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Settling for less, federal austerity, skilled berry picking…

Wednesday, May 21, 2014




lets-make-a-deal► In today’s News Tribune — Court decision could mean more settlements for injured workers — Injured workers in Washington have been choosing over the past few years whether to take a cash settlement in compensation for their injuries instead of a lifetime pension. But the state Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals has blocked some of those settlements when it believes they are not in the best interest of the worker. A court put a halt to that Tuesday for workers with attorneys, saying the board can’t intervene to protect the workers from themselves.

“Evidence from other states that have had ‘compromise and release’ settlements in place for some time are filled with examples of workers getting the short end of the stick because they are hard pressed financially to do anything other than to agree to a bad deal,” Washington State Labor Council President Jeff Johnson said.

► In today’s Olympian — First openly gay justice takes oath in Olympia — Mary Yu was sworn in as the newest member of the Washington state Supreme Court on Tuesday, marking the first time the high court has had an openly gay justice.




mcconnell-mitch► In the Washington Post — The new campaign contribution: I’ll get my employees to vote for you — Some businesses in states with pitched Republican primary fights are turning to a relatively new tool to help ensure the outcome they want: telling employees how they want them to vote. Thanks in part to Citizens United, it’s perfectly legal… The National Association of Manufacturers spent a week in Kentucky, briefing “as many as 10 businesses a day” on how to get their employees to vote for Sen. Mitch McConnell.

► At Politico — 2014 primary election results: Establishment, self-funders win big in primaries — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell defeated his GOP challenger in Kentucky by 25 percentage points, a high-profile but low-suspense race on a critical primary day when voters cast ballots in six states.

► In today’s Washington Post — The tea party isn’t just losing. It’s losing big. — While the tea party has been successful when pushing candidates to the right in open-seat Republican primaries, it hasn’t had any luck kicking out GOP incumbents this year. And its candidates really haven’t come close.




austerity_not-working► In today’s Washington Post — Weakened workforce could ‘overwhelm government’s capacity,’ report says — Interviews with the personnel leaders at 43 federal agencies present a picture of a government that risks malfunction if serious repairs are not made soon. Among the findings: 1) “If government policies and policymakers continue to undermine the federal workforce, the weakening of that workforce could overwhelm government’s capacity to carry out its responsibilities.” 2) Federal leaders “need to help undo the deep institutional neglect within major segments of the federal workforce.” 3) Tight budgets and growing workloads “have damaged the federal workforce’s ability to meet demands effectively and efficiently.”

► A related story in today’s Seattle Times — Delays in care: VA patients waited, suffered, died — Growing evidence suggests a system with overworked physicians, high turnover and schedulers often hiding the extent to which patients are forced to wait for care.

► In The Hill — Unions, oil lobby team up on Keystone push — A prominent oil lobby, and six unions are pressuring the Senate to vote for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.  In a letter sent to the entire Senate on Wednesday, the unions and the American Petroleum Institute call on lawmakers to bring legislation that would greenlight the oil-sands pipeline to the floor and allow a binding vote on it.

► In the NY Times — Republican war on workers’ rights (by Corey Robin) — What might Adam Smith, often claimed as the intellectual godfather of the American right, have said about these legislative efforts? “Whenever the legislature attempts to regulate the differences between masters and their workmen,” wrote Smith in The Wealth of Nations, “its counsellors are always the masters. When the regulation, therefore, is in favour of the workmen, it is always just and equitable; but it is sometimes otherwise when in favour of the masters.”




horsey-CEO-profit-sharing► In the LA Times — Corporate success should be shared with workers, not just CEOs (by David Horsey) — Americans used to have a better deal in the workplace. Much of it was fairness forced on companies by the power of labor unions. Collective bargaining, though, has all but disappeared from much of the economy and workers are now mostly left as individual cogs in the system with little to rely on but luck, their own gumption and the beneficence of their employer.

► In today’s LA Times — It’s California’s chance to strike a blow for workers’ rights (by Harold Meyerson) — Everybody’s talking about inequality, but some California legislators actually mean to do something about it. A bill by two state senators would raise the state’s corporate tax rate on companies whose chief executive officers make more than 100 times the wages of their median employee, and lower it on corporations whose CEOs make less than 100 times their median worker’s wage.

► At Salon — 5 ways privatization is fleecing American taxpayers — How has the national wave of privatization worked out? Has privatization saved taxpayers money and improved services to citizens? Simple answer: of course not. The result of falling for the privatization scam is that taxpayers have been fleeced, services to citizens have been cut way back and communities have been made poorer. But the companies that convinced governments to hand over public functions have gotten rich off of the deal.

► A related story in The Hill — Another state nixes its health exchange — Nevada fired Xerox Tuesday from managing its state health exchange website, Nevada Health Link, after a series of problems with the site.

► From AP — Koch Brothers group prepares to fight Detroit deal — Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group supported by the Koch brothers, has launched an effort to torpedo a proposed settlement in the Detroit bankruptcy case, potentially complicating chances for completing the deal just as its prospects seemed to be improving.

► In The Onion — Man buys only products made right here in USA by cheap immigrant labor — “Why should I buy stuff made by exploited foreigners in another country when I can buy stuff made by exploited foreigners who work on American soil?” said local man Doug Adelwright, 47.




seth-holmes-migrant-berry-picker► At KPLU — 5 things one anthropologist learned while working as a migrant berry picker in Washington — Seth Holmes is a doctor and anthropologist at the University of California, Berkeley who did something that wouldn’t occur to most white, middle-class, highly-educated Americans. He spent a year and a half traveling, living with and working alongside migrant indigenous Mexican farmworkers from the state of Oaxaca. His stint included two seasons picking strawberries and blueberries on a large farm in Skagit County. Five things he learned: 1) Picking berries is a highly skilled job; 2)  Picking berries at the speed and duration required hurts the body; 3) Organic fields don’t necessarily mean better worker treatment; 4) How you are treated depends on your ethnicity and citizenship; and 5) Local farming is struggling to survive due to global economics.


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