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Hanford layoffs, no ‘rate shock,’ coal disasters…

Wednesday, May 14, 2014




► In today’s Tri-City Herald — Hanford lab layoff plan announced — Employees at Hanford’s Waste Sampling and Characterization Facility were given layoff details Tuesday after the Department of Energy’s order to shut down the laboratory. Up to 75 workers will be gone by Sept. 25. The lab also employs many longtime union employees who might be eligible to take the job of an employee elsewhere at Hanford with less longevity in a “bump and roll.”

► In today’s News Tribune — Longshore union, shipping lines begin critical negotiations — Six weeks before their current six-year agreement is due to expire, West Coast union longshore workers and the organization that represents shipping lines and terminals have begun negotiations aimed at avoiding a work stoppage in mid-summer.



► At — Skagit County farm workers claim retaliation after strike — Workers from Skagit County’s Sakuma Farms claim they’re not be rehired for the summer berry picking season because they went on strike last year, demanding better pay and living conditions. Benito Lopez recently received a letter telling him that after 11 years of working at the farm, he is not welcome to return.

ALSO at The Stand — Sakuma Bros. aims to replace farm workers who struck

► At PubliCola — Mayor proposes $45 million plan to prevent Seattle bus cuts — Mayor Ed Murray rolled out a proposal to prevent drastic cuts to Seattle bus service that are otherwise due to start hitting in September; voters countywide rejected a 0.1 percent sales tax and vehicle license fee last month — a desperate response itself to the state legislature’s failure earlier this year to pass a transportation funding package.




OIC-rate-chart-13► In today’s P.S. Business Journal — Insurance premium ‘rate shock’ averted in Washington state — Proposals for health insurance premiums in the upcoming year are in, and in an unusual move, one Washington insurer is requesting a cut in its rates. Many opponents of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, expected premiums to skyrocket more than 30 percent, and while it remains to be seen if other states will see double-digit hikes, “rate shock” fears have been averted in Washington.

ALSO TODAY at The Stand — Health insurers’ proposed rate changes are lowest in 7 years

► At AFL-CIO Now — Vermont passes highest state minimum wage in country — The momentum continues to grow, as Vermont becomes the seventh state to enact a minimum wage increase this year. Vermont takes the issue seriously and will raise their wage to the highest for any state by 2018, when the law is fully implemented. The state’s current wage of $8.73 will be increased to $10.50 over the next four years. Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) says he will be proud to sign it.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Legislation supported by the Washington State Labor Council would have increased Washington’s state minimum wage to $12 over the next three years, but failed to get a vote in the Democratic-controlled House.




AP-turkish-coal-disaster► From AP — Death toll in Turkish mining accident climbs as hundreds found dead — Women wailed uncontrollably, men knelt sobbing and others just stared in disbelief outside a coal mine in western Turkey as rescue workers removed a steady stream of bodies Wednesday from an underground explosion and fire that killed at least 238 workers. The fate of an estimated 120 miners remained unclear in one of Turkey’s worst mining disasters.

► From AP — Violent protests erupt in Turkey after coal disaster

► In today’s NY Times — Two killed in West Virginia mine where safety lapses were cited — Two miners died late Monday in an accident inside a West Virginia coal mine whose long history of safety violations had already brought it under special scrutiny by federal officials.




larsen-rick► In today’s (Everett) Herald — State labor council spurns Larsen with no endorsement — U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen’s call for a vote on the Boeing Co.’s controversial contract offer to the Machinists union has cost him an endorsement from the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. The loss is largely symbolic because Larsen faces no serious challenger in his bid for re-election. In a statement issued by Larsen’s campaign, the veteran lawmaker said: “I understand the anger of the Snohomish County Labor Council, accept and respect their decision, and still believe that Boeing will get a 777X built by the best aerospace workforce in the world, the Machinists of Puget Sound.”

► In today’s Seattle Times — Boeing’s Charleston workers qualify for catch-up bonuses — Boeing’s South Carolina workforce has qualified for the incentive bonuses that management offered in January to catch up on 787 Dreamliner fabrication work, an official at the plant confirmed. Within the next month, workers will receive the incentive bonuses: 8 percent of last year’s gross pay for production workers, worth about $3,000 to $4,000; and a flat $2,500 for engineers and salaried staff.

EDITOR’S NOTE — No word on what kind of bonus Boeing’s Puget Sound-area employees will get for never falling behind in the first place, and in fact, picking up South Carolina’s slack by successfully ramping up 787 production here.




infra-skagit-bridge-collapse► In the USA Today — Business, labor groups urge more road, bridge spending — Construction funding is urgent because the highway trust fund is projected to run out of money for new projects in August. The size of the shortfall is uncertain, depending on construction spending and tax revenues. The Transportation Department projected in March a $700 million shortfall by September. But the American Road and Transportation Builders Association expects Congress will need to provide $16 billion to cover the shortfall. States are expected to halt or postpone projects at that point, which business and labor groups say would eliminate jobs and hurt the economy.

ALSO today at The Stand — White House, AFL-CIO seek more investment in U.S. infrastructure

► In today’s Seattle Times — The importance of infrastructure for jobs (by Jon Talton) — Infrastructure jobs, widely defined, account for 11 percent of national employment and the pay tends to be more equitable, including at the lower end of the earnings scale. Most jobs don’t require college degrees. Long-term operating jobs outnumber shorter-term construction work.

► In The Hill — Health insurers to publish prices online — Three major health insurance companies have agreed to publish their healthcare prices in a free online portal starting next year. The unprecedented move is designed to boost transparency in the U.S. healthcare system, notorious for its hard-to-access and seemingly random prices.

► At AFL-CIO Now — Musicians deliver more than 12,000 petition signatures to Lionsgate — Shipping quality U.S. jobs overseas has been an issue affecting all workers and musicians, and members of the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada are fighting back.

► At AFL-CIO Now — Arena Football Players join AFL-CIO — The Arena Football League Players Union will join the AFL-CIO after its Board of Player Representatives voted unanimously to affiliate with the 57 unions and 12 million members of the labor federation.

bank-CEOs► In today’s (Everett) Herald — Disappearing middle class (editorial) — The banks involved in the housing crisis, as we all recall, were bailed out by taxpayers. It’s time for the banks, in turn, to help the disappearing middle class by investing in them. Perhaps some mortgage programs that actually help American citizens keep their homes and/or get them out from underwater. Earlier programs were too complicated or restrictive and didn’t help enough people. Or have we already given up on the American middle class?




MayDay004► In the Atlantic — How local governments are hacking immigration reform — States and cities are taking immigration reform into their own hands. With prospects for comprehensive legislation bleak in Washington, local governments have begun making decisions about who gets deported and who doesn’t by refusing to participate in a system that has come to rely on them. After a few years of slow but steady progress, local reform is now taking off.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Local jurisdictions around Washington state — including Whatcom County earlier this week — have changed their policies on “ICE detainers” where the feds ask locals to delay the release of inmates who are suspected of having entered the country illegally.


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

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