Wednesday, March 18, 2020
► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, March 18 — The state Department of Health announced 108 new cases Monday, bringing the state total to 1,012 cases, including 55 deaths. The bulk of cases remain in King County.
► From UFCW 21 — Health care unions, CHI Franciscan reach agreement on worker safety and compensation — UFCW 21 is working hard with our partners at SEIU Healthcare 1199NW and the Washington State Nurses Association to keep our members safe. We hope to reach similar resolutions like this one with other employers across the state to ensure the safety and well being of workers on the front lines. We need to take care of the workers that take care of us.
► In the Seattle Times — Coronavirus puts Seattle-area grocery workers on front lines of pandemic — There’s a siege mentality among a growing number of grocery-store employees, who feel vulnerable as the novel coronavirus pandemic spreads. As schools, restaurants and bars close, some feel trapped in one of the only places left where Washingtonians can now legally gather in large numbers: the grocery store. The situation is so stressful that the UFCW, which represents 44,000 employees in Washington — 21,000 of whom work in grocery stores — has been working toward getting state and federal government bodies to include grocery-store workers in the same class as firefighters, EMTs and police in regard to the coronavirus pandemic. “I think grocery-store workers are used to being first responders,” said Sarah Cherin, UFCW Local 21 chief of staff. “If you think about our snowstorm (in 2019), when you think about things like this pandemic, grocery-store workers are the front line, just like health care workers.”
► In the Yakima H-R — Safeway, Yakima workers’ union reach agreement for new hires, employee support — Safeway has come to an agreement with its Yakima bargaining group that will allow it to bring on more staff in Central Washington because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
ALSO TODAY at The Stand — Grocery workers stepping up to challenge — UFCW, Teamsters are also stepping up to protect their workplace safety and ensure access to the paid leave.
► In the News Tribune — Albertsons and Safeway offer special hours for at-risk shoppers — The special shopping hours are scheduled 7-9 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday. “We know that some of our most vulnerable neighbors are senior citizens and other at-risk populations, such as pregnant women or those with compromised immune systems, who have been advised to avoid leaving home as much as possible.”
► In the (Everett) Herald — Please, people, stop hoarding! It can be harmful — even to you — Health officials say to leave some for your neighbors. Don’t buy more than you need.
► In the Kitsap Sun — PSNS’s most vulnerable workers allowed to go home — Older workers and those with higher risks of complications from the novel coronavirus at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard have been offered the opportunity to go home on paid leave.
► From CNN — The newspaper at the eye of the coronavirus storm (by Merrill Brown) — It is hard to imagine any newsroom in America where in recent weeks the pressure is more intense than it has been in the newsroom of The Seattle Times. if you’re local reporter, a sports reporter, a features or entertainment writer, your beat focuses on or touches on coronavirus. Little else matters, it seems. That’s the mandate for the paper’s roughly 155-member newsroom, according to the paper’s executive editor Michele Matassa Flores.
► In the (Longview) Daily News — Millennium loses appeal over shorelines permit — Millennium Bulk Terminal’s years-long proposal to build a $680 million coal export export dock in Longview received yet another legal blow Tuesday when the Washington State Court of Appeals upheld the denial of a key shorelines permit.
► In the (Longview) Daily News — Agencies take steps to protect their own following Zainfeld’s passing — The death of Cowlitz 2 battalion chief Mickel Zainfeld has prompted local agencies and grassroots groups to boost efforts to help firefighters, police and other first responders cope with the emotional trauma of their jobs.
► From Bloomberg — Boeing stock tumbles after it seeks $60B government bailout — Boeing’s Wall Street rout deepened as investors reacted with alarm to news that the planemaker is seeking at least $60 billion in U.S. government aid for itself and suppliers in a race to shore up cash to weather the coronavirus pandemic. Boeing’s stock price plunged as much as 19% in early trading Wednesday in New York amid a broad market slump.
► From the Olympian — Gov. Inslee seeks major disaster declaration so more workers can get unemployment — Currently, part-time and self-employed individuals are not eligible for state unemployment benefits. They would be if the President deems COVID-19 a major disaster and the outbreak caused their jobs to be lost or interrupted. The Federal Emergency Management Agency also would help the state pay for those benefits.
► In the (Vancouver) Columbian — Washington gears up to aid the suddenly unemployed — What makes the current unemployment crisis unique is its total abruptness. Prior economic crises, like the Great Recession, ramped up slowly, with warning signs along the way. People lost their jobs over a long period, and there was enough time to process claims as they trickled in. Not so for COVID-19, when efforts to “flatten the curve” — or slow the spread of the virus through social distancing to avoid overwhelming medical resources — have the opposite effect on unemployment resources, costing thousands of jobs across the state all at the same time. “This is all happening at once,” said said Nick Demerice, public affairs director for the Washington Employment Security Department. “We really are, unfortunately, the tip of the spear, and several weeks ahead of many other states.”
► From Politico — Coronavirus layoffs surge across America, overwhelming unemployment offices — Employers are slashing jobs at a furious pace across the nation due to mass shutdowns over the coronavirus, slamming state unemployment offices with a crush of filers facing sudden crises… During the past 48 hours, unemployment insurance offices around the country were flooded with phone calls, and state unemployment websites crashed in Kentucky, Oregon, and New York.
EDITOR’S NOTE — There have been no reports yet of major problems at the Washington State Employment Security Department. As we reported yesterday, ESD is rapidly ramping up its staff and has multiple positions open, particularly for intake specialists.
► From KUOW — $200 million in COVID-19 emergency funding approved for Washington state — Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday signed several new laws in response to the Washington state coronavirus outbreak. The measures authorize millions in financial aid for government agencies and federally recognized tribes responding to COVID-19, as well as businesses impacted by mandatory shutdowns.
► In the News Tribune — Tim Eyman thinks coronavirus threat is funny, throws pandemic party. We’re not laughing. (editorial) — On Saturday, Tim Eyman, Republican candidate for governor, threw himself a party. “Let’s stick our finger in the eye of Jay Inslee,” read the invitation to supporters, “I’m bringing a 6-pack of Corona!” Eyman thought he’d make a joke out of the coronavirus and exploit what conservative figures like Rush Limbaugh still believe is an effort to “destroy Trump and capitalism.” Sorry, but we’re not laughing.
► In the NY Times — U.S. virus plan anticipates 18-month pandemic and widespread shortages — The 100-page federal plan laid out a grim prognosis and outlined a response that would activate agencies across the government.
► From HuffPost — Republicans, White House gut paid sick leave in coronavirus bill — Under pressure from the White House and business groups, House Democrats agreed to further water down paid sick and family leave provisions in the coronavirus emergency bill currently awaiting a Senate vote.
► In the Washington Post — As much of America takes drastic action, some Republicans remain skeptical of the severity of the coronavirus pandemic — For weeks, many on the right, including Trump, minimized the virus, if they considered it at all. Even in recent days, as much of the world shuts down to try to stop its spread, some Republicans mocked what they saw as a media-generated frenzy.
► From The Hill — GOP divided on next steps for massive stimulus package — Senate Republicans are divided over how to structure a massive stimulus package that could wind up costing nearly $1 trillion, likely slowing down how long it will take to get the relief bill to Trump’s desk.
► From The Hill — GOP lukewarm on talk of airline bailout — Larry Willis, president of the Transportation Trades Department at the AFL-CIO, said any bailout should bar companies from using bankruptcy declarations to rewrite union contracts or slash wages, as they did in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
► In the NY Times — Coronavirus is closing Social Security offices — Starting Tuesday, Social Security’s field office network will be closed to the public in most situations until further notice because of the coronavirus public health crisis. Service will continue to be available via the agency’s toll-free line, (800) 772-1213, and its website. The decision to close offices came after several days of withering criticism from the unions that represent Social Security employees. The unions argued that keeping the offices open was a threat to the public’s health and that of the agency’s work force of 61,000.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Two days ago, AFGE decried the Social Security Administration for denying the union’s repeated calls to immediately allow all eligible workers to telework. It noted that employees and clients at four SSA offices, including one in Auburn, Wash., may have already been exposed to the virus.
► From HuffPost — Workers at these companies say they can’t get sick leave — Many of the country’s largest retailers and fast-food chains don’t pay employees when they’re sick ― a policy that could put those workers, their families and the public at risk as the coronavirus sweeps through the U.S. Workers at Target, Walmart, Kroger, Taco Bell, Subway, Burger King and a slew of other well-known businesses say they don’t get paid sick leave.
EDITOR’S NOTE — What do they have in common? They’re non-union. These corporations that have aggressively fought unionization — and to make harder and harder for workers to join together and negotiate for things like paid sick leave — have exacerbated a national health crisis with their greed. If you work at one of these places, now might be a good time to apply for a good job with benefits at a unionized grocery store.
► In the WSJ — Marriott begins furloughing tens of thousands of employees — Coronavirus outbreak has led to widespread travel cancellations and government-ordered travel restrictions.
► In the NY Times — Layoffs are just starting, and the forecasts are bleak — Shutdowns in the U.S. retail and hospitality businesses may be an early sign of the job losses that the coronavirus outbreak will inflict on the economy.
► From the AFL-CIO
WATCH: AFL-CIO President @RichardTrumka on @Morning_Joe this morning talking about the crisis workers are facing in their workplaces and frontline worker needs during the #coronavirus pandemic. #1u pic.twitter.com/219BHQtgR4
— AFL-CIO ✊? (@AFLCIO) March 18, 2020
► From The Hill — UAW calls for two-week shutdown of auto plants in U.S. due to coronavirus — Amid discussions, UAW asked for a two-week shutdown of U.S. operations for Gord, GM and Fiat Chrysler, but the request was denied. “Your UAW leadership feels very strongly, and argued very strongly, that this is the most responsible course of action,” UAW President Rory Gamble wrote. “The companies, however, were not willing to implement this request.”
► From the Payday Report — 6,000 Nissan workers forced to work during COVID-19 in Mississippi — On Tuesday, Nissan shut down Britain’s largest car plant in Sunderland, where over 6,000 mostly white members of the British union Unite maintain a powerful check on the company. However, in Canton, Mississippi, over 4,000 non-union and largely African-American auto workers at Nissan’s plant are being forced to work in conditions that workers say are ripe for spreading the deadly COVID-19 virus.
► From the UFW — UFW to all growers, ag groups: ‘Imperative to take proactive steps’ to ensure farm worker safety — starting with extending sick pay –The United Farm Workers has sent an open letter to all agricultural employers and organizations urging them to take “proactive steps to ensure the safety of farm workers, protect buyers and safeguard consumers.” Those steps include extending “state-required sick pay to 40 hours or more,” removing “caps on accruing sick pay,” ending the 90-day wait period many employers require before workers can claim sick time, and ceasing to ask them for letters from doctors when field laborers use sick leave.
► From the USA Today — Will legal marijuana stores close? Americans stock up on pot for coronavirus quarantine — In Washington state, sales soared by 33% on Sunday, compared to the week prior. “Apparently people need weed and toilet paper, that I am sure of,” said a laughing Wanda James, 56, who owns the Simply Pure dispensary in Denver. “They are absolutely stocking up.”
► MUST-READ in the NY Times — Stop saying that everything is under control. It isn’t. (editorial) — Tackling the pandemic will require a new, collective way of thinking about public health and society as a whole. As we did in World War II, the United States faces a crisis that calls for a national response, demanding a mobilization of resources that the free market or individual states cannot achieve on their own… Much of the country is facing a grave shortage of ventilators, intensive care beds, the equipment and chemicals needed for testing, and all manner of medical supplies, including gloves, masks, swabs and wipes… The federal government needs to step in to sharply ramp up production of all these goods, just as it ramped up production of munitions during World War II… The government will also need to deploy the National Guard or the Army to convert facilities like convention centers, hotels and parking lots into testing sites, isolation units and humane quarantines.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.