Wednesday, May 6, 2020
► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, May 6 — The most recent count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 15,594 infections (up 132 from yesterday) and 862 deaths (up 21), according to the state Department of Health.
► From KXLY — Local union fighting to extend hazard pay for Fred Meyer employees — UFCW Local 1439, representing thousands of grocery and commercial food workers, says it’s “extremely disappointed” with Kroger’s decision to not extend the $2-per-hour hazard pay bonus to hundreds of Fred Meyer employees. Gov. Jay Inslee extended the state’s stay-home-order through May 31. “This crisis does not end on May 16th, and neither should workers’ hazard pay,” wrote the union on Facebook.
► From the (Everett) Herald — The pandemic’s other front line: Any grocery store’s aisles — Grocery store workers are on the front lines. Nationwide, thousands have been affected by the coronavirus and more than 70 have died, according to the UFCW… “I see a lot of people paying it forward,” said Amber Rodriguez, a cashier and stocker at the Silver Lake Safeway who wore a Seahawks-themed protective mask. “Yesterday, this guy bought a $20 gift card and told me to give it to someone who needs it. I gave it to a single mom with three kids who’d just her lost her job.”
► From the Columbian — Pandemic underscores critical role of nurses (editorial) — Today, appropriately, is National Nurses Day, which seems like it should be every day during these odd times. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, long-overdue appreciation has been afforded to nurses.
ALSO TODAY at The Stand — Buy union-made meals for frontline healthcare workers
► From the Tri-City Herald — Tyson plant near Tri-Cities reopens after testing shows 12% of workers infected — Tyson Fresh Meats near the Tri-Cities reopened Tuesday with limited production of beef, after closing 12 days ago to test workers for the new coronavirus, the company announced. Nearly 12 percent of workers tested had COVID-19, not counting 38 pending test results.
► From the Seattle Times — Cash crunch from coronavirus crisis will force Alaska Air to shrink — Alaska Air Group, the parent company of Alaska Airlines, on Tuesday reported its first quarterly loss in more than a decade and warned of significant cuts that will downsize the airline.
► From the South Seattle Emerald — Five workers at Amazon warehouse in Kent likely infected with coronavirus — At least five workers at an Amazon distribution warehouse known as BF14 in Kent, Washington have likely been infected with the novel coronavirus, and warehouse employees live in fear of firings if they speak out, current and former employees told the Emerald in a series of interviews… Nicole Grant, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of MLK Labor in Seattle, said Amazon is aggressively fighting unionization and failing its workers by not offering paid sick leave, guaranteed health insurance and making the coronavirus wage increase permanent for warehouse employees. “They’re basically risking their lives as frontline workers, working in probably some of the largest gatherings in the country right now,” notes Grant. “Hundreds of people side by side in a warehouse at once. Amazon has repeatedly withheld information, lied to workers, and put them in harm’s way. People are organizing for their lives.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — If you want workplace safety and respect, get a union! Find out more information about how you can join together with co-workers and negotiate a safer workplace and a fair return for your hard work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!
► From HuffPost — Amazon warehouse worker in New York dies of COVID-19 — He worked at a Staten Island warehouse where employees had recently walked out to demand that the facility be temporarily closed and sanitized.
► From the Oregonian — Amazon sued by Salem warehouse worker over COVID-19 response
► From the Seattle Times — Unofficial numbers show $7 billion hit to Washington state revenue through 2023 from coronavirus downturn — Preliminary numbers show Washington could lose $7 billion in state revenue through 2023 as the coronavirus pandemic takes its toll — making a special legislative session likely to adjust the state’s budget. That could mean painful cuts to parks, prisons, schools, and mental-health and other social-service programs.
The Stand (May 4) — Tell Congress to provide state COVID-19 aid
The Stand (TODAY) — Inslee announces Safe Start advisory groups — “We truly appreciate the opportunity to offer our perspective to the Governor regarding the difficult decisions ahead as Washington transitions to a more open economy,” said WSLC President Larry Brown, who was appointed to the Safe Work and Economic Recovery group. “Job No. 1 for the labor movement is to ensure that workers are safe when they return to the workplace.”
► From the Olympian — GOP lawmakers file federal lawsuit aimed at ending Inslee’s stay-at-home order — Four Republican state House members — GOP state Reps. Andrew Barkis of Olympia, Drew MacEwen of Union, Chris Corry of Yakima, and Brandon Vick of Vancouver — sued Gov. Jay Inslee in federal court on Tuesday, arguing that his stay-at-home order violates the U.S. Constitution and he should be barred from keeping it in place.
► From The Stranger — Corporations can now do their own government bailouts without the government (by Charles Mudede) — Those $25 billion in bonds sold by Boeing are backed by the public. If they go belly up, the public must buy them. This promise by the Fed is efficacious in two ways. One, it keeps Boeing’s bailout off the Fed’s books (not a penny spent, for now) and, two, it liberates Boeing from political demands such as not directing government money at executive bonuses or shareholders but at constant (equipment, machines, buildings) and variable capital (workers). What all of this amounts to is a transformation of the bailout unit from public/corporation to corporation/public. They can now bail themselves out.
► From the Columbia School of Journalism — The U.S. Postal Service faces a dual threat — Threat of disease is not the only hazard facing the nation’s 630,000 postal workers. They also confront an uncertain employment future… USPS supporters consider recent Trump administration moves against the postal service as just the latest offensive in a decades-long Republican campaign to destroy the agency.
The Stand (April 13) — Tell Congress to support our Postal Service!
► From Roll Call — Democrats to push for $25 billion for Postal Service, Oversight chairwoman says — The Postal Service is expected to run out of money by the end of September without a new congressional appropriation because it’s losing so much revenue during the pandemic.
► From Vox — An unusually honest conversation about wielding political power, with Rep. Pramila Jayapal — Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) is the co-chair of the 95-member House Progressive Caucus. That means, in the aftermath of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign, she leads the most influential bloc of progressive power in the federal government. And one thing that separates Jayapal from other elected officials: She’s actually willing to talk about it.
► From The Hill — House Democrats unveil legislation to forgive student loans for health care workers — The Student Loan Forgiveness for Frontline Health Workers Act, which is cosigned by nine other House Democrats, seeks to establish a federal and private loan forgiveness program. All medical professionals, including doctors, nurses, medical residents, interns and technicians would be eligible.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) is a co-sponsor of this bill.
► From CNN — Trump says he only will submit to GOP oversight for his administration — Trump’s remarks amounted to an admission that he was looking to prevent Democrats from conducting their oversight duties when it comes to his administration’s coronavirus response, even as he’s willing to allow Republicans to proceed.
► From the AP — Trump tours, touts mask factory — but no mask for him
► From Politico — States cut Medicaid as millions of jobless workers look to safety net — States facing sudden drops in tax revenue amid the pandemic are announcing deep cuts to their Medicaid programs just as millions of newly jobless Americans are surging onto the rolls. And state officials are worried that they’ll have to slash benefits for patients and payments to health providers in the safety net insurance program for the poor unless they get more federal aid.
► From the Washington Post — U.S. companies cut thousands of workers while continuing to reward shareholders during pandemic — Since the coronavirus pandemic was declared, Caterpillar has suspended operations at two plants and a foundry, Levi Strauss has closed stores, and toolmaker Stanley Black & Decker has been planning layoffs and furloughs. Steelcase, an office furniture manufacturer, and World Wrestling Entertainment have also shed employees. And as thousands of their workers were filing for unemployment benefits, these companies also rewarded their shareholders with more than $700 million in cash dividends. They are not alone. As the pandemic squeezes big companies, executives are making decisions about who will bear the brunt of the sacrifices, and in at least some cases, workers have been the first to lose, even as shareholders continue to collect.
► From CNBC — United Airlines service workers’ union sues over schedule cuts after carrier got federal aid — The labor union (IAM) that represents more than 25,000 United Airlines aircraft and passenger service workers sought an injunction Tuesday against sharp schedule cuts, alleging the airline violated the terms of billions in federal coronavirus aid by cutting employee work schedules.
► From NBC News — Uber and Lyft face landmark lawsuit over gig worker classification — California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft, alleging that they have evaded state law by declaring their workers to be contractors rather than employees.
► From the NY Times — If they’re ‘essential,’ they can’t be ‘illegal’ (by Alfredo Corchado) — True to form, America still wants it both ways. It wants to be fed. And it wants to demonize the undocumented immigrants who make that happen… In the past, the United States has rewarded immigrant soldiers who fought our wars with a path to citizenship. Today, the fields — along with the meatpacking plants, the delivery trucks and the grocery store shelves — are our front lines, and border security can’t be disconnected from food security. It’s time to offer all essential workers a path to legalization.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.