Tuesday, April 7, 2015
► From AP — State Senate passes two-year state budget plan — The $38 billion, two-year budget passed the Republican-controlled chamber on a 26-23 vote. It doesn’t include any new taxes, mostly relying on existing revenue, fund transfers and redirecting tax income from recreational marijuana.
EDITOR’S NOTE — As we reported yesterday, the Senate budget disrespects state employees by rejecting the contracts that would grant them their first pay raises in seven years. A bipartisan majority in the Senate supports funding the contracts that would raise pay by 4.8 percent over two years — the first such general wage increase since July 2008 — but Republican leaders changed procedural rules to require a 30-vote supermajority to approve that amendment. The effort then “failed” on a 29-20 vote in favor of funding the contracts.
► In today’s Spokesman-Review — Senate OKs budget plan calling for another class-size vote — It’s a “high-stakes” gamble, said Sen. Jim Hargrove (D-Hoquiam). If voters reject the referendum, legislators would have an immediate hole of $2 billion in the state’s operating budget.
► In today’s (Everett) Herald — After lots of trash talk, budget talk will get real in Olympia — After this week’s initial round of meetings, an unpredictable pace will ensue. There are no rules for the frequency of conversations or how quickly the two sides might begin exchanging written offers, let alone reach a tentative agreement.
► In today’s Columbian — Local Republicans say budget good step — Republican senators from Southwest Washington called the two-year operating budget plan passed by the upper chamber Monday a good step.
► In the Skagit Valley Herald — Workers group says there will be no shortage of local farm workers — Union workers with Familias Unidas por la Justicia delivered 200 letters Tuesday to the state Employment Security Department in an attempt to prove there is no shortage of workers in Skagit County and to block Sakuma Bros. Farms from bringing in guest workers for the upcoming berry harvest season, Familias representatives said.
► From KGMI — Berry pickers hope to block Sakuma Brothers Farm’s use of foreign guest workers — The saga between berry pickers and Sakuma Brothers Farm continues, with workers once again hoping to block the farm from bringing in guest workers.
ALSO at The Stand — Farmworkers aim to block H-2A guestworkers at Sakuma Bros.
► In the Columbian — State must step up game on renewable energy (by Bryce Smith) — The top five states for clean energy jobs for 2014 were Nevada, California, New York, Michigan, and Arizona. Washington was not in the top five. Or the top 10. Or the top 20. In fact, Washington ranked 32nd of 50 states for clean energy jobs announced in 2014. That’s not good enough. For a state that touts itself as technologically savvy, innovative, and green, we’re not living up to our potential — or our reputation — in this modern, high-growth sector.
► In the (Longview) Daily News — Union will continue to negotiate with KapStone after rejecting contract — The two sides haven’t scheduled any additional negotiations, but there was no indication from the union that it will immediately call for a strike, even though the membership authorized one in December. Still, the reported “overwhelming” rejection of the contract will continue the community’s jitters over the labor conflict.
► From Crosscut — Try again: Minimum wage enforcement job goes begging — April 1 has come and gone and Seattle employees of large companies like Starbucks or McDonald’s should have seen their minimum wages go up to $11 an hour. But, at least for the moment, it’s pretty much up to the the employers to deliver: The city says it’s having little luck in quickly staffing the new Office of Labor Standards to enforce the new wage.
► From Labor Notes — Seattle activists take wage enforcement into their own hands — Decked out in party hats and blowing noisemakers, 200 marchers in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood made the rounds of low-wage workplaces. The parade was a celebration of the city’s new minimum wage — and a serious effort to make sure workers know they’ve got a raise coming.
► In today’s Yakima H-R — Yakima commissioners to hear new city voting district boundaries — County commissioners will decide today whether to approve new voting district boundaries for all seven Yakima City Council positions. The move comes in light of a federal judge’s ruling in August that the city’s current voting system violates the federal Voting Rights Act, and ordered new district boundaries as a remedy to the disenfranchising of Latino voters.
► In the Charleston Business Journal — Union rates drop in S.C. as Boeing election nears — At a time when state union membership is at its lowest in a decade, a contentious election will be held this month at Boeing South Carolina to determine whether one of the state’s biggest manufacturers will be unionized.
► From AFP — Boeing clings to lead over Airbus in long-haul jets — Boeing is fighting tough efforts by rival Airbus to score big gains in the market for long-haul jets, a segment of the massive aircraft market that the U.S. giant has dominated.
► In today’s NY Times — Boeing, Delta spend millions in fight over Export-Import Bank’s existence — A battle between two aviation heavyweights over an obscure bank masks a political war between opponents of “corporate welfare” and major business groups.
► At Huffington Post — Working parents should be very happy about this obscure Senate vote — On March 26, while individual senators were introducing amendments as part of a process known as “vote-a-rama,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) offered up what she called a “paid sick day” proposal. Her idea is to guarantee that all Americans can take up to seven days off from work a year, with pay, in order to get better from an illness or to take care of a sick family member. Murray has taken up the leadership on the issue in the Senate, now that its previous champion, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), has retired. But as Murray’s aides and allies tell it, the senator did not spend a lot of time trying to rally supporters or persuade wavering colleagues on this particular vote. She figured that most of her fellow Democrats would vote yes. She hoped that a handful of Republicans might do the same, so that she could claim majority support for the concept — 51 votes, or maybe one or two more if she was really lucky. She ended up with 61.
► From The Hill — Last-minute lobbying threatens $200B Medicare package — Lawmakers and lobbyists representing children’s insurance advocates, seniors’ healthcare providers and other specialty groups are pressing to amend a $200 billion Medicare package the Senate hopes to send to President Obama’s desk next week.
► At Politico — ‘Cadillac tax’ the next big Obamacare battle — A mix of business groups and labor unions are pushing to tee up the next big Obamacare fight: killing its so-called Cadillac tax. It is, they say, the type of Obamacare “fix” that Republicans and Democrats can agree on — notwithstanding the problem of filling an $87 billion budget hole that nixing the levy would produce. It’s one of the last big parts of the Affordable Care Act to go into effect — lawmakers delayed the levy until 2018 in part because it is so controversial — but companies are wrestling with it now as they plan employee benefits. Some are already negotiating with unions over benefits that could spill into 2018.
► From Huffington Post — Senate Democrats getting fed up with SEC’s delay on CEO pay rule — Democrats have been pushing the SEC for nearly five years to move forward with the rule, which Congress required the agency to develop under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law. The rule would mandate that companies publicly disclose the ratio of their CEO’s pay to the median earnings of workers at the firm.
► From Reuters — Top Senate Democrat joins push for populist campaign agenda — Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has joined a grassroots effort from the progressive wing of the party to encourage presidential candidates to adopt populist policies as they begin their campaigns. He is among more than 5,000 lawmakers and party leaders who have signed on to the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Check out which elected officials and leaders from Washington are among the 5,000 (so far) who are “Ready for Boldness.”
► In today’s Washington Post — Declining IRS workforce leaves calls unanswered as Tax Day approaches, union says — Taxpayers across the country are lining up for hours outside walk-in centers and getting just four in 10 calls for information answered by the IRS as April 15 approaches, the union representing IRS employees (NTEU) said.
► In today’s NY Times — Food safety law’s funding is far below estimated requirement — New requirements, which were passed by Congress in 2010, cannot be met without more money, supporters of the overhaul say.
► From AP — Walker’s Wisconsin still lags nation in job growth — Scott Walker has transformed Wisconsin politics, winning three elections in four years and signing laws that weaken unions. But the likely Republican presidential contender has had less success changing Wisconsin’s economy and budget. The state lags in job growth and its budget faces a shortfall. It’s a record that complicates Walker’s path in early primary states as he sells himself as a reformer.
► At Think Progress — Weeks after rushing ‘right-to-work,’ Wisconsin Republicans prepare next attack on labor — Republicans in Wisconsin now say they have a “better than 50 percent” chance of scrapping state “prevailing wage” laws that ensure construction workers a living wage.
► From Reuters — Machinists withdraw bid to unionize Delta flight attendants — The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said on Monday it had temporarily withdrawn its application to organize flight attendants at Delta Air Lines.
► In today’s NY Times — Kris Bryant, the baseball players’ union and a lesson for labor (by Noan Scheiber) — Labor might do well to heed baseball, where solidarity between its stars and lesser players has been critical to bargaining success since the mid-’60s.
► From In These Times — Panama’s dockworkers fight poverty wages — with support from American unionists — In Panama they call longshore pay “hunger wages.” Workers’ families live below the government’s own poverty line, and some families literally go hungry. But this situation has begun to change. A few weeks ago the union signed a new contract with raises totaling more than 27% over the next four years. One factor that made this agreement possible was support from a U.S. union, the ILWU. That agreement will have a big impact on the lives of longshoremen and their families.
► From AP — Strikes proliferate in China as working class awakens — Timid by nature, Shi Jieying took a risk last month and joined fellow workers in a strike at her handbag factory, one of a surging number of such labor protests across China. Riot police flooded into the factory compound, broke up the strike and hauled away dozens of workers. Terrified by the violence, Shi was hospitalized with heart trouble, but with a feeble voice from her sickbed expressed a newfound boldness. “We deserve fair compensation,” said Shi, 41, who makes $4,700 a year at Cuiheng Handbag Factory in Nanlang, in southern China.
► From Bloomberg — Footwear factory strike in Vietnam exposes pension crisis — Vietnam may be forced to water down a new law designed to shore up its pension system after tens of thousands of workers protested against the changes in a strike that lasted nearly a week.
► In the NY Times — The evidence of Mexico’s missing — Little more than six months after 43 students were abducted and presumably killed in Iguala in Guerrero State, photographer Christopher Gregory is wondering about all the other people who have vanished in that region.
ALSO at The Stand — Parents of 43 students kidnapped in Mexico to arrive in Olympia — Caravana 43, a group representing the parents of the 43 students kidnapped in late September 2014 in Guerrero, Mexico, will arrive in Olympia to speak to about their children’s experiences and about the human rights violations occurring in Mexico. All are invited to attend their events on Tuesday, April 14 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Washington State Labor Council office, 906 Columbia St. SW #300, and Wednesday, April 15 from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Long House at The Evergreen State College, 2700 Evergreen Parkway NW.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.