Not voting for Pedro, Freedom staffers rally, 4-hour work day…

Thursday, August 7, 2014




► In today’s Seattle Times — Pedro Celis’ weak primary showing in 1st District race stuns GOP officials — Pedro Celis was supposed to be the anointed Republican challenger to first-term Democratic Congresswoman Suzan DelBene. But with just 15% of the vote, he’s in danger of not making it through the primary.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Sources in this story blame everything from his campaign strategies to his relatively moderate stance on immigration reform, but nowhere in the story does the most obvious explanation appear: that Pedro Celis may be the victim of having a Hispanic name. Just ask State Supreme Court Justice Steven González or Graciela Villanueva, who lost a Yakima school board race last year 60% to 40% to Jeni Rice, a candidate who had dropped out of the race and didn’t campaign. (It’s one of the reasons the Legislature needs to pass the Washington Voting Rights Act.) Given the not-so-subtle racism at the heart of right-wing opposition to immigration reform — currently at a fever pitch — how much chance does and candidate named Pedro have in a Republican primary? Discuss.

► In today’s Yakima H-R — Congressional front-runners Didier, Newhouse hold steady — Counties will continue updating ballot totals in the coming week, but none of the 10 other candidates — including Democrat Estakio Beltran (see Editor’s Note above) — who sought to replace retiring Congressman Doc Hastings statistically had any chance of gaining ground on the two front-runners.

► In today’s Seattle Times — Sen. Tim Sheldon locked in tight three-way battle — Sheldon now trails Democrat Irene Bowling, 35% to 33%. But he’s OK with that, as long as he can secure second place over the Republican with 31%, and move forward in the top-two primary because he expects that most Republicans will vote for him.

► At Politico — Poll: Party favorability falls near low — Pollsters have found that the favorability rating of both the Democratic and Republican parties is just one percentage point higher than the parties’ all-time lows with 29% of Americans viewing the Republican Party favorably and Democrats with 41% approval.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Which might explain this.

 ► At Politico — The woman who could beat Scott Walker — Mary Burke might be the last candidate you’d expect to potentially topple one of the Republican Party’s leading governors and upend the 2016 presidential field. The only elected office she’s ever held is a school board seat. She didn’t even become a Democrat until her 40s. Yet here she is, tied with Walker in the polls, finally getting some overdue attention from the national press — and within striking distance of delivering the biggest shock of Election 2014.




► From FUSE — Anti-union ALEC group holds a rally, no one shows up — On Wednesday morning, the Freedom Foundation held a rally and march at the State Capitol. Their email announcement promised: “The protest will feature signs, street theater and speakers.” Presciently, the email did not promise that the event would feature actual people. Here’s a picture of the Freedom Foundation’s 15-person rally in Olympia on Wednesday morning. Nearly half of the attendees appear to be Freedom Foundation staff members.

ALSO at The Stand — Right-wing Freedom Foundation wants open state employee contract talks, Ted Nugent (Aug. 6)

EDITOR’S NOTE — The Washington Federation of State Employees was kind enough yesterday during a break in negotiations to bring the protesting Freedom Foundation staffers some tea (their beverage of choice).

► In today’s Seattle Times — Ethics board drops Benton complaint against Inslee over grain inspections — The Executive Ethics Board has dropped the complaint Benton filed last week alleging Inslee acted unlawfully when he withdrew state patrol escorts of grain inspectors going into the Port of Vancouver. David Postman, Inslee’s communications director, called it unfortunate that Benton didn’t find a more productive way to help reach a solution on the labor dispute, adding, “Don Benton got his name in the newspaper and Senate Republicans did their best to promote this frivolous and totally unsubstantiated complaint.”

ALSO at The Stand — Benton demands escort service amid United Grain lockout (Aug. 5)

► In today’s Yakima H-R — Labor shortage harder to quantify without state report (by Ross Courtney) —  The state Employment Security Department, a treasure trove of data and statistics, has stopped issuing one of my favorite reports due to funding limits. The last of the monthly agricultural employment and wage reports published in April.

► From KUOW — Why Washington ferries are such a headache to replace — Washington’s fleet is getting older, and it’s impossible to predict how many ferries will break down at any one time. But for now, there is no quick fix, because of the way we fund the purchase of ferries in Washington state.




► In today’s Seattle Times — Franchise group files to block $15 minimum-wage phase-in — The International Franchise Association has asked a federal judge to immediately block portions of Seattle’s $15 minimum-wage law, which treats local franchises as large businesses. The filing alleges that the minimum-wage effort in Seattle intentionally discriminated against local franchisees as part of a broader movement by SEIU to undermine large corporate franchisers and that last week’s NLRB ruling that McDonald’s and its franchisees are jointly responsible for working conditions is part of the union’s national campaign to break the franchise business model.

► In the Stranger — Should Seattle require local workers on its construction projects? — Seattle City Council member Sally Clark agrees that the Rainier Beach Community Center was a particularly “egregious example” of a big city project that didn’t spur local jobs; she calls it “the last straw for some people.” For more than a year, the city has been studying a potential “local hire” ordinance, which would put rules into place guaranteeing that some percentage of work hours on large capital projects go to local residents.

► In today’s Peninsula Daily News — ‘Pit-pier’ company challenges state-Navy coastline easement on Hood Canal — Hood Canal Sand and Gravel, the company seeking the long-planned “pit to pier” gravel operation, has filed suit in Jefferson County Superior Court in an effort to thwart a state and federal plan to block development along the Hood Canal coastline.

► In today’s Yakima H-R — Yakima teachers approve contract — In a unanimous vote, members of the Yakima Education Association ratified a two-year contract laden with new provisions, including a new teacher evaluation system linking their performance to student achievement.

► In today’s Olympian — Olympia considers charging B&O tax for Providence St. Peter Hospital — In an effort to generate more money, Olympia leaders are weighing a proposal to eliminate a tax exemption for Providence St. Peter Hospital.




► From Vox — U.S. Forest Service is running out of money to fight forest fires — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the Forest Service will blow through its firefighting budget by the end of August — months before the fiscal year ends in October. Once that happens, the agency will need to divert as much as $500 million from other programs that are intended to prevent future wildfires. Although the agency is currently grappling with 30 large fires in California, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, so far, this fire season has been below average in terms of acres burned. What’s surprising is that this is now the 7th time in the last 12 years that the Forest Service has exhausted its firefighting budget before the end of the fiscal year.

► At Politico — Obama says he’ll act on inversions — He hopes to act soon to stem U.S. companies moving their headquarters overseas.

► In today’s NY Times — The muddled road to overhauling corporate taxes — Most everyone agrees the corporate tax system is badly broken, but the debate over companies moving overseas shows how hard it will be to make changes.




► At Think Progress — Tennessee drug tests welfare recipients, finds less than 1% use drugs — In July, Tennessee began a drug testing program for applicants to the state’s welfare program. Since then, just one person has tested positive out of more than 800.

EDITOR’S NOTE — It’s a safe bet that if the politicians who approved this law needed to pass a similar test to get their state paychecks, a far higher percentage would fail.

► Today in The Hill — Stagnating wages weighing on Americans’ economic outlook — Economists say that even though the labor market is improving, along with other areas of the economy, the main source of consumers unease is the lack of real wage growth.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Which brings us to…




► In the Seattle Times — Yes, inequality hurts the economy (by Jon Talton) — A powerful segment of political and business leaders deny inequality has been growing worse at all, and, if it has, it’s the fault of lazy “takers.” So it’s important that a new report from Standard & Poor’s, which represents the Wall Street establishment, lays out what should be obvious: As more income goes to the richest, who save more (and gamble in the markets and seek rents), there’s less demand and weak growth. This makes digging out of recessions even harder.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Which brings us to…

► At Vox — The case for a maximum wage — Though no maximum wage has ever been embedded in America law, it’s worth noting that until relatively recently we had a de facto maximum wage policy in place. The Second World War pushed the top marginal tax rate up to 90 percent. The Kennedy administration adjusted that down to 70 percent and there it stood until Ronald Reagan’s election. Neither of those was a formal maximum. But they acted as a maximum wage. During the 90 percent top income tax rate, for a firm to put an extra $100 in the pocket of a top executive required them to pay another $1,000 in salary. Rather than send $900 to Uncle Sam to pay a CFO an extra $100, it makes more sense to give modest raises to five separate middle managers — putting more money in the pockets of your workforce and less in the pockets of the federal government. And the thing about this high tax policy regime is that it worked pretty well!

EDITOR’S NOTE — And as long as we’re thinking big….




► At — Who stole the 4-hour work day? — For decades, the U.S. labor movement filled the streets with hundreds of thousands of workers demanding an eight-hour workday. This was just one more step in the gradual reduction of working hours that was expected to continue forever. Before the Civil War, workers like the factory women of Lowell, Mass., had fought for a reduction to 10 hours from 12 or more. Later, when the Great Depression hit, unions called for shorter hours to spread out the reduced workload and prevent layoffs; big companies like Kellogg’s followed suit voluntarily. But in the wake of World War II, the eight-hour grind stuck, and today most workers end up doing more than that. The United States now leads the pack of the wealthiest countries in annual working hours. U.S. workers put in as many as 300 more hours a year than their counterparts in Western Europe, largely thanks to the lack of paid leave. Average worker productivity has doubled a couple of times since 1950, but income has stagnated — unless you’re just looking at the rich, who’ve become a great deal richer. The value from that extra productivity, after all, has to go somewhere.


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