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Port progress, neutral Catholics, crocodile tears…

Tuesday, December 16, 2014




port-of-tacoma-ILWU23-front► From Reuters — Longshore union, shippers see slow progress in U.S. West Coast port talks — The union for 20,000 dockworkers and a group of their employers at 29 U.S. West Coast ports say they are making slow but steady progress in months-long contract talks seen by the shipping industry as a contributing factor in chronic cargo backups. However, neither side has ventured to say how much longer it might take to reach a settlement. Ninety union delegates from all 29 ports were expected to review the status of talks when they convened on Monday in San Francisco for a caucus, an ILWU spokesman said, adding that the session may be adjourned early to allow negotiations to resume.

► At Longshore & Shipping News — ILWU responds to PMA contract offer — In a give-and-take effort that may push contract negotiations forward, the ILWU is waiting for the Pacific Maritime Association to respond to its comments on the latest offer from U.S. West Coast employers. ILWU spokesman Craig Merrilees said the PMA at the end of last week forwarded a “new proposal” to the union. ILWU negotiators met internally over the weekend, and returned the proposal with the union’s comments. The ILWU caucus in San Francisco that opened Monday morning addressed the document and is awaiting the PMA’s response.




AWPPW-logo► In today’s (Longview) Daily News — KapStone president: Ratify company’s offer or risk losing insurance option — KapStone President Randy Nebel sent an ultimatum to union hourly employees earlier this month, threatening in a Dec. 8 letter to withdraw a Kaiser Permanente health insurance option if workers don’t ratify the company’s contract offer by Dec. 19. Greg Pallesen, AWPPW vice president, Monday called Nebel’s letter “another company scare tactic.” Local 153 members will vote on the company’s contract offer throughout the day on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Union officials expect rank and file to reject it.

► In today’s Seattle Times — Southwest baggage workers to protest at Seattle, 15 other airports — Workers (TWU 555) plan to do informational picketing and hand out leaflets to passengers Tuesday at 16 airports across the country on Tuesday, including Sea-Tac. Their contract negotiations that have dragged on for more than three years.

► At Labor Notes — Direct action in the berry fields (an interview with Felimon Pineda of Familias Unidas por la Justicia) — What is your union fighting for? “We want (Sakuma brothers) to sign a union contract… We are all human beings, and we don’t deserve to be at the feet of the wealthy. We are earning our money through our own sweat. We are not stealing from them.”

gtff-strike-u-of-oregon► In The Nation — How did these graduate students improve their working conditions? They went on strike! — On their campus set amid the idyllic northwestern woodlands, graduate students at the University of Oregon stepped out of their classrooms and onto a historic picket line last week. The union, representing some 1,500 graduate teaching fellows, went on an eight-day strike and emerged Wednesday with a final deal, embattled but triumphant.




► From AP — Governor plans to pay education lawsuit obligation a year early, keep freeze on tuition — Gov. Jay Inslee has a plan for putting $2.3 billion more into preschool through college education and workforce training and for paying off the state Supreme Court’s education-funding mandate a year early.

inslee-jay-gov► In today’s Seattle Times — Inslee backs smaller class sizes for grades K-3, teacher raises — The governor would not say on Monday how he would pay for all of the above. He is unveiling his budget over four days, starting with education Monday, then transportation on Tuesday and climate Wednesday. On Thursday, he is supposed to detail his plan for raising more than $1 billion in taxes and other new revenue.

► In today’s Spokesman-Review — WSU med school plan has broad support, statewide poll finds — A poll conducted for Gallatin Public Affairs shows 81.2 percent of state residents favor WSU establishing its own medical school. Support dips to 72.8 percent when the question is posed along with an explanation that WSU is seeking legislative approval and additional state money for the effort.




► In the P.S. Business Journal — The biggest deal of 2014: Boeing’s 777X and an $8.7 billion tax package — Since then the tax breaks have come under fire, especially after Boeing decisions to move engineering work out of the Puget Sound region despite the state’s largesse. Just last week state auditors told a legislative committee that the tax breaks should include financial goals, or metrics, to prove their efficacy. Boeing has resisted this idea.

boeing-profit► A related story in the PSBJ — Boeing boosts dividend, will buy back $12 billion in shares — “Strong operating performance across our business continues to generate significant cash flow and financial strength for Boeing,” said CEO Jim McNerney.

► In today’s Seattle Times — Air Force: Boeing cost overrun on tanker project jumps to $1.5 billion — Boeing is working feverishly to get the 767-based platform for the Air Force’s new KC-46 refueling tanker into the air by year end, six months later than planned. Estimated costs have ballooned to $1.5 billion above the contract ceiling.




“Sell block: The empty promises of prison labor,” a special report in The Seattle Times:

st-prison-laborPart 1: Broken prison labor system fails to keep promises, costs millions — Today, some 1,600 incarcerated men and women in prison factories produce everything from dorm furniture to school lunches. Washington Correctional Industries (CI) generates up to $70 million in sales a year, ranking as the nation’s fourth-largest prison labor program. But behind CI’s glossy brochures and polished YouTube videos is a broken program that has cost taxpayers millions of dollars, charged exorbitant markups to state agencies to make up for losses, and taken jobs from private businesses that can’t compete with cheap prison labor, a Seattle Times investigation has found.

Part 2: Recycling scheme cost state $1 million — The CI mattress program lost at least $1 million while squeezing out competitors by offering cheap inmate labor to mattress retailers in Seattle and statewide. By law, CI is not allowed to sell the services of inmates to benefit private companies. But CI officials paid a newly formed Arizona nonprofit, based at the home of a former Washington mattress executive, to serve as their money middleman.

Part 3: Why license plates have cost us so much — Despite recent policy changes, Washington motorists over the next five years are projected to buy 1 million additional license plates. Government will benefit from the new millions. So will 3M, which sells the reflective sheeting for the plates. And so will Washington Correctional Industries, the prison-labor program that has turned plate manufacturing into a lucrative business.




► In today’s Washington Post — Obama braces for immigration battle with GOP — President Obama is bracing for a political and legal battle with Republicans next year over his executive actions on immigration, but as he seeks to rally support against the anticipated assault, a lingering frustration among some Latinos could mean renewed pressure on him to do even more to protect illegal immigrants.

obama-cool► In today’s Washington Post — Millennials exit the federal workforce as government jobs lose their allure — Six years after candidate Barack Obama vowed to make working for government “cool again,” federal hiring of young people is instead tailing off and many millennials are heading for the door. The share of the federal workforce under the age of 30 dropped to 7 percent this year, the lowest figure in nearly a decade, government figures show.

► At Politico — Treasury fight escalates — Fresh from quelling the progressive uprising against the “cromnibus” spending bill, the White House isn’t backing down on its other major fight with Democratic progressives: the nomination of a Wall Street banker for a top Treasury job.

► In today’s NY Times — Good economic news, but Democrats differ on whether to take credit — In one camp are Democrats who argue that if they do not take some credit, they will continue to receive little. Others counter that boasting would backfire, infuriating millions of Americans who do not see the economy improving for them or their children.

► In today’s Olympian — Rep. Heck says too many non-spending policies were tucked into federal spending bill — U.S. Rep. Denny Heck said Monday he voted against the more than $1 trillion federal budget bill last week that averted a government shutdown because it had too many policy decisions embedded in it.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Heck cites the provision allowing the wealthy to dramatically increase election contributions, but he defends the Citibank/Wall Street derivatives provision that gave many Democrats heartburn. He doesn’t mention the ERISA provision allowing pension benefit cuts.




catholic-pope-francis► In America magazine — Adjuncts at St. Michael’s College in Vermont go union — Soon after Georgetown’s adjunct faculty and administration modeled collaborative labor-management relations for the world in their recent contract negotiations, faculty at another Catholic campus have opted for union representation. Adjuncts at St. Michael’s College in Vermont have voted 2-1 to form a union. Georgetown, citing Catholic social teaching, had adopted a neutral attitude as the adjuncts discussed the possibility of forming a union. Similarly, St. Michael’s remained neutral through the campaign.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Unfortunately, Catholic leaders at Seattle University have not sought this collaborative approach, instead abandoning Catholic teachings to suggest unionization interferes with the university’s “mission.” Adjuncts there voted on whether to form a union but their ballots have been impounded pending the university’s NLRB appeal about whether hey should have the right to form a union.




CEO-crybaby► In The Hill — Big business cries wolf over NLRB election rules (by John Logan) — The (NLRB’s new) election rules will not prevent employers from communicating their anti-union message to workers and will not radically alter the balance of power in the union certification process. External “union avoidance consultants” and internal anti-union experts will enable employers to dominate slightly shorter union certification elections, just as they do under the current rules. With the assistance of these consultants, employers will respond to union organizing drives quickly and effectively, even under the new streamlined election rules. Ultimately, the rules are unlikely to loosen the stranglehold that big business has over the union certification process…

While the NLRB’s new rules will address the most egregious delaying practices, they will not prevent employers from communicating their anti-union message to workers and will likely make scant difference to the balance of power in certification campaigns. Don’t be fooled by the crocodile tears of billion-dollar corporations or the phony outrage of right-wing propagandists: Big business still holds all the cards in the certification process, and it will continue to control the decision on whether most workplaces get a union.


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