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Tuesday, April 14, 2020




► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, April 14 — More than 500 people in Washington state have died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, and more than 10,500 have been diagnosed. While the number of infections continues to rise, more people are also starting to recover from the disease.

► In the Tri-City Herald — Dozens of Tri-Citians sick with coronavirus from outbreak linked to beef plant — At least 39 people may have COVID-19 as the result of an outbreak at the Tyson Fresh Meats plant south of Pasco. At least 28 are plant employees.

EDITOR’S NOTE — This story includes at least 20 column inches of Tyson’s PR team talking about everything they are doing to keep employees safe and healthy, but no comment from any workers there.

► From Crosscut — Undocumented workers fend for themselves with little COVID-19 help — Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for unemployment. Immigrants without work permits also do not qualify for the federal government’s direct cash payments — up to $1,200, even if they pay taxes or their children are U.S citizens. On top of all that, low-income immigrants often lack savings and health insurance. With an estimated 250,000 undocumented immigrants in Washington state, advocates argue that’s too big of a segment of the labor force to leave behind.

EDITOR’S NOTE — From the WSLC’s COVID-19 Resources for Washington Workers (también disponible en español):

Benefits Information for People Without Immigration Status — Prepared by Columbia Legal Services.

OneAmerica’s Resources for Immigrants — A list of resources in Washington state to ensure everyone in our communities are able to receive the care and necessities they need.

Relief Fund for Undocumented Individuals in Washington State — To support our community, the Washington Dream Coalition, in partnership with Scholarship Junkies, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, and Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network are providing financial relief to undocumented individuals.

► In the Seattle Times — Lengthy legal fight over Seattle’s Uber unionization law comes to an end — A legal fight that dragged on for years over Seattle’s novel law allowing Uber and Lyft drivers to unionize has come to an end for now after the city, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Uber subsidiary Raiser LLC agreed to dismiss the case. Meanwhile, Mayor Jenny Durkan and the City Council moved on last fall to a different set of driver-focused laws, promising a new minimum wage for drivers and other protections… It’s unclear whether drivers will seek to unionize under the original law. Teamsters 117, the union that backed the ordinance in 2015, said in an email drivers “moved on” to backing the new protections while the legal fight played out.

► From Teamsters 117 — Update on collective bargaining legislation for Uber, Lyft drivers — Your Union has not been waiting for an outcome to the legal fight to do something about compensation while the City and the Chamber battled this out in the courts. We moved ahead with the Fare Share Plan to enact first-in-the-nation protections against unfair deactivation, set a living wage floor for drivers in the industry, and establish a worker organization that would provide representation for drivers as well as other benefits.  The first part of the Fare Share Plan passed last year. We will continue to fight to implement the law, raise driver pay, and bring new levels of protections and representation to the driver community through the Drivers Union affiliated with Teamsters 117.

► In the Seattle Times — Terminal 18 resumes operations after coronavirus concerns halted work — The region’s largest container terminal is back online after a labor arbitrator ruled Thursday evening that terminal operator SSA Marine must find a way to more thoroughly disinfect equipment between shifts, resolving a dispute over equipment sanitation that halted cargo operations earlier in the day.

► In the Kitsap Sun — Kilmer calls for incentive pay, increased protection for shipyard workers — U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer is asking the Navy to boost pay for shipyard workers and provide them additional personal protection amid the COVID-19 pandemic.  He asked that “incentive pay” follow the same guidelines by the federal Office of Personnel Management that enhances retention “of up to a certain percentage of basic pay to a group or category of employees.”

► In the (Bezos-owned) Washington Post — Amazon fires two tech workers who criticized the company’s warehouse workplace conditions — Amazon has fired two Seattle employees who were outspoken critics of its climate policies and who had publicly denounced the conditions at its warehouses as unsafe during the coronavirus pandemic. Amazon fired the workers for “repeatedly violating internal policies,” a spokesman said. Amazon’s external communications policy prohibits employees from commenting publicly on its business without corporate justification and approval from executives.

EDITOR’S NOTE — AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka tweets: “It’s outrageous that Amazon would rather fire workers coming forward than fix the conditions they’re blowing the whistle on. Amazon needs to stop retaliating and start making sure employees are safe, working in sanitary conditions with proper protections.”




► In the News Tribune — Three area aerospace companies announce temporary layoffs — Tool Gauge and Machine Works is issuing temporary layoffs to 76 workers at its Tacoma site to take effect April 16, while Toray Composite Materials America issued temporary layoffs to 361 on April 9. LMI Aerospace in Auburn also announced temporary layoffs affecting 74 starting April 13. Another site division in Everett listed 25 affected by layoffs at that location.




► In the Seattle Times — Washington, Oregon and California to coordinate reopening of West Coast economies after coronavirus is contained — When Washington begins to reopen an economy largely locked down due to the coronavirus outbreak, the state won’t go it alone. Gov. Jay Inslee said Monday that such plans will be closely coordinated with Oregon and California to ensure the virus remains contained down the West Coast.

► In the Seattle Times — State to furlough at least 950 prisoners in bid to limit coronavirus outbreaks — Corrections Secretary Stephen Sinclair will grant emergency furloughs to inmates in minimum-custody settings who meet certain criteria in order to provide more physical distance and limit any potential outbreaks behind prison walls.

► From KUOW — Inslee appoints first Black woman justice to serve on WA Supreme Court —  On Monday, Gov. Jay Inslee appointed Pierce County Superior Court Judge Helen Whitener to an open position vacated by Justice Charles Wiggins who recently retired. Besides being the first Black woman justice, Whitener, who is originally from Trinidad, is only the second Black justice ever to serve on the state’s high court. The first was Charles Z. Smith who served from 1998 to 2002. Whitener will also become only the second openly gay justice after Justice Mary Yu. “I stand before you, the product of hard work and mentorship,” Whitener said following the announcement of her appointment. She went on to offer a message to Washington students who are out of school because of COVID-19. “I want you, the students, to know just as others believed in me, I believe in you, so continue to study and continue to be safe.”




► From Buzzfeed — People are buying stamps, praising mail carriers after the USPS said it needs a coronavirus bailout — So far, the USPS hasn’t received cash in the stimulus plans aimed at propping up other types of US businesses — prompting some people on Sunday to show support by buying stamps, sharing tributes to mail carriers, and starting discussions about why the mail is such an important part of American life.

The Stand (April 13) — Tell Congress to support our Postal Service!

► MUST-READ in the NY Times — America can afford a world-class health system. Why don’t we have one? (by Anne Case and ) — In March, Congress passed a coronavirus bill including $3.1 billion to develop and produce drugs and vaccines. The bipartisan consensus was unusual. Less unusual was the successful lobbying by pharmaceutical companies to weaken or kill provisions that addressed affordability — measures that could be used to control prices or invalidate patents for any new drugs. The notion of price control is anathema to health care companies. It threatens their basic business model, in which the government grants them approvals and patents, pays whatever they ask, and works hand in hand with them as they deliver the worst health outcomes at the highest costs in the rich world. The American health care industry is not good at promoting health, but it excels at taking money from all of us for its benefit. While millions suffer, our health care system has turned into an inequality machine, taking from the poor and working class to generate wealth for the already wealthy… We are believers in free-market capitalism, but health care is not something it can deliver in a socially tolerable way.

► From The Hill — Aides expect Schumer, Mnuchin to reach deal on coronavirus relief — Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) are expected to reach a deal this week on an interim coronavirus relief bill that would provide money to businesses, hospitals and state governments.

► In the Washington Post — More than 2,100 U.S. cities brace for budget shortfalls due to coronavirus, new survey finds, with many planning cuts and layoffs — The bleak outlook — shared by local governments representing roughly 93 million people nationwide — led some top mayors and other leaders to call for greater federal aid to protect cities now forced to choose between balancing their cash-strapped ledgers and sustaining the public services that residents need most.

► From Politico — Rural hospitals shut out of stimulus loans face financial crisis — As virus spreads in the heartland, the most vulnerable hospitals may not have enough money to make it.

► In the NY Times — Republicans don’t want to save jobs (by Paul Krugman) — The Trump administration has flatly ruled out any bailout for the U.S. Postal Service, which employs 600,000 workers. But apparently those workers don’t count. Senate Republicans, with White House backing, are opposing aid to hospitals and state governments. Hospitals obviously play a vital role in dealing with the pandemic; but they also employ more than five million people — and they’re facing financial crisis thanks to the pandemic. State and local governments have seen revenues plunge and expenses rise — and they employ almost 20 million people. But again, apparently those jobs don’t count. Actually, many conservatives probably believe that public-sector workers, many of them represented by unions, don’t or shouldn’t count. … The economics of dealing with a pandemic were never going to be easy. But Trump and company are almost surely going to make things even worse than they had to be.




► From HuffPost — Grocery workers say inconsiderate shoppers are endangering them in the pandemic — “When I’m stocking the meat counter and people are crowding around me … that’s not social distancing,” said Kroger employee Aaron Squeo on a Monday call with reporters arranged by his union, the United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents 900,000 grocery store employees. Several other grocery workers on the call shared similar experiences in recent weeks as the number of coronavirus cases has shot up. The UFCW estimates that around 30 of its members have died so far during the pandemic. With best practices changing and the rules varying from one locality to the next, the UFCW is asking that shoppers abide by a few basic rules to keep everyone inside busy stores safe during the pandemic. They even launched a ”Shop Smart″ campaign in hopes people will use common sense.


► In the Washington Post — Liberal challenger defeats conservative incumbent in Wisconsin Supreme Court race — A liberal challenger easily defeated the conservative incumbent for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, a key race at the heart of Democratic accusations that Republicans risked voters’ health and safety by going forward with last week’s elections amid the coronavirus pandemic.

► In the Washington Post — South Dakota’s governor resisted ordering people to stay home. Now it has one of the nation’s largest coronavirus hot spots. — Stay-at-home edicts to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, Republican Gov. Kristi L. Noem said disparagingly, reflected a “herd mentality.” It was up to individuals — not government — to decide whether “to exercise their right to work, to worship and to play. Or to even stay at home.” Now South Dakota is home to one of the largest single coronavirus clusters anywhere in the United States, with more than 300 workers at a giant ­pork-processing plant falling ill.

► In the NY Times — The global coronavirus crisis is poised to get much, much worse (editorial) — What happens when the pandemic strikes nations of millions of people that have no savings, no safety net, and only a half-dozen ventilators? With the exception of Iran, the countries hardest hit up till now are among those with the world’s most advanced economies, scientific establishments and medical services. What probably lies ahead is the spread of the coronavirus through countries ravaged by conflict, through packed refugee camps and detention centers in places like Syria or Bangladesh, through teeming cities like Mumbai, Rio de Janeiro or Monrovia, where social distancing is impossible and government is not trusted, through countries without the fiscal capacity or health services to mount a viable response. That would be disastrous not only for them but also for the rest of the world as supplies of raw materials are disrupted, fragile economies collapse, strongmen grow stronger and the virus doubles back to reinfect northern regions.





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