Tuesday, March 24, 2020
► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, March 24 — The state Department of Health announced 225 new cases Monday, bringing the state total to 2,221 cases, including 110 deaths. The bulk of cases remain in King County.
► In the (Everett) Herald — Governor: Stay at home — and that’s now an order — Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday ordered Washington residents to stay at home for the next two weeks in an unprecedented attempt to blunt the spread of COVID-19. The proclamation signed by Inslee aims to aggressively curb movement and interaction of residents by shutting down businesses deemed non-essential and banning public and private gatherings of people… It is not a “shelter-in-place” mandate. Residents are allowed to go outside, and essential businesses such as grocery stores, gas stations and pharmacies will remain open. Inslee’s office released a 14-page list of workers whose jobs are considered “essential” and critical. They cover a range of sectors, from health care to defense, public works to the news media.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Unions and worker-advocacy organizations are deemed essential.
► In the Spokesman-Review — Washington legislative leaders in both parties back Inslee’s ‘stay home’ order — “This is a crisis for everyone in our community and any individual could get sick themselves or they could give the illness to a loved one,” said Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig (D-Spokane). If people make wise decisions that help minimize the spread of the virus, it could shorten the duration of restrictions, said Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler (R-Ritzville). Some people may think they are relatively low-risk, but they need to keep their vulnerable friends and family members in mind. “It’s just part of being a caring member of society,” Schoesler said.
► The Stranger — Did you get denied unemployment? It could have been a glitch — New rules announced by Gov. Jay Inslee expanded standby benefits to 12 weeks of coverage for those who lose jobs because of COVID. However, it turns out some part of the ESD system didn’t get the memo, and that’s leading to a problematic glitch. A lot of workers looking for standby unemployment have been denied coverage — particularly, workers who worked part-time and applied for standby, as well as anyone who applied for more than 12 weeks of standby. That’s… a lot of people… The standby program was updated during the weekend to fix the glitch. Anyone who was denied for being a part-time worker or for requesting more than four weeks of standby pay “received an automated redetermination letter and should be approved.”
► From KNKX — Tight labor threatens produce supply chain as concerns about new coronavirus spread — Experts say there is plenty of food to go around. Right now, most of the items coming from local fields are things like root vegetables or potatoes that have been in cold storage. Other fresh produce comes from farther afield. But getting it into retail markets can be challenging because of the pinch on labor. Truck drivers and warehouse workers are in high demand.
The Stand (March 17) — Amid crisis, thousands of good union jobs available in state
► In the Seattle Times — Boeing to halt work at Puget Sound factories amid coronavirus pandemic — Boeing said Monday it will suspend its Puget Sound factory operations as well as its maintenance activities on the grounded 737 MAX airplanes at Moses Lake for 14 days starting Wednesday. The company said it will focus on a “safe and orderly temporary suspension of operations.” It instructed production workers to continue to report for their assigned shifts Monday and said managers will provide them guidance on their role in the shutdown process. The decision comes a day after a worker from the 777 line died of a COVID-19 infection, the first such death at Boeing… Though company policy provides for paid leave covering only five working days due to a shutdown caused by some external event — typically weather-related — Boeing said it will double that to 10 working days, so employees receive full pay for the entire two-week break.
► In the (Charleston) Post and Courier — Boeing to shut Washington factories due to coronavirus, but SC plant to remain open — During the closure, the North Charleston campus — where one worker has tested positive for coronavirus — will for the first time be the company’s only site that will be manufacturing commercial jets.
► In the News Tribune — Washington needs ventilators to prevent Italy-like coronavirus disaster. Could Boeing help? (editorial) — Northwest congressional members call for a “collective national manufacturing goal” to fill a dire shortage of ventilator machines. One potential contributor might be right under our noses.
► In the News Tribune — Here’s how you can help Pierce County service providers respond to coronavirus (by Matt Driscoll) — First, pick a critical service provider — any critical service provider — and, chances are, they’re hurting and in need of support. Homeless shelters. Food banks. Blood banks. Any organization that provides things like “housing, food, or medical needs” probably needs help. Most need financial donations, and many will need volunteers… Donate blood: Donations locally and nationally have fallen amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
► In The Stranger — UW medical residents hit with a demoralizing contract proposal in the midst of coronavirus outbreak — On March 11, UW added insult to injury by hitting residents with a “final offer” on a contract the college has been negotiating with University of Washington Housestaff Association for nearly a year now. The new offer gives residents a 2% raise and increased travel and home call stipends by next year. Residents describe the raise as a pay cut, given its failure to match the local cost of living increase of 2.5%, and given the fact their last contract secured 3% raises. They also point out the paucity of the travel/home call stipend relative to similar institutions. “It’s a blow, to be honest,” said Krishna Prabhu, an internal medicine resident. “They offered that to us in the middle of this epidemic, and we’re on the frontlines here. Definitely not good for morale.”
The Stand (Sept. 20, 2019) — UW’s medical trainees need fair pay, will walk out Sept. 25
► In the (Longview) Daily News — Millwright with potential COVID-19 exposure sent back to work at WestRock — The story of a WestRock worker who was concerned he might be a coronavirus carrier fueled union complaints that local mill management is not taking the threat of the disease seriously. AWPPW 153 officials say there is no “communication, enforcement, follow through or understanding” between corporate, local management and floor supervisors about the company’s coronavirus-related safety procedures.
► In the NW Labor Press — Citing coronavirus, Trump-appointed NLRB suspends all union elections — The National Labor Relations Board announced March 19 that it won’t conduct any union representation elections, even by mail, until at least April 3 — due to the coronavirus outbreak.
ALSO TODAY at The Stand — Labor blasts NLRB’s ‘muzzling of workers’ — Washington’s unions push back against NLRB’s anti-democracy decision, and call for all mail-ballot elections to improve workers’ rights and protect health and safety.
► From The Hill — Senate on cusp of coronavirus stimulus deal after agreements in key areas — Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are on the cusp of a deal for a massive coronavirus stimulus package after settling disagreements over relief for the airline industry, beefed-up unemployment benefits and money for hospitals. Democratic senators participated in a briefing call Monday night on the latest developments in the negotiations, and a vote is expected as soon as Tuesday.
► In the NY Times — The coronavirus bailout stalled. And it’s Mitch McConnell’s fault. (editorial) — Senate Republicans are blocking passage of an economic bailout plan that protects jobs and wages.
► From Common Dreams — ‘This is a trap’: Progressives sound alarm as GOP attempts sneak attack on Social Security in coronavirus stimulus plan — “Senate Republicans are using the coronavirus crisis as a cynical cover to attack our Social Security system,” warns Nancy Altman, president of advocacy group Social Security Works. The GOP’s $1.8 trillion bill would allow businesses to delay payment of the employer payroll tax — one of the primary funding mechanisms for Social Security — for the rest of 2020.
► From Reuters — U.S. could become ‘coronavirus epicenter’, Olympics on hold — The U.S. could become the global epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization said. Some U.S. state and local officials have decried a lack of coordinated federal action, saying that having localities act on their own has put them in competition for supplies. The virus forced organizers to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics.
► In the NY Times — Trump considers reopening economy, over health experts’ objections — The president is questioning whether stay-at-home orders have gone too far. But relaxing them could significantly increase the death toll from the coronavirus, health officials warn.
► In the Washington Post — This president has no empathy (by Dana Milbank) — People are dying. Businesses are failing. Workers are losing jobs. But above all we as a nation must keep in mind the terrible cost borne by Trump. “It cost me billions of dollars to become president,” he said at a White House briefing Sunday evening that was, ostensibly, about the coronavirus response… So this is what it has come to: To preserve political viability, he’s willing to risk the lives of millions.
► In the NY Times — As postal workers fall sick, colleagues keep working. And worrying. — The coronavirus has affected about two dozen Postal Service workers around the country, and fear of a greater outbreak grows.
► From Politico — House panel warns coronavirus could destroy Postal Service by June — “It has become clear that the Postal Service will not survive the summer without immediate help,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney.
► In the Seattle Times — West Seattle Bridge closes for repairs that could take months — The West Seattle Bridge closed Monday night for several months, until the city can repair cracked support girders that render the span structurally unsound. During the prolonged and unexpected shutdown, the low-level swing bridge will be open only for transit, emergency vehicles and freight.
► In the (Everett) Herald — Sen. Marko Liias to launch campaign for lieutenant governor — The Lynnwood Democrat will join Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-Lake Stevens) in the contest to succeed Cyrus Habib.
► From the AFL-CIO
Meet Trevar Smedal, a member of the @MachinistUnion Local 1406 employed at GE Datex-Ohmeda in Madison, WI. He and his co-workers are in a race against the clock to produce ventilators needed in the worldwide fight against the current #coronavirus pandemic. #serviceandsolidarity pic.twitter.com/baQaDbZd3B
— AFL-CIO ✊? (@AFLCIO) March 24, 2020
► From TPM — Texas Lt. Gov. urges old people to sacrifice themselves to save economy amid coronavirus — Texas Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick (R) made the astonishing argument on Monday night that the elderly ought to be willing to die from COVID-19 for the sake of the economy.
► In the WSJ (paywall) — Amazon’s Bezos, other corporate executives sold shares just in time — Top executives at U.S.-traded companies sold a total of roughly $9.2 billion in shares of their own companies between the start of February and the end of last week, a Wall Street Journal analysis shows. The selling saved the executives — including many in the financial industry — potential losses totaling $1.9 billion, according to the analysis, as the S&P 500 stock index plunged about 30% from its peak on Feb. 19 through the close of trading March 20.
► From The Guardian — Garment workers face destitution as COVID-19 closes factories — Campaigners call for fashion brands to protect workers in their supply chains globally as coronavirus causes orders to dry up.
► From Politico — A letter from your city’s future (by Eric Scigliano) — Most other American cities are still days or weeks away from where we in Seattle are on the curve. Our experience here, as the U.S. metropolis that has been weathering COVID-19 longest, can still tell people and policymakers elsewhere something about what to expect and how to deal with it. It won’t be pretty, even after you get used to empty store shelves and restaurants, gyms and other public establishments being closed. Be prepared for field hospitals, triage plans and campaigns to fabricate hospital protective gear from hardware store materials. But resilient souls may also find solace and renewal in the quiet and solitude of a lockdown, a reconnection with nature and loved ones… For all those downsides, and for all the supermarket jostling and hoarding, the coronavirus crisis has sparked a surge in community spirit and volunteerism around here.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.