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Making rent ● DOL is MIA ● Farmworkers unprotected

Tuesday, March 31, 2020




► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, March 31 — The state Department of Health announced 586 new cases Sunday, bringing the state total to 4,896 cases, including 195 deaths. The bulk of cases remain in King County.

► In the Kitsap Sun — Washington State Ferries: Seattle terminal employee with COVID-19 dies — Esther Bryant-Kyles, who worked for the agency for 25 years, was a terminals employee at Colman Dock in Seattle whose main duty was ticket-taking.

► In the (Longview) Daily News — Millwright: In ‘abrupt but good’ turnaround, WestRock grants sick leave — A push by Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers Local 153 to protect workers from COVID-19 has apparently prompted Longview WestRock mill managers to update the site’s procedure for handling potential exposures to the disease. And the millwright whose story of waiting for negative test results exemplified union concerns about worker safety received a full reinstatement of paid sick leave, he said Monday. “It was kind of an abrupt turnaround, but it’s a good one,” said Mike Doherty.

► In the Seattle Times — As rent and mortgage payments come due, Washingtonians wonder how they’ll afford survival during coronavirus

► In the Seattle Times — Making rent in the time of coronavirus — If you can’t make your rent, here’s how to start talking to your landlord. 1. Don’t panic. Statewide eviction moratoriums mean you’re not going to lose your home immediately. 2. Assess your resources and gather your documents. Most tenant advocates agree that if you’re able to pay your rent in full, you should — rent strikes, while politically popular, will still leave you on the hook for back rent. 3. Contact your landlord, in writing. Explain the situation. If you’re going to be late on rent, tell your landlord when you believe you can have the payment. If you’re not sure, propose a payment plan. Include documentation of your loss of income, if you have it.

► MUST-READ in the Seattle Times — Doctor’s firing in coronavirus crisis shows a failure of corporate medicine (editorial) — The company that fired the PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center emergency room doctor, a national staffing firm called TeamHealth, is owned by the Blackstone Group hedge fund. Washington has banned most corporate practice of medicine for decades, like many states, under a principle that commercial motivations are incompatible with the needs of patients. Yet TeamHealth operates statewide in Washington. Attorney General Bob Ferguson should investigate whether this arrangement subverts state law… By firing him, TeamHealth showed an alarming willingness to risk demoralizing its stressed and self-sacrificing medical workforce, rather than listening to their needs for better practices and resources. That might make sense to a hedge fund, but it is a disservice to the medical profession and the Washingtonians whose reliance on it is nearing an all-time apex.

► In the Seattle Times — Virus creating new tensions between employers, workers

EDITOR’S NOTE — Ya think?

► From UW Medicine




► In the Seattle Times — Hospitalizations for novel coronavirus-like illness declined last week in Washington, offering a glimmer of hope — Hospitalizations for patients with symptoms of COVID-19-like illnesses in Washington declined last week by more than 20%, a hopeful sign for the region and a nation gripped by the coronavirus pandemic.

► From KUOW — Violate stay-at-home order and risk arrest or having business license revoked, state officials say — Officials on Monday outlined the consequences for violating an order for Washingtonians to stay home unless engaging in essential activities. People who fail to comply could be fined, have their business licenses revoked, or even be arrested. “Unfortunately, we’ve had thousands of calls coming in from many places in the state — also to our state and local agencies — from concerned residents with reports that some individuals and some businesses are not complying with this order,” Inslee said during a Monday afternoon press conference.”

► In the Seattle Times — Confusion, uncertainty on first day of state-mandated remote learning for Washington school districts — Across the Puget Sound region on Monday, teachers, parents and students told stories of confusion and stress about how remote learning would be handled during the unprecedented statewide school closure

► In the News Tribune — See a business violating COVID-19 order? Inslee says you can take action — Washington residents who are concerned that non-essential businesses are violating Gov. Jay Inslee’s order to shut down can now file an online complaint.

► In the Oregonian — Oregon will begin inspecting workplaces over coronavirus complaints this week — Surprise inspections could begin as early as Monday and OSHA will not issue warnings.

► In the (Everett) Herald — Most building sites have shut down, but there are exceptions — The state Senate Republican Caucus has asked Gov. Inslee to lift the ban on residential work.

EDITOR’S NOTE — A related story…

► From HuffPost — UW study: Republican governors’ lag in social distancing policies threatens public health — “Our findings are unambiguous: political variables are the strongest predictor of the early adoption of social distancing policies,” the study stated. “All else equal, states with Republican governors and Republican electorates delayed each social distancing measure by an average of 2.70 days … a far larger effect than any other factor, including state income per capita, the percentage of neighboring states with mandates, or even confirmed cases in each state.” While the gap may initially appear to be small, the difference could translate into a significant number of human lives with a disease that can spread explosively in a single day.




► From the Columbian — Stimulus option for troubled Boeing is reassuring (editorial) — Ideally, Boeing can remain stable throughout the pandemic and the aftermath and can soon be putting people back to work. And, ideally, it can do so without needing a boost from the federal government. But it is reassuring to know that such a boost is available if necessary.

► From Forbes — Airlines may need 25% fewer planes from Airbus, Boeing over next five years. That’s an optimistic forecast. — When the coronavirus pandemic ends, many industry watchers now expect it will take years for airlines to return to their former size. That’s a bad scenario for airplane makers and their suppliers.

► From Breaking Defense — Leaking KC-46 fuel lines are latest serious Boeing tanker fault — The Air Force provided few details about the latest problem bedeviling the airborne tanker in its terse statement last night, saying only that it had “upgraded an existing deficiency of its KC-46 Pegasus fuel system to Category I.”




► From the CFPI — The Labor Department won’t take steps to protect workers from coronavirus — Nurses and other health care workers are at high risk of contracting the disease, and they’re panicking, saying hospitals and the government aren’t doing enough to limit their exposure. Despite such concerns, the U.S. Department of Labor has refused to issue an emergency rule requiring hospitals to create a plan to protect their employees from exposure to the coronavirus and other infectious diseases. And the federal agency’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration won’t provide direction to its safety inspectors on how to cite hospitals and nursing homes that aren’t doing enough to protect workers from the new hazard — a departure from its practice during past outbreaks. Meanwhile, the hospital industry’s trade group, the American Hospital Association, has successfully lobbied Congress to block passage of an emergency infectious disease standard that would strengthen protections for health care workers on the front lines. The result: Nurses and other health care workers say they’re left to fend for themselves.

► In the Washington Post — Both public health and politics played a role in Trump’s coronavirus decision — In announcing that the country would remain shut down through April because of the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump and his advisers pointed to factors ranging from grim computer models showing millions of potential deaths to the unsettling sight of body bags lined up outside a Queens hospital. But for Trump, political considerations also played a meaningful role, according to three people familiar with the discussions, speaking on the condition of anonymity to share candid discussions.

► From HuffPost — Trump again accuses health care workers of squandering masks — The president told a reporter to investigate hospitals over the shortage, even though experts warned of supply problems amid the coronavirus pandemic.

► From Politico — Mask mystery: Why are U.S. officials dismissive of protective covering? — Other nations recommend wearing masks to avoid coronavirus, but the Trump administration has not seen a benefit. The increasing calls for more use of masks raise the question of whether authorities’ recommendations were based on genuine concerns about spreading Covid-19 or instead motivated by a desire to prevent a run on limited supplies of masks.




► From The Guardian — California’s farm workers pick America’s essential produce – unprotected from coronavirus — “It is an honor to be a farm worker and an essential worker,” said Amadeo Sumano. “But I have many worries.” The workers who pick and pack the fresh produce in America’s fields now find themselves on the front line of shoring up a supply chain straining under new pressures amid the coronavirus crisis. In California, which grows two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts and one-third of its vegetables, the pressure to shift and bolster that fast-changing food system is felt acutely. The state’s roughly 400,000 agricultural workers are exempt from shelter-in-place orders, and vital agriculture work is continuing to keep markets stocked nationwide. Growers and labor contractors say they are putting new practices and measures in place to keep workers socially distanced and maintain sanitized common facilities. But workers and their advocates tell a different story: of vulnerable, low-wage workers operating in fear, without proper protections let alone information about the risks involved in their essential labor, and without hope of any share in expanded unemployment benefits should they fall ill or lose work.

► From the AFL-CIO — Labor movement mourns passing of BCTGM President David B. Durkee — “The entire labor movement is saddened by the death of Dave Durkee,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “We have lost a brother, a friend and a fierce defender of working families. Dave spent his life fighting for workers’ rights and advocating for a fair and just society. His dedication to our movement and our country leaves a lasting legacy.”

► From CNET — Instacart workers strike amid COVID-19 fears, call company response a ‘sick joke’ — Instacart workers are holding a strike across the US on Monday to demand more protections from the company. The move comes as a growing number of grocery delivery workers for Instacart say they’re getting sick with COVID-19 symptoms, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. They say the company hasn’t done enough to safeguard them against the illness.

► From Bloomberg — Amazon fires worker who led strike over virus — Chris Smalls, an Amazon fulfillment center employee, said the company fired him after he led a strike at a warehouse in Staten Island, New York, over coronavirus safety conditions. “Taking action cost me my job,” Smalls saidMonday. “Because I tried to stand up for something that’s right, the company decided to retaliate against me.” Organizers say more than 60 workers participated in the protest. In a statement Monday night, New York State Attorney General Letitia James called Smalls’ firing “immoral and inhumane.” James urged the NLRB to investigate the incident and said her office “is considering all legal options” as well.

► From Vice  — Whole Foods employees are staging a nationwide ‘sick-out’ — Whole Foods employees are planning to strike on Tuesday to protest the lack of protections offered to workers during the coronavirus pandemic. On March 31, Whole Foods employees will call in sick to demand paid leave for all workers who stay home or self-quarantine during the crisis, free coronavirus testing for all employees, and hazard pay of double the current hourly wage for employees who show up to work during the pandemic.

EDITOR’S NOTE — If you work for one of these companies, or any other company that doesn’t value your work enough to protect your life, you need a union. One day this outbreak will end, but your employer’s indifference to your well-being and that of your family will not. NOW is the time to get more information about how you can join together with your co-workers and negotiate not only a fair return for your hard work, but also better health and safety protections on the job. Contact a union organizer today!

► From Vice — General Electric workers launch protest, demand to make ventilators — On Monday, General Electric factory workers launched two separate protests demanding that the company convert its jet engine factories to make ventilators. At GE’s Lynn, Massachusetts aviation facility, workers held a silent protest, standing six feet apart. Union members (IUE-CWA) at the company’s Boston headquarters also marched six feet apart, calling on the company to use its factories to help the country close its ventilator shortage amid the coronavirus pandemic.

► From The New Yorker — Chris Ware’s ‘Bedtime’ — Artist Chris Ware: “As a procrastination tactic, I sometimes ask my 15-year-old daughter what the comic strip or drawing I’m working on should be about—not only because it gets me away from my drawing table but because, like most kids of her generation, she pays attention to the world. So, while sketching the cover of this Health Issue, I asked her. She said, ‘Make sure it’s about how most doctors have children and families of their own.’

► From CNN — A Minnesota trooper pulled over a doctor for speeding. Then he gave her his N95 medical masks. — Dr. Sarosh Ashraf Janjua, a cardiologist at a coronavirus quarantine unit in Duluth, was pulled over by Trooper Brian Schwartz for speeding on March 21. But instead of a ticket, Schwartz handed Janjua five N95 masks he was supposed to use as protection — along with a firm warning for speeding. “I burst into tears. And though it may just have been the cold wind, I think he teared up a little as well, before wishing me well and walking away,” Janjua said.




► In the NY Times — This land of denial and death (by Paul Krugman) — It will almost certainly get much worse. The United States is on the worst trajectory of any advanced country — yes, worse than Italy at the same stage of the pandemic — with confirmed cases doubling every three days… As we wait to see just how bad our national nightmare will get, it’s worth stepping back for a few minutes to ask why America has handled this crisis so badly. Incredibly bad leadership at the top is clearly an important factor. Thousands of Americans are dying, and the president is boasting about his TV ratings. But this isn’t just about one man. Neither the scientific denial that crippled the initial response to this pandemic, nor the tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths that now seem likely, are unique to COVID-19.

Among advanced countries, the United States has long stood out as the land of denial and death. It’s just that we’re now seeing these national character flaws play out at a vastly accelerated rate. Decades of science denial on multiple fronts set the stage for the virus denial that paralyzed U.S. policy during the crucial early weeks of the current pandemic.

About death: I still sometimes encounter people convinced that America has the world’s highest life expectancy. After all, aren’t we the world’s greatest nation? In fact, we have the lowest life expectancy among advanced countries, and the gap has been steadily widening for decades. This widening gap, in turn, surely reflects both America’s unique lack of universal health insurance and its equally unique surge in “deaths of despair” — deaths from drugs, alcohol and suicide — among working-class whites who have seen economic opportunities disappear. Is there a link between the hundreds of thousands of excess deaths we suffer every year compared with other rich countries and the tens of thousands of additional excess deaths we’re about to suffer from the coronavirus? The answer is surely yes.

While America is a great nation with a glorious history and much to be proud of — I consider myself very much a patriot — the rise of the hard right has, as I said, also turned it into a land of denial and death. This transformation has been taking place gradually over the past few decades; it’s just that now we’re watching the consequences on fast forward.


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

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FIND OUT HOW TO JOIN TOGETHER with your co-workers to negotiate for better wages, benefits, and a voice at work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!