Bustling ports, rally redux, Fast Track, ‘cowardly’ Walker…

Monday, February 23, 2015




► From AP — Longshore union, port operators prepare to vote on proposed agreement — West Coast dockworkers and their employers ended their nine-month standoff Friday evening with a tentative five-year contract deal, averting a shutdown of 29 ports. Labor secretary Tom Perez brokered a compromise on the issue of whether the union could fire arbitrators in workplace disputes, which had held up settlement on a contract after the sides agreed on other terms. Instead of a single arbitrator, a panel now will hear grievances, ILWU President Robert McEllrath told reporters.

ALSO at The Stand — ILWU, shippers reach tentative agreement for West Coast ports

► From AP — West Coast ports resuming regular operations following agreement — The seaports of the West Coast went from lagging to bustling over the weekend, a process that is expected to accelerate Monday in the wake of a tentative agreement between employers and dockworkers.

► In today’s Oregonian — Port agreement reached, but Hanjin’s still out — The situation is still grim at the Port of Portland, where Hanjin Shipping Co. is sticking to its plan to withdraw on March 9.




► In the (Everett) Herald — Boeing a big topic at rally in Olympia — All Dan Nowlin ever wanted to be was an employee of the Boeing Co. And today he is, working as an equipment engineering technician at the Everett factory. On Friday, he stood on the steps of the state Capitol with several hundred workers from other unions at a rally where one of the themes was to stop giving Boeing such a generous tax break if it continues reducing its workforce in the state. “I bleed Boeing blue and I have since I was a little boy,” Nowlin said. “But I believe in accountability for the taxpayer who is paying for those tax breaks.”

ALSO at The Stand — Labor, community call for Shared Prosperity

► In the Chinook Observer — Overflow crowd ignites debate on Senate transportation package — The Senate’s new transportation package is being hailed for its bipartisan support, while some critics find aspects of it troubling. The prime sponsors admit they see plenty of negotiating left to do. One element of the package that is raising concerns is SB 5993, which would lower the number of hours public-works projects are required to give to apprentices. Joe Kendo of the Washington State Labor Council called SB 5993 “a non-starter for the labor community and counterproductive and should be avoided at all costs.” He said the state’s labor force is aging and that more apprenticeship opportunities for young people are necessary to keep the economy growing.

► In the Spokesman-Review — State searches for tax solution to fix crumbling roads — As roads and bridges crumble across the country, lawmakers scramble to pay for repairs. The nation’s infrastructure faces huge challenges because of falling gas tax revenue, and the Inland Northwest has not gone unscathed.

► In today’s (Everett) Herald — New roads plan: $570 million for Snohomish County — Under the governor’s plan, Snohomish County was to receive a mere $82.8 million in project funding.

► In today’s News Tribune — State-funded raises for teachers would cost school districts, too — Paying for cost-of-living raises for teachers is a key piece of Gov. Jay Inslee’s budget proposal, but school district officials are worried that his plan will hurt their bottom line.

► In today’s (Everett) Herald — Extend tax breaks for film productions in state (editorial) — Washington Filmworks has authority to administer $3.5 million in tax incentives for productions. Last year, that funding ran out by May. Such tax breaks do represent a taxpayer-funded subsidy, but Filmworks is meticulous about tracking and reporting to the Legislature how much and on what these productions spend in the state, down to the last half-eaten doughnut on the craft services table. And the investment offers a significant return. Since Filmworks took over the state film office duties in 2007, the program has generated $96.3 million in direct spending in the state, $44 million of that in jobs.

► In today’s News Tribune — State looks to protect escalator inspection funding after lapses found — The state is looking to protect money for inspecting escalators and elevators following a report that found many escalators in Washington went uninspected in 2013.




► In the Seattle Times — Boeing managers to get annual bonuses of 12.5% to 22.5% — Boeing next month will give its three tiers of nonexecutive managers annual bonuses equal to approximately 12.5 percent, 17.5 percent and 22.5 percent of their salaries, far exceeding the bonuses recently granted to rank-and-file employees… Earlier this month, Ray Conner’s message to employees (explaining why rank-and-filers’ bonuses were lower than many expected) mentioned three specific areas where performance had been lacking: Some aircraft were delivered late in 2014; earnings on the 787 program were reduced by high spending needed to stabilize production; and problems on the 767 Air Force tanker program led to a big accounting charge. A veteran company engineer, via email, said all these issues “were, frankly, based on management decisions.”

► In the Seattle Times — City of Seattle issues draft rules for minimum wage law — Less than two months before Seattle’s minimum wage law kicks in, the city on Friday issued proposed rules designed to clarify questions such as how much to pay minors and how to determine how much temp workers should make. The draft rules say employers have to pay minors younger than age 16 at least 85 percent of the minimum wage.




► From Reuters — U.S. refinery strike widens to include nation’s largest plant — The U.S. refinery strike widened on its 20th day, with workers at the nation’s largest refinery (in Port Arthur, Texas) walking off jobs and joining picket lines on Saturday as the United Steelworkers union (USW) pushes for a new contract that improves wages and safety. Strikes are underway or have been called at 15 plants, including 12 refineries with a fifth of U.S. crude processing capacity.




► In the WSJ — Top Senate, House lawmakers nearing deal on Trade Promotion Authority — House and Senate negotiators are converging on a deal to approve Fast Track, which eases the passage of trade agreements, a key step in putting the divisive issue before the full Congress as the White House pursues a sweeping trade pact in Asia.

ALSO at The Stand — Blue-green tour urges opposition to Fast Track, TPP (video)

► At Huffington Post — Fighting Fast Track: Is it really China or us? (by CWA President Larry Cohen) — If we don’t set the rules, China will, President Obama warned in his State of the Union Address, which was otherwise mostly a welcome call to action against economic inequality. But is this an economic argument or an argument from the National Security Council and the State Department? Are U.S. working women and men again being called out to sacrifice, despite 30 years of no wage increases and millions of lost jobs, our cities hollowed out by the flight of once-good-paying manufacturing jobs to countries with pay that’s 90 percent lower, no rights for workers or environmental regulation? Or do the president and the USTR really believe they are making an economic argument — that U.S. workers will be better served competing with Vietnam’s 75-cents-an-hour average pay?

► In The Hill — Congress faces five-day deadline for funding Homeland Security — Legislation funding the agency is at an impasse over provisions demanded by House Republicans that would overturn President Obama’s executive actions on immigration that shield millions from deportation.




► In the Capital Times — AFL-CIO plans rallies against right-to-work at Wisconsin Capitol this week — Almost immediately following Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald’s announcement that the Legislature will take up a right-to-work bill next week, speculation about the size and intensity of the opposition from unions and labor allies arose. That speculation will end on Tuesday noon when the first of two rallies planned by the Wisconsin AFL-CIO takes place at the Capitol in Madison.

► In today’s Washington Post — Walker’s anti-union law has labor reeling in Wisconsin — The anti-union law passed here four years ago, which made Gov. Scott Walker a national Republican star and a possible presidential candidate, has turned out to be even more transformative than many had predicted. The once-thriving ­public-sector unions were not just shrunken — they were crippled. Unions representing teachers, professors, trash collectors and other government employees are struggling to stem plummeting membership rolls and retain relevance in the state where they got their start.

► At Think Progress — Walker’s latest anti-union plan is ‘cowardly,’ says former Republican leader — Former Senate Majority Leader Dale Schultz (R) warned that Walker’s embrace of right-to-work will backfire, saying the governor is “courting civic strife.” Wisconsin lawmakers’ haste in advancing the bill, which was quietly released Friday afternoon, is also raising eyebrows. Said Schultz:

It’s a cowardly move to make certain the public can’t be heard on this issue and rush it through in a special session. They ought to be embarrassed or ashamed. I thought they would have at least gone through the trouble of having a sham public hearing, but they don’t even think that’s necessary here.




► From ABC News — Striking FairPoint workers ratify tentative agreement — FairPoint Communications workers ratified a new contract during three days of voting, ending a four-month strike by more than 1,700 workers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

► In today’s NY Times — Health care opens stable career path, mostly for women — The daughter of a teacher’s aide and a gas station manager, Tabatha Waugh, like many other hard-working and often overlooked Americans, has secured a spot in a profoundly transformed middle class. While the group continues to include large numbers of people sitting at desks, far fewer middle-income workers of the 21st century are donning overalls. Instead, reflecting the biggest change in recent years, millions more are in scrubs.




► In today’s NY Times — Even better than a tax cut (by Lawrence Mishel) — With the early stages of the 2016 presidential campaign underway and millions of Americans still hurting financially, both parties are looking for ways to address wage stagnation. That’s the good news. The bad news is that both parties are offering tax cuts as a solution. What has hurt workers’ paychecks is not what the government takes out, but what their employers no longer put in — a dynamic that tax cuts cannot eliminate… Contrary to conventional wisdom, wage stagnation is not a result of forces beyond our control. It is a result of a policy regime that has undercut the individual and collective bargaining power of most workers. Because wage stagnation was caused by policy, it can be reversed by policy, too.


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