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Boeing’s billions in buybacks ● Swedish strike looms ● Mitch’s fix is in

Wednesday, January 22, 2020




► In today’s Seattle Times — Boeing doesn’t expect 737 MAX will be cleared to fly again until midyear — Boeing now projects the 737 MAX won’t get FAA clearance to fly until midyear, about three months further out than previously expected, in a delay that could stretch the plane’s grounding to more than 15 months. The new timetable likely means the shutdown of 737 MAX production in Renton will also be extended. That will raise fears among employees that Boeing may be forced to lay off some workers. However, Boeing said Tuesday that “today’s announcement does not change employment plans previously shared with teammates in December.”

► From Reuters — Wall Street pegs Boeing’s 737 MAX bill at more than $25 billion — Boeing’s bill for the 737 MAX grounding could balloon to more than $25 billion, analysts estimated on Wednesday, a day after the planemaker warned of further delay in returning its once best-selling jet to service.

► From Reuters — Boeing seeks to borrow $10 billion or more amid 737 MAX crisis — Boeing is in talks with banks about borrowing $10 billion or more amid rising costs after two crashes involving its 737 MAX jetliner, a source told Reuters. CNBC reports that Boeing has so far secured at least $6 billion from banks and is talking to other lenders for more.

EDITOR’S NOTE — About 13 months ago — after the crash of a Lion Air 737 MAX — the bullish Boeing board voted to raise its dividend 20 percent and boost its stock buyback plan to $20 billion. As Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times recently wrote: “The most striking indication of the board’s dereliction of duty isn’t that the crashes and their underlying factors occurred in the first place, but that the directors didn’t leap into action after the first crash, in October 2018, or immediately after the second, in March. That suggests that the Boeing board didn’t view its responsibilities as extending beyond the company’s bottom line to its other stakeholders – including the airlines as its direct clients and the flying public as its ultimate customers.”

► MUST READ from Fortune — The forces behind Boeing’s long descent — A shareholder-first culture fueled the 737 MAX crisis. Since 2013, Boeing has spent $43.4 billion on stock buybacks to boost its share prices, which is nearly three times the $15.7 billion the company spent on commercial jet research and development. Now that culture may keep the aerospace giant from recovering.

“The decisions Boeing makes in the next five years will define the business for the next 25 years,” says Ken Herbert, an aerospace analyst at Canaccord Genuity. “They need to embrace an engineering culture; they need to embrace what worked for the company’s first 85 years.” Herbert points to Boeing’s unprecedented run of creativity in the late 1950s and ’60s, when it launched the 707, 727, 737, and 747. But the fallout from the MAX crisis may well push Boeing in the opposite direction… To shore up its balance sheet, Boeing is reportedly considering borrowing money to pay shareholder dividends — and cutting R&D spending. Those are steps in the wrong direction, says Ron Epstein, an aerospace analyst for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The only way forward is to put investors’ short-term interests on hold, he argues: “If you don’t do that — if you cut R&D, cost-cut, give cash to shareholders — then you’re playing with Boeing’s future.”

► In today’s (Everett) Herald — After long delay, Boeing 777X first flight expected Thursday




► In today’s (Everett) Herald — Strike by nurses at Swedish hospitals troubling, necessary (by Gary Goins) — As a registered nurse for 30 years, a potential strike at Swedish hospitals troubles me. What is more troubling however, is our fears that management has taken a position against reasonable and prudent steps to keep colleagues and patients safe.

The Stand (Jan. 17, 2020) — SEIU 1199NW plans Jan. 28-30 strike at Swedish-Providence — Nurses and caregivers of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW at Swedish-Providence intend to strike Jan. 28-30 if proposals adequately addressing patient safety and staffing levels are not forthcoming.

► In The Daily (Centralia) Chronicle — Providence Centralia nurses set to vote on new contract — An upcoming vote is all that stands in the way of the formal authorization of a tentative agreement reached last week between Providence Health and Services nurses and hospital management following months of negotiations over safety standards, improved staffing levels and wage increases for retention and recruitment purposes. 

► In today’s Yakima H-R — Memorial brings on new staff, including former Astria Regional employees — Virginia Mason Memorial hospital in Yakima has hired nearly 50 new staff since Astria Regional’s closure was announced, absorbing former staff from the neighboring hospital to fill open positions.

► In today’s Peninsula Daily News — McKinley Paper mill ‘nearing startup’ in Port Angeles — McKinley Paper Company is expected to be running at full capacity at the former Nippon Paper Industries USA plant in March, three years after operations ceased at the 100-year-old Ediz Hook mill. That’s what applicants are being told who have been vying for the 150 jobs that the New Mexico-based company is filling… Workers are being paid under a contract with AWPPW Local 155 that was signed in June.

► In the (Longview) Daily News — Millennium still fighting for permits, despite long odds for coal terminal — The company was in court again Tuesday, appearing before the state Court of Appeals to challenge the state’s denial of a shorelines permit for the $680 million project.

► In today’s Tri-City Herald — Substitute teacher cuts save Kennewick schools $720,000 in health insurance costs — Just over a month ago the district cut the number of days most substitutes can work so they could avoid paying health benefits. The Kennewick Education Association remains critical of the district’s choice.




► In today’s Seattle Times — Better ways to fund and invest in a transportation system for all (by Jessica Koski,  Susan Balbas Alex Hudson) — Transportation funding should shift with the times. It’s time for state legislators to explore new, stable ways to fund transportation that don’t burden low-income communities and can fund a range of transportation solutions Washingtonians need, including transit.

► From KING 5 News — Bill would create 32-hour workweek in Washington — State Sen. Joe Nguyen (D-White Center) introduced SB 6516 on Monday, which would reduce the normal workweek by eight hours. “I think younger folks that are kind of in my age demographic tend to believe in more flexibility in the work schedule,” he said.

► From the AP — Legislature sees records requests spike since court ruling — After several years of not releasing the work records of lawmakers, House and Senate administrators in Washington are working through how to deal with the influx of requests they’re receiving now that the state Supreme Court has ruled legislators are fully subject to the same disclosure laws as other elected officials.

► In today’s Spokesman-Review — House Democrats may skip further actions against Shea — House Democrats may not take further action against Spokane Valley Rep. Matt Shea unless they get enough Republican support for expulsion, their leaders said Tuesday. They plan to release the documents compiled by private investigators that support the conclusion in a Dec. 1 report that Shea could have engaged in domestic terrorism. Those documents should be released in the next week or two, after investigators have had a chance to prepare them for public release, House Speaker Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma) said.

► In today’s Spokesman-Review — Senate considers longer care for new moms — SB 6128 by Sen. Emily Randall (D-Bremerton) would require the state provide up to one year of health coverage for any applicant who is at or below 193% of the federal poverty level. “For postpartum Medicaid to end just 60 days after pregnancy creates an unsafe gap in coverage,” she said.




► From NPR — Teachers union lawsuit claims DeVos ‘capriciously’ repealed borrower protections — One of the nation’s largest teachers unions is expected to sue U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Wednesday. The complaint: She repealed a rule meant to protect student loan borrowers from for-profit and career-focused schools that graduate them with too much debt and limited job prospects. Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.7 million-member American Federation of Teachers, says the lawsuit’s message is clear: “Protect the students of the United States of America — not the for-profit [schools] that are making a buck off of them.”

► From the AP — AP visits immigration courts across U.S., finds nonstop chaos — The measures have pitted the judges against the agency in a full-on fight. The judges’ union has called for the courts to be made independent and free of government influence. In turn, the Department has asked federal labor authorities to put an end to the union.

► In the Detroit News — New NAFTA is a start, but bringing back jobs will require more (by acting UAW President Rory Gamble) — It will take a lasting commitment from the U.S. and Mexican governments to ensure that workers can negotiate for higher wages and better working conditions under USMCA… This deal is not a silver bullet. In reality, even the best of trade deals alone will not put us on the right course. We need our elected leaders to do much more across the board, such as passing the PRO Act, a bill that ensures all workers have a voice on the job here at home and ending the 2017 tax laws that rewards U.S. companies for shipping jobs abroad with tax loopholes. That simply is unacceptable.




► From The Hill — Senate Republicans muscle through rules for Trump trial — Senate Republicans forced through a resolution establishing the rules for Trump’s impeachment trial in the early morning hours Wednesday, rejecting Democrats’ demands for additional witnesses and documents at the outset of the proceeding.

► MUST-READ in today’s NY Times — Why Trump’s threadbare legal argument will probably work (by Jesse Wegman) — Trump’s impeachment defense — that abuse of power is not impeachable unless you are formally charged with a crime — is legal claptrap. It’s also likely to work… Perhaps it should come as no surprise that a president who described the Constitution as “like a foreign language” would cling to a legally preposterous claim. But to be fair to Trump and his lawyers, it’s the only one left. The evidence amassed during the House impeachment proceedings — that he shook down a foreign government in the service of his own re-election campaign — is overwhelming, and Trump has yet to counter any of it with so much as a single piece of paper or word of testimony. He has given himself no option but to say, in effect: “Yeah, I did it. So what?”

So why is Trump’s argument almost certainly going to work? Because the Republican majority in the Senate, led by Mitch McConnell, knows that its own survival is tied to Trump’s, and cares more about its grip on power than its fidelity to constitutional governance. That’s why McConnell is doing all he can to deep-six the impeachment trial with as little fanfare, and as few witnesses, as possible. He knows the “So what?” gambit becomes harder to sustain in the face of testimony from firsthand witnesses to the president’s Ukraine scheme… Trump’s defense brief offers what he might call a perfect solution: He won’t make them respond to serious legal arguments if they won’t hold him to account for his inexcusable behavior. In this bargain, as with so much else over the past three years, the president and Senate Republicans are made for each other.




► From Insider NJ — Gov. Murphy signs sweeping legislative package to combat worker misclassification, exploitation — The bills will allow stop-work orders against employers violating state wage, benefit, and tax law; assess penalties for the misclassification of employees; and require employers to post a notice for their employees regarding employee misclassification. “The cost of misclassification is hundreds of millions of dollars… “When an employee is wrongfully tagged an independent contractor — when they are actually an employee — they are not paid workers’ compensation, Social Security and overtime,” said New Jersey BCTC President William Mullen. “Not only is the worker being exploited, but the state is not getting its fair share of payroll taxes. In addition, worker misclassification creates an unfair playing field for the contractors that are actually doing the right thing.”

The Stand (Jan. 6, 2020) — New report: Misclassification costs Washington workers, state — The number of employers engaging in worker misclassification in Washington state has risen substantially over the last 10 years. Misclassification has resulted in the denial of pay and benefits for tens of thousands of workers as well as millions of dollars in lost revenue, according to a new study from researchers with Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program.

► From — N.J. becomes first state to mandate severance for workers if they are part of a mass layoff — The new law requires that New Jersey employers with at least 100 employees provide their workers 90 days notice — up from 60 — before a large layoff or a plant closing or transfer that will put at least 50 people out of work. It would also require these businesses to pay their workers one week’s severance for every year of service.

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