Wednesday, May 13, 2020
► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, May 13 — The most recent count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 17,330 infections (up 208 from yesterday) and 962 deaths (up 17), according to the state Department of Health.
► From KIMA — Warehouse workers throughout the valley walk out, asking for more pay and more protection — Fruit packers across the valley are walking out of work, as it seems strikes among these essential workers are spreading like wildfire. “We just, a lot of us walked out. This is more than half the warehouse,” says one employee at Jack Frost Fruit in Yakima, Elias Orea. Over 100 workers at both Matson Fruit Company in Selah and Jack Frost Fruit in Yakima walked out on the job today, joining workers across the valley like those at Allan Brothers Fruit who have already gone on strike. They say they’re calling for hazard pay and safer working conditions. “We were just asking for a little. We’re not asking for a lot. Something to say thank you because we’re coming, risking our lives, risking our families,” says Celia Uscanga.
TODAY at The Stand — Solidarity is contagious right now in Yakima (by WSLC’s Dulce Gutiérrez) — Inspired by the ongoing Allan Brothers strike, other fruit warehouse workers are walking off the job to demand safe workplaces and hazard pay.
► From the Yakima H-R — Protests underway at 3 Yakima Valley fruit packing houses
► From the Yakima H-R — Yakima Valley fruit companies say they’re following safety guidelines; protesting workers disagree — Ramón Torres and Edgar Franks arrived Friday in the Yakima Valley to provide support for workers protesting at Allan Bros. Torres and Franks work at Familias Unidas por La Justicia, a union that represents farmworkers in Skagit County. FUJ garnered attention recently for filing a lawsuit against the state Department of Labor and Industries and the Department of Health, hoping to secure stricter rules to protect laborers from COVID-19. They were still here Tuesday, providing support to not only Allan Bros. workers in Naches, but also to protesters at Matson Fruit Co. in Selah and Jack Frost in Yakima.
► From the News Tribune — Pierce Transit furloughs, lays off employees amid revenue declines during coronavirus — Pierce Transit will lay off or furlough nearly 90 employees, including some bus drivers, this week. Agency officials decided last week that 63 employees in administration and operations and maintenance would receive furloughs. Twenty-five relief bus drivers will be laid off.
► And then, there’s this…
Today we delivered the first 100 union-donated meals to the frontline workers at Swedish Cherry Hill! We will be delivering meals to a different hospital each day as long as donations keep coming in.
— MLK Labor (@MLKLabor) May 12, 2020
The Stand (May 6) — Buy union-made meals for frontline healthcare workers
► From the Seattle Times — Boeing’s backlog falls by more than 500 jets this year as aviation’s coronavirus crisis deepens — Boeing’s order book for the still-grounded 737 MAX continued to shrivel in April as the novel coronavirus pandemic cut air passenger traffic by about 90% and pushed airlines around the world into financial distress.
► From the IAM — Machinists request Inslee’s help in saving Washington state aluminum plant — The International Association of Machinists is asking Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee for assistance in preserving U.S. domestic aluminum production capability and saving 700 aluminum smelting jobs at Alcoa Intalco Works in Ferndale, WA. Alcoa Intalco Works, one of only seven primary aluminum smelters remaining in the United States, announced on April 22 that it was shutting down its Ferndale, WA plant.
The Stand (May 7) — Congressional leaders to Alcoa: Save Intalco
TAKE A STAND — The IAM is asking union members and community supporters to sign this petition to President Trump requesting his “assistance in preserving U.S. domestic aluminum production capability and saving 700 aluminum smelting jobs at Alcoa Intalco Works in Ferndale, Washington.”
► From the (Everett) Herald — State to deploy brigade of contact tracers to box in virus — Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday said the state is ready to deploy a “very highly trained” brigade of men and women to help local health districts contact individuals sickened with coronavirus and track down others who they may have infected. Inslee said this force of 1,371 contact tracers will be critical to the state’s ability to “box in” and defeat the COVID virus which as of Tuesday had claimed 962 lives in Washington.
► From the Seattle Times — How Washington school districts are succeeding and struggling since coronavirus shut them down — A weekly survey the state administers to its roughly 300 school systems during the closure, which asks about meals, child care, remote learning and graduation, offers a small window into the way school districts are succeeding and struggling in the six weeks since schools closed. Since the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction created the survey in March, between 69% to 83% of districts have responded in a given week. It’s one of the only forms of state governmental accountability on Washington’s school districts right now, but there are no consequences for skipping it.
► From The Hill — House Democrats unveil $3 trillion coronavirus relief package — House Democrats unveiled a $3 trillion coronavirus relief package on Tuesday that includes a grab bag of Democratic priorities and is intended to put pressure on Republicans to start negotiations on help for workers and local governments. Lawmakers are expected to vote on the bill on Friday, but it is dead on arrival in the GOP-controlled Senate.
► From Vox — Democrats’ $3 trillion opening bid for the next stimulus package, explained — The HEROES Act would bolster state governments and the U.S. Postal Service, include another round of $1,200 stimulus payments, increase widespread testing, extend unemployment insurance, and expand vote-by-mail ahead of the November election, among other things.
► From the AFL-CIO — Working people support HEROES Act that embraces America’s economic essentials — AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka: “The ball will soon be in Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s court. Working people are desperate for our leaders to put partisanship aside and do what is right for our health, our economy and our country. We will mobilize like never before to make the HEROES Act the law of the land. If McConnell stands in the way, this could very well be his final year in the U.S. Senate.”
► From the People’s World — Trumka proposes universal federal jobs payments — Sticking to a here-and-now solution to coronavirus-caused joblessness, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka proposed the federal government guarantee paid employment – by actually shelling out the money – for all workers. Employers would be a pass-through, nothing more.
► From Vox — Fauci’s Senate testimony debunked a number of Trump’s favorite coronavirus lies — The government’s top infectious disease expert: No, a COVID-19 vaccine or treatment won’t be available in time for school this fall. No, the virus won’t just disappear. Yes, the COVID-19 death count probably under-represents the true number. No, nothing Obama did is slowing development of a vaccine.
► From the NY Times — Will the Supreme Court put the president above the law? (editorial) — In a bid to keep his tax and financial records secret, the president’s lawyers tell the justices that he is beyond the reach of Congress and prosecutors… Trump’s tax maneuvers have for decades skirted the edge of legality. In the end, the records may not show evidence of criminal misconduct. But a ruling by the Supreme Court that in essence gives presidents immunity from investigation and prosecution would be a grievous wound to the rule of law.
► From the NY Times — Kushner, law aside, doesn’t rule out delaying 2020 election — Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, refused on Tuesday to rule out postponing the presidential election in November, a comment that fed directly into Democratic concerns that Trump might use the coronavirus crisis to delay or delegitimize the contest and one that contradicted Trump himself.
► From ABC News — Manafort released to home confinement amid coronavirus concerns — Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has been released from prison to serve the remainder of his sentence in home confinement. Manafort, 71, was found guilty of tax fraud and conspiracy and was sentenced to more than seven years in prison by a federal judge in March 2019.
► From PBS — As Trump urges reopening, thousands getting sick on the job — Recent figures show a surge of infections in meatpacking and poultry-processing plants. There’s been a spike of new cases among construction workers in Austin, Texas, where that sector recently returned to work. Even the White House has proven vulnerable. The developments underscore the high stakes for communities nationwide as they gradually loosen restrictions on business. “The people who are getting sick right now are generally people who are working,” Dr. Mark Escott, a regional health official, told Austin’s city council. “That risk is going to increase the more people are working.”
► From the Washington Post — Infection rates were climbing at Nebraska meatpacking plants. Then health officials stopped reporting the numbers. — Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) announced that state health officials would no longer share figures about how many workers have been infected at each plant. The big companies weren’t sharing numbers either, creating a silence that leaves workers, their families and the rest of the public blind to the severity of the crisis at each plant. “What are you hiding?” said Vy Mai, whose grandfather died of the novel coronavirus after being exposed to her aunt and uncle, both employed by a Smithfield plant in Crete. “If the ‘essential’ workers are being treated fairly and protected at meatpacking plants, why aren’t we allowed to know the numbers?”
► From the Seattle Times — Amazon urged by 13 attorneys general to disclose data on worker coronavirus infections and reinstate unpaid time off policy — Thirteen attorneys general asked Amazon to disclose the number of COVID-19 infections and deaths among its workers, data a top executive described as “not particularly useful” in an interview on “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday.
► From Bloomberg Law — Nonprofit workers turn to unions during pandemic uncertainty — Uncertainty fueled by the coronavirus pandemic has sped up a growing number of nonprofit workers joining unions. From environmental justice organizations to political advocacy groups, nonprofit employees are turning to organized labor to achieve a greater say in how their organizations are run.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Want a greater say? Get 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!
► From the Guardian — COVID in the cafeteria: hospitals leave workers in the dark over exposures — From doctors to cashiers, hospital employees are on the front lines of the pandemic and face greater risk. But nationwide, employees say some hospitals are failing to notify them when they have been exposed.
► From Vice — Elon Musk is offering Tesla workers a deal: Violate California’s stay-at-home order or don’t get paid — “If you do not feel comfortable coming into work, you can stay home and will be on unpaid leave,” Musk wrote in an email. “Choosing not to report to work may eliminate or reduce your eligibility for unemployment depending on your state’s unemployment agency.”
► From The Atlantic — Don’t blame Econ 101 for the plight of essential workers (by Annie Lowrey) — So why are so many of these workers making poverty wages? How can work worth so much be worth so little? Over the past few weeks, I asked economists and labor experts that question. The answer was discomfiting: These essential jobs are bad jobs not because of ironclad economic laws, but because of the kinds of people who hold them and the kinds of labor laws we have chosen. They are bad jobs because we have not cared to make them good jobs. But there’s some comfort in that: We can choose to care.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.