The Stand

Public health workers harassed ● Doglio gains ● Slow U.S. response killed thousands

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Thursday, May 21, 2020

 


LOCAL

 

► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, May 21 — The latest count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 18,971 infections (7-day average of new infections per day: 208) and 1,037 deaths (7-day average of deaths per day: 9).

► From Crosscut — Public health workers threatened, harassed while fighting COVID-19 — Public health workers in Washington state are feeling threatened right now. Bone tired from months of work and working with a fraction of the staff they had a decade ago, many say they are also experiencing an increase in harassing messages and, sometimes, outright threats. In Kittitas County, just east of Snoqualmie Pass, where officials are still working to contain an outbreak at a food processing facility, residents spoke about surrounding the county public health offices and not letting staff out, according to public information officer Kasey Knutson. Others demanded personal information of the public health workers.

EDITOR’S NOTE — THIS is why unions fought for — and won — new protections for public employee safety and privacy earlier this year. In a partisan political effort to weaken unions, the right-wing Freedom Foundation and conservative Republicans wanted public employees’ birth dates so it would be easier to determine their home addresses​. Thankfully, they failed.

► From the Seattle Times — For front-line homeless service workers, coronavirus brings ‘a whole other layer of trauma’ — People working in homeless services, part of a largely invisible, low-paid workforce, have been shouldering not just the burden of coronavirus in city shelters and services, but also a longer-running crisis the pandemic has only magnified over the last two months. As services have shut down and shelters have stopped taking in new clients to comply with social distancing rules, front-line homeless service providers have been witnessing suffering that, with fewer resources, they are too often unable to ease.

► From the Yakima H-R — Negotiations continue at Selah fruit packing plants; 1 protester left at Hansen — On Wednesday, Emmanuel Anguiano became the sole worker protesting at Hansen Fruit. Nearly a week ago, more than 20 employees at the Yakima fruit warehouse started protests over coronavirus protections and hazard pay. Workers also were in fear of being harassed online and in-person — Anguiano said that he’s been mocked on social media — and others just couldn’t afford to go on much longer without pay. “For some of them, they were literally the only income for their family,” he said. Meanwhile, strikes continue at five other plants in the Yakima Valley: Matson Fruit and Monson Fruit in Selah, Columbia Reach Pack and Frosty Packing in Yakima and Allan Bros. in Naches. Like Anguiano at Hansen Fruit, Matson Fruit employees were waiting for a response to several demands, including an additional $2 an hour for hazard pay.

The Stand (May 20) — How you can support strikers in Yakima

► From the (Everett) Herald — Everett sheds more than 160 employees as part of budget cuts — The president of the public employees union, of which about 400 Everett employees are members, issued a sharp rebuke to Mayor Cassie Franklin for the staff reductions, which he called “draconian.” AFSCME Council 2 President Chris Dugovich wrote:

“We have worked together in many difficult situations. When treated honestly and with respect, our members have always been willing to make sacrifices and collaborate with the City. But the heavy-handedness that was shown by your administration in negotiating the furlough agreement, and the total lack of transparency and empathy demonstrated by Parks leadership during these recent events, make me wonder if we can ever rebuild that trust.”

► From the Olympian — Intercity Transit expects reduced level of service due to shortage of bus drivers — Some drivers aren’t working because they fall into that vulnerable coronavirus category, either because of their age or an underlying health condition, she said. Some, too, have a vulnerable family member at home, or are caring for a child, and some have either retired or have retired early because of the virus. The other challenge: IT is not hiring or training new operators because of the pandemic.

► From the Seattle Times — The Washington State Convention Center addition is in financial trouble (by Nicole Grant and Matt Griffin) — Stopping construction before completion would be a disaster and impede our region’s recovery. Thousands of construction workers would be out of work. To make matters worse, the nearly 1,000 caterers, custodians and other staff who would work in the new facility would not have a job… The bottom line is this important project needs a financial bridge from the federal government to keep the addition moving forward. As members of Congress consider projects to put people to work, completion of this project is an obvious choice to prioritize.

► From KUOW — What these nurses see on the Covid ICU in Seattle — The air turns over every 20 to 25 minutes on the Covid ICU at the University of Washington Medical Center, but no one breathes easy. The wing is shaped like a rectangle. In the far left corner, nurses Leah Silver and Ashlee Davis tend to a man dying of coronavirus.

 


THIS WASHINGTON

 

► From the AP — Washington sees record unemployment rate of 15.4% in April — Washington’s unemployment rate shot up to a record 15.4% in April and the state’s economy lost 527,000 jobs last month as a result of the economic downturn from the coronavirus pandemic. That’s the highest jobless rate the state has seen since it started keeping comparable records in the 1970s.

► From the Washington State Wire — Beth Doglio secures endorsements from progressives in 10th CD race — Doglio’s endorsements from the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC, the Washington State Labor Council, and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal could be an indication that the Olympia Democrat is consolidating support among the progressive wing of the party ahead of the August primary… On Doglio’s campaign website, she writes that she wants to “strengthen the union movement and make it easier for employees to organize.” She is also pledging to make reforms to labor law to shore up collective bargaining and increase apprenticeship opportunities.

The Stand (May 19) — WSLC endorses Beth Doglio for Congress in WA’s 10th CD

► From the NW News Network — A special session of the Legislature in June? Don’t bet on it, but don’t rule it out — As Gov. Jay Inslee exerts his emergency powers to battle COVID-19, behind the scenes legislative leaders are exploring the idea of a special session of the Legislature, perhaps as early as next month.  “We are very much deeply in the weeds on trying to figure that out and I think in the next week or two we should have some more clarity,” said Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig (D-Spokane).

► From the Seattle Times — School ‘as usual’ is unlikely as Washington officials begin talks on next school year amid coronavirus pandemic — Washington education officials are weighing at least seven scenarios for reopening schools next fall and say the status quo — a patchwork of distance learning models crafted by individual school districts — is “not a viable approach.”

 


BOEING

 

► From the Seattle Times — Feds must increase and clarify aerospace support (editorial) — Substantial layoffs and furloughs have occurred in an industry that was already running lean. Yet this supply chain and workforce are crucial to national security and America’s industrial recovery. One way to help is by adjusting the criteria for which companies may use a $17 billion loan fund, created in the March CARES Act, to help businesses critical to national security.

► From the (Everett) Herald — FAA says it will let Boeing employees vouch for plane safety — The Federal Aviation Administration outlined steps to change how it approves new passenger planes, but lawmakers said they will push ahead with legislation to change the current system that lets aircraft makers including Boeing play a key role in the certification process.

 


THAT WASHINGTON

 

► From Roll Call — AFL-CIO, Labor Department spar over workplace safety amid COVID-19 — OSHA claims its informal guidance setting out best practices for nursing homes, ride share services, meat packers and other sectors was sufficient in combination with the department’s existing enforcement authority. The AFL-CIO is demanding that the agency issue an emergency temporary standard (ETS) to control occupational exposure to an infectious disease. “We submit that in the face of a global health emergency causing more deaths in less time than any other workplace crisis OSHA has faced in its fifty-year existence, OSHA’s refusal to issue an ETS constitutes an abuse of agency discretion so blatant and of ‘such magnitude’ as to amount to a clear ‘abdication of statutory responsibility,’” the AFL-CIO argued in its court filing.

► From the AP — Meatpacking safety recommendations are largely unenforceable — Federal recommendations meant to keep meatpacking workers safe as they return to plants that were shuttered by the coronavirus have little enforcement muscle behind them, fueling anxiety that working conditions could put employees’ lives at risk.

► At Murray.Senate.gov — Murray, Cantwell urge action to ensure worker safety at meat processing plants as Trump administration pressures them to open

► From the Denver Channel — 8th worker at JBS meatpacking plant in Greeley dies of coronavirus

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 Washington Post — Delta, JetBlue criticized for cutting employee hours after receiving billions in coronavirus relief — Senate Democrats led by Elizabeth Warren and Jack Reed say the airlines’ actions violate the intent of the Cares Act.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Headquartered in the “right-to-work” state of Georgia, Delta has aggressively fought off efforts by its employees to unionize as it has expanded outside the anti-union South. The company hopes to maintain a competitive advantage against unionized carriers by paying substandard wages, health care, and retirement benefits. In Seattle, it competes head-to-head against Alaska Airlines and other unionized airlines. (Just thought you should know.)

► From Politico — McConnell vows end to enhanced unemployment benefits — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) promised House Republicans on Wednesday that the beefed up unemployment benefits enacted earlier this spring “will not be in the next bill.”

► From the NY Times — Republicans have a new plan to thwart the will of the people (by David Daley) — A Missouri initiative would undo voters’ preference for nonpartisan legislative districts — and perhaps shift representation itself.

 


NATIONAL

 

► From HuffPost — Kroger workers rip grocer for ending ‘Hero Pay’ during pandemic — Kroger employees are blasting the company for taking away a $2-per-hour “hero” bonus for working during the pandemic, foreshadowing the criticism other employers may face as they try to end pay increases related to the coronavirus. “The pay cut is being implemented even though the grocery workers are still dying and not a single state, major city or county has returned us to anything resembling the pre-COVID-19 normal,” said UFCW President Marc Perrone. “These workers did not stop becoming heroes on one particular day. … They don’t deserve less of our appreciation, because they’re still going out there each and every day.”

ALSO from UFCW 21 — Under pressure, Kroger (Fred Meyer, QFC) offers new one-time bonuses, UFCW 21 continues to stand up for $2/hour Hero Pay

► From Reuters — Could coronavirus help Amazon workers unionize? — Warehouse employees last month staged a walkout in Michigan to demand safer working conditions at their facility. So did workers in New York, Illinois and Minnesota. These and other Amazon.com Inc employees across the country are seizing on the coronavirus to demand the world’s largest online retailer offer more paid sick time and temporarily shut warehouses with infections for deep cleaning… Most unions acknowledged their long odds at organizing Amazon using traditional tactics such as holding meetings and gauging interest. Legal hurdles to unionizing the company’s workplaces and mounting elections are steep. For now, many groups said, they are showing workers how to harness public opinion to shame Amazon into granting concessions.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Harness the power of your unity. 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!

► From The Hill — Ford plant temporarily shuts day after reopening when workers test positive for coronavirus — A Chicago Ford assembly plant temporarily shuttered for part of Tuesday, because two employees tested positive for COVID-19 one day after reopening.

 


TODAY’S MUST-READ

 

► From the NY Times — Lockdown delays cost at least 36,000 lives, data show — If the United States had begun imposing social distancing measures one week earlier than it did in March, about 36,000 fewer people would have died in the coronavirus outbreak, according to new estimates from Columbia University disease modelers. And if the country had begun locking down cities and limiting social contact on March 1, two weeks earlier than most people started staying home, the vast majority of the nation’s deaths — about 83 percent — would have been avoided, the researchers estimated. Under that scenario, about 54,000 fewer people would have died by early May. The enormous cost of waiting to take action reflects the unforgiving dynamics of the outbreak that swept through American cities in early March. Even small differences in timing would have prevented the worst exponential growth, which by April had subsumed New York City, New Orleans and other major cities, the researchers found.

EDITOR’S NOTE — But instead, this happened…

 


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

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