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Workers rising in Yakima ● Prioritize workers’ rights ● Our collective power

Tuesday, May 12, 2020




► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, May 12 — The most recent count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 17,122 infections (up 231 from yesterday) and 945 deaths (up 14), according to the state Department of Health.

BREAKING — It hasn’t been reported by Yakima’s mainstream media yet, but wildcat strikes are breaking out at multiple fruit warehouses in the Yakima Valley. Inspired by the ongoing 6-day strike at Allan Brothers, workers walked out of the Yakima’s Roche Fruit warehouse on Monday and the Jack Frost Fruit warehouse this morning. They want more safety protections and hazard pay. More tomorrow at The Stand. Until then, follow developments on the Facebook page of the WSLC’s Dulce Gutiérrez and Familias Unidas por la Justicia’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Workers are rising up in Central Washington! Here’s why…

From KAPP — Over 20% of employees at Twin City Foods in Ellensburg test positive for COVID-19 — The Kittitas County Incident Management Team is reporting 34 new COVID-19 cases associated with Twin City Foods Inc.

► From Business Insider — At least 4,500 Tyson workers have caught COVID-19, with 18 deaths — Meatpacking workers are saying their employers failed to keep them safe. And despite new safety policies, meat-industry giants including Tyson still do not provide full paid sick leave. Progressive organizers have argued that the lack of paid sick leave makes certain groups even more vulnerable, especially during the coronavirus pandemic… As the number of COVID-19 cases has skyrocketed, some politicians and meat-industry insiders have blamed workers. More than half of frontline workers in the meat-processing industry are immigrants. People of color also make up the majority of the meatpacking workforce: 44% of meatpackers are Latino and 25% are black.

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. And they’re still open for business.

► From the Seattle Times — UW Medicine faces $500 million shortfall because of coronavirus pandemic; staff cuts and furloughs coming — UW Medicine, which has played a significant role in responding to the coronavirus pandemic on a local and national scale, is now in deep financial trouble due to that very pandemic… Cost-saving measures will have to happen, wrote UW Medicine CEO Dr. Paul Ramsey. That includes voluntary and required furloughs, a reduction in full-time employees, limiting recruitment, postponing capital projects not considered “mission critical,” reducing discretionary expenses and slashing salaries for senior leadership.




► From Reuters — Boeing sees zero orders again in April, MAX cancellations mount — Boeing recorded zero orders for the second time this year in April and customers canceled another 108 orders for its grounded 737 MAX plane compounding its worst start to a year since 1962. The company said on Tuesday it delivered just six planes last month, bringing the total to 56 for the first four months of 2020, down 67% from a year earlier, as it battles the biggest crisis in its history.




► MUST-READ in the Seattle Times — We must prioritize workers’ rights to successfully reopen the economy (by Rep. Adam Smith) — Over the last 50 years or so in the United States, we have seen a significant decline in the percentage of the workforce represented by unions and the most dramatic concentration of wealth in the hands of the few in our nation’s history. Too many companies have decided that executives, board members and shareholders deserve outlandish compensation, but the average workers are just costs on a balance sheet that need to be paid as little as possible. The outbreak of COVID-19 has shined an even brighter light on this inequality and the struggle working people must go through to get the pay and benefits they deserve, to be adequately protected in the workplace, and to have their voices heard by their employers. This pandemic has created more public-policy challenges than most of us could have imagined, but this is one of the most important — workers’ rights. I strongly urge all public policy makers and, more importantly, all employers to step up to this challenge and make sure workers’ voices are heard, that they are protected in the workplace, and that they receive the pay and benefits they deserve.

► From the Yakima H-R — Coalition calls on Washington state for $100 million for undocumented individuals — Hundreds of organizations (including the WSLC) statewide have banded together to ask the state for a $100 million fund for undocumented individuals during the coronavirus pandemic. More than 250,000 undocumented individuals reside in Washington. Many are working in industries considered essential, but they lack access to paid sick leave or health insurance and don’t qualify for federal stimulus relief, said OneAmerica’s executive director, Rich Stolz.

The Stand (April 27) — Inslee urged to create relief fund for undocumented workers

► From Crosscut — Judge demands WA psychiatric hospital reopen despite COVID-19 — Western State Hospital has mostly stopped accepting jail transfers, leaving inmates with mental illness in limbo.

► From the (Everett) Herald — Extend protections for domestic violence victims (editorial) — A decision by two of the state Legislature’s leading Republicans poses a threat not just to victims of domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault but, as well, to the state’s law enforcement officers. Sen. Mark Schoesler (R-Ritzville) and Rep. JT Wilcox (R-Yelm) — respectively, the Senate and House minority leaders — on Saturday declined to join their majority leader counterparts in extending one of several statutory waivers and suspensions that were adopted as part of Inslee’s state of emergency orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

► From the Seattle Times — Despite Gov. Inslee’s order – and complaints from the public – construction projects kept swinging hammers during coronavirus lockdown — Despite hundreds of complaints from citizens about suspected violations, the state took no enforcement actions against residential construction firms that violated the order. Complaints to the state, as well as interviews with construction workers, businesses and government officials, show that, without enforcement, saws buzzed, hammers slammed and paychecks were cashed.

► From KING 5 — Washington restaurants reopening in Phase 2 must follow these rules — Inslee’s office published Monday a set of instructions that restaurant owners, employees and customers must follow in order for dine-in places to reopen.

► From KNKX — After brief moment of unity, Washington Republicans crank up criticism of Inslee — In recent weeks, legislative Republicans have been fiercely critical of Inslee for not moving more aggressively to reopen the economy. They’ve criticized him on social media, joined protests at the Capitol and even filed a lawsuit challenging his emergency powers.




► From NBC News — Unreleased White House report shows coronavirus rates spiking in heartland communities — Coronavirus infection rates are spiking to new highs in several metropolitan areas and smaller communities across the country, according to undisclosed data the White House’s pandemic task force is using to track rates of infection, which was obtained by NBC News. The data in a May 7 coronavirus task force report are at odds with Trump’s declaration Monday that “all throughout the country, the numbers are coming down rapidly.”

► From the NY Times — Fauci plans to use hearing to warn of ‘needless suffering and death’ — Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and a central figure in the government’s response to the coronavirus, plans to deliver a stark warning to the Senate on Tuesday: Americans would experience “needless suffering and death” if the country opens up prematurely.

► From the Washington Post — Many governors win bipartisan support for handling of pandemic, but some Republicans face blowback over reopening efforts

► From the NY Times — GOP split over state aid that could mostly go to Democratic strongholds — With many states and cities experiencing devastating fiscal crises amid the pandemic, Democrats in Congress have joined governors and mayors in pressing for a huge infusion of money for troubled states, cities and towns. Without more support, the Western governors warned, states would have to make “impossible decisions” such as whether to fund public health care programs or lay off teachers, police officers, emergency medical workers and firefighters. Republicans are divided over whether to help at all and how much aid to provide, as well as what conditions to place on the money. Much of the dispute — unfolding just months before the November elections — is being driven by the political bent of the states that stand to benefit or lose.

EDITOR’S NOTE — That’s right. Because an election is coming up, Republicans want “blue states” to suffer economic catastrophe and lay off teachers, police officers, EMTs and firefighters, even if some “red states” also suffer the same outcome. They want avoidable suffering — including economic hardship and, yes, the deaths of Americans — over politics. That’s simply evil. Washington Republicans, do you support this position? No “bailout” for your own constituents?

► From the NY Times — Momentous choices for Supreme Court as it hears Trump financial records cases — It seems that every 23 years, or about once in a generation, the Supreme Court considers whether presidents must abide by the rules that govern other citizens. In 1974, it unanimously required President Nixon to turn over tapes of conversations in the Oval Office. Twenty-three years later, in 1997, it unanimously required President Clinton to respond to a sexual harassment suit. On Tuesday, almost exactly 23 years after the ruling in the Clinton case, the court will confront an equally significant showdown, this one over Trump’s efforts to block demands from two House committees and New York prosecutors for his tax returns and other financial information.

► From the NY Times — Supreme Court takes on employment bias at religious schools — Jeffrey L. Fisher, a lawyer for two teachers who sued their Catholic schools for job discrimination, said the schools’ position was very broad. “The schools’ argument would strip more than 300,000 lay teachers in religious schools across the country of basic employment-law protections,” he said.

► From HuffPost — 2,000 former Justice officials demand William Barr resign over Michael Flynn case — The striking response by attorneys who have served in both Democratic and Republican administrations was triggered by Barr’s move last week to drop federal charges against ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn. Flynn had already pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his secret talks with former Russian ambassador and reputed spymaster Sergey Kislyak after Trump won office.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Remember that Barr was confirmed to the Attorney General’s office by Senate Republicans in a partisan vote after Democrats raised concerns about Barr’s objections to the Mueller probe. The Republican Party is actively complicit with putting the crooks in positions in power in Washington, D.C.

► In today’s Washington Post — Trump administration is still garnishing the wages of 54,000 student loan borrowers — The paychecks of about 54,000 people are still being shorted to repay past-due student loans, despite a federal moratorium that has been in place for six weeks.

The Stand (May 11) — DeVos’s new Title IX rules benefit sexual harassers, UAW says

► From the NY Times — How to create a pandemic depression (by Paul Krugman) — Trump’s search for an easy way out, his lack of patience for the hard work of containing a pandemic, may be precisely what turns a severe but temporary slump into a full-blown depression.




► From the AFL-CIO — In Memoriam: Union members lost to COVID-19 — As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads across the United States, our sisters, brothers and friends in the labor movement are among the first casualties. It is important for us to work together during this crisis to prevent further deaths. It is important to thank those who are doing the work to keep us safe and fed. It is important to remember those who we lost because of the coronavirus.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Check this list to make sure local that fallen union brothers, sisters and siblings are honored. If you aware of additional union members who should be included on this list, please fill out this form and they will be added to this page.

► From the AP — Tesla’s Musk defies lockdown order, restarts California factory — Tesla CEO Elon Musk is restarting the company’s California factory in defiance of local government efforts to contain the coronavirus. In a tweet Monday, Musk practically dared authorities to arrest him, writing that he would be on the assembly line and if anyone is taken into custody, it should be him.

► From the NY Times — Tribal nations face most severe crisis in decades as the coronavirus closes casinos — Nearly 500 tribal casinos remain shut down during the pandemic, causing job losses to spike. The economic damage is spreading quickly, wreaking havoc on fragile tribal finances.




► From Crosscut — The collective power of the pandemic’s essential workers (by Alex Gallo-Brown) — One of the greatest tricks our society’s ownership class ever played on the rest of us was to persuade workers of their own essential powerlessness. They said business owners mattered most, philanthropists deserved the most fulsome praise, and the propertied deserved to hold the seats of power. They said unions were inefficient, direct action was uncivil, populist political candidates were unrealistic, and collective action didn’t work. And we, by and large, believed them. For decades now, capitalists have been almost unilaterally in charge… Workers need to recognize the power they already have — a power that comes primarily from their ability to collectively withhold their labor. Will the pandemic teach them to wield it?

EDITOR’S NOTE — In Yakima, at least… YES!


The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.

CHECK OUT THE UNION DIFFERENCE in Washington: higher wages, affordable health and dental care, job and retirement security.

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