Jobs, wages and happiness; Hanford budget; indecent Rove…

Thursday, May 15, 2014




► From MSNBC — Washington state defies minimum wage logic — Raising the minimum wage could lift hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers out of poverty, but it’s also a job killer. Right? Not so fast. In Washington state, small businesses are adding jobs faster than any other state in the country, according to a report from Paychex and IHS. It’s also the state where minimum wage, at $9.32 per hour, is the highest. Not only was Washington the strongest state, San Francisco — with a minimum wage of $10.74, the country’s highest — had the greatest job gains in the past year among cities measured.

► In today’s Seattle Times — State unemployment hits lowest rate since Great Recession — Washington’s job engine revved up in April, pushing the state unemployment rate to a post-recessionary low of 6.1 percent. As usual, the Seattle area accounted for most of the job growth, with 7,100 of the 7,700 total coming from King and Snohomish counties.

► In the P.S. Business Journal — Job growth, high wages fuel Seattle’s thriving office market — Seattle’s strong job growth coupled with high wages is fueling the area’s burgeoning commercial real estate market.

EDITOR’S NOTE — So wait, higher wages are GOOD for business?! Who knew? Maybe that defiance of “logic” (read: conventional wisdom among politicians in power) explains this…

► In The Stranger — New poll: Support for $15 minimum wage higher than ever in Seattle — Back in January, a poll of Seattle voters showed a whopping 68 percent supported a $15 minimum wage, a level of support that was surprising even to the labor coalition that funded the poll (and the pollsters who conducted it). But that was before the debate heated up, before multiple proposals were out, before big business had time to start organizing. A just-released poll by the same firm finds support for a $15 minimum wage has now hit 74 percent of likely Seattle voters.

EDITOR’S NOTE — The poll also asked Seattle voters to rate different groups’ credibility on the minimum wage issue. The top four most credible (in order): Mayor Ed Murray, Seattle labor unions, fast-food workers, and the M.L. King County Labor Council. All four ranked higher than the Seattle Times, the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, and the Washington Restaurant Association. And speaking of less-credible sources of minimum wage information…

► At Politico — Senate GOP clashes with Mitt Romney on minimum wage — Calls by Mitt Romney and others to raise it are falling on deaf ears within the Republican Party.

► At MSNBC — Does a higher minimum wage make people happier? (by political scientists Michael Krassa and Benjamin Radcliff) — Albert Einstein suggested that we consider changes in social and political practices in accord with the degree to which they contribute to making “human life as satisfying as possible.” Thus, why not judge the minimum wage, and by extension other regulations that affect the relationship between worker and employer, by this criterion: how do such policies affect the degree to which people actually enjoy their lives? Can one approach be empirically demonstrated to contribute to greater levels of human well-being? The following graph is at least highly suggestive of an answer. It plots the mean level of life satisfaction in a nation against its minimum wage (for those industrial democracies that have a minimum wage). As is apparent, the slope relating wages to satisfaction is positive (and statistically significant at the .01 level), meaning that average levels of life satisfaction increase as minimum wage increases.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Short answer: “Yes.”

► In today’s NY Times — Fast food protests spread overseas — Even though fast food workers have staged several one-day strikes in the last 18 months, the protests have not swayed McDonald’s or other major restaurant chains to significantly raise their employees’ pay. So on Thursday, the fast food workers’ movement wants to broaden its reach as it pushes for a $15-an-hour wage that restaurant companies say is unrealistic.




1998 Minimum Wage Petition Turn-in — (Above from left) Rick Bender, then-President of the Washington State Labor Council, is handed Initiative 688 petitions by future WSLC President Jeff Johnson and Lupe Gamboa of the United Farm Workers of Washington State on July 1, 1998, in Olympia. After Gov. Gary Locke spoke at a rally at the base of the Capitol steps that day, a human chain of volunteers passed the stacks of petitions into the Secretary of State’s office. (At right, then-WSLC staffer Robby Stern leads some chants.)

I-688 increased our state minimum wage to the highest in the nation and made Washington the first state to automatically adjust its minimum wage for inflation. Since then, 10 other states have followed suit and today at least 10 more states are considering indexing their minimum wages as well. Using no paid signature gatherers, only volunteers, the I-688 campaign initiated by the WSLC and allied community groups gathered 288,000 signatures. It passed that fall’s election in every county of the state by an overall two-to-one margin.

Have a Throw Back Thursday photo related to Washington’s labor movement that you’d like to share? Send it to us.




► In today’s Olympian — GOP’s McKenna urging support for Sen. Sheldon in 35th race — Key Republicans are lining up behind Democratic state Sen. Tim Sheldon’s re-election in the 35th Legislative District, which is seen as one of a handful of races that could decide control of the Senate next year. The latest to jump in with support: Rob McKenna, the former two-term Republican attorney general, who ran for governor in 2012.

EDITOR’S NOTE — In the photo at left, Sheldon appeared at a press conference in support of McKenna’s failed campaign for Governor in 2012. #TBT: Logrolling edition!

► In today’s News Tribune — Political Smell Test: Ad attacking Tami Green doesn’t tell the whole story — A Republican-backed political committee has launched the first big attack ad of this year’s legislative election season, and it’s taking aim at state Rep. Tami Green (D-Lakewood). Bottom line: the ad is misleading.




► In today’s Tri-City Herald — $3.6 billion needed in 2016 for Hanford cleanup — Hanford will need about $3.6 billion in fiscal 2016 to meet its legal obligations for environmental cleanup, officials said Wednesday at the annual Hanford budget meeting in Richland. That’s $1.5 billion more than the Obama administration has proposed for fiscal 2015 and still could not be enough to meet legal obligations.

► From KPLU — Janitors from UW Tacoma to rally over lack of benefits, low pay — Labor activists plan to rally today at the University of Washington Tacoma campus on behalf of the school’s janitorial workers. The UW Tacoma campus has a contract with a local Tacoma cleaning company called SMS Cleaning. A staffer with the SEIU, which has been working with the UW Tacoma janitors, says the university should either stop contracting out the cleaning work or require the contractor to improve conditions for the workers.

► In today’s News Tribune — Tacoma schools to lay off 18 teachers — Eighteen Tacoma teachers are receiving notices that their jobs will be gone in September. Eight are middle-school teachers and seven teach in high schools.




► In today’s Seattle Times — Boeing will move 2,500 to Eastside this summer — Boeing had finalized leases for eight buildings — six in Bothell and two in Bellevue — to provide office space for between 2,500 and 3,000 employees who will be displaced by demolition of five buildings at its main Everett plant.

► From Bloomberg — Boeing scores $3.8 billion order from Chinese airline — Boeing will sell 50 737 aircraft worth at least $3.8 billion to a low-cost carrier being set up by Juneyao Airlines, as a loosening of Chinese government controls on low-cost travel stokes demand expectations.




► In The Hill — Democrats rebuff White House on tax breaks — Senate Democrats on Wednesday brushed aside concerns from the White House that legislation to revive a slew of lapsed tax breaks would add to the deficit. Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the no. 3 Democrat in the chamber, said any push to find offsets for the roughly $85 billion legislation would be fruitless. The Obama administration said in a statement this week that it hoped Congress would find a way to offset the cost of the tax breaks that lapsed at the end of 2013, which include popular provisions like the research credit and others derided as corporate pork, like incentives for Puerto Rican rum distillers and NASCAR track owners.

► A related story from MSNBC — Obama reminds Congress about infrastructure, jobs — “Building a world-class transportation system is one of the reasons America became an economic superpower in the first place,” Obama said. “But over the past 50 years, as a share of our economy, our investment in transportation has shrunk by 50 percent. Think about that. Our investment in transportation has been cut by half.”

EDITOR’S NOTE — But where will we come up with the money? Hmmm.




► In today’s NY Times — ‘Net neutrality’ puts FCC at center of storm — The  FCC is poised to vote on a plan that critics say could allow Internet service providers to create online fast lanes for the highest corporate bidders. That possibility has upset many consumers concerned about protecting “net neutrality,” which says that all content should be treated equally online.

► In the L.A. Times — After decades of exodus, companies returning production to U.S. — After three decades of an exodus of production to China and other low-wage countries, companies have sharply curtailed moves abroad. Some have begun to return manufacturing to U.S. shores.

► At Daily Kos — Workers at Walmart get $21 million wage theft settlement — Workers in a Walmart warehouse may get $21 million in back pay, interest and penalties as part of a wage theft settlement with contractor Schneider Logistics.




► At Huffington Post — Karl Rove, have you no sense of decency? (by Joe Wilson) — When Karl Rove decided that he would question whether the fall and concussion Hillary Clinton suffered in 2012 to try to disqualify her from consideration for the presidency, it was only his latest cynical move. His history of cheap shots, divisive wedge issues, and slanderous personal attacks has been well documented over the years beginning with the Watergate Report. My family knows what it is like to be dragged through Rove’s sewer. In 2003, he was part of the cabal that betrayed my wife Valerie Plame’s identity as a covert CIA officer, in order to distract attention from the George W. Bush administration’s lies about weapons of mass destruction as justification for war with Iraq… Rove is a despicable figure in American politics. His game is always to divide and demonize Americans, to destroy for short-term gain.


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