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Aerospace wages, ‘let us do our jobs,’ shame on Staples…

Wednesday, February 11, 2015




PaulE1► At IAM 751’s blog — Machinists testify on wage standards for tax breaks — “I believed that incentives were supposed to create middle-class jobs,” Paul Elliot told the legislators. “But they used the tax incentives to increase their profits while continuing to pay their workers low wages.”

ALSO at The Stand — We’re being taken for a ride (WSLC Legislative Update)

► At Crosscut — Tax breaks could be tied to higher pay for some aerospace workers — At a Monday House Labor Committee hearing, union representatives testified that several thousand non-union employees plus a few union members make $15 an hour or less, which translates to $31,200 or less per year. “We’re seeing thousands of workers not sharing in the success,” said SPEEA’s Chelsea Orvella.

shea-matt► In today’s Seattle Times — GOP lawmaker denies global warming as Inslee climate bill advances — Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposal to cap state carbon emissions and impose $1 billion a year in new charges on oil refineries, aluminum smelters and other top polluters passed its first legislative hurdle Tuesday, clearing the state House Environment Committee on a party-line vote. The ranking Republican on the committee, Rep. Matt Shea (R-Spokane Valley), raised a line of argument that GOP leaders have largely shied away from this year: disputing the overwhelming scientific consensus that global warming is occurring, likely due to human activity.

► In today’s Yakima H-R — Bill waives tuition for families of slain highway workers — The families of transportation workers killed or severely injured on the job would be exempt from tuition and fees under a proposal from state Sen. Curtis King (R-Yakima).

► From KPLU — Legislators consider exempting amateur athletes from labor laws — The move comes as Washington’s four Western Hockey League teams remain under investigation for possible child labor violations.

► At Crosscut — State’s funding of long-term care: Neglectful (by Brendan Williams) — The Legislature has other issues before it, but it should end its perennial policy of trying to bully nursing homes into ever-better service while shortchanging them and their workers.




► In today’s Olympian — Lawmakers aim to regain state’s No Child Left behind waiver — The U.S. Department of Education said it revoked Washington’s waiver because the state didn’t require student scores on statewide tests to be used as one factor in evaluating teachers and principals. Republican-sponsored bills would change that, making it so that statewide testing data become mandatory parts of those evaluations.

► A related story at Politico — No profit left behind — Pearson, a standardized testing firm that has seized on education reform trends to make billions, stands to generate tens of millions in taxpayer dollars and cuts in student tuition from deals arranged without competitive bids in states from Florida to Texas. The review also found Pearson’s contracts set forth specific performance targets — but don’t penalize the company when it fails to meet those standards.

► In today’s Seattle Times — Second probe launched into state’s first charter school — The state commission governing charter schools has launched a second investigation into First Place Scholars, the state’s first charter school. Problems raise questions about the school, but also about how well commissioners are vetting charter applicants.




port-of-tacoma-ILWU23-front► At Random Lengths News — Longshore workers have an answer for clearing ship congestion: ‘Let us do our jobs’ (by ILWU 13 President Robert Olivera) — These megaships require up to eight “gangs” or crews, to handle cargo. However, since July 2014 (when the labor agreement with ILWU expired), PMA, in a mind-boggling move, reduced the number of gangs assigned to large cargo vessels to three, constituting a 75 percent reduction of workers. To make matters even worse, on New Year’s Eve 2014, PMA announced an additional reduction in the workforce, assigning only one gang per ship during the night shift. That translates to reducing the number of crews assigned to unloading cargo by a staggering 87 percent. More recently, on Jan.13, 2015, night crews serving vessels were dropped by PMA altogether. As a direct result of PMA’s actions, more than 7,000 full-time longshore workers face steeply reduced hours of work. In addition, about 8,000 part-time or “casual” longshore workers will have little to no work available to them. Such drastic cuts in the workforce not only impact the families of the workers whose hours have been cut, but add to congestion at the port. This congestion financially impacts thousands of local and national businesses that rely on the ports to unload their merchandise in a timely manner.




► From Reuters — Union says little progress in U.S. refinery contract talks — The USW said little progress was made in talks with oil companies on Tuesday for a new U.S. refinery workers contract as a strike at 11 plants completed its 10th day. The USW said lead oil company negotiator Royal Dutch Shell failed to bring experts and information as promised when talks ended last week.

tesoro-anacortes► At AlterNet — Refinery workers protest for better working, safety conditions (by Jonathan Rosenblum) — In Anacortes, Wash., people attach a different price to gasoline: 13 human lives. That’s the number of workers killed in accidents at Anacortes’ two refineries in recent years. The safety problems that led to these tragedies are the main reason that 190 Anacortes refinery workers are walking picket lines today, on strike along with 5,000 other oil processing workers at 10 other refineries around the nation.




► In today’s Tri-City Herald — Plan to protect Hanford workers from chemical vapors released — A new plan to protect workers from chemical vapors from Hanford tanks was released Tuesday by Washington River Protection Solutions. The plan aims to address 47 recommendations made by a team of independent experts.

► In today’s Yakima H-R — Potential Inslee challenger to emcee Yakima GOP dinner — All eyes will be on Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant at the Yakima County GOP’s Lincoln Day Dinner on March 14. He is widely expected to challenge Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee in 2016. He has been dubbed master of ceremonies for this year’s event.




► In The Hill — Republicans put the screws to labor board — The new Republican majority in the Senate is turning up the pressure on the National Labor Relations Board, with a series of hearings and legislative attacks against policies that make it easier for workers to unionize.

kono-mcdonalds-franchises► At Huffington Post — Who’s the boss? Why Republicans are missing the point on joint employer — What’s striking about the recent stretch of Congressional activity and outrage in response to the NLRB’s joint employer standard is its almost complete lack of connection to the reality of labor and employment laws in our country and how they apply (or don’t apply) to businesses.

► At TPM — GOP infighting begins as clock ticks toward Homeland Security shutdown — The intra-GOP recriminations have begun over the party’s failing strategy to stop President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration as the clock ticks to a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security in 17 days.

► In today’s Washington Post — Union, Dems seek better federal pay, but must wait to hear GOP’s plans — Federal unions and most of their supporters on the Hill are like a team that never gets the ball — they can only play defense. Bills they support, like one to give feds a 3.8 percent pay raise, are good rallying points but are not likely to score.

► In today’s Washington Post — Furlough appeals falter: 99.5 percent denied so far — The small agency that’s hearing appeals of almost 33,000 federal workers furloughed after the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration took effect in 2013 is officially reporting that 99.5 percent of the employees have lost their cases.




uber-protest-portland► At — Will Uber and Lyft make your job obsolete? (by Rebecca Smith) — In the new on-demand economy, companies are turning the Internet into the equivalent of a street corner hiring site and turning workers into day laborers. Like the Uber and Lyft drivers, workers who take on these kinds of jobs through online platforms are on their own. Unless the courts rule otherwise, they will continue to be treated as independent businesses. That means they will have no access to basic legal rights like minimum wage, overtime pay, workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, employer-provided benefits and most critically, the formal right to come together and bargain with the companies for better wages and working conditions.

► From AP — Both sides gear up for fight over Rauner order on union dues — Labor leaders said Tuesday they’re looking into legal options to challenge a federal lawsuit the Republican governor filed against more than two dozen public-employee unions. The lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Chicago, seeks to have “fair share” dues declared unconstitutional.

job-creator-staples-sargent► At Buzzfeed — Interview with President Obama — Asked about Staples blaming “Obamacare” for cutting its employees’ hours, President Obama says:

“I haven’t looked at Staples stock lately or what the compensation of the CEO is, but I suspect that they could well afford to treat their workers favorably and give them some basic financial security, and if they can’t, then they should be willing to allow those workers to get the Affordable Care Act without cutting wages. This is the same argument that I’ve made with respect to something like paid sick leave. We have 43 million Americans who, if they get sick or their child gets sick, are looking at either losing their paycheck or going to the job sick or leaving their child at home sick. It’s one thing when you’ve got a mom-and-pop store who can’t afford to provide paid sick leave or health insurance or minimum wage to workers — even though a large percentage of those small businesses do it because they know it’s the right thing to do — but when I hear large corporations that make billions of dollars in profits trying to blame our interest in providing health insurance as an excuse for cutting back workers’ wages, shame on them.”




protect-our-pensions► In the Washington Post — Pension plans, once inviolable promises to employees, are getting cut — The stock market has soared more than 75 percent in the past five years, yet many pension funds, where many middle-class workers should benefit from the market’s rise, continue to struggle, jeopardizing benefits for the workers who were counting on them in retirement. At the end of last year, Congress passed legislation allowing certain distressed pension plans to slash retirement benefits, including those already being received by retirees — an unprecedented move altering a principle enshrined in federal law for four decades that said benefits already earned could not be cut… This change in the social contract is growing more common as employers, private employers as well as governments, increasingly view the mushrooming cost of pensions as unbearable, even as the broader economy recovers.


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