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Rail safety, training bill, not yet overcome, Yazoo…

Thursday, July 3, 2014




BNSF-train-Seattle► From KUOW — Rail workers raise doubts about safety culture as oil trains roll on — BNSF critics claim the railway has long prioritized speed and profits over safety, with a history of retaliating against workers who report accidents, injuries and safety concerns. Most current employees contacted for this report spoke only on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. These criticisms were echoed by railroad experts in their appraisals of the industry as a whole. Railroads safety has come under public scrutiny now that trains are hauling millions of gallons of oil across North America.

► In the NW Labor Press — Unionist acquitted of trespass charge in right-to-work protest — Painters Local 10 vice president Wyatt McMinn was acquitted June 27 of a first-degree criminal trespass charge stemming from a protest of a “right-to-work” strategy session in Vancouver hosted last fall by the right-wing Freedom Foundation and Cascade Policy Institute think tanks. The mystery was why the police responded in such numbers, and why the Clark County district attorney chose to prosecute such a case.

► In today’s Seattle Times — Mayor pulls plug on big raise for City Light CEO — Seattle Mayor Ed Murray nixed a huge pay raise for City Light CEO Jorge Carrasco on Wednesday, citing “judgment” concerns over recent decisions by the utility chief.

► In today’s Seattle Times — Investigation may close down 6 for-profit Everest College schools — A California company that runs six Everest College for-profit schools in Washington is being investigated by state and federal agencies for its business practices, and the schools are expected to close or be sold.

► In today’s Seattle Times — Forward Seattle delivers referendum signatures to oppose $15 minimum wage — The business-backed group on Wednesday delivered what they hope are enough signatures to qualify a referendum for a public vote on the city $15 minimum wage.

► At Slog — Union activists call BS on Forward Seattle’s anti-minimum wage signatures — Labor-backed activists at Working Washington are already challenging the validity of the signatures with a complaint submitted to King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg.




► From AP — Supporters of small classes advance ballot measure — Sponsors of an effort to decrease class sizes in Washington state turned in more than 325,000 signatures supporting their proposed ballot initiative Wednesday, saying it represents “a clear message” from voters on education reform.




► From AP — Some businesses already looking to opt out of birth control coverage — Business owners who don’t want to pay for their employees’ birth control are ending that coverage after the Supreme Court said they could choose on grounds of religious belief not to comply with part of the health care law. The ruling applies to businesses that are closely held, generally defined as having five or fewer individuals owning more than 50 percent of the company’s stock. By some estimates, 90 percent of businesses are closely held and employ about half the nation’s workforce.

proud-to-be-union► In today’s NY Times — The war on workers (by law professors Cynthia Estlund and William Forbath) — The ability of unions to collect an agency fee reflects a constitutional balance that has governed American labor for some 40 years: Workers can’t be forced to join a union or contribute to its political and ideological activities, but they can be required to pay for the cost of the union’s collective bargaining and contract-administration activities. The Supreme Court majority in Harris v. Quinn saw things differently. Making workers pay anything to a union they oppose is in tension with their First Amendment rights — “something of an anomaly,” in the words of the majority. But the real anomaly lies in according dissenters a right to refuse to pay for the union’s services — services that cost money to deliver, and that put money in the pockets of all employees… Unions are already reeling. At a time when workers are losing economic ground, we should be looking for ways to strengthen their ability to join with co-workers and bargain collectively to improve their lot. Instead, the court in Harris sided with those who seek to weaken it further.




murray-patty► In today’s Seattle Times — Support Sen. Patty Murray’s strong plan for workforce training (editorial) — After years of haggling between parties, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) shepherded the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act through the U.S. Senate last week by a vote of 95 to 3. The act eliminates 15 ineffective federal programs, increases accountability metrics, reduces bureaucracy, improves programs for people with disabilities, and strengthens ties between the state’s regional workforce development councils and employers.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Murray’s legislation is also supported by the AFL-CIO.

► In today’s Spokesman-Review — Highway Trust Fund needs boost in gas tax (editorial) — The federal gasoline tax was last raised in 1993, squeaking through the Senate by one vote. Since that bruising battle, the levy hasn’t been touched, and the shabby shape of the nation’s infrastructure reflects a funding squeeze. In the past 20 years, the nation’s population has grown by 30 percent and the purchasing power of the gasoline tax has dropped by 48 percent. No wonder the Highway Trust Fund is running on fumes.

► In today’s NY Times — Porsches, potholes and patriots (by Nicholas Kristof) — The anti-tax crusaders love to oppose taxation, but important public investments deserve their due. As we celebrate July Fourth, let’s get real about government. Sure, tax money is sometimes squandered, as is money in business. But what strengthens us as a nation is often investments in public goods that benefit all Americans — and, after all, there’s not much point in saving on taxes to buy a Porsche when the roads all have potholes.




mass-incarceration► At Huffington Post — We’ve not yet overcome — On July 2, 1964, the Civil Rights Act was signed into law, officially banning discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It also ended racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and in general public facilities. Fifty years removed from that milestone, it’s apparently easy to think that we’re over racism. Here are 15 facts that prove that’s not the case.

ALSO TODAY at The Stand — Civil War to Civil Rights Act, but millions still disenfranchised (by John Burbank)

► In The Hill — Economy adds 288,000 jobs; unemployment falls to 6.1 percent — The economy added 288,000 jobs in June, a better-than-expected number that helped push the unemployment rate down to 6.1 percent. It’s the lowest the unemployment rate had been since September 2008, the month Lehman Brothers went bankrupt and the financial crisis that set off the recession began.

► At AFL-CIO Now — June jobs report: The silver lining has a cloud — We remain lagging in public-sector employment. Most importantly, local education employment remains near where it was in 2012, about 320,000 below its peak. While other local government jobs appear to have recovered, local public education has not. State government employment also remains lower than its January 2009 high, languishing about 140,000 below its peak.

boycott-staples-its-that-easy► At AFL-CIO Now — U.S. Mail is not for sale: Join the Staples boycott — More and more unions, community groups and other organizations are lining up with the Postal Workers and backing the union’s boycott of Staples. In May, the AFL-CIO endorsed APWU’s boycott of the office-supply giant in response to the U.S. Postal Service’s plan to privatize retail operations by contracting mail services to Staples, using “postal counters” staffed with low-wage, high-turnover Staples employees rather than postal employees.

ALSO at The Stand — AFL-CIO endorses Staples boycott over USPS privatization (June 2, 2014)

► In the U.S. News & World Report — Teachers deserve due process (by AFT President Randi Weingarten) — We need an approach that focuses on improving teaching and learning conditions and equity at the same time we’re improving teacher quality. That’s the way we’ll ensure every child has a great teacher. That’s the way we’ll reclaim the promise of public education for all children.




► The Entire Staff of The Stand will be taking tomorrow off to celebrate the birth of our nation, so this week’s TGIF is TGIT. Today we celebrate the birthday of synthpop master Vince Clarke of Depeche Mode, Yazoo and Erasure. Please excuse his Flock of Seagulls haircut in this rare live Yazoo performance circa 1981 as Clarke demonstrates his knack for keyboard hooks and singer Alison Moyet shows today’s American Idol wannabes how it’s really done. Enjoy!


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