Thursday, November 13, 2014
► In today’s Seattle Times — As Seattle gets richer, the city’s black households get poorer — While Seattle’s median household income soared to an all-time high of $70,200 last year, wages for blacks nose-dived to $25,700 — a 13.5 percent drop from 2012. Among the 50 largest U.S. cities, Seattle now has the ninth lowest income for black households. While last year’s decline is particularly dramatic, black household wealth in Seattle has in fact been spiraling downward for years. Remarkably, the earnings were higher in 2000 than they are today, before adjusting for inflation: The 2000 household median was $32,000, equal to $44,800 in 2013 dollars.
► In the P.S. Business Journal — Paseo employee lawsuit illuminates wage theft issues in Washington, nationwide — In 2013, the Washington state Department of Labor and Industries claimed more than $3.3 million in unpaid wages for employees. A study released last month by the Economic Policy Institute found that among the 30 million low-wage workers in the United States, wage theft is costing more than $50 billion a year.
► From KPLU — Windy conditions challenge Puget Sound Energy crews; south King County hardest hit — Crews from eastern Washington, Oregon, Snohomish County and even from Canada have been on the scene to bolster Puget Sound Energy’s workforce.
► In today’s (Everett) Herald — How the GOP gained 4 seats in the state House — Certainly, the Republican Party benefited from the political wave that defined the midterms nationally. But success is also a product of an evolving political operation that’s helped the caucus add 10 seats since 2010 and move from the perch of irrelevance to the precipice of a majority. The caucus has done it by embracing a more disciplined and decentralized approach to electioneering since Rep. Dan Kristiansen (R-Snohomish) became the House Minority Leader in early 2013.
► In today’s News tribune — In picking replacement for deceased Rep. Roger Freeman, the date could be important — Three people have declared for the job: former legislative candidates Shari Song and Roger Flygare and local party officer Richard Champion. When the vote occurs will determine whether old or new PCOs get to vote on it.
► In today’s Olympian — State revenue collections up but so are K-12 school costs — The state’s growing economy means more jobs and more tax revenues, but also more families and K-12 school enrollments, which add to costs for budget writers in 2015-17.
► In today’s Olympian — State woefully underfunds mental health — Several courts have ruled that the State Legislature is not adequately funding basic education, mental health programs and removal of culverts that block migrating salmon. The state Supreme Court went so far as to find the Legislature in contempt on K-12 education funding. Now lower courts are also issuing contempt orders and fines — now over $100,000 — because mentally ill people are being held for unreasonably long periods in county jails awaiting competency evaluations and treatment.
RELATED STORY at The Stand — Why be WY? Business taxes already low here — The Tax Foundation, a conservative corporate-funded think tank, just released its annual 2015 State Business Tax Climate Index and for the third straight year, Washington state ranks 11th best in the nation. In this context, “best” means lowest.
► In today’s P.S. Business Journal — Washington among top states for business. Who’s No. 1? — Washington is ranked No. 8 by Forbes, one spot ahead of last year’s rating. Utah was ranked first. Forbes analyzed 36 data points across six main areas: business costs, labor supply, regulatory environment, economic climate, growth prospects and quality of life. Business costs, which include labor, energy and taxes, are weighted the most heavily.
► In today’s Spokesman-Review — Two Washington liquor board members leaving — Two of the three members (Chris Marr and Sharon Foster) of the state board that oversees Washington’s liquor and marijuana laws will step down early next year. A spokesman for Inslee, who will nominate new board members subject to state Senate approval, said the office already is considering replacements for the positions and has heard from people who are interested.
► In today’s Washington Post — Postal workers to protest plant closings and service reductions — Postal workers on Friday plan to protest nationwide against proposed plant closings and declining service standards that have led to slower mail delivery throughout the country. The Postal Service is scheduled to close 82 mail processing and distribution centers nationwide in January as part of a plan to cut costs by $20 billion over the next few years. The agency has already shuttered 300 of the facilities since 2006.
TAKE A STAND! — Shine a Light on the Plan to Delay the Mail! Join USPS employees and their allies in Seattle on Friday, Nov. 14 from 4 to 5 p.m. in front of Term Station and the Carrier Annex at 4th Avenue and Lander St. Sunset is at 4:30 p.m., so bring flashlights, bike lights and other blinking lights to light up the signs and the rally. Get details.
ALSO at The Stand — Postal banking system makes more sense than USPS cuts (Nov. 12) — The Postal Service could improve its finances by expanding rather than contracting. Specifically, it can return to providing basic banking services, as it did in the past and many other postal systems still do.
► In The Hill — White House pulls controversial NLRB pick — In his first post-midterms shift on nominations, sources say Obama will withdraw Sharon Block’s nomination and nominate Lauren McFerran, chief labor counsel for the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. The decision to pull Block will come as a huge disappointment to labor and many liberal supporters.
► From AP — Immigration, Keystone top first day of lame duck — A political gambit by an endangered Senate Democrat (Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu) broke loose long-stalled legislation to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline as the lame-duck Congress returned to a Capitol where results of last week’s GOP blowout are still sinking in. Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell again warned Obama that issuing an executive order on immigration would be a “big mistake” but promises there won’t be a government shutdown next month.
► In The Hill — Effort to block Obama’s immigration executive action gains momentum — More than 50 House Republicans have signed a letter asking the leaders on the House Appropriations Committee to include language in the upcoming spending bill that would preemptively block funding for Obama’s forthcoming executive order, which many believe might involve deferring deportations.
► At Politico — Harry Reid taps Elizabeth Warren as envoy to liberal groups — In the new leadership position, Warren is expected to serve as a go between to liberal groups to ensure their voice is part of the leadership’s private deliberations, a source said. She would be part of the messaging and policy team.
► At Politico — Kochs target Republicans on tax breaks — Powerful conservative groups including those backed by the Koch Brothers are pushing Republicans to take a hard line on a raft of expired tax breaks pending in the lame duck, an effort that could jeopardize party leaders’ hopes for a low-drama Congress.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Quid pro quo. Thanks, Citizens United!
► At Al Jazeera America — Nurses strike over Ebola concerns, as death toll ticks above 5,000 — Nurses in the United States and around the world participated in a global day of action Wednesday, demanding better training and equipment to combat an Ebola epidemic that has resulted in more than 5,000 deaths. A day ahead of the protests, America’s largest nurses union, National Nurses United, estimated that some 100,000 of its members would participate in strikes and vigils to highlight perceived failings in the national response to the Ebola threat.
► In today’s NY Times — VW to allow labor groups to represent workers at Chattanooga plant — Volkswagen announced a new policy on Wednesday that was likely to allow several labor groups, including the United Automobile Workers, to represent employees at the company’s Chattanooga, Tenn., plant.
► At Huffington Post — Truckers strike at L.A. ports for workers’ rights (by Peter Dreier) — No worker wants to go on strike, but several major trucking companies at these L.A. and Long Beach ports have made working conditions so miserable that many drivers believe they have no choice. So the drivers will be out of their trucks and onto the picket lines this week.
► In Time — This is how the Big Mac is about to change — Despite the fast-foot industry’s dire predictions of major price hikes, voters increased the minimum wage in states and cities across the country. Now that the dust has settled, a fast-food publication explores how its industry will cope. The short version: It will survive, and while you might see higher prices here and there, there won’t be any huge price spikes for which you can blame higher minimum wages.
► At Jacobin — College athletes of the world unite! (by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) — Life for student-athletes is no longer the quaint Americana fantasy of the homecoming bonfire and a celebration at the malt shop. It’s big business in which everyone is making money — everyone except the 18 to 21-year-old kids who every game risk permanent career-ending injuries. It’s the kind of injustice that just shouldn’t sit right with American workers who face similar uncertainty every day.
► In The Onion — Congress passes bill to add armed patrol to U.S. poverty line — “At present, the border between the impoverished and the relatively well-off is not fully secure, but this legislation will ensure that we have the security forces and equipment we need to deter anyone living below this boundary from crossing into the middle class,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). “The fact is that the people who live below this boundary are desperate, often lawless individuals who want the freedoms and opportunities that we have on our side of the border, and they will do anything to get here. This measure will finally provide agents with the resources they need to stem these unwanted intrusions into our territory by using intimidation, threats of incarceration, or force if necessary.”
► In The Atlantic — Union membership: Very sexy — Research shows that for men, income correlates with marriage rates. This basic relationship caused sociologists Daniel Schneider and Adam Reich to wonder: Would union membership — which is supposed to lift a person’s wages — also lift a person’s chance at being married? Using 25 years of data from a cohort of men and women, they found evidence that union membership is positively associated with marriage for men, though the relationship was not statistically significant for women in unions. Additionally, they also found that for both men and women, there’s a strong relationship between health insurance coverage and first marriage: Men with healthcare had 30 percent higher odds, and women 16 percent. At the end of the day though, the researchers conclude that it might be that union membership is a signal in the marriage market that a person is secure financially in the long term.
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