Tuesday, February 3, 2015
► From Slog — Local union president says national oil refinery strike isn’t about wages, it’s about safety — Despite the fact that most outlets are covering the action as a failure to negotiate over health care and wages, USW Local 12-591 president Steve Garey says the main priority of the national strike is refinery safety and resolving the issue of chronic understaffing. In 2010, seven refinery workers (six of whom belonged to the union) were killed at the Tesoro Anacortes facility, the second-deadliest refinery explosion of the last decade. Tesoro suffered zero criminal penalties as a result, even after a federal investigation concluded that “management had normalized the occurrences of hazardous conditions.” Said Garey: “Our local union has lost 14 members in 16 years. Quite frankly, we’re tired of our coworkers being killed and being subjected to this risk.”
► In today’s Bellingham Herald — Refinery workers strike for second day at Anacortes, 8 other plants
► From Time magazine — U.S. oil workers stage largest national strike since 1980 — The USW called for about 3,800 employees to strike in nine sites across the country, affecting plants that account for 10% of the total U.S. refining capacity, reports Bloomberg. When the current contract expired on Sunday, USW said it “had no choice” but to call the walkout after no further deal was reached. If a full strike of union workers is called, USW says it could disrupt as much as 64% of U.S. fuel production.
► From Al Jazeera America — U.S. oil workers strike over pay, benefits and safety concerns — About 3,800 oil refinery workers at nine plants in California, Texas, Kentucky and Washington state carried out their second day of strikes Monday, calling for safer working conditions and better pay and benefits. Although money plays a role in negotiations, the union says the strike is more about safety than pay. Said USW Vice President Gary Beevers:
This work stoppage is about onerous overtime; unsafe staffing levels; dangerous conditions the industry continues to ignore; the daily occurrences of fires, emissions, leaks and explosions that threaten local communities without the industry doing much about it.
► In the P.S. Business Journal — NLRB says Space Needle must stop its anti-union efforts — Federal labor officials have ordered the Space Needle to stop interfering with employees’ union activities, said the union that represents the workers. Late Friday, a three-member panel of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) handed down a ruling against the Space Needle, according to the union. The board found that the Space Needle had violated federal labor laws by discouraging workers from participating in their union since their contract expired in 2011. The union said its fight for a new contract continues. The company has offered the approximately 200 Space Needle union employees one raise in the last four-and-a-half years – an increase of 35 cents-an-hour two years ago, according to the union.
ALSO TODAY at The Stand — NLRB: Space Needle illegally opposed union
► In today’s Seattle Times — NLRB panel says Space Needle violated labor laws — Space Needle management said it disagreed with the panel’s findings and would appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals.
► In today’s P.S. Business Journal — GOP Reps. urge port dispute resolution — U.S. Rep. Dave Reichart of Washington co-wrote a letter to the heads of the union and the terminal operators, which was signed by 84 Congress Representatives, including Washington GOP Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Cathy McMorris Rodgers. In the letter, they say their constituents are “losing business, letting employees go, and worrying about the future.”
► In today’s (Everett) Herald — Edmonds deal gives $1.6 million in back pay to firefighters — The wage issue for the fire district’s 192 employees, including firefighters, paramedics, captains and battalion chiefs, goes back to 2012, when a contract was expiring. Union employees were to get a 3.7% pay increase. But with layoffs looming, employees decided to decline the pay raise after one month to avoid layoffs. The union contract for 2013-14 was settled last year and included retroactive raises.
► In today’s Columbian — L&I fines Motel 6 Vancouver for nine health violations — The state has cited and fined Motel 6 Vancouver a total of $112,450 for multiple willful and serious health violations, including exposing workers to used hypodermic needles. An L&I inspection found there were “five needle-stick injuries to workers at the motel in the last two years,” the state agency said. A representative of the motel said he would appeal the citation.
ALSO TODAY at The Stand — L&I fines Motel 6 after workers exposed to used needles
► In the P.S. Business Journal — Washington outer space industry wants tax breaks to ‘level the playing field’ — With the high-profile entry of SpaceX into the region, outer space companies in Washington want to collaborate because they have different needs than aerospace companies. In addition, outer space companies want some of the same benefits, like the tax breaks that were created to keep Boeing, and the circle of suppliers around it, in Washington.
► From AP — State files $17 million suit over Skagit bridge collapse — The lawsuit names several parties as responsible: the truck driver whose oversized truck hit the bridge; the driver’s employer, Mullen Trucking LP; the pilot car driver and her company, G&T Crawlers; and the owner of the metal shed being transported.
► At PubliCola — Republicans denounce Sound Transit taxing authority — The house transportation committee, controlled by the majority Democrats, passed key Sound Transit legislation that gives the light rail agency the ability to put a sound transit tax measure before voters, likely in 2016. Every Republican on the panel voted no. “Okay, Seattle,” said Rep. Ed Orcutt (R-Kalama), “go ahead and tax yourself into oblivion.”
► In the Seattle Times — Boeing bonuses disappoint white-collar staff — Boeing’s salaried nonmanagement employees in Washington state are expressing disappointment that, after a year of record profits, next month the company will pay out bonuses considerably smaller than last year’s.
► In today’s News Tribune — Defense budget includes $5.4 billion for Boeing aircraft made in Puget Sound — Pentagon plan holds off on launching new Army projects at JBLM but continues investments at Navy bases.
► In today’s NY Times — Obama’s budget seeks to loosen austerity reins — The $4 trillion budget that President Obama released Monday is more utopian vision than pragmatic blueprint for his final years in office, but buried in the document are kernels of proposals that could take root even with a hostile Republican Congress.
► In today’s NY Times — President Obama’s new budget (editorial) — President Obama’s fiscal 2016 budget, released on Monday, pulls together the themes and policies set forth in his State of the Union address and other recent speeches and gives them a force and coherence — an ambitiousness — that a more piecemeal delivery does not convey.
► In the New Republic — Obama budget proposes major overhaul of unemployment insurance — Over the past few years, Democrats and Republicans have fought vigorously over extending long-term unemployment benefits, which expired at the end of 2013. The issue dropped from headlines last spring, after House Republicans successfully killed a bipartisan deal in the Senate to renew them for another five months. But President Barack Obama is about to put them back in the news: In his budget for the 2016 fiscal year, the president will propose a major overhaul of the unemployment insurance system, a move designed to make UI both more efficient and more effective.
► In the Washington Post — Obama to ask for 1.3% pay raise for federal workers, military troops — The 1.3 percent increase would be more than the 1 percent pay bump given to troops and federal workers for the past two fiscal years.
► In today’s Tri-City Herald —$2.3 billion 2016 budget proposed for Hanford, but with cuts to Richland Operations Office
► In the NY Times — More women than ever in Congress, but with less power — Last year, when Democrats controlled the Senate, women led a record nine committees, including male bastions like the Appropriations Committee, which dispenses billions in federal dollars, and Intelligence, which oversees the government’s secret national security apparatus. Now there are only two female committee chairwomen. In the House, while women hold five of the 10 elected Republican Party leadership spots, only one woman — Rep. Candice S. Miller of Michigan — leads a committee, House Administration.
► From AP — California truckers win $2 million in wage theft suit — Seven Los Angeles-area truckers have won a $2 million claim against an international shipping company accused of stealing their wages by improperly classifying them as independent contractors and charging them to lease its trucks to drive.
► In today’s Washington Post — GOP contenders’ vaccine remarks alarm medical experts — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called for parental choice in vaccinating while Sen. Rand Paul said shots cause “mental disorders” and should be voluntary, prompting an outcry from medical experts.
► In Roll Call — We built the middle class, and we can rebuild it (by AFSCME President Lee Saunders) — It hasn’t always been this way. There was a time in our not-so-distant past when poor Americans could work their way into the middle class. There was a time when people in the middle class could afford to buy a home, send their kids to college and save for retirement. Today, middle-class families must make a choice — a home, college or retirement. They no longer can do all three. This fast-disappearing upward mobility was made possible by the American labor movement, which helped workers gain a fair share of the nation’s prosperity through collective bargaining and political activism. Unions were and continue to be the only organizations willing to stand up and fight for working people and the middle class. And it is unions that can get us out of the mess we’re in now.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.