Thursday, June 5, 2014
► At MSNBC — How privatizing government hollowed out the middle class — Two decades ago, liberals and conservatives found common ground in the doctrine of government privatization. A generation later, the federal government employs more than three times as many contract workers as government workers, and state and local governments spend a combined $1.5 trillion on outsourcing. One result, according to Demos, a nonprofit public policy organization, is that the federal government effectively pays $12 or less to nearly two million contract workers — “more than the number of low-wage workers at Walmart and McDonalds combined.” Now a new report by In the Public Interest, a nonprofit group that tracks government contracting, argues that privatization at the state and local level “contributes to the decline of the middle class and the rise in poverty-level jobs, thereby exacerbating growing economic inequality.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — In our state, both Republicans and Democrats have argued that privatization — or “reducing government’s footprint” — improves government efficiency. But as this article points out, “Much of the ‘efficiency’ realized by privatization lies in reducing former middle-class workers to poverty wages.”
► In today’s (Everett) Herald — Walmart workers among demonstrators at Lynnwood store — About a dozen Walmart workers and about 50 labor supporters marched outside the company’s store here Wednesday, demanding better pay, hours and benefits for hourly employees. “I’m here for a better workplace, better conditions, better pay, better benefits, so we know we can take care of our families,” said Charles Wolford, 30, a 10-year Walmart employee.
► From CNN — Walmart workers strike in major cities — Cincinnati Walmart worker Cynthia Brown-Elliott, 48, joined the protest. A cake decorator in the Wal-Mart bakery, Brown-Elliott makes $8.95 an hour. She has been with Wal-Mart for two years and believes she’s overworked and underpaid. “Save money and live better?” she said, citing the company’s advertising line. “How can you save money if you’re not making enough money? How can you you live better if you’re not paid enough?”
EDITOR’S NOTE — Meanwhile in Phoenix, Walmart strikers from around the country marched to Walmart Chairman Rob Walton’s house to call for an end to retaliation and bullying.
► From Forbes — Why Walmart should follow Gap’s lead and raise its minimum wage (by AFL-CIO’s William Spriggs) — Walmart is still telling workers that the company simply can’t afford to pay them more. This argument is a fallacy. Not only is Walmart massively profitable, but paying higher wages could help their business — and that of many employers — for a variety of reasons.
► From Daily Kos — Walmart pours billions into share buybacks rather than investing in its own workers — A new report shows that Walmart’s low wages may actually be undermining its sales. Rather than investing in good service through adequate staffing, Walmart keeps pouring its profits into share repurchases — more than $6.6 billion last year.
► At Think Progress — Walmart executive bonuses have cost taxpayers $104 million since 2009 — Since 2009, Walmart has ducked $104 million in taxes by exploiting a tax loophole around bonus payments to just eight top executives, according to a new report from the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF).
► In today’s NY Times — After bribery scandal, high-level departures at Walmart — Come July, almost every executive who held a critical position when corruption scandals engulfed the company’s international division will no longer be with the company — but no departure has been cited by Walmart as a way to clean house after those scandals.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Of course, when these execs leave they are compensated handsomely. Ex-CEO Mike Duke, the guy in charge when the bribery scandal happened, got a whopping $113 million, or about 6,182 times greater than the average 401(k) balance of a typical Wal-Mart worker, according to a NerdWallet analysis.
► In today’s Seattle Times — Seattle’s minimum-wage win spurs talk to target more cities — Organizers who pushed a $15 minimum wage in Seattle are looking at their next targets, which could include cities like Bellevue and Spokane, or an increase in the state minimum wage. Gov. Jay Inslee and House Speaker Frank Chopp, both favor raising the state minimum wage to as high as $12 an hour. Chopp vowed to again push a bill to raise the minimum wage to $12 over three years in the next legislative session.
► At Think Progress — How a millionaire, a socialist, and some Taco Bell workers brought a $15 minimum wage to Seattle — It took a year of activist pressure, a worker-dominated election cycle that put a socialist on the city council, and several months of hard negotiating across ideological lines, but the new law will raise Seattle workers’ standard of living dramatically over the coming years. Some things about that process may be unique to Seattle, and replicating the exact recipe the city’s labor, business, and political communities used might be impossible. But interviews with some of the most prominent participants reveal that the key ingredients for a $15 minimum wage are completely portable, and could soon come to a city near you.
► At Huffington Post — Meet the socialist who championed Seattle’s $15 minimum wage law –Kshama Sawant said the credit goes to workers — fast-food employees in particular — for the unanimous passage of a measure that many businesses vehemently opposed and deemed a dangerous experiment. “This would not have been possible had we not had the labor movement fighting for this [and] the fast food workers all around the nation who walked out with great courage,” she said.
► From AP — $15 minimum wage permits few luxuries in U.S. cities — Lattes, theater tickets and cable television will still be out of reach for most minimum-wage workers. But about $31,000 a year should be enough to pay the average rent for a shared one-bedroom apartment, plus utilities, health insurance, groceries and an inexpensive cellphone plan.
► In today’s News Tribune — Wilcox Farms fined in Roy silo collapse that killed worker — Wilcox Family Farms has been fined $67,200 for not properly maintaining a silo at a Roy feed mill that collapsed last December and buried a worker beneath 500 tons of grain, killing him. L&I cited the company for one “willful” violation and two safety violations that likely contributed to the silo’s collapse Dec. 2, killing Steven Green, a 44-year-old Marine who left behind a wife, four children and 13 grandchildren.
► In today’s Columbian — Lawmakers discuss new bridge effort — A group of state lawmakers from Washington and Oregon met in a closed-door meeting in Vancouver on Wednesday to discuss a new Columbia River bridge. It was not, however, a meeting to “revive the Columbia River Crossing,” said Rep. Liz Pike (R-Camas).
► In today’s News Tribune — Former Pierce executive John Ladenburg is finalist for state’s top ferries job — Former Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg is on the short list to head the Washington State Ferry system.
► In the P.S. Business Journal — The making of a ferry: M/V Samish comes to life at Vigor Industrial in Seattle (slide show)
► In today’s (Everett) Herald — Economy depends on labor (editorial) — As business leaders think strategically about the Puget Sound area, the labor force they want to attract needs to be the centerpiece. A skilled workforce, good schools, a thriving local culture: These are all interdependent parts. The hangover of the Boeing special session and the Machinists’ vote will fester for some time. The takeaway: Manufacturers ignore the Northwest’s one-of-a-kind labor force at their own peril.
► In today’s Seattle Times — $120,000 raise OK’d for City Light’s top job — Seattle City Light Chief Executive Officer Jorge Carrasco, already the highest-paid city employee at nearly $245,000 a year, could get a raise of almost $120,000 under a new pay scale approved by a City Council committee Wednesday.
► In today’s Seattle Times — Hotels could transform key downtown Seattle corridor — Construction of more than 2,000 hotel rooms, mixed with condominiums or apartments, could transform Seattle’s Stewart Street in Denny Triangle into a base camp for business travelers and another option for tourists.
► In today’s Seattle Times — Patty Murray: ‘Crushing’ college costs hurt students, economy — The nation’s $1.2 trillion — and growing — student debt is reshaping Americans’ economic lives in far-reaching ways, from slowing rates of homeownership to retirement security to choice of specialty for medical students. The consequences of that financial burden on both borrowers and the U.S. economy were the focus of a Senate Budget Committee hearing Wednesday chaired by Sen. Patty Murray.
► In today’s Detroit Free-Press — UAW elects Dennis Williams president in a landslide: ‘I feel the energy’ — The UAW elected Dennis Williams its 11th president Wednesday in a landslide, putting him in charge of a union struggling to regain bargaining leverage, rebuild its finances and restore political clout.
► In today’s NY Times — T-Mobile, Sprint zeroing in on $32 billion merger — The nation’s third- and fourth-largest wireless phone operators have agreed on the terms of a deal to join forces.
ALSO at The Stand — Activists will urge T-Mobile to end human rights abuses — A T-Mobile worker who was fired for her union activity will speak today at the company’s 9:30 a.m. shareholder meeting at the Hyatt Regency Bellevue.
► At Politico — Medicaid rolls surge, but not everywhere — Medicaid enrollment is surging, but states shunning Obamacare’s huge Medicaid expansion are getting left behind, according to data released Wednesday by HHS.
► In The Hill — Obama extends deferred immigration program — Children who entered the country illegally but received a two-year work permit under an executive action can now renew their deferred action status for an additional two-year term.
► At Think Progress — Candidates who signed anti-immigration pledge are losing their primaries — More Republicans than ever are touting their anti-immigration positions, but Congressional candidates are learning the hard way that taking on such harsh rhetoric does little to win support in this election cycle.
► In Rolling Stone — Three new ways the Koch brothers are screwing America — “They are truly cowards in the worst way,” says filmmaker Robert Greenwald, of the notorious billionaires Charles and David Koch. And he should know. After he released his 2012 documentary, “The Koch Brothers Exposed,” Koch-funded organizations took out ads trying to discredit Greenwald and his work, yet the brothers still declined his repeated offers to debate the topics covered in the film, like the re-segregation of schools and the defanging of the EPA. “I wanted to engage in a policy debate,” he says. “But they won’t engage.”
“The Koch Brothers Exposed: 2014 Edition,” Greenwald’s update to the film (available free online) is centered on their influence in (and outpouring of money since) the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. The three of the fights to which these undocumented millions flow: suppressing the minimum wage, disenfranchising voters, and breaking unions. “Really, what we would like to see is to take the unions out at the knees, so they don’t have the resources to fight,” says Scott Hagerstrom, the Michigan director of Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity.
► Today’s photo is more of a fashion throwback as opposed to a labor throwback, but that’s State Rep. Rick Bender (right) shaking hands with Rep. John McKibbon circa 1975. After serving 18 years in the Washington State Legislature, Bender was elected President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO in March 1993 before retiring in January 2011. McKibbon is now Executive Director of Identity Clark County, a business advocacy association. So there you have it, labor and business working together… to blind us with their suits. Oh, the humanity.
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