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Feds on ports, life vs. pie, killing unions, Gabriel’s ride…

Friday, February 13, 2015




► In today’s Seattle Times — Lawmakers push for end to West Coast port strife — Alarmed by mounting job and business losses that seem destined to only grow worse, members of Congress on Thursday called for an end to the labor impasse that has brought 29 ports along the West Coast to a virtual shut down.

port-closed-by-PMAALSO at The Stand — ILWU: Shippers harming economy for leverage

► In today’s NY Times — Simmering labor fight beings crippling delays to West Coast seaports — “The continued intransigence by labor and management to reach a new contract is unacceptable,” the National Retail Federation said in response to the latest report. “This stalemate is hurting American businesses, their employees and consumers.” It called on the White House to push for a settlement, as did the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

► In today’s News Tribune — West Coast port crisis needs president’s intervention (editorial) — The longshoremen and the PMA have unique leverage over the American economy and Pacific Rim commerce. As the nation’s leader, the president should remind them that such leverage carries heavy responsibility. Millions of Americans need this deadlock broken.




Artist rendering of USW member Charles Wharton carrying a critically injured co-worker to safety after a 2009 explosion at the CITGO refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas.

► MUST-READ in The Guardian — At my oil refinery, my life is worth the price of a pie (by Butch Cleve) — Every now and then I caught a glimpse through the dense vapor of another of my crew members, and I thought, “Well, if today is my day, I will not be alone.” We shut the valves, diffused the propane and escaped with our lives because it never ignited. We were lucky and we knew it… After I helped to disperse the propane, supervisors thanked us and said “good job” and bought us apple and cherry pies. For preventing a massive explosion. When someone suggested we deserved exceptional achievement cash awards, a supervisor said, “We don’t reward you for doing your jobs. We bought you pie.” We don’t want to be exposed to potentially fatal hazards unnecessarily. We want safety improved. Pie for risking my life to resolve a problem that could have been prevented shows how little refineries value the lives of their workers.

ALSO at The Stand — Refinery workers are taking a life-or-death stand (by USW President Leo W. Gerard)

► From Reuters — U.S. refinery strike enters 12th day, no talks scheduledThe largest U.S. refinery strike since 1980 entered its 12th day on Thursday with no talks scheduled until next week and industry representatives were weighing a union counterproposal, said a labor spokeswoman.




► In the Spokesman-Review — Crack down on state’s wage, labor scofflaws (editorial) — Attorney General Bob Ferguson last Friday filed criminal charges against a former Seattle Seahawk and an accomplice who allegedly lifted more employee wages than barbells at their two Seattle athletic clubs, and shorted state and local government a ton of taxes besides. He’s also supporting overdue legislation that will discourage abuses by companies that want to do business with the state.

ALSO at The Stand — AG seeks criminal prosecution in Seattle wage theft case

road-dollar-sign► In today’s News Tribune — State Senate will consider gas-tax deal — An 11.7-cent gasoline-tax increase proposed Thursday is just the latest state transportation plan to raise hopes for new highway work, but this one starts with more bipartisan momentum than others have. Republican and Democratic negotiators in the Senate rejected Gov. Jay Inslee’s call to raise money from large emitters of greenhouse gases. Instead, their nearly $15 billion spending plan includes a higher gasoline tax. But enough points of contention remain that it’s not clear whether the plan has enough votes for approval in the GOP-majority Senate, let alone the Democrat-controlled House and Governor’s Office.

MORE local coverage from the Seattle Times, Spokesman-Review, Tri-City Herald, AP, KPLU, and PubliCola.

braun-john► In today’s Seattle Times — GOP lawmakers propose university-tuition cuts — but no plan to pay for them — Two Washington state senators have offered a plan to cut tuition in the state’s public universities and community colleges — provided the money can be found to pay for it. “That’s the million-dollar question,” said bill sponsor Sen. John Braun (R-Centralia) when asked where the estimated $226 million to cover the expense of the proposed tuition cuts would come from. Lawmakers are facing a projected budget shortfall of more than $2 billion.

► In today’s Yakima H-R — Legislation goes after taxpayer-funded Yakima union job — Legislation aimed at prohibiting the use of taxpayer funds to pay the salaries of teacher union representatives moved out of the Senate Commerce & Labor Committee Thursday.




► In today’s Seattle Times — Half of engineers whose work went to Calif. stay with Boeing — Boeing on Thursday updated employees about the transfer of 1,000 support engineering jobs from the Puget Sound area to Southern California, indicating only 400 of the engineers still face possible layoff this year. About half of the affected engineers have secured a job within Boeing — 150 moving to California and 350 taking a different Boeing job in the Puget Sound region, the company said.

► In the PSBJ — 4 workers injured when section of Highway 99 tunnel project collapsed — Seattle Tunnel Partners said five workers were installing rebar for a concrete wall at the tunnel’s north portal work zone when the wall of rebar gave way, injuring four of the five workers.




murray-patty► In today’s Seattle Times — Patty Murray resurrects bill for paid sick days — Murray cosponsored the “Healthy Families Act” with U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, a leading liberal in Congress who has introduced the bill six times since 2004. Estimated 43 million American workers get no paid sick time. For those people, Murray said, getting the flu can cost their paychecks and sometimes even their jobs.

► From TPM — The ghost of NAFTA still haunts Obama on trade deals — Near the heart of every trade argument lurks NAFTA, a breakthrough deal passed mainly by Republicans in Congress and signed by a Democratic president, Bill Clinton. Liberals, labor unions and others denounce NAFTA almost daily. They say it’s the blueprint for new proposals being pushed by Obama and — once again — a mostly Republican constituency in Congress.

► At AFL-CIO Now — New bipartisan bill cracks down on currency manipulation — AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said the currency manipulation legislation is an important piece in addressing unfair trade, but more should be done.

mcconnell-mitch-stop► In today’s Washington Post — McConnell, after his no-shutdowns pledge, quickly finds himself boxed in — “Let me make it clear: There will be no government shutdowns,” McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a victory-lap news conference the day after he won reelection and a Republican rout gave his party the Senate majority. On Thursday, the Senate adjourned for a 10-day break that will leave just a few workdays before the Feb. 27 deadline to secure funding for the Department of Homeland Security amid a smoldering fight over President Obama’s executive orders on immigration.




union-card-cold-dead-hand► In the New Republic — Republicans think they’ve finally figured out how to kill unions — Remember unions? You know, those organizations that helped raise wages, made workplaces safer by pushing for laws that would punish employers for dangerous conditions, and gave us the 40-hour workweek? Republicans have cast unions as the ultimate economic villain, responsible for job loss, stagnating wages, and increased foreign competition for labor… Fair share dues have been a feature of union organizing since their beginning; the movement against those dues seems to date back over 100 years. But it wasn’t until the 1940s, when a racist oil lobbyist named Vance Muse pushed for so-called “right-to-work” bills, which allow people to opt-out of paying union dues and membership, even if a workplace is unionized and every employee benefits from a union-negotiated contract. It was an attempt to stop unions from pushing for integration and for the economic power of the working class (especially African Americans); the practice began to catch on. Now, 25 states have some form of right-to-work legislation on the books.

► In today’s NY Times — Missouri House passes ‘right-to-work’ bill, ignores veto threat — A bill that would make Missouri the latest state to adopt so-called right-to-work laws or policies passed the Republican-controlled House here on Thursday, but without enough votes to override an expected veto from the Democratic governor.

happy-days► From Bloomberg — Finally, good news for workers at the bottomEmployment of people without a high school degree rose 6 percent over the past year. Employment of black teens rose 18 percent. Employment of the disabled rose 20 percent. There are some early signs that their bosses are paying a little better, too. The main problem is that wages aren’t growing fast enough.

► In today’s Philadelphia Inquirer — Philadelphia Council passes mandatory paid sick leave bill — Mayor Nutter, who vetoed paid sick leave legislation introduced by Greenlee in 2011 and 2013, intends to sign the bill into law Thursday afternoon. It will take effect in 90 days.

► In today’s NY Times — Jon Stewart’s America (by Timothy Egan) — For Stewart, a gifted clown with wide-ranging curiosity, Fox News was not just a house of hypocrisy and endless source material. It was part of what made a great democracy harder to govern, and less likely to share a common narrative. He understood exactly what they were up to, even if some of their teleprompter readers never did.

scott-walker-urine► In the Washington Post — Scott Walker’s yellow politics (by Catherine Rampell) — GOP presidential wannabe Scott Walker wants to drug test not just welfare applicants but also anyone applying for Medicaid, food stamps or unemployment insurance benefits. If we really want to weed out undeserving, drug-addled recipients of public funds, and thereby improve the government’s bottom line, we need to make like Willie Sutton and go where the money is: to the populations that receive the biggest public subsidies… Our nation’s elderly, veterans, college students, politicians, government contractors and plenty of other suspicious groups also receive sizable government funds. Let’s round ’em up and make them pee in a cup, too.




► Today, the Entire Staff of The Stand wishes the great Peter Gabriel a happy 65th birthday. A career-long activist for humanitarian causes, AllMusic calls Garbriel “one of rock’s most ambitious, innovative musicians, as well as one of its most political.” Gabriel said that this song, his first single as a solo artist after leaving the band Genesis, “is about being prepared to lose what you have for what you might get… It’s about letting go.” In this case, Gabriel lets go by pulling a Michael Bennett. Enjoy.


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