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Death at Sarbanand, capital budget layoffs, Cathy to appear, what’s broken

Tuesday, August 8, 2017




Ramon Torres, President of Familias Unidas por la Justicia, meets with the fired Sarbanand farmworkers on Saturday.

► From The Stranger — Northern Washington farmworker’s complaints of headaches went ignored before his death, colleague claims — Honesto Silva Ibarra, 28, was a married father of three from Mexico who worked in Washington on a H-2A temporary agricultural visa, according to fellow worker Barbaro Rosas… Rosas said that their supervisor, an employee of Sarbanand Farms in Sumas, Wash., ignored Ibarra’s complaints of headaches and made him go back to work in the extraordinary heat. Later, he collapsed. Harborview Medical Center and the King County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed that Ibarra was treated and then passed away over the weekend. Ibarra’s illness, Sarbanand Farms’ response, and other complaints about workers’ treatment launched a one-day strike from 70 farmworkers last Friday. Here’s how Rosas described Ibarra’s treatment at Sarbanand, via a translator:

We were working in the fields and it was really hot. He started having headaches. He reported back to the supervisor. He was ignored by the supervisor. He couldn’t take it anymore so he went back to his cabin to rest. Then the supervisor went to the cabin and made him go back to work. And when the shift ended the next day, he went back to work also still with headaches. And the weather was hotter that day. He told again the supervisor how he felt. Again the supervisor ignored him in his request. He went back to his cabin. He couldn’t take it anymore. And he asked the manager for a favor: to take him to the airport because he wanted to go back to his family. This staff person responded by saying he couldn’t take him because that would mean abandoning the work.

After Rosas and other Sarbanand workers stopped work on Friday, they say they were fired on Saturday at around 11 in the morning. Rosas said he and the other workers who went on strike had showed up to work again on Saturday, but were separated from the rest of the workers and told they were fired. Rosas said he and the other workers had been living in farmworker housing, but were told they could not stay. Now, Rosas said, the 70 workers are living in tents on a sympathetic community member’s property, unable to work because of their expired visas.

ALSO see coverage by KUOW and the Lynden Tribune.

FROM the Calendar at The Stand — Farmworker Justice: Facts, Flaws & Abuses of the H-2A Program –TONIGHT from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Leopold Crystal Ballroom, 1224 Cornwall Ave. in Bellingham. Join Community to Community Development and Familias Unidas por la Justicia for a panel discussion and community dialogue about the H-2A program and farmworker justice. The panel will also include workers currently striking at Sarbanand Farms in Sumas, due to abhorrent working conditions.




► In today’s Seattle Times — Cafeteria workers at Facebook’s Seattle office unionize — Cafeteria workers at Facebook’s Seattle office followed co-workers at the tech company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, joining the UNITE HERE union Saturday. The union will represent the 60 cafeteria workers employed by Facebook subcontractor Flagship Facility Services after a majority signed cards to join UNITE HERE Local 8.

ALSO at The Stand — Facebook cafeteria workers unite in Seattle — Mari Duncan, a line cook for Flagship in the Facebook Seattle cafeteria: “I’ve worked in food service for 18 years and I finally feel like I can have a real future for me and my son. We all deserve stability and respect for the work we do — that’s why we’re unionizing.”

LEARN MORE ABOUT FORMING A UNION — If you don’t have a union at your job, learn more about how to organize one. Today’s economy is so out of balance — with all the economic gains going to the top — forming a union is how workers can stand together and negotiate for better wages, working conditions, and a voice on the job. You can make it happen at your workplace! Click here to get started.

► From Teamsters 117 — Teamsters at SeaTac rental car facility are standing strong — Members at Fleetlogix are in the midst of a tough contract fight. They spend their workdays transporting vehicles around the facility and the region, north to Everett and south to Tacoma, for the Avis Budget Group. These members have been working without a contract since the middle of March as their employer continues to make substandard proposals at the bargaining table.

► In today’s Yakima H-R — Yakima City Council plans special meeting to discuss supporting “Dreamers” — The Yakima City Council is poised to take a public step in expressing support for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals during a Tuesday special meeting.




► In today’s News Tribune — Threat of state employee layoffs still real as capital budget impasse persists — An dispute in the Legislature over a rural water-rights court ruling has put hundreds of jobs paid for by the state’s construction budget at risk. Many agencies have temporarily kept those workers employed, but how long that can last is unclear.

► In today’s Seattle Times — Split government in Olympia has stymied state’s potential (by Sens. Jamie Pedersen Reuven Carlyle) — Today’s Senate majority in Olympia bears a greater resemblance to the elevated partisanship of Washington, D.C., than the history of bipartisan cooperation symbolized by the widely-respected service of Republican Gov. Dan Evans… By almost every measure, the political hypothesis that divided government in Olympia would unleash compromise, moderation and predictability to Olympia has been shown to be false.

► In today’s Spokesman-Review — Spokane residents face longer waiting times at driver licensing office — The state DOL recently made changes to its licensing operating system that have resulted in longer wait times, said a DOL spokeswoman. The DOL chose a new system to provide better security and to prevent fraud amid preparation to meet a REAL ID deadline next year.




► In today’s Spokesman-Review — McMorris Rodgers will hold town hall at Gonzaga University on Thursday — Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers will hold her first Spokane town hall since the 2016 election at Gonzaga University this week. The congresswoman announced on Facebook over the weekend an event at Gonzaga University’s Cataldo Hall at 5 p.m. Thursday. Attendees will need a free ticket to get in the door. A spokesman for McMorris Rodgers said a link to receive a ticket will go live Tuesday at 10 a.m., and attendees will have to provide contact information, including their address. Only people living within the 5th Congressional District will be given tickets and granted admission to the town hall, said McMorris Rodgers spokesman Jared Powell. The town hall will be broadcast live on KSPS-TV and streamed live online. Click here to register and get your ticket.

ALSO at The Stand — Unions to McMorris Rodgers: Shame on you (May 9, 2017) — Unions in Washington state that represent people who work in the health care industry bought a full-page advertisement in today’s edition of The Spokesman-Review — headlined “Shame on you, Cathy” — to criticize Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ vote last week in favor of the controversial Republican bill to overhaul Medicaid and the U.S. health care industry. McMorris Rodgers was the only member of Washington’s delegation who voted “yes” on the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which narrowly passed 217-213 on May 4.

► In today’s NY Times — Facing Trump subsidy cuts, health insurance officials seek a backup plan — State insurance commissioners are frustrated with the gridlock in Washington, which they say threatens coverage for consumers and the solvency of some insurers. Without the payments, they say, consumers will face higher premiums in 2018, and more insurers will pull back from the individual insurance market.

► In today’s Washington Post — Trump administration won’t answer how it will handle upcoming Obamacare enrollment — The six-week sign-up period that begins Nov. 1 will be the first handled exclusively by an administration that’s hostile to the Affordable Care Act.

► A related story from The Hill — Trump’s approval hits low in new CNN poll — Just over a third of the country approves of the job President Trump is doing as commander-in-chief.




► In today’s NY Times — Government report finds drastic impact of climate change on U.S. — The average temperature in the United States has risen rapidly and drastically since 1980, and recent decades have been the warmest of the past 1,500 years, according to a sweeping federal climate change report awaiting approval by the Trump administration. The draft report by scientists from 13 federal agencies, which has not yet been made public, concludes that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now. It directly contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his cabinet who say that the human contribution to climate change is uncertain, and that the ability to predict the effects is limited.

► In the Seattle Times — Think it’s hot now? Here’s what climate models say about the future of the Pacific Northwest — Some parts of Washington state, like Walla Walla County, could see dozens more 95-degree-plus days if only modest action is taken on climate change, according to an analysis of climate models.

► In today’s Seattle Times — Seattle is going to break the record for most consecutive dry days




► In today’s NY Times — Public works funding falls as infrastructure deteriorates — It’s basically the opposite of a major government infrastructure program. Government spending on transportation and other public works is in decline as federal funding stagnates and state and local governments tighten their belts. Such spending equaled 1.4 percent of the nation’s economic output in the second quarter of 2017, the lowest level on record.

► In today’s NY Times — What real tax reform could be (editorial) — Republicans just want deep cuts for corporations and the wealthy. Real change would make taxation fairer.




► In today’s Washington Post — ‘Apply by fax’: Before it can hire foreign workers, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club advertises at home — briefly — Typically, this attempt to recruit U.S. workers is a ritualized failure. Its outcome is usually a conclusion that there are no qualified Americans to hire, justifying the need for the government to issue the visas. In the past few days, that ritual began again at Mar-a-Lago. The club’s request for visas stood out because it came in the middle of “Made in America Week” at the White House, as Trump and his administration sought to highlight his push to remake U.S. trade policy. Even as Trump urged other U.S. businesses to “hire American,” his business was gathering evidence to prove that it couldn’t.

► In today’s NY Times — Journeymen ply their trades in Europe, medieval style — Men and women, mostly from German-speaking countries, spend years traveling and working in exchange for room and board, following the customs of a centuries-old practice.




► In the NY Times — Our broken economy, in one simple chart (by David Leonhardt) — Only a few decades ago, the middle class and the poor weren’t just receiving healthy raises. Their take-home pay was rising even more rapidly, in percentage terms, than the pay of the rich. The post-inflation, after-tax raises that were typical for the middle class during the pre-1980 period — about 2 percent a year — translate into rapid gains in living standards. In recent decades, by contrast, only very affluent families — those in roughly the top 1/40th of the income distribution — have received such large raises. Yes, the upper-middle class has done better than the middle class or the poor, but the huge gaps are between the super-rich and everyone else.

The basic problem is that most families used to receive something approaching their fair share of economic growth, and they don’t anymore.


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