Monday, February 9, 2015
► In the (Everett) Herald — Lawmakers may put conditions on aerospace tax breaks — A group of House Democrats are pushing to set a minimum wage of more than $20 an hour for veteran employees of those firms and to shrink the tax break for the Boeing Co. if the firm cuts its job force too much. On Monday, a public hearing is planned on HB 1786 that would require firms receiving a tax incentive to pay their veteran employees roughly $53,000 a year — nearly $25 an hour — or lose their state tax breaks. The bill could cause havoc for aerospace suppliers that employ many people for less than $15 an hour.
“If Washington companies are getting a tax incentive, Washington state taxpayers should be able to expect it will grow good paying aerospace jobs,” said Jon Holden, president of International Association of Machinists Local 751. “We’re subsidizing those companies. Why are we subsidizing those companies that are paying their people under $12 an hour?”
► From KPLU — Democratic lawmakers want to toughen aerospace tax breaks after Boeing job losses — Boeing’s workforce in Washington state has shrunk by about 2,500 jobs since October 2013, right before lawmakers passed the tax break extension worth $8.7 billion over 15 years. That’s prompted Rep. June Robinson (D-Everett) to agree to sponsor a bill that would raise the tax rate for Boeing and other aerospace companies if they have a net loss of jobs.
► In the Olympian — State budget problem: Without taxes, something has to go — Legislators generally don’t disagree about whether they have enough money to keep state government humming along, maintaining the status quo. They do have enough for that. Even Democrats advocating new tax increases concede that point. The question is whether lawmakers can avoid raising taxes and still comply with the court’s mandate to make substantial investments in K-12 education, as well as pay for a $2-billion class size initiative and $440 million in pay raises for state workers. The answer is: They can’t. To do that, something will have to go.
► In the Oregonian — Oregon lawmakers take up bills aimed at closing the gender wage gap — One proposal would outlaw employers from paying men and women different amounts for equivalent work, while another would prohibit employers from punishing workers who discuss their wages.
EDITOR’S NOTE — In Washington, Rep. Tana Senn (D-Mercer Island) and Sen. Annette Cleveland (D-Vancouver) are sponsoring the Equal Pay Opportunity Act (HB 1646 / SB 5630) to address income disparities, employer discrimination and retaliation practices, and reaffirms Washington’s longstanding pursuit of equality in the workplace. The bills would require employers to provide a valid reason, such as education, training, or experience to validate disparities in pay. It will also permit workers to discuss their pay without fear of retaliation from their employer. These conversations will allow all employees to better understand their positions and determine if they are indeed being paid unfairly.
► In the Oregonian — Amazon plans up to 11 more Oregon data centers if tax situation addressed — An official from Amazon.com said the online giant could build as many as 11 more Oregon data centers if the state addresses a thorny tax issue.
EDITOR’S NOTE — The thorny tax issue: paying them.
► In the PSBJ — Port of Tacoma frustrated; seven ships won’t unload this weekend because of port closure — The Pacific Maritime Association Friday afternoon stopped all vessel loading and unloading activity at West Coast ports over the weekend as part of the ongoing labor negotiations between the PMA and the ILWU. That means the seven ships waiting to be unloaded at the Port of Tacoma will wait at least through the weekend.
► From ILWU — Aerial photos of ports show what the PMA doesn’t want the public to see — Photographs show that there are acres of asphalt waiting for the containers that sit on dozens of ships waiting to be unloaded at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and sufficient space for thousands of containers on the docks. The PMA has told the media that the ports are too full to receive cargo, but the photos tell another story.
► In the PSBJ — West Coast port closure could cost $2.1 billion per day
► In the PSBJ — Like ripping off a Band-Aid: Some shippers say port shutdown will result in quicker resolution — Some people who rely on the ports for their businesses are saying it might be better to have the ports closed and get the negotiations resolved, than continue to slowly lose contracts, money and goods.
► From KUOW — Oil refinery workers strike for safety — Like many labor disputes, this one includes a push for higher wages, but USW members say they’re more concerned about their safety on the job. “Anybody’ll tell you, we make a decent living,” said Tesoro-Anacortes steelworker Ryan Anderson. “What’s important to us is establishing safe staffing at these plants, getting our manpower up to a level that we can feel safe, that our communities feel safe.”
ALSO TODAY at The Stand — Refinery workers taking a life-or-death stand (by USW President Leo W. Gerard)
► From Al Jazeera America — United Steelworkers widens oil refinery strike — The United Steelworkers union said on Saturday the strike by U.S. refinery workers is expanding to two more plants in Indiana and Ohio early on Sunday due to unfair labor practices by oil companies.
► From Reuters — Building trades unions return to Kentucky refinery despite Steelworkers’ picket lines — Workers represented by the Building Trades Unions will return to a refinery in Kentucky on Monday, even as a strike by the United Steelworkers drags into a second week, documents obtained by Reuters show. A letter tells members to return to work Monday, but not to replace USW workers who are still on strike.
► From AP — Angry over trade, labor gets union-friendly pitch from Obama — “We still need laws that strengthen, rather than weaken, unions and give American workers a voice,” Obama said in his State of the Union address. For labor it was a welcome sentiment from a president whom many union leaders faulted for not pushing for greater bargaining rights early in his presidency when he had Democratic majorities in the House and the Senate. The fight over trade, however, is already steeling labor-allied Democrats in the House against giving Obama the kind of fast-track authority he wants to push trade deals through Congress.
► In The Hill — Obama: workers ‘in a tough position’ — President Obama said in an interview that a variety of factors have combined over the past 30 years to put American workers in a “tough position… There are a whole bunch of reasons for that. Some of it has to do with technology and entire sectors being eliminated. … A lot of it has to do with globalization. The rest of the world is catching up.” Obama also said government investments in areas including education or infrastructure “put us ahead of the curve… (but) those advantages went away as workers at the same time as workers increasingly had less leverage because of changes in labor laws. You combine all that stuff and it’s put workers in a tougher position.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — Dear Mr. President: American workers still have advantages and can compete, IF we can compete on a level playing field. But if we must compete with countries that openly abuse their citizens and the environment — which is what your “trade deals” don’t just allow, but empower international corporations to do — THEN we have been put in a tougher position. NAFTA and subsequent trade deals (that often have little to do with actual trade) clearly have not benefited America’s middle class. You campaigned for president promising to renegotiate those deals to better protect workers, and now not only have you abandoned that commitment, you are fighting your own party to expand those failed policies. What a disappointment.
► In The Hill — Ryan launches trade agenda — The new chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee is speaking about the trade agenda on an almost daily basis, and sending the signal that the White House and congressional Republicans can reach an agreement to approve fast-track negotiating authority, which would speed the consideration of two pending trade deals.
► In today’s (Everett) Herald — White House locks up details of trade pact (by David Sirota) — The actual text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership between the United States and 11 Asian nations that would cover nearly 40 percent of the world economy remains under lock and key. That represents a significant break from the Bush administration, which in 2001 published the text of a proposed multinational trade agreement with Latin American nations.
► A related story in the NY Times — Economic plan is a quandary for Hillary Clinton’s campaign — With advice from more than 200 policy experts, Hillary Rodham Clinton is trying to answer what has emerged as a central question of her early presidential campaign strategy: how to address the anger about income inequality without overly vilifying the wealthy.
► A related story in today’s NY Times — Working Families Party calls for Elizabeth Warren to run for president — Several organizations on the left, led by MoveOn.org and Democracy for America, have already organized a campaign designed to lure Warren, with her brand of economic populism, into making a bid for the presidency.
► At TPM — Mitch McConnell’s strategy to confront Obama hits a wall — Before he became majority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promised to use the power of the purse to rein in President Barack Obama. Now McConnell’s strategy is facing its first critical test, and it’s failing.
► In today’s Washington Post — What happened in Vegas stymies federal workers — Three years after the Obama administration clamped down on travel and training in response to the uproar over a Las Vegas conference where hundreds of federal workers partied for four days at taxpayer expense, the restrictions are taking an unanticipated toll.
► In The Hill — Under GOP plan, pay more for junk insurance, leave more uninsured (by Richard Kirsch) — In the hope that they will give cover to the Supreme Court gutting a key provision of the ACA, three prominent Republican members of Congress revealed a plan to replace the ACA last week. Headline: Americans — middle-class, seniors and low-income — would pay more to get lousy insurance and many more working Americans would go without health coverage.
► In the Washington Post — Adjunct professors get poverty-level wages. Should their pay quintuple? — They work for less than half what a full-time professor makes, at a median wage of just $2,700 per course, with scant benefits, if any. Now, a union that’s been rapidly organizing adjuncts around the country thinks that number should quintuple. Last night, on a conference call with organizers across the country, the SEIU decided to extend the franchise with a similar aspirational benchmark: A “new minimum compensation standard” of $15,000. Per course. Including benefits.
► From AP — Kansas Gov. Brownback’s budget hits cherished highway system — Kansas voters who re-elected a Republican governor known for aggressive tax cutting are learning that the state won’t solve its serious budget problems without putting a normally sacrosanct asset in the crosshairs — its state-of-the-art highway system
► At AFL-CIO Now — Union-made Valentine sweet treats; save on flowers from Union Plus — Valentine’s Day is Saturday and you can give sweets and other treats for your sweet that has a union label, and while there’s no price tag on love, there is a discount on flowers with Union Plus.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.