Friday, May 15, 2020
► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, May 15 — The most recent count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 17,773 infections (up 261 from yesterday) and 983 deaths (up 8), according to the state Department of Health.
► From the Yakima H-R — Thursday sees 7th strike by Yakima Valley farmworkers protesting conditions during COVID-19 pandemic — Workers at Columbia Reach Pack and Hansen Fruit and Cold Storage Co. in Yakima walked out Thursday morning to protest their working conditions. They held signs asking employers for better COVID-19 safety measures, 6 feet of social distancing in the workplace, and protection from retaliation for protesting. They also want Columbia Reach to provide a hazard pay increase of $2 an hour. Thursday’s strikes are the sixth and seventh in Yakima County since Monday, with workers calling for paid sick leave, hazard pay, safer working conditions and protection from retaliation amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Since May 7, workers also have walked out of Frosty Packing and Roche Fruit in Yakima, Matson Fruit Co. and Monson Fruit Co. in Selah, and Allan Bros. in Naches. Organizers said at least six more strikes will likely happen this weekend.
The Stand (May 13) — Solidarity is contagious right now in the Yakima Valley (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 Eater — Why farmworkers are especially at risk for COVID-19 — Labor advocates warn that the virus could severely impact agriculture as tens of thousands of workers across the country take to the fields when harvest season begins this summer. And while no one is counting exactly how many farmworkers have contracted the virus, in recent weeks, several COVID-19 hotspots have come to light, revealing how the agricultural system could expose workers’ lives to the disease.
► From the Seattle Times — I am a nurse, a DACA recipient, and I belong in this country (by WSNA member Jessica Esparza) — I started working as an intensive-care unit nurse right around the time the COVID-19 pandemic hit Washington state. And while the numbers of infected patients are now decreasing at my hospital, which is about two hours east of Seattle, I still have anxiety going into work. I’m a brand-new ICU nurse, so I worry about my patients’ health, and I’m also nervous about my own status as a resident of the United States… Any time now, the U.S. Supreme Court could decide to uphold the Trump administration’s efforts to end DACA. The timing couldn’t be worse, and not just for me. I’m one of about 27,000 DACA recipients who work as front-line health-care professionals battling COVID-19 and caring for patients who are fighting for their lives during this pandemic.
The Stand (Sept. 19, 2017) — DREAM nurse speaks out to save DACA
► From the Bellingham Herald — As Ferndale’s Intalco smelter nears curtailment, chances of saving it look bleak — Alcoa’s CEO Roy Harvey told the union that represents Intalco that curtailment was going forward because improvement efforts “have not yielded changes that would improve the competitiveness of Intalco in the foreseeable future.’’ Harvey’s letter to the International Association of Machinists comes a week after U.S. Reps. Suzan DelBene and Rick Larsen, and Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell sent him a letter urging the company to work with the union to find a solution.
The Stand (May 7) — Congressional leaders to Alcoa: Save Intalco
► From Crosscut — Washington’s $1.8B convention center expansion is in danger — The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown one of the largest construction projects in Seattle history into financial crisis.
► From the Tri-City Herald — New $13 billion contract awarded for Hanford tank farm cleanup — A team led by BWXT Technical Services has been awarded a contract valued at $13 billion over 10 years to manage the Hanford nuclear reservation tank farms. The new contractor, named Hanford Works Restoration, will take over work now being done under the Washington River Protection Solutions contract that expires in September. About 2,350 employees work at the tank farms. Many are expected to transition to working for the new company, with the winning bidder bringing in its own management team.
► From the Tri-City Herald — 170 Tri-Cities area warehouse workers will lose their jobs. COVID-19 is partly to blame — About 170 warehouse workers will lose their jobs after Union Pacific decided to shut down its refrigerated railcar service south of the Tri-Cities. The Cold Connect service linking Washington and California growers to East Coast markets is closing because of dropping shipping rates and and consumers moving away from fresh produce because of the coronavirus.
► From KUOW — Working at a Seattle grocery store amid a pandemic: ‘They’re counting on us to deliver the goods’ — Ever since he was a kid, Sam Dancy thought working in a grocery store would be fun. He followed that dream and has been in the industry for three decades. Dancy, 61, now works at the Westwood Village QFC. He tells KUOW how the pandemic has changed his work. The days are hectic and they go fast. It has also created new challenges and work norms. Said Dancy:
“I think it’s interesting how a group of people work in our industry that they didn’t want to give $14, $15 an hour, they’re counting on us to deliver the goods so they can have their parties and they can continue to feed their family. And I hope when this pandemic is all said and done, that all the people across the nation that are making $7.50 an hour will get a raise or get something so they can live their life.”
► From the Washington Post — Washington halts unemployment payments for 2 days after finding $1.6 million in fraudulent claims amid coronavirus pandemic — State officials said Thursday they’re stopping unemployment payments for two days while they attempt to block a gush of fraudulent claims aimed at stealing some of the billions of dollars that Congress directed to workers left jobless amid the coronavirus pandemic. In recent weeks, school districts, universities, municipal governments and private employers say they have identified hundreds of suspect claims filed on behalf of employees who are still working. The actions of the hackers and criminals are adding stress for workers and employers already hammered by a once-in-a-generation crisis.
► From the Seattle Times — Spokane-area Rep. Matt Shea fined nearly $5,000 for damage to state Capitol steps during protest — State Rep. Matt Shea (R-Spokane Valley), who was accused of domestic terrorism by a House-commissioned report last year, intentionally poured a trail of olive oil along the steps of a Capitol building, causing more than $4,700 in damage, according to the state officials.
► From CBS News — House to vote today on massive new coronavirus relief bill — The House is expected to vote on a massive coronavirus relief bill on Friday. The House vote comes as the unemployment rate is rising to levels unseen since the Great Depression, with out of work or furloughed.
► From the AFL-CIO — Working people support HEROES Act that embraces America’s economic essentials — AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka: “The HEROES Act includes an emergency workplace infectious disease standard; gives aid for state and local governments, public schools, the U.S. Postal Service, and pension relief; keeps workers on payrolls to avoid mass layoffs; extends unemployment insurance; provides more direct payments to working people; extends health care coverage; and provides housing and food benefits, and much more.”
► From The Hill — Hopes fade for coronavirus relief deal before June — Though the House is expected to vote on a $3 trillion bill as soon as Friday, that piece of legislation has been declared “dead on arrival” in the Senate, where Republicans are taking a wait-and-see approach.
► From the NY Times — With go-slow approach, Republicans risk political blowback on pandemic aid — With jobless numbers rising, Republicans’ refusal to negotiate on another round of pandemic relief is proving difficult to sustain.
► From the Washington Post — CDC offers few guidelines for reopening safely — With hundreds of millions of people still seeking advice on resuming their lives safely, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a scant six pages of recommendations Thursday to guide schools, businesses, day-care facilities and others into the next phase of the coronavirus pandemic.
EDITOR’S NOTE — And here is a rare, unusual editorial from one of the world’s most prestigious medical journals…
► From the Lancet — Reviving the U.S. CDC (editorial) — The Trump administration’s further erosion of the CDC will harm global cooperation in science and public health, as it is trying to do by defunding WHO. A strong CDC is needed to respond to public health threats, both domestic and international, and to help prevent the next inevitable pandemic. Americans must put a president in the White House come January, 2021, who will understand that public health should not be guided by partisan politics.
► From the Washington Post — The staggering coronavirus toll at nursing homes justifies extreme measures (editorial) — Residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities account for roughly half of 1 percent of the U.S. population, and more than a third of the COVID-19 deaths. That justifies extreme measures by federal officials and states, but so far both have balked.
► From HuffPost — Meatpacking plants turn to Trump for backup against lawsuits — The administration is “throwing blue-collar workers under the bus” to protect meat-processing giants, labor advocates say.
► From Roll Call — New rules ease rest mandates for truck drivers — Government says the changes won’t affect safety. Teamsters and safety advocates aren’t so sure.
► From the Washington Post — A majority of Americans going to work fear exposing their household to the coronavirus — With tens of millions of Americans preparing to return to work as more states relax stay-at-home orders, businesses and employees will soon face new challenges in a new era of anxiety and apprehension. A Washington Post-Ipsos poll of more than 8,000 adults in late April and early May found that nearly 6 in 10 Americans who are working outside their homes were concerned that they could be exposed to the virus at work and infect other members of their household. Those concerns were even higher for some: Roughly 7 in 10 black and Hispanic workers said they were worried about getting a household member sick if they are exposed at work.
► From the NY Times — Hospitals knew how to make money. Then coronavirus happened. — Surgeries are canceled. Business models are shifting. Some of the hardest-hit hospitals may close, leaving patients with fewer options for care.
► From the Washington Post — A New York barber who defied lockdown and ‘illicitly’ cut hair tests positive for the coronavirus — A barber in New York who spent weeks giving haircuts in defiance of the state’s lockdown order recently tested positive for the novel coronavirus, prompting concern that anyone who recently got their hair cut at the establishment may have also become infected by the potentially deadly virus.
EDITOR’S NOTE — There are barbers in Washington state like this guy who are currently giving haircuts in defiance of Inslee’s Stay Home order.
► From the Washington Post — A noose, an ax and Trump-inspired insults: Anti-lockdown protesters ratchet up violent rhetoric — Violent rhetoric appears to be increasingly common among people protesting stay-at-home orders amid a coronavirus pandemic that has killed 85,000 and sickened 1.4 million people in the United States. At another Thursday protest in Commack, N.Y., Long Island protesters waved Trump 2020 banners and one held a sign that read, “Hang Fauci. Hang Gates. Open all our states.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — What the hell is wrong with us? (Discuss.)
The Stand (May 1) — Lifting stay-home orders too soon is an attack on workers
► A MUST-READ from the Washington Post — The United States is a country to be pitied (by Eugene Robinson) — The shocking and deadly failures by President Trump and his administration have been well documented — we didn’t isolate, we didn’t test, we didn’t contact trace, we waited too long to lock down. But Trump’s gross unfitness is only part of the problem. The phrase “American exceptionalism” has always meant different things to different people — that this nation should be admired, or perhaps that it should be feared. Not until now, at least in my lifetime, has it suggested that the United States should be pitied. No amount of patriotism or pride can change the appalling facts. The pandemic is acting as a stress test for societies around the world, and ours is in danger of failing… The covid-19 pandemic has exposed the depth of America’s fall from greatness. Ridding ourselves of Trump and his cronies in November will be just the beginning of our work to restore it.
► From Facebook — Paul Field is a teacher.
►Today, the Entire Staff of The Stand takes a moment to remember the nearly 1,000 Washingtonians and nearly 100,000 Americans who have lost their lives so far in the COVID-19 pandemic. And we also honor the memory of a dear member of our family who died of ALS last week.
We hope that when our time comes, they will play this beautiful song at our memorial party. Here it is from the Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense, the greatest concert film ever made.
P.S. Happy birthday to David Byrne, who turned 68 yesterday.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.