Wednesday, August 24, 2016
► From BoycottSakumaBerries.com — Unrest continues at Sakuma berry farm — On Tuesday morning, the blueberry crew at Sakuma blueberry fields walked out for second time this month after the management created a disparity in wages and hours worked between blueberry and blackberry harvesters; farm workers claim this is an intentional tactic to create divisions among workers and a reprisal against the union members.
► In today’s Columbian — Teachers, Evergreen still short of a deal — Contentious talks continued Tuesday between Evergreen Public Schools and its teachers union. With only a week until school starts, the district and union are locked in mediated contract negotiations, and a strike seems increasingly likely.
► In today’s Spokesman-Review — Union approves contract with Spokane Public Schools — Members of the Spokane Education Association voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to approve a new three-year contract with Spokane Public Schools. The contract includes raises for all employees.
► In today’s Spokesman-review — Inslee declares state of emergency — Washington governor Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency in 20 Eastern Washington counties after visiting a fire command center in Spokane. State agencies were ordered to do everything possible to help local governments and the State Emergency Operations Center will help coordinate firefighting efforts.
► From KUOW — Inslee blames climate change for Washington’s sudden and severe fires — “Wildlands are in explosive conditions right now,” Inslee said. “A combination of dead and dying trees [and] climate change is changing the significance of temperatures and drought.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — He has a point.
► In today’s Seattle Times — The role of government in fixing the broken mental-health system (by Roger Stark) — Washington state and the federal government are placing a huge financial burden on hospitals, county and city jails, and state prisons by not allocating sufficient resources to caring for the mentally ill.
► In today’s News Tribune — Charter school advocates undeterred, will fight second lawsuit — Washington charter school advocates announced Tuesday that they plan to intervene in a lawsuit filed earlier this month that challenges the state’s newest charter school law.
► In today’s News Tribune — Local ferry food vendor seeks governor’s help to stay in business — A Bremerton company that serves food on Washington ferries is imploring Gov. Jay Inslee to stop a large multinational corporation from replacing them after an unsuccessful attempt to block the switch in court.
► In the Wall Street Journal — Paid sick leave reduced the flu rate ‘significantly,’ paper says — The National Bureau of Economic Research study says it is the first to look at the implementation of cities and states that have implemented paid sick leave
schemes standards in the United States. Using Google Flu data, the researchers said they found that when American workers gain access to paid sick leave, the general flu rate goes down by a lot. It also suggests that the absence of paid sick leave causes contagious people to go into work and infect their co-workers or customers.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This fall, you can vote to make Washington state a healthier place to live. Initiative 1433 would allow the one million workers in our state who are denied any paid sick leave to earn some. And while you’re at it, you can vote against the Republicans in the Legislature who keep trying to enact ALEC-inspired (or written) bills — like this, and this, and this — that try to stop voters from passing paid sick leave standards to protect our communities from the spread of disease.
► From CrossCut — Why Pramila Jayapal is winning — Seattle is evolving and diversifying, new people are coming in with different experiences and backgrounds. Jayapal is doing something different as well. She’s running her congressional campaign on a platform that hasn’t been common of Seattle politicians in the past, emphasizing racial justice and immigration reform. Her message is catching on despite the fact that the 7th Congressional District, where Jayapal is running for a seat, is 76 percent white.
► From PubliCola — Social justice, environmental, and labor coalition signs Voters’ Guide statement against carbon tax initiative — On the pro side for the Initiative 732 carbon tax initiative: a former GOP state senate majority leader and former head of Starbucks. On the con side: A coalition of the state’s leading civil rights, social justice, environmental, and labor groups including the executive directors of OneAmerica and Puget Sound Sage and the head of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO.
ALSO at The Stand — WSLC opposes initiative 732 carbon tax — “I am increasingly convinced that the path to climate action is through the Republican Party,” said I-732 sponsor Yoram Bauman. “There are challenges on the right — skepticism about climate science and about tax reform — but those are surmountable with time and effort. The same cannot be said of the challenges on the left: an unyielding desire to tie everything to bigger government, and a willingness to use race and class as political weapons in order to pursue that desire.”
► From CNN Money — Nobel prize winner Stiglitz calls TPP ‘outrageous’ — Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says it’s “absolutely wrong” for the U.S. to pass the trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It will only help big corporations, not American citizens, he says. Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are against TPP, but Obama might try one last time to get Congress to pass TPP when lawmakers come back to Washington for a few days after the presidential election. It’s known as a “lame duck” session. “I find that outrageous,” says Stiglitz. “To rush it through in a lame-duck session, I think, is absolutely wrong.”
ALSO at The Stand — As TPP opposition mounts, nothing but crickets from Washington’s delegation (by D. Nolan Groves)
► MUST-READ from The Hill — Former USTR official shows how trade negotiators are out of touch (by Michael Stumo) — The Office of the US Trade Representative has failed to adjust trade strategy to correct for past mistakes. Snarky straw man arguments are crafted and knocked down to give the impression of rebutting them… American voters used to buy the globalist view of the world and thought that America was leading. But now we feel like suckers. The jobs did not materialize. Transnational corporations get more power than ever and more treats in the TPP goody-bag.
► BREAKING from Huffington Post — New rule from Obama will punish contractors who cheat or endanger workers — The White House issued an executive order Wednesday that will bar companies from receiving federal contracts if they recently violated labor laws. The new regulation is meant to reward good actors and punish bad ones, encouraging employers to take the high road if they want government money.
► From Huffington Post — Why a single-payer health care system is inevitable (by Robert Reich) — The best argument for a single-payer health plan is the recent decision by giant health insurer Aetna to bail out next year from 11 of the 15 states where it sells Obamacare plans. Insurers like Aetna claim they’re not making enough money because too many people with serious health problems are using the Obamacare exchanges, and not enough healthy people are signing up. The problem isn’t Obamacare per se. It lies in the structure of private markets for health insurance – which creates powerful incentives to avoid sick people and attract healthy ones. Obamacare is just making this structural problem more obvious.
► From Huffington Post — The Department of Justice will still rely on private prisons in a big way — Last week’s change in policy left the U.S. Marshals Service untouched, even though that agency is also under DOJ control and keeps nearly as many people locked in privatized jails as the Bureau of Prisons.
► In today’s NY Times — Graduate students clear hurdle in effort to form unions — The National Labor Relations Board ruled Tuesday that students who work as teaching and research assistants at private universities have a federally backed right to unionize. The case arose from a petition filed by a group of graduate students at Columbia University, who are seeking to win recognition for a union that will allow them a say over such issues as the quality of their health insurance and the timeliness of stipend payments.
ALSO at The Stand — Student employees hail major NLRB ruling
► From The Atlantic — The plight of the overworked nonprofit employee — Nonprofit organizations’ opposition to Obama’s update of overtime pay rules expose a gap between the values that many nonprofits hold and the way they treat their own staffs. There’s no doubt that nonprofits today face serious financial difficulties and constraints, but do they have no choice but to demand long, unpaid hours of their employees?
EDITOR’S NOTE — Make your nonprofit organization more effective by insisting it respect its employees! OPEIU Local 8 is a statewide union that represents more than 6,000 members working in many settings including offices, health and home care, housing, social services, the insurance industry, legal services and the public sector. For more information, visit www.opeiu8.org.
► In today’s NY Times — More attacks on transgender rights — A federal judge’s ruling on the Department of Education’s guidance for transgender students shouldn’t prevent schools from adhering to them.
► From AFL-CIO Now — 83% of registered black women support equal pay, and they vote — It’s almost September, and black women, who earn just 66 cents to the dollar of white men, have hit the point in the year when their earnings, added to last year’s, match what their white male counterparts made in 2015. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the wages of black women compared with white women are falling further behind. And let’s not forget that our Latina sisters still have to work over two more months before they reach their equal pay day on Nov. 1.
► From Think Progress — Judges across the country are shaking down poor people — All 50 states and Washington, D.C. have laws that say filing fees should be waived for indigent litigants — anyone too poor to afford them — so that they can still access the courts. But there’s a lot of disagreement about who counts as “poor.” In 25 states, there are no rules at all about who will automatically be deemed too poor to pay. In those cases, it’s entirely up to a judge’s opinion as to who will be allowed to have their fees waived. Amy Hall, an attorney at Montana Legal Services Association, has seen lots of questionable thinking:
“We hear of fee waiver affidavits being denied for all kinds of reasons. If a client put down that they paid per month for Cablevision, the judge thought it was a reason to deny. If they could afford cable, they could just cancel it and pay the court filing fees.”
A different judge admitted to relying on whether someone had tattoos or smelled like cigarette smoke to make the call.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.