand contract workers employed at the New York City area’s major airports voted Monday to join a union after campaigning for better pay and benefits.

infra-skagit-bridge-collapse► In today’s Seattle Times — America’s shabby, crumbling infrastructure is a scandal (by Lance Dickie) — We ignore the care and maintenance of our basic national infrastructure at our collective peril. Refusing to build and maintain roads, bridges, airports and related civic investments is foolish. And we have been doing it for decades. Faced with the Federal Highway Trust Fund turning to dust in August, the Obama White House is supposed to lean on Congress this week to pump more money into the account.

► At Politico — Chamber of Commerce gives ultimatum to GOP — The GOP shouldn’t even field a presidential candidate in 2016 unless Congress passes immigration reform this year, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue said Monday. “If the Republicans don’t do it, they shouldn’t bother to run a candidate in 2016,” he said.

stop-alec► In the LA Times — ALEC fires back, but proves its ‘pro-business’ state index is bogus (by Michael Hiltzik) — Plainly stung by the chorus of ridicule that has greeted their latest attempt to paint anti-union policies and tax cuts for the rich as pathways to economic nirvana, the folks at the American Legislative Exchange Council have struck back with a “response to the critics.” It’s a curious document that ends up proving the critics’ point. ALEC is on especially shaky ground when it attempts to tie individual policies to economic outcomes. Take anti-union “right to work” laws, a proud arrow in the ALEC quiver. We matched these laws against state level real gross domestic product growth 2009-12, as reported by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. On average, right-to-work states trailed their union-friendlier brethren in GDP growth over the period.

► At Think Progress — Big bank CEOs don’t need to do their jobs well to get huge paychecks — Even though smaller bank CEOs outperformed their bigger rivals by about two-and-a-half times, the heads of the the largest banks earned about 2.6 times what their better-performing colleagues were paid.

► At Daily Kos — Walmart’s poor sales don’t keep top executives from getting millions in ‘incentive’ pay — Walmart’s stock prices and sales figures aren’t doing so well. Its workers remain seriously underpaid. But its top executives are doing just fine, despite the retail giant’s growth slowdown.

► In The Hill — NLRB seeks input on Northwestern football union case — The NLRB on Monday issued a formal announcement inviting briefs from the two sides in the dispute and other interested parties wishing to weigh in as amici.




piketty-capital► At Salon — The problem with Piketty: ‘Capital’ destroys right-wing lies, but there’s one solution it forgets — After Tomas Piketty’s “Capital,” we’ll never talk income inequality or meritocratic myths the same way. But we must talk unions… A powerful labor movement is not the complete solution to plutocracy, but it would go a long way toward addressing the problem in its out-of-control American form. What we need is (for) our own elected officials to protect the rights we already have on paper. Organized labor has suggested one possible remedy: the Employee Free Choice Act, which Obama supported but which got nowhere in Congress. Others have proposed protecting union membership with Civil Rights laws, thereby allowing workers who are fired for joining a union to sue their bosses directly rather than going through a labyrinthine Federal bureaucracy… The outrage of soaring inequality is ultimately, as Piketty reminds us, a challenge to democracy itself. That the beginning of a solution might come from extending the logic of democracy to the workplace would make for an appropriate storybook ending to this saga of plutocracy unbound.


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