Hanford wrist slap ● No NAFTA 2.0 vote yet ● Is WWE killing its ‘contractors’?

Tuesday, April 2, 2019




► In today’s Tri-City Herald — DOE says Hanford contractor punished enough for radioactive contamination spread — The Department of Energy is not planning to fine a Hanford contractor responsible for an airborne spread of radioactive particles in 2017, with contamination continuing to be found into 2018… Radioactive contamination was found next to administrative buildings, on worker cars that were driven home, on government vehicles and in office trailers where workers ate lunch at their desks in December 2017, the letter and attached report said. Tests showed that 42 workers inhaled or ingested small amounts of radioactive material. However, DOE is not proposing a civil fine because CH2M already had its possible incentive pay docked — by 20% and 11% in FYs 2018 and 2017, respectively.

EDITOR’S NOTE — “We trimmed their bonus. That’ll learn ’em!”

► In today’s (Longview) Daily News — Millennium dealt another blow in federal lawsuit — In yet another blow to the proposed Longview coal export terminal, a federal judge Monday ruled that the state of Washington did not violate the foreign commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution when it denied Millennium Bulk Terminals a water quality permit. The decision further narrowed the scope of the federal lawsuit, leaving only the interstate commerce clause to be considered.

► In today’s Seattle Times — ‘There’s so much at stake’: Seattle-area officials announce $1 million fund ahead of 2020 census — Gary Locke, the former U.S. commerce secretary and Washington governor, joined other local leaders on Beacon Hill to warn that his successor and Trump hope to suppress the next count, partly by trying to include a question about citizenship. That’s why Seattle, King County and the Seattle Foundation will together award $1 million in funding this summer to community organizations for outreach, Locke said.

► In the News Tribune — New owner sought to keep local shipyard open as maritime firm struggles with bankruptcy — A U.S. bankruptcy judge ordered last year’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization filing of Puglia Engineering to a Chapter 7 filing, forcing the liquidation of two shipyards in Fairhaven and Tacoma.

► From Crosscut — Washington is already burning and that could mean another smoky summer — Fifty-one wildfires broke out in one week in March, and experts are looking to a ‘perfect storm’ of weather conditions for explanations.




► In today’s Seattle Times — Grand jury subpoena shows sweep of criminal probe into Boeing’s 737 MAX certification — That the federal investigation is seeking information from people with peripheral knowledge of the MAX’s certification, including at least one aerospace consultant outside Boeing and the FAA, is highly unusual and shows the Department of Justice is casting a very wide net.

► In today’s Seattle Times — Boeing’s software fix for 737 MAX still weeks away from delivery to FAA — Boeing identified additional work in recent days that’s needed to address certification requirements, and it is continuing to refine the update.

► In today’s (Everett) Herald — Singapore carrier grounds 2 Boeing 787-10 jets after checks — “Premature blade deterioration was found on some engines,” the airline said.




► At Crosscut — Washington should help 1 million workers save for retirement (by Tim Burgess, Brian Moreno and Doug Shadel) — More than 1 million Washington workers — most working at very small companies — have no access to employer-sponsored retirement savings plans. But that could change very soon if Washington’s Legislature passes the Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program. The state Senate with bipartisan support has already adopted Secure Choice. It sets up voluntary, worker-owned Individual Retirement Accounts for those working at companies that do not offer a savings plan. The program would enable those workers to save their own money efficiently through payroll deduction and cost-effectively through a program that combines the best of the public and private sectors.

► From the AP — North Dakota may sue Washington over oil train safety bill — North Dakota’s oil regulator is planning to sue the state of Washington if it goes ahead with a proposal to reduce the volatility of Bakken crude oil transported by rail, saying it is not supported by science and would devalue the product.




► BREAKING today from Politico — Pelosi: No vote on new NAFTA until Mexico changes labor laws — Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated on Tuesday the House will not consider Trump’s new North American trade pact until after Mexico has passed and implemented its major labor law reforms. The California Democrat explained that Mexico must pass labor law reforms required under the replacement deal for NAFTA — and she wants to see the implementation before the House considers backing the new deal, a top Trump administration legislative priority.

ALSO at The Stand — AFL-CIO announces opposition to NAFTA 2.0 in its current form

► From CNN — AFL-CIO leader suggests he’d welcome NAFTA withdrawal — to force more negotiations — AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said that Trump’s threatened withdrawal from the NAFTA could “be helpful right now” to force further negotiations with Mexico, in particular, about a successor deal. “Any sovereign nation has the right to withdraw, and I think that actually can be helpful right now,” Trumka told reporters in a phone call Monday morning.

► From Bloomberg — Finalized NAFTA 2.0 deal unlikely by late summer, AFL-CIO says




► From Bloomberg — America’s wealthiest households have record cash on hand — America’s wealthiest households are stashing their cash at record levels. The top 1% have three times more in readily available cash than the bottom half, with holdings jumping from less than $15 billion shortly before the last recession to a record $303.9 billion at the end of 2018, according to Federal Reserve data released last week.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Good thing Trump and the GOP Congress gave them a massive tax break, so they could sit on more cash rather than make investments to stimulate the economy (as promised).

► In today’s NY Times — Americans borrowed $88 billion to pay for health care last year, survey finds — The Gallup survey also found that one in four Americans have skipped treatment because of the cost, and that nearly half fear bankruptcy in the event of a health emergency.




► In today’s NY Times — Trump retreats on health care, saying Republican plan will appear after the 2020 election — Trump announced that Republicans would not present a health care overhaul proposal until after the 2020 election, punting on coming up with a replacement for the Affordable Care Act, which the administration is currently fighting in court to invalidate. It was not immediately clear what the Trump administration would do if courts ruled in favor of abolishing the health care system, which would cause at least 20 million people to lose their health insurance.

► From Politico — Congress fears Trump could stumble over next fiscal cliff — A looming battle between President Donald Trump and Democrats over government spending and the debt limit could make the 35-day government shutdown look like a blip. A series of budget deadlines converge in the coming months that could leave Washington on the precipice of another shutdown, $100 billion in automatic spending cuts and a full-scale credit crisis. And lawmakers are openly worried about stumbling over the edge.

► In today’s Seattle Times — If Trump closes the Mexican border, expect shortages and price spikes — It would most likely resemble the aftermath of a major natural disaster: food shortages, skyrocketing prices, people out of work and a plummeting stock market.

► In today’s NY Times — Trump’s border ‘solutions’ will make things worse (editorial) — There’s been a surge of migrant families at the southern border. The answer is not to close the border and cut off aid to Central American nations.




► Special report at HuffPost — The creeping capitalist takeover of higher education — Universities could break the tuition cost curve by making the price of online degrees proportional to what colleges actually spend to operate the courses. And yet nearly every academic institution, from the Ivies to state university systems to liberal arts schools, has refused to pass even the tiniest fraction of the savings on to students. They charge online students the same astronomical prices they levy for the on-campus experience. This is because many colleges don’t actually run online programs themselves. They outsource much of the work to an obscure species of for-profit company that has figured out how to gouge students in new and creative ways. These companies are called online program managers, or OPMs, an acronym that could come right out of “Office Space.” They have goofy, forgettable names like 2U, HotChalk and iDesign. As the founder of 2U puts it, “The more invisible we are, the better.”

► From the AP — Teamsters’ Hoffa tries to quell rebellion by Mickey, Goofy — Teamsters general president James Hoffa ordered a hearing in Florida last weekend to determine whether leaders should be removed from the local Teamsters union that represents costumed character-performers, truck drivers and other workers at Walt Disney World.

► From The Hill — Women can close the pay gap by forming unions (by NPEU’s Kayla Blado and Katie Barrows) — If you are frustrated by the lack of progress to narrow the gender wage gap and are looking for a way to “celebrate” Equal Pay Day, consider talking to your coworkers about forming a union. By joining together, you will have the collective power to negotiate for workplace policies that increase equity, as well as for better pay, benefits and working conditions.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Get more information about how you can join together with co-workers and negotiate a fair return for your hard work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!




► From Last Week Tonight with John Oliver — How WWE takes care of its wrestlers — and how it doesn’t — John explains how the WWE and its CEO, Vince McMahon, have misclassified its wrestlers as “independent contractors” rather than employees and the results: crippling injuries, no workers’ compensation, no paid leave, no health care or pensions, and ultimately, premature death. It’s a humorous look at McMahon’s disturbingly cruel greed, and a glimpse of what has happened on a massive scale to millions of American workers.


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

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