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Vigils for patient safety ● Freedom trash ● Our ‘deaths of despair’

Thursday, January 9, 2020




► In today’s (Everett) Herald — Providence, Everett medical center employees agree to a deal — After months of negotiations and a strike threat, union representatives for technicians and professionals at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett announced a tentative deal with the health-care organization Wednesday afternoon amid contract talks. The deal came hours after service and maintenance workers at Sacred Heart in Spokane and Providence negotiators agreed on a contract, according to a UFCW 21 news release. Negotiations are ongoing with union leaders from 11 other Providence affiliates, including Swedish Edmonds, as well as Hospice and Homecare of Snohomish County in Everett.

ALSO at The Stand — As community backs workers, progress in Providence talks

► In the (Centralia) Daily Chronicle — Contract talks still ongoing for Providence nurses — Nurses at Providence Centralia are still bargaining over their contract, representatives said, amid news that groups at other Providence hospitals have begun to settle.

► In today’s Yakima H-R — Yakima to lose 1 of 2 hospitals; Astria closing Regional as part of bankruptcy — Astria Health is closing Astria Regional Medical Center, the organization said in a news release Wednesday. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court Eastern District of Washington authorized the closure during a hearing Wednesday. Astria’s two other hospitals in Toppenish and Sunnyside will remain open. The organization will work with Astria Regional’s 463 employees to secure jobs elsewhere in the organization and will schedule job fairs for displaced employees.

► In today’s Seattle Times — Workers at Seattle glassmaker, slated for closure, get a reprieve when local buyer steps up — After days of behind-the-scenes negotiations, the 133 workers at the Northwestern Industries glass factory near Seattle’s Fishermen’s Terminal got some good news: Thanks to a last-minute bid from a rival glass firm, Hartung Glass Industries of Tukwila, the factory will stay open for at least a year while a new site for the operation is found in the south Puget Sound region.




► In today’s Spokesman-Review — Flyers urge teachers in Spokane, statewide to opt out of union — “They’ve been doing this every year, so I wasn’t surprised,” said Jeremy Shay, who as a teacher simply tossed them in the trash. Now, as president of the Spokane Education Association, he fields occasional questions from new teachers about the flyers (from the “Freedom Foundation”)… The WEA sees the flyers as “nothing but an attempt to harass and intimidate school employees,” said Rich Wood, a spokesman for the 100,000-member union.

PREVIOUSLY at The Stand:

— Urge State Legislature to protect public employees’ personal data — Contact your legislators and ask them to support House Bill 1888, legislation that would revise Washington state’s outdated public disclosure law and keep public employee’s birthdates and personal data private.

Freedom Foundation keeps spending, failing (by Peter Starzynski)

► From Crosscut — Across the entire state, WA voters rank homelessness as the No. 1 issue lawmakers must address — In new Crosscut/Elway Poll, 31% of respondents named homelessness as the state’s top issue, a 10-point increase from 2019.

► From Crosscut — Federal Way made it harder to evict renters without ‘good cause.’ The entire state might do the same — Washington lawmakers could enact similar protections statewide during the 2020 legislative session, which begins Monday.

► From The Stranger — The short legislative session should not stop us from taxing the rich (by Sen. Joe Nguyen) — “I’m for a tax system in which, if you have more money, you pay a higher percentage in taxes. And I think the rich should pay more than they currently do.” That’s not a quote from Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders. It’s a quote from Bill “formerly the richest person in the world” Gates, Jr. In no other state is this needed more than in our own “liberal” Washington, which has the most regressive tax structure in the entire nation. Reforming our tax code is one of the rare instances where following the lead of Idaho or Texas would produce more equitable outcomes.

► In today’s (Everett) Herald — Matt Shea is a man without a caucus. But he has a House seat — The Spokane Valley Republican is accused in a House-sanctioned investigation of engaging in an act of domestic terrorism, intimidating political enemies and training young adults to fight a Holy war. “It is the professional opinion of the investigators,” the report reads, “that on a more probable than not basis, Representative Shea presents a present and growing threat of risk to others through political violence.”




► In today’s NY Times — Little clarity, many theories for deadly Boeing 737-800 jet crash in Iran — Nothing was unusual about the plane’s takeoff and ascent, according to preliminary satellite data. But minutes into the flight, the Boeing 737 was engulfed in flames as it plunged to the ground, killing at least 176 people on board. In the best of circumstances, determining the cause of a plane crash can take a year or more of difficult investigative work and involve multiple governments. Resolving what happened over the skies of Tehran may prove even more complicated given the tensions between Iran, where the plane went down, and the United States, where it was built by Boeing, a company in the midst of crisis after two earlier deadly accidents.




► From the AP — Underfunded IRS struggles to send refunds, answer calls — Burdened with years of budget cuts and a recent increase in workload to implement a new tax law, the IRS struggled to deliver on its mission in the past fiscal year. The annual report from the Office of Taxpayer Advocate found that in the 2019 fiscal year, among other problems, the IRS was late in sending legitimate refunds to many taxpayers and failed to answer the majority of phone calls from taxpayers. The agency also failed to collect billions in unpaid taxes.

► In today’s Washington Post — Oops. Some federal workers are not covered by the new family leave law. — Just before Congress recessed in December, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) sought to correct what he called a “technical and drafting error.”

► In today’s Washington Post — Ruth Bader Ginsburg declares she’s ‘cancer free’




► In the NY Times — Musicians’ pension plan seeks to cut benefits — The plan, the American Federation of Musicians and Employers’ Pension Fund — which covers more than 50,000 people, including Broadway musicians, players in some orchestras, and freelance musicians and recording artists — declared over the summer that it was in “critical and declining status” and would run out of money to pay benefits within 20 years.

► In the Washington Post — Ivanka Trump avoids ruffling feathers in CES speech on retraining blue collar workers — But some here were skeptical about Trump’s promises to help workers. AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler said the Trump administration has been “somewhat quiet” on issues surrounding the future of work, and Ivanka Trump’s CES appearance appeared to be a new focus. “Overall the Trump administration’s record has been a record that has not been standing up for working people,” Shuler said.




► In the NY Times — Who killed the Knapp family? (by Nicholas Kristof and — Across America, working-class people — including many of our friends — are dying of despair. And we’re still blaming the wrong people… We Americans are locked in political combat and focused on President Trump, but there is a cancer gnawing at the nation that predates Trump and is larger than him. Suicides are at their highest rate since World War II; one child in seven is living with a parent suffering from substance abuse; a baby is born every 15 minutes after prenatal exposure to opioids; America is slipping as a great power. We have deep structural problems that have been a half century in the making, under both political parties, and that are often transmitted from generation to generation. Only in America has life expectancy now fallen three years in a row, for the first time in a century, because of “deaths of despair.” Working-class communities disintegrated across America because of lost jobs, broken families, gloom — and failed policies.

EDITOR’S NOTE — In a related story from The Hill — Trump points to stock market gains: ‘How are your 409K’s doing?’


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