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Back to work at AT&T, time’s up in Olympia, American serfs

Monday, May 22, 2017




► In the (Longview) Daily News — Union: Up to 40K walking off the job at AT&T — About a dozen Longview AT&T workers joined up to 40,000 of their union colleagues across the nation in a walkout Friday over benefits, health care and job security. They plan to return to work Monday. The workers, represented by the CWA, want wage increases that cover higher health care costs, better scheduling and promises from the company to not cut jobs.

► In the Chicago Tribune — AT&T workers strike nationwide — Nationwide, the striking groups are made up of 40,000 workers covered by four union contracts, including wireless workers in 36 states and Washington, D.C.; wireline workers in California, Nevada and Connecticut; and DirecTV technicians in California and Nevada. The CWA’s contract with AT&T expired in February.




► In the Seattle Times — Washington state loses big legal battle over salmon culverts — Washington state lost a major legal battle Friday that could force it to spend nearly $2 billion to restore salmon habitat by removing barriers blocking fish migration. A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year affirmed a lower court’s 2013 ruling ordering the state to fix or replace hundreds of culverts — large pipes that allow streams to pass beneath roads but block migrating salmon.

► From KNKX — Special session winding down with no budget deal — Washington’s 30-day special session of the legislature ends Tuesday. But there’s still no sign of a budget deal or a plan to fully fund education.

► In the Seattle Times — Lawmakers won’t reach a budget deal in 30 — or even 300 — more days (editorial) — Leaders in the Legislature have shown they are incapable of cutting a deal on education funding and finishing the work required by the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision. Unless lawmakers can show they are well down a path to a budget agreement by Tuesday, Inslee should acknowledge the hard work of some lawmakers on the policy questions. Then he should send them all home, after they pass a bill that would let the state continue to function without a detailed new budget agreement for the next two years. Lawmakers have had their chance — years of chances — to fix the tax system and find more money for education. In a report to the Supreme Court last year, they said they would meet all summer and work out a deal before the Legislature got back to work in January. They failed. Washington’s school children have waited long enough for the Legislature to wake up, heed the Washington Constitution and amply fund all our public schools. Time’s up.




► A Special Report in the Spokesman-Review — Stalks rising: Trade deals almost spoiled Washington’s asparagus industry. But, slowly, farmers made a comeback. — Maribel Teran works quickly and methodically. She doesn’t like to take breaks. The faster she works, the more asparagus she cuts. The more asparagus she cuts, the more money she makes. But the basket on her hip weighs about 15 pounds when it’s full. “It’s heavy,” she said. The first couple of weeks, she really feels it. In her legs. In her back. Her muscles are stiff from stooping. “You get sore,” she said. “Many people, they quit.” Fast cutters like Teran can make $28 to $30 an hour, which is about 30 cents per pound. The industry average, a spokesman said, is $15 to $20. At the very least, farmworkers make minimum wage, which in Washington is $11, one of the highest in the country.

► In today’s (Longview) Daily News — Norpac employees get 10% wage cut, retirement reductions — Norpac has cut its employees’ wages by 10 percent and reduced retirement benefits as it struggles to recover from lost production time and other financial woes. The move left employees frustrated and worried. There are about 400 non-union employees at the Longview mill, which produces newsprint, book paper and office copy paper.

► In today’s NY Times — The conservative force behind speeches roiling college campuses — The event appeared to follow a familiar script, in which a large contingent of liberals muzzles a provocative speaker invited by a small conservative student club. But the propelling force behind the event — and a number of recent heat-seeking speeches on college campuses — was a national conservative group that is well funded, highly organized and on a mission, in its words, to “restore sanity at your school.”

EDITOR’S NOTE — The public is invited to the University of Washington American Association of University Professors’ forum on Tuesday, May 23 at Kane Hall, from 4 to 6 p.m. to air issues raised by the Inauguration Day shooting at the Milo Yiannopoulos event. Get details.




► From AP — Michael Flynn will invoke Fifth Amendment — Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn will invoke his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination on Monday as he notifies the Senate Intelligence committee that he will not comply with a subpoena seeking documents.

EDITOR’S NOTE — As He Was Saying…


► In today’s NY Times — White House moves to block ethics inquiry into ex-lobbyists on payroll — Dozens of former lobbyists and industry lawyers are working in the Trump administration, which has hired them at a much higher rate than the previous administration. Keeping their ethics waivers confidential would make it impossible to know whether any such officials are violating federal ethics rules or have been given a pass to ignore them.

► From TPM — What did VP Pence not know, and when did he not know it? — As wave after wave of scandal has broken over the Trump administration, one man has stayed suspiciously dry — Vice President Mike Pence. Pence and his allies have repeatedly asserted that was not in the loop, not informed, not present, or otherwise not implicated in the various controversies — everything from former national security adviser Mike Flynn’s unauthorized lobbying for Turkey and conversations with Russian officials to the decision to fire FBI Director James Comey. the narrative that Pence’s hands are clean strains credulity. In some cases, it is contradicted outright by reports and documents establishing that the Vice President was in fact involved in the key moments that have defined the first four months of the Trump administration.




► In today’s Washington Post — Trump to propose big cuts to safety net in new budget, slashing Medicaid and opening door to other limits — President Trump’s first major budget proposal on Tuesday will include massive cuts to Medicaid and call for changes to anti-poverty programs that would give states new power to limit a range of benefits, people familiar with the planning said, despite growing unease in Congress about cutting the safety net. For Medicaid, the state-federal program that provides health care to low-income Americans, Trump’s budget plan would follow through on a bill passed by House Republicans to cut more than $800 billion over 10 years. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that this could cut off Medicaid benefits for about 10 million people over the next decade.

EDITOR’S NOTE — As He Was Saying 2…


► From Vox — The obscure Senate rule that could sink Obamacare repeal, explained — The fate of the whole enterprise could now rest with the Senate’s parliamentarian. It may live or die on the Byrd Rule — a 20-year-old quirk in the Senate’s rules that most Americans have never heard of.

► From AP — Senate Republicans quietly work on their version of a health overhaul bill — In closed-door meetings, Senate Republicans are trying to write legislation dismantling Obama’s health care law. They would substitute their own tax credits, ease coverage requirements and cut the federal-state Medicaid program for the poor and disabled that Obama enlarged.

► From Workday Minnesota — Unions say plans to renegotiate NAFTA don’t go far enough — Republican President Donald Trump’s formal letter notifying lawmakers that he intends to renegotiate NAFTA doesn’t go far enough, the AFL-CIO and its allies say. In particular, any new U.S.-Mexico-Canada free trade pact must ensure Mexico not only lives up to international labor rights standards, but raises its wages to livable levels: “A good outcome is far from guaranteed” from the new bargaining, Trumka explained. “While the president has called NAFTA the worst trade deal in history, his administration has given conflicting signals as to its priorities, raising the prospect that some of NAFTA’s most problematic elements could remain intact.”

► From AP — Supreme Court strikes down 2 NC congressional districts — The Supreme Court struck down two congressional districts in North Carolina because race played too large a role in their creation. The justices ruled that Republicans who controlled the state legislature and governor’s office in 2011 placed too many African-Americans in the two districts. The result was to weaken African-American voting strength elsewhere in North Carolina.




► In today’s NY Times — Lack of workers, not work, weighs on the nation’s economy — After eight years of steady growth, the main economic concern in a growing number of other states is no longer a lack of jobs, but a lack of workers. That’s good news for workers, who are reaping wage increases and moving to better jobs after years of stagnating pay that, for many, was stuck at a low level. But labor shortages are weighing on overall economic growth, slowing the pace of expansion in fast-growing regions even as unemployment remains stubbornly high in Rust Belt cities like Cleveland and in regions still recovering from the 2008 recession, like inland California.

► In today’s Washington Post — A millionaire, a hotel maid and an arrest after the inauguration for sex abuse — In an industry where about half of employees say they have been sexually assaulted or harassed by a guest, perhaps the most unusual thing about what happened in Room 1065 of Washington’s Mayflower Hotel was that a man was arrested.

► A special report in today’s NY Times — Alone on the open road: Truckers feel like ‘throwaway people’ — President Trump ignited a national discussion of blue-collar jobs. Truck driving, once a road to the middle class, is now low-paying, grinding, unhealthy work. We talked with drivers about why they do it.

► And coming to a state near you… in today’s LA Times — A battle of liberal versus more liberal exposes a divided California Democratic Party at state convention — Typically a sunny weekend for California Democrats celebrating dominance at the ballot box and in the voter rolls, this year’s convention was punctuated by hecklers, marches and recriminations by liberal activists who say the party has lost its way, become too moderate and grown similar to the GOP. Battle lines were drawn in the race for a new chairperson, as party faithful and those seeking a more progressive path were sharply divided over who should guide them in the years to come.




► In today’s NY Times — The unfreeing of American Workers (by Paul Krugman) — America is an open society, in which everyone is free to make his or her own choices about where to work and how to live. Everyone, that is, except the 30 million workers now covered by noncompete agreements, who may find themselves all but unemployable if they quit their current jobs; the 52 million Americans with pre-existing conditions who will be effectively unable to buy individual health insurance, and hence stuck with their current employers, if the Freedom Caucus gets its way; and the millions of Americans burdened down by heavy student and other debt… Workers in America, supposedly the land of the free, are actually creeping along the road to serfdom, yoked to corporate employers the way Russian peasants were once tied to their masters’ land. And the people pushing them down that road are the very people who cry “freedom” the loudest.

ALSO at The Stand — Beware of the false freedoms undermining our democracy (by Ken Winkes)


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