Friday, April 3, 2020
► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, April 3 — The state Department of Health confirmed 6,585 COVID-19 cases and 262 deaths in Washington on Thursday evening. The bulk of the cases remain in King County.
► In the Spokesman-Review — Spokane grocery workers get boosted pay, benefits during pandemic — The union that represents grocery workers in Spokane and North Idaho announced a deal Wednesday with Fred Meyer parent Kroger Co. to increase worker pay by $2 an hour for those employees who continue to work at grocery stores during the COVID-19 pandemic. The deal with Kroger comes after similar deals were negotiated to boost the pay for employees at Safeway, Albertsons and Rosauers stores. “We look at our members as the unsung heroes everyday,” said UFCW 1439 President Eric Renner, who started in the grocery business as a bagger. “They are not afraid of going to work. They look at themselves as being on the front line, because this food supply has to continue.”
ALSO see more details at UFCW 1439’s website.
► From The Hill — Grocery unions protect workers and save lives (by John Logan) — Researchers have long known that unionized workplaces – whether in mining, construction, manufacturing or warehouses – are significantly safer for employees than non-union workplaces. Now we are learning in real time that the same is true for grocery workers, who have been unexpectedly thrust onto the front lines of the fight against COVID-19. Previously treated as “unskilled” and “disposable,” grocery workers are now recognized as essential personnel who are helping to keep millions of Americans alive.
► In the Seattle Times — Metro Transit workers anxious about new role as ‘first responders’ — Generations of bus drivers have worked near hundreds of passengers on their daily routes — and some sanitize their work spaces each flu season. But the COVID-19 outbreak, suspected of killing an Everett-area transit operator last week, has rattled many drivers and has them calling for more protection. “Our operators are out there feeling a little scared, and afraid, out there by themselves,” said ATU 587 President Kenneth Price.
► In the Tri-City Herald — Coronavirus to keep Hanford workers at home longer, nuclear reservation manager says — Most Hanford nuclear reservation workers will remain home for another week to help contain the spread of the new coronavirus. It will be the third week with workers on site only for activities needed to maintain the nuclear reservation in a safe condition to protect the public, workers and the environment.
► In the NW Labor Press — Vancouver’s Columbian newspaper terminates union supporters — The newspaper — where workers voted 19 to 8 to unionize last October — laid off three workers March 16. Two of the three were leaders of the union campaign who were serving on the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild bargaining team, including copy editor Nick Johnson and photographer Nathan Howard, the union’s spokesperson. The third layoff was outdoors writer Terry Otto, also a union supporter. What are the odds? Surely newspaper owner Scott Campbell wouldn’t use layoffs to get rid of union supporters, would he? .. Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild filed an unfair labor practice charge the same day with the NLRB. In it, the union alleges that The Columbian broke federal labor law by bargaining in bad faith, making unilateral changes without union agreement, and unlawfully discharging workers.
► In the Seattle Times — Labor dispute may delay opening of some emergency child care sites in Seattle during coronavirus closure — Seattle Public Schools initially agreed to use its own employees to staff child care classrooms hosted at its schools closest to hospitals. The district reversed course Thursday morning following pushback from its teachers union, the Seattle Education Association.
► In the Yakima H-R — A peek into Yakima School District’s child care for front-line workers — Yakima School District is the second local district to launch district-led child care, following Selah last week.
► In the Walla Walla U-B — Columbia County pulp mill suspends production, lays off many — Columbia County’s second largest employer suspended operations this week and laid off a majority of its 100-worker staff. The disruption at Columbia Pulp, the first straw pulp mill of its kind in North America, comes just five months after the company began production.
► In the Seattle Times — Boeing offers buyouts to cut workforce for ‘different-sized’ market after pandemic — With the airline business staggered by the coronavirus pandemic, Boeing Commercial Airplanes boss Stan Deal told employees Thursday the company must reduce its workforce “to ensure our business is more closely aligned to the realities of a different-sized commercial market once the recovery starts.” Deal’s message makes clear he’s trying to stave off involuntary layoffs and also strongly suggests that cuts in aircraft production rates are likely.
► In the News Tribune — Inslee extends stay-home order, business closures through May 4 — Gov. Jay Inslee is extending his order through May 4 for Washington residents to stay at home and non-essential businesses to remain closed. “May 4th is absolutely the soonest we can achieve our ends to keep our loved ones safe,” he said. “We unfortunately have yet to see the full weight of this virus in our state. This order is not only justified. It is morally necessary. We are confident in our steps we have taken, but we cannot lose steam in the middle of this fight.”
► In the Washington Post — Uber drivers and other gig economy workers were promised unemployment benefits. It may be a long wait. — In multiple states, local unemployment officials are signaling they aren’t yet ready to start processing aid for laborers in what is known as the gig economy. Already inundated with record numbers of jobless claims and lacking federal guidance, many states say they need more time to set up a new system that can process additional benefits… On its website, Washington state also said it needed time and acknowledged that necessary upgrades would not be “complete by mid-April.” However, it reiterated workers are eligible for payments from when their employment was first disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak. The state’s Employment Security Department did not respond to a request for comment.
► In the (Everett) Herald — States on their own to produce medical supplies (editorial) — States and their manufacturers now have to make up for the federal government’s lack of preparation.
► In the Washington Post — Commander of confusion: Trump sows uncertainty and seeks to cast blame in coronavirus crisis — Trump’s machinations have a dogged showman’s quality, using his omnipresence at daily White House news conferences to try to erase memories from his months of playing down the COVID-19 threat. The result is chaotic. Leaders from Maine to Oregon and from Dayton, Ohio, to Austin say their constituents are whipsawed by the contradictory messages emanating each day from the presidential lectern, which exacerbates efforts on the ground to enforce social distancing and mitigate the spread of the virus.
► From HuffPost — Dr. Fauci: ‘I don’t understand’ why the entire country isn’t under stay-at-home orders — “We really should be,” said the nation’s top infectious disease expert.
► A MUST-READ in the NY Times — Jared Kushner is going to get us all killed (by Michelle Goldberg) — Trump’s son-in-law has no business running the nation’s coronavirus response. He has succeeded at exactly three things in his life. He was born to the right parents, married well and learned how to influence his father-in-law. Most of his other endeavors — his biggest real estate deal, his foray into newspaper ownership, his attempt to broker a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians — have been failures. Undeterred, Kushner has now arrogated to himself a major role in fighting the epochal health crisis that’s brought America to its knees… In our hour of existential horror, he is making life-or-death decisions for all Americans, showing all the wisdom we’ve come to expect from him.
► In the Washington Post — Resistance to stay-at-home orders remains widespread — exposing political and social rifts — Kay Ivey, the Republican governor of Alabama: “Y’all, we are not Louisiana, we are not New York state, we are not California,” she said, suggesting that the fate of hard-hit parts of the country would not be shared by Alabama… Experts are now warning that a group of governors in the South and the Great Plains — largely Republican-led states — risk acting too late.
EDITOR’S NOTE — “Having some states lock down and others not is like having a peeing section in the swimming pool.” — Anonymous
► From HuffPost — Trump’s Labor Department takes a hacksaw to coronavirus paid sick leave — The measures in the law were already a watered-down version of what Democrats and advocates wanted: real paid time off for all workers who get sick, are quarantined, or have to care long-term for a family member who is sick or a child home due to a school closure. Instead, the law made 10 days of paid sick time and 10 weeks more of longer-term leave available only to those working at companies with fewer than 500 employees. Millions were left out. Now the Department of Labor has further hollowed out those provisions. The DOL is totally exempting the estimated 9 million people who work in the health care industry — from a doctor to a pharmacy clerk to a janitor in a hospital. These are workers who are most likely to be in contact with infected patients, at high risk of getting sick. And under the new law, they can’t get a guaranteed sick day.
“Thanks to Republican opposition, the steps we’ve taken on paid leave are inadequate in light of the crisis, and now, the Trump Administration is twisting the law to allow employers to shirk their responsibility and is significantly narrowing which workers are eligible for paid leave. This simply can’t stand,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) in a statement slamming the “gratuitous loopholes.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — Speaking of gratuitous loopholes…
► From Politico — The corporate bailout doesn’t include the limits Democrats promised — Democrats promised strict limits against firing workers or giving bonuses to executives in order for corporations to get the half-trillion dollars in loan money they’re getting. But the Fed doesn’t have to abide by them.
► In the Washington Post — As Americans faced layoffs and lost wages, student loan firms kept trying to collect — Even as the federal government sought relief for student loan borrowers, private lenders and debt buyers continued taking borrowers to court.
► From Politico — Trump gambles on immigrant workers during coronavirus — The Trump administration is still soliciting immigrants for specific jobs, a move that poses political risks for the president.
► In the Washington Post — Navy removes aircraft carrier captain who raised alarm about coronavirus response — The Navy on Thursday removed Capt. Brett Crozier, the commanding officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt crippled by the coronavirus, two days after a blunt letter the officer wrote warning the service of the need to get more sailors off the vessel.
► And then, there’s this…
— Dylan Castillo (@Sotero269) April 3, 2020
► From Vice — Leaked Amazon memo details plan to smear fired warehouse organizer: ‘He’s not smart or articulate’ — Leaked notes from an internal meeting of Amazon leadership obtained by VICE News reveal company executives discussed a plan to smear fired warehouse employee Christian Smalls, calling him “not smart or articulate” as part of a PR strategy to make him “the face of the entire union/organizing movement.” CEO Jeff Bezos was among those in attendance. “(Smalls) is not smart, or articulate, and to the extent the press wants to focus on us versus him, we will be in a much stronger PR position than simply explaining for the umpteenth time how we’re trying to protect workers,” wrote Amazon General Counsel David Zapolsky in notes from the meeting forwarded widely in the company.
► ICYMI in The Guardian — Dear Jeff Bezos, instead of firing me protect your workers from coronavirus (by Chris Smalls) — To Mr. Bezos my message is simple. I don’t give a damn about your power. You think you’re powerful? We’re the ones that have the power. Without us working, what are you going to do? You’ll have no money. We have the power. We make money for you. Never forget that.
► From UFCW — The shocking depths of Amazon’s & Jeff Bezos’ disregard for workers and the American people — UFCW International President Marc Perrone:
“In the middle of a global pandemic with thousands of Americans sick and dying, today we learned that Amazon’s senior leaders – including CEO Jeff Bezos, Amazon SVP of Global Affairs Jay Carney, and Amazon General Counsel David Zapolsky – were more focused on attacking one of their own workers than actually keeping their employees safe.
“Even worse, these same senior Amazon leaders weighed ‘different and bold’ ways to gain a public relations ‘win’ from their stockpile of surgical masks – masks that are desperately needed by frontline workers and first responders who are putting themselves in harm’s way every day during this unprecedented public health crisis.
“Every American should be outraged by this conduct. Not only should Amazon’s senior leadership be investigated by law enforcement and federal regulators for these shameful actions, every Amazon executive responsible for this stunning conduct, beginning with Mr. Zapolsky, should be immediately fired.”
► From MSNBC — AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on Amazon and front-line worker safety — Trumka talks about the letter that Stuart Appelbaum of RWDSU, the AFL-CIO and others sent to Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com about front-line workers yesterday.
► In the NY Times — Labor fight collides with the pandemic at Trader Joe’s — On March 23, as the coronavirus pandemic put grocery workers on the front lines of a public health crisis, Trader Joe’s sent a memo to store managers encouraging them to relay a message to employees: Joining a union might be a bad idea… At Trader Joe’s, employees have criticized what they describe as the company’s haphazard response to the crisis, reigniting a debate about union organizing that has simmered for years…
EDITOR’S NOTE — If you work at Trader Joe’s, Amazon or any other business that’s still open right now, and your company isn’t taking care of its employees on the front lines of this crisis, you need a union. People like you who have joined together in a union are getting extra pay, better safety protections and other benefits because together they have the power to negotiate for these things. Find out more information about how you can join together with co-workers and negotiate a fair return for your hard work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!
► Long before Daryl Hall started inviting musicians over to his house, the band Chicago invited the Rev. Al Green over to their house. Actually, it was the brand-new Caribou Ranch recording studio in Colorado where they were shooting their TV special Chicago In The Rockies, which aired in June 1973. Mostly, the show was Chicago playing their own hits. But when Green, who was recording in a nearby studio, heard Chicago rehearsing this 1971 classic (that we can all relate to today), he came strolling in. Watch how happy it makes everybody when the Reverend joins in. That’s how it’s going to be when this lockdown ends. Until then, as only this SAG-AFTRA member can instruct us, just stay the f— at home.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.