Monday, April 27, 2020
► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, April 27 — The most recent count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 13,521 infections and 749 deaths, according to the state Department of Health.
► From the Seattle Times — Federal agencies are failing to protect essential workers (by Nancy Simcox Michael Yost of UW’s Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences) — Before states contemplate allowing more people to return to work, we need to ensure workers have enforceable workplace protections and controls in place and clear guidance from federal authorities that puts the focus for ensuring a safe workplace on employers, not workers. Instead, we see a fragmented national response, conflicting advice and a patchwork of uncoordinated workplace strategies, leaving too many workers to figure out their own protection. Each April, our department hosts a Workers’ Memorial Day event at the University of Washington to honor King County workers who died on the job in the past year. On Monday, April 27, we will stand with our colleagues and solemnly read aloud the names of the dead.
EDITOR’S NOTE — The UW DEOHS is holding its 2020 Workers Memorial Day commemoration TODAY via Zoom webinar from 11:30 to 1 p.m. Among the speakers will be April Sims, Secretary Treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. Please click here to register for this free event that’s open to the public.
ALSO TODAY at The Stand — All of us have a right to safe and healthy jobs (by WSLC President Larry Brown) — We won’t gather together for it, but this may be the most important Worker Memorial Day of our lifetimes.
► From the (Longview) Daily News — Four more Foster Farms workers test positive for COVID — Four more Foster Farms workers have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases at the Kelso plant to nine, county officials announced Saturday. The Foster Farms cases account for about 20% of total number of Cowlitz County’s coronavirus cases, but health authorities took the latest test results in a positive light. The plant continues to operate.
► From the Spokesman-Review — Expecting revenue shortfall of $10M or more, city of Spokane eyes budget cuts — The city already has implemented a hiring freeze on nonessential positions. But officials expect to make deeper cuts in anticipation of a sharp drop in revenues.
► From the (Everett) Herald — Around Snohomish County, food banks face double the need — Yet volunteers are scarce. In Edmonds, the food bank is down 100 helpers. Many regulars are “at risk.”
► From the Seattle Times — West Seattle Bridge is a regional crisis (editorial) — Neighborhood mobility is the primary concern. But years of repair and congestion will also jeopardize a shipping and industrial area around the bridge that’s critical to the Northwest’s economy, especially as it looks to preserve and grow jobs during the recovery. This demands regional cooperation to minimize negative effects on the city’s southwest quadrant and optimize the replacement structure. It also requires city officials to rehabilitate Seattle’s disappointing record on many transportation projects in recent years.
► From the Spokesman-Review — Tests of workers at Central Washington orchard finds dozens of COVID-19 cases without symptoms — Despite social distancing measures in place at the orchards, there were a high number of positive cases, said Barry Kling, administrator at Chelan-Douglas Health District. Some people who have COVID-19 show no symptoms. United Farm Workers and other advocates filed a lawsuit about a week ago against Washington state, arguing that farm workers do not have adequate protections. The groups called on the state departments of Health and of Labor & Industries to update safety guidelines.
► From the Seattle Times — Inslee navigates the coronavirus pandemic, weighing public safety vs. growing economic, political fallout — As he navigates a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, Inslee’s role has shifted dramatically as he has tried to calm a state nervous over the outbreak as well as the economic fallout of social distancing that has led to a nearly unprecedented surge in unemployment. At the same time, he has been at the forefront in the political struggle with the White House over the role of the federal government and states in defining policy and procuring equipment to staunch the virus’ spread, making him a regular on Sunday morning talk shows and an increasing target of ire for those who think shutdown measures have gone too far.
► From the NY Times — The tax-break bonanza inside the economic rescue package — As small businesses and individuals struggle to obtain federal aid, the wealthiest are poised to reap tens of billions of dollars in tax savings. Some of the breaks apply to taxes that have long been in the cross hairs of corporate lobbyists. They undo limitations that were imposed to rein in the giveaways embedded in a $1.5 trillion tax-cut package enacted in 2017. None specifically target businesses or individuals harmed by the coronavirus. The bottom line is that, barely two years after congressional Republicans and President Trump lavished America’s wealthiest families and companies with a series of lucrative tax cuts, those same beneficiaries are now receiving a second helping. Many of the tax benefits in the stimulus are “just shoveling money to rich people,” said Victor Fleischer, a tax law professor at the University of California, Irvine.
► From Politico — Backlash grows as pandemic relief stumbles — Lawmakers have been bombarded with complaints about breakdowns in the small business lending program, loopholes that have allowed large companies to snatch cash meant for smaller operations, and administrative failures that have delayed stimulus checks to struggling American households. Hospitals, lawmakers say, are competing with each other and the federal government for life-saving equipment for their employees, and coronavirus testing is still hard to access in many parts of the country, despite Congress’ efforts… Meanwhile, every snag in the CARES Act and its multi-billion-dollar brethren is fodder for potential audit or investigation. But a month into the implementation of the massive new law, most oversight efforts are either nonexistent or just getting started.
► From the Washington Post — McConnell’s rejection of federal aid for states risks causing a depression, analysts say — The White House and Senate Republicans said they feared states and localities would move more slowly to reopen their economies if they received federal assistance.
EDITOR’S NOTE — And as always, there’s at least one Republican who accidentally reveals the true motivations behind a policy head-scratcher. We give you, U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who hails from one of the top 10 “taker” states most dependent on federal spending to subsidize its economy.
► From Newsweek — Missouri nurse who raised concerns about lack of protective gear dies of coronavirus a week before her retirement — Celia Yap Banago had worked at Research Medical Center (RMC) in Kansas City, Missouri, for 40 years and was due to retire this week, the National Nurses Union (NNU) said in a news release. She died of COVID-19 last week… Fellow RMC nurse Charlene Carter told KCUR that she and Banago treated a patient last month who was later confirmed to have COVID-19 without N95 masks or any of the other PPE typically used in such cases. Carter said: “Nurses have an instinctive conduct of being so selfless that I believe others don’t realize. No nurse should have to sacrifice their life in exchange for conserved profits by the rationing of proper protective equipment. Nurses all over the country need proper protection every day so that we can continue to save patients’ lives while sparing our own.”
► From the Washington Post — As they rushed to maintain U.S. meat supply, big processors saw plants become covid-19 hot spots, worker illnesses spike — Three of the nation’s largest meat processors failed to provide protective gear to all workers, and some employees say they were told to continue working in crowded plants even while sick as the coronavirus spread around the country and turned the facilities into infection hot spots, a Washington Post investigation has found. The actions by three major meat producers — Tyson Foods, JBS USA and Smithfield Foods — continued even after federal guidelines on social distancing and personal protective equipment were published March 9. Coronavirus outbreaks in more than 30 plants run by these companies and others have sickened at least 3,300 workers and killed at least 17. According to workers, corporate policies contributed to the spread. “If you’re not in a casket, they want you there,” said Sonja Johnson, a former Smithfield worker at a packaging and distribution facility. “All they were worried about was making sure we were coming to work.”
► From the Washington Post — ‘The food supply chain is breaking’: Tyson Foods raises coronavirus alarm in full-page ads, defends safety efforts
The Stand (April 23) — The union difference: A tale of two plants — Teamsters at the Lamb Weston potato plant in Pasco have workplace safety and respect on the job. Nonunion workers at the Tyson beef plant down the road have Washington’s biggest COVID-19 hotspot with more than 100 confirmed cases linked to the plant. Tragically, one of the infected employees, 60-year-old J. Guadalupe Olivera Mendoza, has died. The plant finally announced late last week that they would temporarily close pending COVID-19 testing for all employees, but still plan to reopen in days.
► From NPR — ‘We’ve seen a lot of brothers die.’ NYC bus operators witness loss amid pandemic — As of Wednesday, 83 Metropolitan Transportation Authority workers have died from COVID-19, 30 of them also bus operators.
► From CNBC — United now requires flight attendants to wear masks. Union urges same rule for passengers, too — “As some of the most frequent travelers, flight attendants feel a deep responsibility to ensure that our workplace risks of acquiring and spreading communicable diseases are minimized as much as possible,” said AFA’s President Sara Nelson.
► From Reuters — Unions denounce Las Vegas mayor’s call to re-open casinos — “UAW Casino employees, their families and the community are not test subjects for her irresponsible theories on public health and the COVID-19 virus,” said UAW President Rory Gamble.
► From Workplace Minnesota — 50-plus Amazon workers walk out in Shakopee — Following news of another firing and the revelation of two positive cases of COVID-19, more than 50 Shakopee Amazon
fulfillment warehouse workers walked off the job just after midnight Sunday morning. They walked out after hearing Amazon terminated Faiza Osman, a nearly 3-year employee who had been staying at home, unpaid, out of concern she could bring the virus to her two children. She is the third worker fired at the facility over the past three weeks.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.