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Dangerous warehouses ● Amazon to employees: Shut up ● Thank you

Thursday, April 30, 2020




► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, April 30 — The most recent count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 14,070 infections (up 228 from yesterday) and 801 deaths (up 15), according to the state Department of Health.

► From the South Seattle Emerald — Agricultural warehouse workers claim employers failing to protect them from novel coronavirus, follow L&I rules — Across Eastern Washington, organizations like the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network have been receiving hundreds of calls from immigrant workers about agricultural workplace safety. These calls have come from documented and undocumented workers alike, all of whom have been afraid to speak publicly about their experiences, because they worry that their bosses will fire them or worse, call Immigration and Customs Enforcement for speaking out or showing any resistance. And though L&I has put out a fact sheet describing the requirements employers must adhere to, including providing protective equipment, as well as ensuring their workers are six feet apart at all times, L&I has not been actively enforcing these rules… “We are talking about a highly impoverished labor force,” said WSLC Union and Naturalization Organizer Dulce Gutierrez. “They are workers, but they are amongst the lowest compensated, lowest paid workers, who have no benefits, medical coverage, don’t qualify for a stimulus paycheck [if undocumented]. All of these factors just compound and exacerbate the whole problem at hand, and it’s that this [novel] coronavirus is deadly. And it can kill people, or make people go broke, or both.”

► From the Tri-City Herald — Tyson beef plant near Tri-Cities to remain closed longer — The Tyson Foods beef plant near Tri-Cities will remain closed for a while longer while county health officials await test results on its 1,400 workers. As of Wednesday, 130 people — both employees and others linked to the plant outbreak — have tested positive.

► From the AP — 16 employees at Foster Farms test positive for virus — The results of a second round of employee COVID-19 testing Monday at Foster Farms in Kelso has revealed six new cases, and a seventh was found through a healthcare provider.

► From the Kitsap Sun — Trump appeals court decision barring him from using Bangor money for wall — Trump on Wednesday appealed a court decision that restricted the federal government from redirecting $89 million meant Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor to help fund a wall along the border with Mexico.

The Stand (Sept. 5, 2019) — Trump’s border-wall military cuts hit home at Naval Base Kitsap

► From Crosscut — With little PPE, in-home caregivers are essential but exposed — Left in the lurch, caregivers risk their lives to keep clients safely at home: “You don’t get any more front line than being in somebody’s bedroom.”

► From KNKX — School meals are becoming an increasingly important lifeline amid the pandemic — Rosa Rangel showed up 40 minutes early to Kentridge High School in the Kent school district on Monday for the weekly school meal distribution. And she wasn’t even the first one in line. Cars soon lined up behind her, snaking out onto Southeast 208th Street in front of the school — an eye-opening example of the importance of school meals as a lifeline for families right now.

► From the (Aberdeen) Daily World — 18 teachers cut as Hoquiam School District braces for funding decline — Uncertainty about school funding as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic will result in 18 Hoquiam School District teachers losing their jobs at the end of the school year.

► From the Spokesman-Review — Spokane Public Schools projects $7.9 million deficit, likely to declare financial emergency — The COVID-19 pandemic has officially hit the district’s bottom line, whose board members received more evidence Wednesday night that they may soon need to declare a financial emergency.

EDITOR’S NOTE — And then there’s this from Grant County…




► From KING 5 — Amazon employees say they were fired for speaking out about company conditions — Washington employees said they were fired for speaking publicly about workplace conditions at Amazon warehouses. The MLK Labor Council, as well as King County Executive Dow Constantine, and multiple King County and Seattle City Council members have called on Amazon to reinstate the fired workers.

► From Vox — Amazon is cracking down on internal communication after a surge in worker activism — The company says it’s more widely enforcing rules around mass emails as part of a routine audit. Some employees see it as an attack on worker organizing.

► From Newsweek — Essential workers plan strike against Amazon, Shipt, Whole Foods and Instacart — Workers from Amazon, Instacart, Whole Foods, and Shipt are joining together in a one-day strike on Friday, May 1, which is also International Workers Day. The majority of these workers will call out sick, while the remaining will partake in storefront demonstrations, Christian Smalls, a lead organizer for the strike.

► From The Hill — Amazon, Walmart, FedEx workers plan walkout on Friday: reportThe workers are seeking better health and safety standards as well as hazard pay while working during the coronavirus pandemic.

► From the Washington Post — Protesters paint mural on Jeff Bezos’s doorstep, demanding health protections for essential workers — It took about an hour for activists to get their message across: the words “protect Amazon workers” painted in bright red and yellow on the black asphalt outside the vast D.C. property owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.




► From the Olympian — Inslee makes his case for extending restrictions aimed at slowing virus’ spread — “We’re not going to make giant mistakes of waking up and thinking the sun is shining so we can forget about this deadly virus. Look, we’ve lost over 700 people already because of this virus and we’re going to lose that again in the next several months if we do not stick with this,” Inslee said. The governor’s current stay-at-home and partial business closure order runs through May 4, but on Friday he is expected to extend it. The governor said he will provide more details then on the “phased-in approach about how we will open our economy in a safe way.”

► From KING 5 — Washington Supreme Court to take up $30 car tab measure — Justices will decide whether a measure to cap car tab fees at $30 is unconstitutional. A coalition claims the initiative is unconstitutional because it violates the single-subject rule, which prevents bills from containing more than one subject and mandates that subject should be expressed in the title.




► From The Hill — Liability shield for businesses emerges as new fight over reopening — The business community is pressuring the White House and Congress to shield companies from lawsuits as they seek to reopen, setting up a politically charged battle as coronavirus restrictions around the country begin to ease. “It’s absolutely outrageous that employers and corporations are trying to shirk their legal responsibility at the same time they’re refusing to provide protective equipment and paid sick days to their workers,” said Mary Kay Henry, SEIU international president.

► From The Hill — 3.8 million more Americans file for unemployment benefits

► From the NY Times — States made it harder to get jobless benefits. Now that’s hard to undo. — Systems that were devised to treat each case as potentially fraudulent are now rushing to deal with millions of newly unemployed people. The hitches have frustrated Congress’s intent to steer trillions of dollars to workers.

► From CNN — Meat plant workers to Trump: Employees aren’t going to show up — Meat plant employees are among America’s most vulnerable workers, and some say they expect staff will refuse to come to work. “All I know is, this is crazy to me, because I can’t see all these people going back into work,” said one workers at Tyson’s Waterloo, Iowa, facility. “I don’t think people are going to go back in there.” He is currently recovering after testing positive for the virus.

ALSO at The Stand:

(April 29) — UFCW: Trump meatpacking order needs worker protections

(April 28) — Murray rips Tyson Foods over worker safety, delayed response

(April 23) — The Union Difference: A tale of two plants

► From the NY Times — Powerful meat industry holds more sway after Trump’s order — The executive action signals that decisions around whether to close or reopen plants should be driven by the federal government, not local authorities.

► From Roll Call — Trump order on meatpackers raises questions about its effect — It is likely to produce legal fights over who sets public health standards to protect workers and communities.

► From the NY Times — The class war against front-line workers (by E.J. Dionne) — “Trump has created a false choice between worker safety and feeding America,” said Debbie Berkowitz of the National Employment Law Project. “We can do both. Other parts of the economy are doing both.”

► From HuffPost — Teachers union counters Trump lies with coronavirus road map — “Our blueprint serves as a stark contrast to the conflicting guidance, bluster and lies of the Trump administration,” Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.7 million-member AFT, said of its five-stage plan in a statement. The 22-page proposal — titled the “Plan To Safely Reopen America’s Schools and Communities” — is “based on the science as well as educator and health care expertise ― not on politics or wishful thinking,” the union said.

► From Reuters — Long-sought U.S. labor rule change raises worker safety questions in coronavirus crisis — Some contract workers in America’s fast food restaurants, hospitals and warehouses could find it harder to demand equipment and other measures to protect them from the coronavirus under a new labor agency rule, according to workers’ advocates and unions.

► From the NY Times — Trump, Kushner engage in revisionist history in boasting of success over virus — “We did all the right moves,” Trump said Wednesday. “The federal government rose to the challenge, and this is a great success story,” said his son-in-law.




► From the AFL-CIO — Leaders of America’s unions send a message of support and thanks to the union members and workers who are keeping our economy going and providing all of us with basic needs and essential services.


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