Monday, September 29, 2014
► In the Blaine Reporter — Blaine council drops citizen petitions to limit union power — City councilmembers voted 6–0 on Sept. 22 against putting Proposition 1, which would have required all collective bargaining for union wages to be open to the public, on the November ballot. Proposition 2, which would prohibit strikes and made joining unions optional, was given a certificate of insufficiency by the Whatcom County Auditor’s Office for not having the proper number of valid signatures. The petition was sent back to the petitioners, who have been given 10 days to collect the necessary signatures.
EDITOR’S NOTE — So if you’re keeping track, the politically motivated push by the right-wing extremists at the Olympia-based Freedom Foundation to impose new anti-union “right-to-work” restrictions on collective bargaining at the city level is now 0-for-3, having already been rejected in Sequim and Shelton. But the group’s CEO, Tom McCabe, openly brags that “litigation is an essential part of our strategy to take on unions and their political allies,” so the legal costs for these targeted cities may be just beginning.
► In the (Everett) Herald — Everett Community College union agrees to new contract — The union (WFSE) representing the non-academic staff at Everett Community College has reached an agreement with the state on a new two-year contract. Among other benefits, the new contract for 2015-17 includes a 3 percent pay increase in 2015 and a smaller bump the following year.
► In today’s News Tribune — Questions surround taxes to fund schools — and if voters overturn them — State Republicans, long opponents of raising revenue to meet the state Supreme Court’s order to fully fund basic education by 2018, have been floating a new line of argument in recent days: That paying for education with higher taxes might be unconstitutional.
► In the Seattle Times — Inslee appoints temporary replacement for Rep. Mike Hope — What does it feel like to be a lawmaker for two months when the Legislature is out of session and the political parties are both out campaigning in advance of an election? Retired Navy Capt. Doug Roulstone is about to find out.
► In the L.A. Times — Yakima Valley Latinos getting a voice, with court’s help — Latinos in the Yakima Valley have a long and difficult history when it comes to gaining access to the ballot box and elective office. The population of the county seat in this agricultural heartland is 41 percent Latino, and Latinos account for a quarter of all voting-age citizens here. But no one with a Spanish surname has ever been elected to the Yakima City Council. The first federal lawsuit to advocate for the voting rights of the growing Latino minority here was filed in 1968; the most recent federal court fight was decided just a month ago. Villanueva agreed to testify in that suit, Montes vs. City of Yakima, which argued that it is nearly impossible for a Latino to be elected here.
► In The Hill — Voting begins in battle for U.S. Senate — Voting is officially underway in the midterm elections. Election Day isn’t until Nov. 4, but a total of 36 states and the District of Columbia allow some form of early voting in person or by mail. Iowa’s early voting began on Thursday, and North Carolina, Colorado, Arkansas, Ohio, Louisiana and Georgia will allow ballots to be cast in the coming weeks.
EDITOR’S NOTE — In Washington state, military and overseas ballots have already been mailed and ballots for the rest of us will be mailed Oct. 21.
► In today’s L.A. Times — Key U.S. Senate races close, new round of polls says — The latest rounds of polling in the contested U.S. Senate races in Iowa, Louisiana and North Carolina make one thing clear: it’s looking very close.
► At Think Progress — Judge slams voter suppression law: ‘Why does state of North Carolina not want people to vote?’ — Several provisions are at issue in this case that all make it more difficult for residents of North Carolina to cast a vote. One provision cuts a week of early voting days. Another restricts voter registration drives. A third implements a strict voter ID law, although that provision does not take effect until 2016.
► In the L.A. Times — A grand design for greater gridlock at National Labor Relations Board (editorial) — Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee thinks he has the solution to perceived problems at the National Labor Relations Board: Make the five-member body just as deadlocked as Congress… Alexander’s revisions of the NLRB would also allow legal challenges to complaints issued by the NLRB’s general counsel’s office even before they are reviewed by the board itself; that could delay actions on labor complaints for months, if not years. This is not reform; it is legislative neutering.
► In the Washington Post — Low wages, no overtime: The downside of being a retail ‘manager’ — This wasn’t always how things worked. As originally written in the 1940s, the Fair Labor Standards Act limited the percentage of the day that an employee could spend on non-managerial duties and still be exempt from overtime, which over the years came to be understood as no more than 50 percent. But in 2004, President George W. Bush’s Department of Labor overhauled the rules, which accomplished two things: First, it raised the salary threshold below which all workers are entitled to overtime, from $250 per week to $455 per week. And second, it reorganized all the exemptions in such a way that more employees wouldn’t qualify because of what they did on the job. Under the new rules, people could be defined as managers exempt from overtime, for example, while doing grunt work and supervisory work simultaneously.
► In today’s Sacramento Bee — California Gov. Jerry Brown signs subcontractor bill — In a major victory for California labor unions, Gov. Jerry Brown announced Sunday that he has signed legislation that will hold businesses liable when subcontractors violate wage, workplace safety or workers’ compensation rules.
► At Huffington Post — Raising most people’s wages (by Robert Reich) — I was in Seattle, Washington, recently, to congratulate union and community organizers who helped Seattle enact the first $15 per hour minimum wage in the country. Other cities and states should follow Seattle’s example. Contrary to the dire predictions of opponents, the hike won’t cost Seattle jobs. In fact, it will put more money into the hands of low-wage workers who are likely to spend almost all of it in the vicinity. That will create jobs. Conservatives believe the economy functions better if the rich have more money and everyone else has less. But they’re wrong. It’s just the opposite…
GDP growth is less and less relevant to the wellbeing of most Americans. We should be paying less attention to growth and more to median household income. If the median household’s income is is heading upward, the economy is in good shape. If it’s heading downward, as it’s been for this entire recovery, we’re all in deep trouble.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Also see Seattle P-I coverage of Reich’s visit.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.