The Stand

Conservative job killers, lockout ads, deadly heat exposure…

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

 


STATE GOVERNMENT

 

GOP-job-killers► From KPLU — Feds warn states of possible highway cash holdback — Washington and Oregon may follow Idaho’s lead in temporarily suspending advertising for bids for some highway projects. The issue here is that the federal gas tax hasn’t gone up for more than 20 years while commitments for highway construction have. In the past, Congress has patched the gap with transfers and borrowing. But this year, conservatives are warning, “No more.” In response, the Obama Administration is warning states that starting next month they may get less federal highway construction money.

► In today’s Spokesman-Review — Stay at Work a bright spot in workers’ compensation program (editorial) — Washington’s workers’ compensation program has more than its fair share of critics, but has gotten some things right in recent years, and its Stay at Work program is one. Approved by the Legislature in 2011, Stay at Work pays one-half the wages of injured workers if they can be placed in another “light duty” job within a company while they recover. The employer gets to keep a worker with skills it may have taken years to learn; the employee continues to draw a paycheck. And the work-comp program potentially saves $32 million per year it would otherwise have paid out in claims.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Stay at Work and the expansion of Centers for Occupational Health & Education (which is also touted in this editorial) were aspects of the 2011 workers’ compensation reforms that were supported by both business and labor. And they are saving the system millions of dollars. But labor opposed the 2011 introduction of “compromise-and-release” buyout settlements of injured workers, and that controversial change has saved far less than advocates promised it would when they sold the idea to the Legislature. Of course, their solution is to double down on this failed experiment, while labor supports abandoning it.

► In today’s Oregonian — Unemployment insurance: Payments climb as high as $549 in Oregon — State officials announced Monday that weekly unemployment checks will now top out at $549, or $11 more than was the case over the last 12 months. Meanwhile, the minimum payment climbed $2 weekly, to $128.

EDITOR’S NOTE — In Washington, the minimum benefit was increased to $151 and the maximum benefit to $637 for new claims opened on or after July 6. Remember, this money not only helps people who’ve lost their jobs through no fault of their own to meet their family’s basic needs, it pumps money into local economies hardest hit by job loss, helping businesses survive.

 


LOCAL

 

col-vancouver-port-lockout► In today’s Columbian — Maritime union radio ads take on lockout — Two maritime unions said Monday they’ve launched a radio ad campaign to focus attention on what they say are safety and environmental risks to the Columbia and Willamette rivers brought on by a lockout of union dockworkers by two grain companies. The ads, paid for by the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots and the Inlandboatmen’s Union, say United Grain Corp. at the Port of Vancouver and Columbia Grain in Portland are “using inexperienced crews to move cargo” on the Columbia and Willamette rivers. The maritime unions say they’re joined by environmentalists in running the ad campaign, which also urges listeners to sign an online petition, www.SaveNWrivers.com.

► In the Oregonian — Postal Service has apparently begun delivering Amazon packages on Sundays in Portland, Seattle — Amazon inked a partnership with the USPS last fall to begin Sunday delivery, hoping that the additional delivery day will produce additional sales to customers who hate waiting even one day extra for their orders.

► At PubliCola — Mayor Murray: Cut rail funding for buses — Murray and the Seattle Department of Transportation will argue this week that the city should cut funding for a study about light rail from downtown to Ballard and use the money instead to extend funding for Night Owl bus service. Under the current Metro proposal, those routes are scheduled to be cut.

► In today’s Yakima H-R — Yakima County deputies ratify labor contract — The agreement that gives deputies a 6.5 percent pay increase over the 5-year contract ends years of gridlock and eliminates the need for binding arbitration.

 


AEROSPACE

 

KING-Boeing-spill► In the PS Business Journal — That 737 train wreck could derail Boeing’s production line in Renton — Boeing’s Renton assembly plant continued to run full bore on Monday. The only questions are whether the plant will be able to maintain its production rate if the fuselage supply runs low, and how much overtime Machinists will have to work to keep the plant pumping out aircraft at the current rate of two a day, said IAM 751 Local A President Les Mullen: “No matter which way this has to go, our people are going to be the ones to bail this out and get the work done.”

► In the PS Business Journal — Are these Boeing fuselages totaled? That’s a complicated question — Boeing and its insurers must decide which of the six 737 fuselages involved in a July 3 railroad derailment can fly, and which will have to be parted out or even scrapped. It’s a complex question involving cost of repairs, weight of repairs, and whether airline customers will accept the results.

 


FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

 

chicken-little-l► In today’s NY Times — Germany and the minimum wage (editorial) — In Germany, as in the United States, business lobbyists and some economists have warned that a robust minimum wage will lead to job losses and higher prices, but that has not been the historical experience. Rather, higher wages for low-wage workers are generally offset by lower labor turnover, while the boost in consumer spending from higher wages is good for the economy. Germany’s move offers the United States important lessons, if only lawmakers in Washington would learn.

ALSO at The Stand — Higher job growth in states raising minimum wage

► In The Hill — Left pushes regulators to lift curtain on CEO pay — Several labor unions and public interest groups are putting pressure on federal regulators to issue a controversial regulation intended to reveal the earnings gap between CEOs and employees. Many fear regulators will bend to pressure from business groups and water down the final rules, perhaps by adding language that could help companies avoid the disclosure.

► At Politico — Obama delays deportation change for now — The Obama administration plans to delay — for now — asking Congress to change existing laws to allow unaccompanied children coming here illegally from Central America to be deported more quickly to their home countries.

► At Politico — Arne Duncan dismisses union call for resignation — Education Secretary Arne Duncan has brushed off a call for his resignation from the National Education Association. The NEA adopted the resolution last week at its representative assembly in Denver, where the air was charged with anger and members buzzed with frustration at Duncan and other education reformers — especially their emphasis on high-stakes testing.

► At The Week — Why I quit teaching after 33 years (by Gary Wiener) — Reason #7: On June 20, I spent the day scoring the English Language Arts Regents Exam, a New York state comprehensive test that functions as a graduation requirement. My colleagues informed me that my students wrote great essays. Too bad I wasn’t allowed to read them. (Teachers can no longer score their own students’ exams.) Reason #8: On June 23, I spent the day scoring “local 20” exams to assess teacher effectiveness. Of approximately 1,200 exams, we didn’t have a single failure. So the entire exercise was for nothing.

 


NATIONAL

 

ap-domestic-workers► At TPM — Domestic workers: A growing sector with few legal protections — Whether a domestic worker will be treated with fairness and dignity or exploited and abused depends on the whims, character, and awareness of her employer as well as where in the world she happens to be. And what encourages this subjectivity is the variable legal status of the work itself: domestic workers are far less likely to be protected by the laws that regulate most other sectors of employment.

► In today’s LA Times — Some port truckers walk off job, picket harbor-area trucking firms — More than 120 truck drivers who usually work at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports walked off the job and set up picket lines Monday, organizers said, in a protest against what they contend are widespread workplace violations.

 


TODAY’S MUST-READ

 

working-in-hot-weather► In today’s Washington Post — American workers die needlessly in the heat every year — In 2012, 31 outdoor workers died in the heat and 4,120 fell ill, according to OSHA stats. Over the past 10 years, the average is 36 deaths and 2,810 heat-related illnesses each year. While that’s bad enough, OSHA officials think the true numbers are higher, because autopsies aren’t usually performed on the victims and many heat-related deaths are listed as heart attacks. Especially vulnerable are construction crews, road workers, farm workers and trash collectors. And among those folks, it’s often the temporary worker — the man or woman called up at the last minute to fill a vacancy on a road crew or trash truck — who is most vulnerable. Why? Because they haven’t had a chance to acclimate to the heat.

ALSO see the state Department of Labor and Industries’ Outdoor Heat Exposure page, which explains state rules and requirements related to heat-related issues at work and includes safety and training information.

 


The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.

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