Wednesday, June 4, 2014
► In today’s Seattle Times — Spotlight on troubled Tacoma ICE detention center (editorial) — Since 2005, GEO Group, one of the nation’s largest private prison companies, has contracted with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to run the center. Taxpayers should question whether it’s appropriate to subsidize a contractor that has generated record profits amid reports nonviolent detainees are subject to conditions more befitting of serious criminals… Rep. Adam Smith’s bill (to improve oversight) is a step in the right direction, but doesn’t go far enough. GEO’s federal contract to operate ICE’s Tacoma center expires on Oct. 23. Though detention centers are necessary and federal officials promise they have addressed some of the detainees’ concerns, the debate must continue on the cost effectiveness and consequences of allowing profit-driven businesses to run federal prisons without stronger oversight.
► In today’s Seattle Times — Family stays intact, but immigration system still broken (by Danny Westneat) — Two days after his story ran in The Seattle Times last week, ICE overturned the Jaime Rubio-Sulficio’s deportation order, granting him a one-year stay… I chose to write about this guy because he’s a success story and disarmingly honest about what he did wrong. His story also show how inflexible immigration policies often punish Americans — in this case making his American wife and son choose between country and family. So I’m thrilled they won a round in their fight to stay together. But it’s yet another sign of how broken the immigration system really is if cases are being decided by who gets in the newspaper.
► A MUST-READ at Slog — Stop demonizing ‘burger-flippers’ and start thinking about solutions (by Paul Constant) — People have to let go of this belief that the market leans toward fair wages. The market wants to pay workers as little as it possibly can. Is any person “worth” only poverty wages? Is anyone “worth” hundreds of millions a year? Stop pretending that business is a magnanimous God. Government steps in to make business behave in our best interests. That’s one of government’s primary roles in the modern world. Just because you started a small business does not mean you have any more of a right to life than anyone else. And this is coming down to a matter of survival. The minimum wage hasn’t increased as quickly as it should, and American workers are making less money than they used to. The $15 minimum wage won’t mean that fast food workers will be living like royalty. It just means they’ll have a little more money, and so maybe a little more opportunity to improve their situations. When anonymous assholes on the internet comment derisively about how “burger-flippers” don’t deserve the dignity of a living wage, their statements are so dismissive and hateful that you can almost feel the bigotry oozing off the computer screen.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Right on.
► In the P.S. Business Journal — Franchise group says Seattle’s minimum wage new law violates Constitution — The International Franchise Association says the minimum wage phase-in Seattle Mayor Ed Murray will sign today is unfair and discriminatory (because it treats fast-food franchises as “big businesses”), and plans to take legal action in federal court to prove it.
EDITOR’S NOTE — So business interests fought for a slower phase-in for “small businesses,” labor interests agreed, city leaders supported the compromise, and now business interests are suing to expand the slow phase-in to include fast-food franchises. Lovely. Here’s a simple fix: End the slow phase-in for “small businesses” with fewer than 500 employees, and let everybody pay $15 in three years. Problem solved! You’re welcome.
► At FiveThirtyEight.com — Why we still can’t afford to fix America’s broken infrastructure — The answer to what’s holding back U.S. infrastructure investment lies not so much with President Obama and Congress as with county commissioners and state legislatures. Most of the money spent on building schools, highways and waste disposal facilities comes from state and local governments, not from the federal government.
► At PubliCola — King County Council split on Metro cuts — Legislation proposed by Democratic King County Council member Rod Dembowski that would limit the extent of cuts to Metro proposed, in separate legislation also passed by the committee, by King County Executive Dow Constantine, passed out of the council’s transportation committee this morning by a 4-3 vote.
► In today’s Columbian — Mielke, Madore appoint Ed Barnes as third county commissioner — Clark County commissioners David Madore and Tom Mielke on Tuesday appointed Ed Barnes, a retired labor leader and frequent critic of the commissioners, to join them on the three-member board. The decision ends a two-month appointment process begun when Democrat Steve Stuart stepped down.
► In the Peninsula Daily News — Kilmer notes need for trades workers in Port Angeles tour — One of the biggest challenges employers have today is finding qualified employees for technical and trades work, U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer told those at a Port Angeles Business Association breakfast meeting Tuesday.
► At Vox — Supreme Court could cut union membership in half — The Supreme Court is expected to rule any day now on the case of Harris v Quinn, a somewhat obscure tale of a mother’s reimbursement payment for providing her disabled son with home-based health care that’s exploded into a potential political earthquake that potentially holds the fate of public sector labor unions in the balance.
► In today’s Spokesman-Review — Veterans frustrated with wait times at Spokane VA hospital (by Shawn Vestal) — But several veterans interviewed this week have also noted that the care is often very good once they get in. Many praise the doctors, nurses and staffers who work in the hospitals, saying they are so understaffed they cannot keep up. “The nurses and doctors have so many patients they’re overwhelmed,” said Brad Rafford, a 69-year-old Vietnam veteran of the Navy who has been receiving VA care in Spokane for nine years.
► At Huffington Post — Employees, unions hold key to ending VA’s health care crisis (by AFGE President J. David Cox) — Federal unions always have been active partners in improving the Department of Veterans Affairs and addressing problems as they arise. Contrary to what many in the conservative media have desperately suggested in recent days, unions are not the reason why the VA is facing a crisis over delays in providing health care to our nation’s war heroes. In fact, unions are the solution.
► In The Hill — Should police get workplace protections? — OSHA is considering the first-ever standards to protect law enforcement officers and other emergency responders from occupational hazards, the agency announced this week. OSHA said it was motivated to act by the chemical plant explosion in West, Texas last year that killed 15 people, mostly emergency responders.
► From CNN — Walmart workers plan strikes — Wal-Mart Stores workers and union organizers say they will hold strikes in more than 20 cities Wednesday in their campaign to raise wages. The job actions are timed in conjunction with Wal-Mart’s annual shareholder meeting, which takes place Friday in Fayetteville, Ark., near the company’s Bentonville headquarters.
ALSO at The Stand — Stand with Walmart workers Wednesday in Mt. Vernon, Lynnwood
► From AP — UAW workers’ dues to rise 25 percent; first increase in 47 years — Delegates to the United Auto Workers convention have voted to raise dues by 25 percent to shore up the union’s finances, the first increase in 47 years. Representatives from local unions across the nation approved the increase with a show of hands, raising dues from two hours of pay per month to 2 1/2 hours.
► From Rachael Maddow — Voter ID law blocks 93-year-old voter in Alabama — Two years ago, the nation was introduced to Viviette Applewhite, a 93-year-old widow in Pennsylvania who had marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Applewhite has voted in nearly every election for the last-half century — right up until 2012, when the state told this African-American woman she wouldn’t be allowed to cast a ballot because Republicans policymakers had created a voter-ID law to combat voter fraud that didn’t exist. After her story garnered national attention, election officials helped get Applewhite situation straightened out — and more recently, the law itself was struck down as unconstitutional — but the incident was a reminder about the real-world impact of unnecessary voter-ID laws.
Two years later, we learn of a similar face — of the same age — in the “war on voting.” Willie Mims, 93, showed up to vote at his polling place in Escambia County Tuesday morning for Alabama’s primary elections. Mims, who is Africa-American, no longer drives, doesn’t have a license, and has no other form of ID. As a result, he was turned away without voting. Mims wasn’t even offered the chance to cast a provisional ballot, as the law requires in that situation.
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