Wednesday, March 4, 2015
► From AP — House votes to raise hourly minimum wage to $12; measure now headed to Senate — The state House voted along party lines Tuesday to raise the state’s minimum wage — already the nation’s highest — to $12 an hour over the next four years. Rep. Jessyn Farrell (D-Seattle) sponsored the House bill and said most workers who earn minimum wage now are adults and have a difficult time trying to stretch their pay to cover the expenses of maintaining a household.
► In today’s News Tribune —House passes Tacoma lawmaker’s sick leave law — On a party-line 51-46 vote, the state House passed a bill Tuesday that would require most businesses in Washington to grant employees paid sick and safe leave.
ALSO TODAY at The Stand — House action on wages, sick leave applauded
► In today’s (Everett) Herald — Work ahead yet for legislators on transportation (editorial) — The House now has the opportunity to find further compromises in the transportation package. One compromise ought to remove the threat to funding for public transit projects in exchange for a reasonable moratorium on the low-carbon fuel standard while its costs and benefits are studied and gain greater acceptance.
► In today’s Seattle Times — Washington suffers most regressive tax system in U.S. (by Jon Talton) — The overall tax system remains designed for the state that existed in the 1950s and before, heavy on manufacturing and extraction industries, even though Washington’s population has exploded and become much more urban, creating expanded need for infrastructure and government services. The status quo adds to inequality, as well as hurting state revenues, particularly during downturns.
ALSO at The Stand — Sign petition for state tax system that’s fair, stable, accountable
► In today’s Seattle Times — Moneytree leads push to loosen state’s payday-lending law — The proposal has drawn bipartisan support and has passed committees in both chambers of the Legislature. Backers say it would be a win-win — reviving the lending business while giving consumers access to more affordable short-term credit. But anti-poverty and consumer-advocacy groups are panning the legislation, arguing new fees would undermine the state’s 2009 reforms and ensnare more people in a debt trap.
ALSO at The Stand — Bill puts payday loan industry before people (by John Burbank)
► MUST-READ from ProPublica — The demolition of workers’ compensation — Over the past decade, state after state has been dismantling America’s workers’ comp system with disastrous consequences for many of the hundreds of thousands of people who suffer serious injuries at work each year, a ProPublica and NPR investigation has found. The cutbacks have been so drastic in some places that they virtually guarantee injured workers will plummet into poverty. Workers often battle insurance companies for years to get the surgeries, prescriptions and basic help their doctors recommend.
ALSO at The Stand — For employers, Washington state is among cheapest for workers’ comp (Nov. 10, 2014)
► In today’s Seattle Times — Political paralysis is the new normal (by Danny Westneat) — Is democracy starting to wither? The national and local legislatures are so dysfunctional that the action in politics these days is mostly coming from executive orders or court rulings.
► From KPLU — Study highlights Washington’s gender wage gap — The year 2071 is when the state’s gender wage gap is projected to close if things continue as they are. A new study commissioned by the Women’s Funding Alliance shows that more immediate change would not only close the gender wage gap, but also boost the state’s economy.
► In the PSBJ — Big Washington state Boeing supplier opens South Carolina facility — With so much work in the Puget Sound area, the expansion of Arlington-based AMT Senior Aerospace into South Carolina may not be as portentous as it might have been a few years ago when Boeing’s future in Washington state seemed much more precarious.
► In today’s News Tribune — Port of Tacoma cutting container backlog — Longshore crews making substantial progress handling nearly four months worth of containers backed up at Tacoma terminals.
► In today’s (Aberdeen) Daily World — Commissioners puzzled by union clause triggering raise
► From The Hill — Senate to vote Wednesday on reverse controversial NLRB rule — The Senate will vote Wednesday on a GOP-backed motion that would undo a controversial NLTB rule that makes it easier for workers to hold union elections. Republicans are using the Congressional Review Act that allows lawmakers to undo regulation through a motion of disapproval, which needs a majority vote in both chambers. The motion can’t be filibustered or amended, which will help it bypass Democratic opposition.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) spoke on the Senate floor in opposition to the motion:
Unfortunately, once again, instead of standing up for workers, my Republican colleagues are rushing to the defense of the biggest corporations that have an interest in keeping wages low and denying workers a voice to improve their workplace. Workers have the right to decide whether they want union representation. And, to ensure they are able to exercise that right, the National Labor Relations Board – or the NLRB – helps make sure workers have a fair up-or-down vote.
► From The Hill — Unions plan Capitol Hill trade blitz — Labor unions are ramping up their campaign against trade promotion authority with a planned blitz on Capitol Hill. On Wednesday, union groups led by the AFL-CIO plan to swamp Capitol Hill to argue that trade deals are bad for jobs and wages and that “fast track trade means fewer jobs, lower wages and a declining middle class.”
► From The Hill — House approves Homeland Security funding in 257-167 vote — The House voted Tuesday to fund the Department of Homeland Security, ending a months-long impasse over President Obama’s immigration policies and averting a weekend shutdown at the agency.
► From The Hill — Less than half of House Republicans vote for clean DHS funding — Only 75 House Republicans joined Democrats on Tuesday to approve legislation funding the Department of Homeland Security without provisions to undo President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Fresh after her near-censure by her district’s tea partiers for not being sufficiently conservative, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-3rd) voted AGAINST the DHS funding bill, as did freshman Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-4th). GOP Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and dave Reichert joined all of Washington’s Democratic Congressional delegation in voting “yes.”
► From AP — Boehner escapes jam on DHS vote, but more GOP battles loom — Boehner and his leadership team appear destined to confront fratricidal fights for months to come.
► From Roll Call — Centrist New Democrats want bigger role in party’s message — Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA): “The New Dems’ message doesn’t fit on a bumper sticker. So I said we should stand on the steps of the Capitol and shout, ‘What do we want? A comprehensive approach to job creation that includes tax reform, investments in infrastructure and a pro-growth budget that invests in our future! When do we want it? Well, we want to work in a collaborative way to bring people together!’”
► In today’s Washington Post — Supreme Court weighs health care once again — After upholding the law three years ago, justices consider whether those who receive tax subsidies to buy health insurance under the Affordable Care Act are doing so illegally.
► In today’s NY Times — White House plans no rescue if court guts ACA — Legal experts say the White House is savvy to make sure the Supreme Court knows there would be no safety net for up to 7.5 million who could lose insurance subsidies.
► In today’s NY Times — Challenge to ACA puts obscure think tank in spotlight — The Competitive Enterprise Institute, with ties to conservative titans like the Koch brothers, organized the challenge to the Affordable Care Act now in the Supreme Court.
► At TPM — Moment of truth: Is John Roberts ready to wreck ACA? — “This case will give the Chief Justice the opportunity to atone for his judicial sin of two years ago. Not many judges have the chance to make up for the mistakes of the past. Let’s hope he takes advantage of the opportunity,” writes former Bush administration lawyer John Yoo.
► In the Christian Science Monitor — Wisconsin going ‘right to work’: What’s the impact for jobs and incomes? — The volume and tone of the debate over right-to-work laws far outstrips actual certainty about the impact. All this doesn’t mean the choice facing Wisconsin is trivial. The expected vote this week by the Wisconsin Assembly would weaken the labor movement at a time when it is already struggling.
► In today’s Washington Post — Laws that decimate unions may be inevitable. Here’s how labor can survive. (by Lydia DePillis) — Allow for members-only unions, pass more laws that protect workers’ rights generally, and just work harder to prove unions are valuable.
► In today’s NY Times — MLS, facing possible strike, finds labor strife at its door — The Major League Soccer players’ union and the league have been negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement for weeks, and have been in talks with the aid of a federal mediator since Sunday in Washington. But a strike could be called as early as Wednesday to keep the teams that are scheduled to play Friday from traveling to game sites that would be shuttered.
► In today’s NY Times — Columbia graduate students push for a labor union — Over half of the university’s graduate teaching and research assistants have signed forms saying they want to unionize, but the university says that treating students as employees could hurt their education.
► From KQED — More and more businesses relying on gig economy to find short-term labor — The outsourcing of errands and odd jobs has fueled the growth of companies like TaskRabbit. With the click of a button, you can find someone to assemble your Ikea furniture or drive you to the airport… But most gigs don’t have the kind of protections that workers fought for in the early 20th century — things like unemployment benefits and workers’ comp.
► At Think Progress — How corporations waste billions instead of investing in own workers — Companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index spent $104.3 billion on planned stock buybacks in February, which is almost twice what they spent last year and is the most since data tracking began in 1995. Buying back a company’s own stock shares decreases the number of available shares and therefore inflates the value of each that remain, enriching the shareholders who already own them. It also benefits executives themselves. Executive compensation has become increasingly tied to stock performance, so when buybacks prop up the value of a company’s shares, it also drives up their pay. Stock buybacks don’t do anything, however, to increase actual company productivity or performance.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Boeing recently announced a $12 billion stock buyback, after buying back $8.8 billion in the previous two years. Meanwhile, the company has taken away pensions from its employees and restricted bonuses, despite record deliveries and profits. Meanwhile, CEO Jim McNerney’s pay has soared to more than $23 million per year.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.