Disposable at Amazon, GOP vs. labor laws, 5-0…

Thursday, October 22, 2015




► In the P.S. Business Journal — Haggen starts collecting bids to sell off stores, agrees to pay workers vacation time — Haggen recently received court approval that allows it to pay out paid time off that workers had accrued prior to its Sept. 9 bankruptcy filing, up to a limit, the company said in a statement.

► In today’s News Tribune — Longtime Haggen employees, customers bid a fond farewellAs the shelves empty at the Gig Harbor Haggen Foods, so does the staff room. Most of the long-term employees, people who had worked at the location for Safeway previously, worked their final day in Gig Harbor on Friday. “We really grew as a family here,” said employee Mona Armstrong. “The people who work here in this store take care of each other.”

► In today’s Seattle Times — Bill the Butcher workers still seeking CEO who vanished with their pay — In the year since Bill the Butcher CEO J’Amy Owens absconded with workers’ paychecks as the six stores shut down, employees of the tiny, always-unprofitable public company have learned some hard lessons.

► MUST-READ from Huffington Post — The life and death of an Amazon warehouse temp — We are living in an era of maximum productivity. It has never been easier for employers to track the performance of temporary workers and discard those who don’t meet their needs… For employers, the appeal of this system is obvious. It allows companies to meet demand while keeping their permanent workforce at a minimum, along with all the costs that go with it — payroll taxes, benefits, workers’ compensation costs and certain legal liabilities. For employees, though, it means showing up to work every day with the knowledge that you are always disposable. You are at least one entity removed from the company where you work, and you are only as good as your last recorded input in a computerized performance monitoring system. In the event that something goes wrong in your life — illness, injury, a family crisis — you have few, if any, protections. And yet for Americans like Jeff Lockhart Jr., this precarious existence now represents one of the only remaining potential paths to a middle-class life.

► A related story in the News Tribune — Amazon wants you: Seasonal hiring begins for distribution, sorting centers —, the world’s largest online retailer, says it plans to hire 100,000 seasonal workers including thousands in the Puget Sound area to staff its distribution and sorting centers during the holidays.




► In today’s Tri-City Herald — Tragic Harvest: Rules enforced, lives saved in Washington (from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune) — Farmers in Washington state have embraced the nation’s most comprehensive agricultural safety program, an initiative that contrasts sharply with the hands-off approach that prevails in much of the Midwest.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Local advocates for farmworkers would strongly disagree with this characterization that farmers have “embraced” strong safety rules here. In fact, through the Washington Farm Bureau, they have opposed efforts to improve farmworkers’ wages, safety standards, living conditions, and workplace rights at almost every turn. For example, the Farm Bureau played a key role in helping the Riverview Farm in Mabton appeal the fine in the gruesome death of farmworker Randy Vasquez, getting it reduced to just $2,200.

Also published today in the Herald from this Star-Tribune series:

Tragic Harvest: The farm is one of the deadliest workplaces
Tragic Harvest: Unsafe tractors, rising risks
Tragic Harvest: A job for life, and death.)

► In today’s Olympian — Lawsuit challenges regulations on alcohol pricing — A lawsuit by restaurants, hotels and large grocers against Washington state government will test the limits of Initiative 1183.




► In today’s Seattle Times — Boeing raises targets, says market will remain ‘strong, healthy’ — Boeing raked in profits last quarter as it delivered a record 199 commercial jets on increasingly efficient local production lines. Executives swatted away concerns about future airplane orders, the potential for a big cut in 777 production and the profitability of the 787.

► In the PSBJ — Norwegian Air to buy 19 Boeing Dreamliners in deal worth $5 billion

► In the PSBJ — Boeing Dreamliner gains altitude as Everett ramps up 787-9 production

► From the Hill — Import-Export brawl enters upper chamber — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has found himself at the center of a pitched battle over the reauthorization of the federal Export-Import Bank. Supporters of the besieged bank enraged conservatives earlier this month by deploying a rarely used legislative tactic to force a vote in the House — expected next week — to restore the bank’s congressional charter, which lapsed over the summer.




► In today’s Cleveland Plain-Dealer — Republicans want to weaken ‘extreme’ labor and worker rules, but Democrats vow to stop them — President Obama and his appointees have extended labor rights, higher wages and more safety protections for America’s workers in recent years — but at too steep a cost, say big businesses and Republicans. Republicans in Congress are fighting back, preparing a set of rollbacks and restrictions to new or recent labor rules. The way they’re going about this, however, could portend a new showdown with Democrats and the White House as the parties lurch from one set of budget crises and government-shutdown threats to the next.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) is leading the fight against “labor riders” in the Republicans’ Labor-HHS-Education appropriation bills that would eliminate or undermine many long-standing DOL and NLRB policies, while blocking those agencies from taking any future steps to protect workers’ safety and health, retirement savings, or other basic rights.

Says Murray:

It’s disappointing that Republicans are once again putting big corporations and their profits ahead of working families. This time, they are intent on using the appropriations process as a back door to undermine workers’ safety and economic security. They’ve not only proposed major cuts to job training programs and worker protection agencies. And they’ve not only spent months refusing to negotiate with us to build on our 2013 budget deal. They’ve also jammed in what are known as ‘policy riders,’ even though the Republican majority pledged to follow regular legislative order. These labor riders are terrible policy, and they would do real damage to workers, small business owners, and our economy.

► From AFL-CIO Now — 6 stories that illustrate why we need to pass the WAGE Act — As the debate continues, it’s important to remember that the proposed law, introduced by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), isn’t just some abstract concept for pundits to debate. It’s about the rights of real people in real situations that are challenging or dangerous. Here are six stories that put real faces on the issues the WAGE Act seeks to remedy.

ALSO at The Stand — Murray introduces WAGE Act to update, strengthen labor laws

► From The Hill — Rep. Paul Ryan has the votes to become Speaker — The House Freedom Caucus (HFC) stopped short of formally endorsing Rep. Paul Ryan for Speaker on Wednesday but said a “super-majority” of the group backs him, handing the Wisconsin Republican enough votes to win the top leadership post.

► From Politico — Paul Ryan prizes family time, opposes family leave — One of Paul Ryan’s conditions for becoming speaker is that he be able to spend time with his family. But when it comes to federal policies on family leave, Ryan has opposed virtually every measure proposed over the past several years.




► From Bloomberg — California law shows how paid leave affects business: not much — As presidential candidates debate government-mandated paid family leave, the U.S. has a 39 million-person test lab. California in 2004 enacted the nation’s first such program… It hasn’t been the death blow to businesses that opponents warned of. California’s employment growth outpaced the U.S. average by 2 percentage points during that time, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

► From Fair Warning — For big railroads, a carload of whistleblower complaints — A federal jury’s ruling in Tacoma against BNSF for illegal retaliation against whistleblower Mike Elliott spotlights the unjust punishment that critics say sometimes is meted out to railroad workers who report injuries or safety problems. These critics, including plaintiff lawyers and union officials, along with others who have examined railroad practices, say the harsh treatment reflects old, hard-line management tactics that persist in corners of the industry.

► In the Washington Post — The big 2016 minimum wage push just got a powerful new ally — A large California SEIU union is seed funding an organization called the Fairness Project that’s aimed at accelerating campaigns around the country, seizing on growing public support for raising the minimum wage to heights that just one cycle ago would have seemed like total fantasy.

► From AP — UAW appears poised to pass new contract with Fiat Chrysler — Official vote totals aren’t expected until later Thursday, but workers at several factories have overwhelmingly approved the deal in voting that ended Wednesday night.




► On this day in history, Pearl Jam played their first ever concert 25 years ago at the Off Ramp in Seattle, Paul McCartney felt compelled 46 years ago to deny publicly that he was dead, and The Entire Staff of The Stand was born 50 years ago. Therefore, to tie a neat little bow around that package of events, we bring you Rock ‘ N’ Roll Hall of Famers… The Ventures! Like Pearl Jam, they were a Puget Sound area band — though from Tacoma, not Seattle. Here they perform a signature song of theirs (apparently filmed on what would become the Chambers Bay Golf Course) that was released in 1969, the same year Paul was trying to convince us he was still alive. (Chyeah. Right.) To celebrate the fact that we are still alive, TESOTS will be taking Friday off. We’ll be back on Monday. Enjoy!


The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.

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