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Contract wins, Boeing gambles pensions, killing health care

Tuesday, September 19, 2017




► In today’s Columbian — PeaceHealth union ratifies first contract — A 900-member group of recently unionized service and laboratory workers at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center voted Thursday to ratify their first contract. The group voted in December to affiliate with the American Federation of Teachers, which now represents about 2,500 hospital workers. After nine months of bargaining, the group voted 90 percent to 10 percent to ratify its first contract, according to an AFT news release. The service unit — which includes cooks, technicians, lab assistants, medical assistants, certified nursing assistants, unit secretaries and home health aides, among other positions — voted for a minimum 7 percent wage increase over the next two years, with an average increase of more than 9.5 percent. The contract also puts an end to the PeaceHealth practice of sending its employees to collection agencies if they cannot pay medical bills, according to the news release.

► From Teamsters 117 — It’s 100%! Republic Parking Teamsters unanimously ratify new contract — A small group of Teamsters who work for Republic Parking in downtown Seattle voted to ratify a new three-year contract last week. Members will receive wage increases in every year of the contract and increased contributions to their retirement plan.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Want higher wages? An opportunity to retire one day? Join together with your co-workers in a union. Find out how.

► In today’s Seattle Times — Seattle City Council picks Tim Burgess to replace Bruce Harrell as temporary mayor




► From Bloomberg — Down $20 billion, Boeing stuffs pension fund with its own sharesLike so many companies in America, Boeing Co. has largely neglected the gaping deficit in its employee pension as it doled out lavish rewards to shareholders. What’s raising eyebrows is how it plans to shore up the retirement plan. Last month, Boeing made its largest pension contribution in over a decade. But rather than put up cash and lock in the funding, the planemaker transferred $3.5 billion of its own shares, including those it bought back in years past. It’s a bold move, and one cheered by many on Wall Street. Yet to pension experts, it isn’t worth the risk. After a record-setting, 58 percent rally this year, Boeing is betting it can keep producing the kind of earnings that push shares higher. If all goes well, not only will the pension benefit, but Boeing says it will be able to forgo contributions for the next four years. But if anything goes awry, the $57 billion pension — which covers a majority of its workers and retirees — could easily end up worse off than before.

► From AP — Trudeau: Canada could stop dealing with Boeing over dispute — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday his government could stop doing business with Boeing if the U.S. company doesn’t drop a trade complaint against Canadian plane maker Bombardier. Trudeau said that Canada “won’t do business with a company that’s busy trying to sue us and put our aerospace workers out of business.”




► From The Hill — New GOP bill to repeal Affordable Care Act gains momentum — A last-ditch effort by Senate Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act is gaining steam, suggesting lawmakers could face another vote on ending the former president’s signature law later this month. Supporters do not have the 50 votes necessary to pass the bill yet, but pressure is growing on Republicans to back the measure, which could replace much of ObamaCare with block grants for states.

ALSO at The Stand — Call Congress to stop latest health care attack

► In today’s Washington Post — New push to replace Obamacare reflects high stakes for Republicans — The latest proposal would give states control over billions in federal health-care spending, repeal the law’s key mandates and enact deep cuts to Medicaid, the federally funded insurance program for the poor, elderly and disabled. It would slash health-care spending more deeply and would probably cover fewer people than the July bill — which failed because of concerns over those details.

► From Vox — How Cassidy-Graham brings back preexisting conditions — The new Republican plan to repeal Obamacare would bring preexisting conditions back to the individual market, allowing insurers to charge sick people higher premiums — or deny them coverage outright.

► From HuffPost — Senators who had voted against Obamacare repeal are now wavering — The proposal, however, is seemingly less repellent to Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), one of the three Senate Republicans who voted against the “skinny repeal” in July, along with Susan Collins (Maine) and John McCain (Ariz.). Murkowski told HuffPost on Monday that she’s undecided on Graham-Cassidy, as the measure is known, and that she and her staff were “still looking” to see how Alaska would make out under the bill.

► From Politico — McCain: I’m not there yet on latest Obamacare repeal bill

► From The Hill — Sen. Cassidy plans to bring down Medicaid (by Brendan Williams) — His latest bill would not only convert into fixed block grants the federal monies made available to states for Medicaid expansion, but would also, as has been true of other Republican efforts, attack the “traditional” Medicaid that pre-dates the ACA. It would do so by converting the federal matching of state funding into a hard cap per Medicaid beneficiary, with that cap, over time, starving funding for those with disabilities and the elderly in long-term care settings.

► In today’s NY Times — The Republican health care zombie is back (editorial) — It is hard to overstate the cruelty of the Graham-Cassidy bill. It would eliminate the mandate that even healthy people buy health insurance, end the subsidies that help people purchase coverage and stop the expansion of Medicaid… Worse, the formula for determining state grants would penalize the 31 states that expanded Medicaid under the A.C.A. so as to provide more money to the 19 states that did not. This is a cynical attempt to win votes by taking money from generous states that are more likely to be governed by Democrats and giving some of it to representatives of stingier states that are more likely to elect Republicans.

EDITOR’S NOTE — So what about it, Cathy? You were the only Republican from Washington state who voted for the last version of this cruel bill. An estimated 42,000 people in your district, including 10,000 children, would have lost their health coverage under the previous ACA repeal you supported. Now, far more people than that will lose health care, apparently because our state elected Democratic senators. Are you still going to support President Trump and your party leaders over the interests of your district and your state?

► In today’s Columbian — Strengthen Obamacare (editorial) — Work to strengthen the Affordable Care Act, not kill it. Saving it is the goal of Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who are leading a bipartisan effort to shore up the nation’s health care. Considering that Murray and Alexander worked together in the past to overhaul public education and that Murray has a history of forging budget deals with Republicans, they appear to be the best people to lead this important effort.




► From The Stranger — Attorney suing Trump over DACA is a Washington state DREAMer — Luis Cortes, the immigration lawyer who helped represent a Seattle-area Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient detained by federal officials in a landmark case earlier this year, has taken on new clients. Cortes is suing the Trump administration on behalf of six other DREAMers who want to block a repeal of DACA. But there’s one thing different about Cortes. He, too, holds DACA status.

ALSO at The Stand — DREAM nurse speaks out to save DACA

► In today’s Columbian — ICE agents create a chill at courthouse — One minute Vancouver attorney Darquise Cloutier was exchanging pleasantries with her former client outside the Clark County Courthouse, and the next, she watched as he was handcuffed and whisked away to a van by plainclothes U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.




► In today’s Seattle Times — Board hits brakes on $1.8 billion methanol plant planned for Kalama — A state hearings board has found flaws in an environmental-impact study used to gain key permits for a proposed $1.8 billion methanol plant in Kalama and ordered additional reviews. The state Shoreline Hearings Board found that the study failed to do a complete analysis of greenhouse-gas emissions that will be produced by the plant, and ordered Cowlitz County and the port of Kalama to conduct additional research.

► In today’s (Everett) Herald — States’ report puts voter fraud claims in proper perspective (editorial) — The numbers aren’t there. Those who are convinced that widespread voter fraud is affecting the outcome of elections — including the unsubstantiated claim by President Trump that between 3 million and 5 million people voted illegally in last year’s presidential election — will frequently point to anecdotes and hearsay to support their claims. But they can’t come up with the verified statistics to back those allegations. A review by Washington state shows questionable ballots in only 74 of 3.36 million votes cast.

► From KNKX — Supporters of Oregon ‘cap and invest’ proposal look ahead to 2018 — Supporters of a so-called “cap and invest” proposal are laying the groundwork for the Oregon Legislature to take on the issue next year. The bill would set an upper limit on the amount of fossil fuels used by companies in Oregon. It would then charge a fee on companies that exceed the limit. The money generated would be used on projects that would reduce carbon emissions in Oregon.




► In today’s NY Times — Push for NAFTA overhaul may fall short, U.S. negotiator says — The top United States trade negotiator said Monday that it was unclear whether Canada, Mexico and the United States could reach a deal to overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement within the ambitious timetable set by the Trump administration.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Turns out, trade is hard.

ALSO at The Stand — AFL-CIO describes how NAFTA could benefit working people

► From AP — GOP eyes popular tax breaks to finance overhaul — Republicans straining to find about $1 trillion to finance sweeping tax cuts are homing in on two popular deductions that are woven into the nation’s fiscal fabric — the mortgage interest deduction that millions of homeowners prize and the deduction for state and local taxes popular in Democratic strongholds.

ALSO at The Stand — Tell Congress: NO on Trump’s corporate tax giveaway

► From Politico — Meet the leader of the vast left-wing conspiracy — Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) hopes to inherit Bernie Sanders’ progressive mantle in 2020. But for now, he’s spending his time plotting the resistance against the Trump presidency.




► From HuffPost — The everyday heroes of the hurricanes (by AFT President Randi Weingarten) — Alseen Bell’s cell phone rang as she stood in the living room of her flood-ravaged home, surveying the devastation left behind by Hurricane Harvey. The call was from her local union, the Houston Federation of Teachers, asking how she had come through the storm and if she needed help. “It was like an answer to my prayers,” Alseen says. Within hours, three of our members were alongside her, pulling up carpet, cleaning and offering encouragement.


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