Thursday, May 7, 2020
► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, May 7 — The most recent count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 15,905 infections (up 311 from yesterday) and 870 deaths (up 8), according to the state Department of Health.
► From the Seattle Times — Lawmakers, machinists union urge Alcoa, Trump to find a way to avoid closing Ferndale aluminum plant — Local federal lawmakers and a machinists union are turning up the heat on Alcoa and President Donald Trump to find a solution that avoids shutting the company’s Ferndale, Whatcom County, aluminum smelter by July and throwing 700 people out of work. Democratic Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray and Reps. Suzan DelBene and Rick Larsen wrote Alcoa CEO Roy Harvey on Wednesday, urging him to work with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers to save the Intalco plant, in existence since 1966. On Tuesday, the union’s international president, Robert Martinez Jr., sent a letter to Trump asking for his assistance in keeping the plant open and avoiding an overreliance on Chinese aluminum.
ALSO TODAY at The Stand — Congressional leaders to Alcoa: Save Intalco
► From Oregon Public Broadcasting — Teachers, firefighters slam Freedom Foundation for pandemic union-busting — Jamie Keiser, a photography teacher at Columbia River High School in Vancouver, gets messages from the foundation regularly trying to get her to quit her union and said she disregards them. But she found it offensive during the outbreak. “I was shocked. It seemed kind of in poor taste to be sending this message out,” she said… “There’s a lot of fear right now over not just the state of the economy, but folks are worried about their health and the health of the folks they love,” said April Sims, secretary treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council. “Any attempts to take advantage of that, and attempt to weaken workers’ voices in the workplace, I think is particularly heinous. But not surprising considering the characters we’re used to dealing with and the tactics they’ve deployed.”
ALSO at The Stand:
Freedom Foundation hypocrites: YOU must disclose, but not US (Feb. 27) — Right-wing group wants more privacy for its donors, less for public employees.
The wacky world of the Freedom Foundation (Oct. 10, 2019) — How the anti-union group’s staffers become leaders of Rep. Matt Shea and Friends’ nutty post-apocalyptic “prepper” movement.
Freedom Foundation keeps spending, failing (June 8, 2019) — One year after Janus, the right-wing group’s plan to destroy unions in Washington and along the West Coast is a complete failure. In fact, its backfiring on them.
► From KIRO 7 — Metro worker who warned of danger recovering from COVID-19 — In early April, a longtime King County Metro employee shared concerns with KIRO 7 that he would contract the coronavirus while on the job. Rod Burke, a line supervisor with the transit service, said King County Metro was not doing enough to protect bus drivers and supervisors. Just days after talking with KIRO 7, the line supervisor was diagnosed with COVID-19.
The Stand (April 9) — Metro/King County workers seek PPE, hazard pay, transparency
► From the News Tribune — MultiCare announces furloughs for 6,000 workers amid COVID-19 financial shortfalls — MultiCare Health System of Tacoma said 6,000 mainly nonclinical employees will be expected to take 17-shift furloughs between May 10 and Jan. 2 “to support the organization’s viability and financial health in the near and long term.”
► From the (Aberdeen) Daily World — ‘Caravan for Working Families’ parades through Grays Harbor neighborhoods — Nurses, millworkers, teachers, grocery workers, small business owners, public health workers, and workers laid off due to COVID-19 paraded through the rain in their cars through Aberdeen, Hoquiam, and Montesano last week to show thanks and support to the working families who are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis. The caravan, 25 people strong, also shared public health and food bank information and made several stops to safely deliver food to out-of-work families, including food donated by local small businesses.
NATIONAL NURSES WEEK
► From McClatchy — Gov. Jay Inslee holds a socially-distanced conversation with Washington nurses on National Nurses Day.
► From the News Tribune — More than a third of Washington unemployment claims remain unpaid — An estimated 36 percent of those with completed filings for unemployment benefits have not received payments, an ESD spokesperson said. The department is compiling a list of people who have not been helped and plans to contact them in the coming weeks. Those who have not yet been paid will receive benefits retroactive to the date they filed, he said. He urged people to continue to file weekly claims and have patience with the agency.
The Stand (April 26) — WSLC offers tips for filing your weekly unemployment claims
► From the Seattle Times — Washington adds nearly 110,000 unemployment claims as coronavirus economy enters its eighth week — For the week ending May 2, the state received 109,167 initial claims for unemployment insurance, down almost 22% from the prior week.
► From KING 5 — Hundreds on COVID-19 frontlines file workers’ compensation claims — Department of Labor & Industries data show that of the 806 COVID-19 related claims, 673 were from those on the frontlines: 636 from healthcare workers, 37 from first-responders. Not all the claims were from workers who contracted the virus. Some are from people who were quarantined after workplace exposure.
► From the Seattle Times — As they brace for budget strain, Washington state school districts will receive some coronavirus aid — As they shell out on childcare and remote learning expenses they hadn’t budgeted, Washington state school districts will be getting some $270 million in federal aid to help them respond to coronavirus disruptions. But with no clear end-date for the closures, and unofficial projections that Washington state — the biggest source of K-12 money – will see a $7 billion loss in revenue over three years, the relief likely won’t make a dent.
► From the (Everett) Herald — Robinson emerges as Democrats’ top choice for Senate seat — The Snohomish County Council will decide May 13 who will fill a vacancy in the state Senate created by the retirement of Democrat John McCoy. And the council may have to deal that day with an opening in the state House as well. Rep. June Robinson (D-Everett) emerged as the overwhelming favorite for the Senate seat at a May 2 meeting of Democratic Party activists in the 38th LD. They also nominated Charles Adkins, Emily Wicks and Mario Brown to fill Robinson’s House seat, should it become vacant.
► From the Seattle Times — Washington seems to be avoiding the dramatic nationwide spike in deaths during coronavirus pandemic — The first months of the novel coronavirus outbreak likely led to only a small rise in deaths beyond normal levels in Washington this spring, even as the fatalities in other states soared, according to a CDC analysis of preliminary government data. That difference could be due to early social-distancing restrictions in Washington.
► From the NY Times — Trump’s new coronavirus message: Time to move on to the economic recovery — The president’s cure-can’t-be-worse-than-the-disease logic is clear: As bad as the virus may be, the cost of the virtual national lockdown has grown too high.
► From the Washington Post — Trump is pushing to reopen too soon. The consequences could be tragic. (editorial) — Trump, who decided not to conduct a broad federal effort to battle the novel coronavirus and instead passed responsibility to the governors, is now urging them to reopen too soon, risking more infections, more death and still more economic loss. “Will some people be affected? Yes,” Trump said Tuesday. “Will some people be affected badly? Yes. But we have to get our country open and we have to get it open soon.” … The nation’s economic implosion demands action, but the correct response is to reopen in a way that is sustainable and does not cost thousands of additional lives. Trump not only does not know how to get there, but he also appears unwilling to seriously tackle the problem. We may soon see terrible consequences from his abdication.
► From the NY Times — Most states that are reopening fail to meet White House guidelines — More than half of U.S. states have begun to reopen their economies or plan to do so soon. But most fail to meet criteria recommended by the Trump administration to resume business and social activities. The White House’s guidelines are nonbinding and ultimately leave states’ fates to governors. The criteria suggest that states should have a “downward trajectory” of either documented cases or of the percentage of positive tests. But most states that are reopening fail to adhere to even those recommendations: In more than half of states easing restrictions, case counts are trending upward, positive test results are rising, or both, raising concerns among public health experts.
► From the Washington Post — Top Republican fundraiser and Trump ally named postmaster general, giving president new influence over Postal Service — A top donor to President Trump and the Republican National Committee will be named the new head of the Postal Service, putting a top ally of the president in charge of an agency where Trump has long pressed for major changes in how it handles its business. The Postal Service’s board of governors confirmed late Wednesday that Louis DeJoy, a North Carolina businessman who is currently in charge of fundraising for the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, will serve as the new postmaster general. The action will install a stalwart Trump ally to lead the Postal Service, which he has railed against for years, and probably move him closer than ever before to forcing the service to renegotiate its terms with companies and its own union workforce.
ALSO at The Stand:
(April 13) — Tell Congress to support our Postal Service!
(Dec. 6, 2019) — Say NO to privatizer as Postmaster General
► From The Hill — McConnell under mounting GOP pressure to boost state aid — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is facing growing calls within his own conference to increase financial assistance to state and local governments, something the GOP leader shut down during recent coronavirus-relief talks with Democrats.
The Stand (May 4) — Tell Congress to provide state COVID-19 aid
► From the Washington Post — Trump vows complete end of Obamacare law despite pandemic — “We want to terminate health care under Obamacare,” Trump said. While the president has said he will preserve some of the Affordable Care Act’s most popular provisions, including guaranteed coverage for preexisting medical conditions, he has not offered a plan to do so, and his administration’s legal position seeks to end all parts of the law, including those provisions.
► From the NY Times — If Trump wants meat plants open, he should protect their workers (by Richard Trumka) — Once again, this administration is favoring executives over working people, and the stock market over human lives. He is forcing workers to choose between a paycheck and their health. This isn’t a choice workers should have to make.
► From Politico — Azar faulted workers’ ‘home and social’ conditions for meatpacking outbreaks — HHS Secretary Alex Azar, the country’s top health official, downplayed concerns over the public health conditions inside meatpacking plants, suggesting on a call with lawmakers that workers were more likely to catch coronavirus based on their social interactions and group living situations. One possible solution was to send more law enforcement to those communities to better enforce social distancing rules, he added.
► From the Washington Post — Wisconsin chief justice sparks backlash by saying COVID-19 outbreak is among meatpacking workers, not ‘the regular folks’ — Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack on COVID-19 surge in meatpacking communities: “These were due to the meatpacking though. That’s where Brown County got the flare. It wasn’t just the regular folks in Brown County.”
► From Variety — Entertainment industry unions working to safely reopen production — Leaders of entertainment industry unions are pledging to move as quickly as possible to re-launch production — as soon as they can do so safely in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. “We were among the first to be hit by the virus and may be among the last to come back – simply because we work in high numbers and in very close proximty where PPE can not always be utilized,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris. “That said, we are working tirelessly to develop the structures and protocols that will allow the industry to reopen safely.”
► From the Washington Post — 77 percent of laid-off workers believe they will return to their old job, poll finds — The vast majority of laid-off or furloughed workers — 77 percent — expect to be rehired by their previous employer once the stay-at-home orders in their area are lifted, according to a nationwide Washington Post-Ipsos poll. Nearly 6 in 10 say it is “very likely” they will get their old job back, according to the poll. But there’s concern that many of these workers are too optimistic about being rehired given how much uncertainty remains about health and business conditions in the year ahead.
► From the Guardian — Revealed: Amazon told workers paid sick leave law doesn’t cover warehouses — California workers say the company is pressuring sick employees to show up – and flouting a California law meant to protect them from COVID-19.
► From the Guardian — ‘Stop throwing us bare bones’: U.S. union activism surges amid coronavirus — “I support a union because I love what I do, and it would be nice to have better pay and benefits,” said Christopher Thomas, a 32-year-old call center operator in Kansas who supports efforts to unionize with the CWA. “If we have a union, we will have more power to tell Maximus to stop throwing us bare bones.” … In recent weeks, there has been an extraordinary surge of anger and activism nationwide as workers have protested what they consider inadequate safety protections against Covid-19: at meatpacking plants, McDonald’s restaurants, Amazon warehouses, bus depots and grocery stores. Labor leaders applaud the walkouts and sickouts, and many of them are asking whether this spike in activism can be converted long-term into increased organizing and unionization and somehow reverse labor’s decades-long slide. The answer depends in part on how vigorously unions and other worker groups respond, but also on how successfully America’s many anti-union corporations respond in quelling this new militancy and any push for unionization. Some prominent companies have responded aggressively – Amazon has fired four outspoken worker leaders, including the leader of a walkout at its Staten Island warehouse, while Trader Joe’s CEO sent an anti-union letter to all employees.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Tired of being thrown bare bones? Get a union! 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!
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.