Tuesday, May 26, 2020
► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, May 26 — The latest count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 20,065 infections (7-day average of new infections per day: 208) and 1,070 deaths (7-day average of deaths per day: 10).
► From the Seattle Times — UW Medicine furloughs 4,000 more workers, citing coronavirus budget hit — UW Medicine, citing a budget shortfall caused by COVID-19, will furlough another 4,000 members of its workforce after bargaining last week with the unions that represent many of its employees, the hospital system announced Monday. UW Medicine employs about 30,000 people at its hospitals and neighborhood clinics. These reductions, along with furloughs announced for 1,500 nonunion staffers last week, mean that more than 15% of the workforce will go without pay for one to eight weeks. The workers will keep health insurance and other benefits, according to a UW Medicine news release. Furloughed workers include members of SEIU1199NW, SEIU 925, WFSE/AFSCME and the WSNA.
► From SEIU Healthcare 1199NW — We united across our union to win furlough protections at Harborview, Northwest Hospital — Together, we won a furlough MOU that will prevent as many voluntary furloughs as possible, respects seniority, and protects what we’ve already won—our jobs, staffing plans, benefits, and more.
The Stand (May 15) — UW unions stand strong, united for safety
► From the Yakima H-R — “It was definitely worth the fight.” Strikers reach agreement with Monson Fruit — Striking workers and company officials at Monson Fruit in Selah came to an agreement Friday. A committee of Monson workers said Friday that the company’s solution had focused on safety measures, and strikers would go back to work while continuing to negotiate for wage increases.
TODAY at The Stand — Striking Yakima workers’ caravan heading to Olympia today
► From the Spokesman-Review — Agricultural workers in Central Washington strike to push for greater virus protections — Workers in Central Washington’s fruit-packing industry have staged strikes and walkouts over the past few weeks in an effort to enhance safety protections against COVID-19 and to receive hazard pay. While many of those labor actions are ongoing, one group of striking workers in Monston Fruit warehouse in Selah reached a labor agreement Friday.
► From the Seattle Times — In Yakima’s apple industry, the surging COVID-19 pandemic has brought a wave of cases, and labor strife — Last week, after 19 years working at a fruit warehouse, Rosalinda Gonzalez walked off the job. This week, she spent her days on a sidewalk outside the plant, where she held a yellow sign that read: “Our Health is Irreplaceable.” Some of her friends from work are home sick, or in the hospital, after testing positive for the coronavirus and falling ill with COVID-19. Some have joined her on the picket line. Many still are working at the plant, yet she appears to bear them no grudge. She offers smiles and a wave as they drive past her — horns honking — during an afternoon shift break at Columbia Reach Pack. “I am not angry because I know they want the same thing, but they are afraid to lose their jobs,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. But right now, it doesn’t matter to me because I got to make change. For us. For our people.”
► From the Columbian — 65 Vancouver food processor workers have COVID-19 — The number of positive COVID-19 cases at Firestone Pacific Foods increased to 65 workers, almost doubling the amount reported Friday, according to a news release sent by the Fruit Valley fruit processor on Monday.
► From the Wenatchee World — Stemilt: 25 more workers test positive for COVID-19 — Twenty-five out of 60 people from a specialty packaging line crew at Stemilt Growers’ Olds Station facility recently tested positive for COVID-19.
► From the Columbia Basin Herald — As pandemic wanes, health officials prepare to protect health of migrant farmworkers — As Grant County readies itself to begin reopening its economy, health officials continue to work with businesses and industries to ensure that workers can return to their jobs without risking a resurgence of COVID-19.
► From the Daily World — 14 of 18 Hoquiam teachers who received layoff notices in April asked back
► From the Seattle Times — Washington’s constitution protects K-12 funding. The coronavirus will test that promise. — State leaders face a budget challenge of unknown proportions that will test their ability to preserve education funding, as the state Supreme Court ordered them to do in 2012. State officials are confident they can, but in a bleak budget situation, there are still ways for important programs to lose money. K-12 education funding makes up more than half of the state’s $53.3 billion biennial operating budget. Consumer spending dips during recessions, and the state tops the nation for its reliance on sales tax. Preliminary estimates show the state could lose $7 billion over three years. And this time, the downturn is tied to a global pandemic, with no clear end in sight.
► From the Seattle Times — State colleges and universities are girding for a tough financial future after the coronavirus pandemic — Washington’s public colleges and universities are bracing for a money crisis this fall that is likely to decimate higher education budgets… “I’m a little worried people don’t understand quite how bad this is going to be,” said Western Washington University English professor Bill Lyne, president of United Faculty of Washington State. A veteran of the 2008 recession, he believes a pandemic-induced economic downturn will be particularly hard on higher education.
► From the Tri-City Herald — Over 300 Tri-Cities school employees are victims of unemployment scam
► From the Tri-City Herald — Protect yourself. Make an unemployment account even if you are working (editorial) — Creating an account will help protect your Social Security number from being used in a despicable fraud scheme that has stolen millions of dollars from struggling Washington state residents.
► From the (Everett) Herald — State officials’ pay raises poorly timed (editorial) — Set by a citizen panel a year ago, the raises begin just as the state needs to make deep budget cuts.
► From the News Tribune — Wrong move, GOP: Check of Inslee’s power should come via statehouse, not courthouse (editorial) — We say legislation before litigation. Bipartisan policy debate should be the first attempt at a remedy.
► From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch — If the pandemic-preparedness cupboard was bare, it was Trump’s doing (editorial) — “We inherited a broken, terrible system …,” Trump told reporters on April 18. “Our cupboards were bare. We had very little in our stockpile.” That was Trump’s attempt, frequently repeated by the president and recycled in White House presentations, to lay responsibility for the inept pandemic response at Obama’s feet. Except it’s a lie of colossal Trumpian proportions. We’ve taken the time to dissect CDC budgets from the year before Obama left office all the way to the present. Trump can lie, but the numbers cannot. Obama left office with an unblemished record of building up the nation’s pandemic preparedness. Trump systematically sought to dismantle it.
► From the Washington Post — An indelible image of this pandemic: Trump, without a mask, on a golf course (by Eugene Robinson)
► From the Washington Post — Can we stop pretending Trump is fit to be president? (by Paul Waldman) — If you gave many Republicans in Washington truth serum, they’d say, “Of course he’s unfit to be president. Of course he’s corrupt, of course he’s incompetent, of course he’s the most dishonest person ever to step into the Oval Office. But I can live with that, because him being reelected means Republicans keep power, we get more conservative judges and we get all the policies we favor.” That is the choice they’re making. We all know it, even if they’ll never say it out loud… In the future, when we look back on this dark period, we should resist the temptation to focus solely on Trump himself. To do so would be to excuse those who know exactly what he is but pretend they can work to keep him in office and remain unsullied. They cannot, and their moral culpability becomes clearer every day.
► From the Washington Post — On the front lines of the pandemic, grocery workers are in the dark about risks — Despite the pandemic, grocery stores generally are not required to publicly disclose cases of coronavirus involving employees or report them to the local health departments. As states now move to reopen, many grocers are being criticized by health officials, lawmakers and store employees for not being more open with the public and their own workers about outbreaks within their stores. The Post interviewed about 40 current and former employees at more than 30 supermarkets who alleged that the companies had not disclosed cases of infected or dead workers, retaliated against employees who raised safety concerns and used faulty equipment to implement coronavirus mitigation measures.
► From NPR — UFCW estimates 3,257 members infected with coronavirus — “The so-called ‘hero,’ and hazard pay should continue until this threat has actually passed,” UFCW President Marc Perrone said. “If companies truly believe that this threat has passed, they should be willing to say that publicly on the record.”
► From the Washington Post — The meat industry is trying to get back to normal. But workers are still getting sick — and shortages may get worse. — Despite company efforts to slow its spread, the number of Tyson employees with the coronavirus has exploded from less than 1,600 a month ago to more than 7,000 today, according to a Washington Post analysis
► From the NY Times — As meatpacking plants reopen, data about worker illness remains elusive — Emails show local officials received conflicting signals from state leaders and meatpacking companies about how much information to release about outbreaks in plants.
► From the Memphis C-A — In first area labor election since start of pandemic, food processing workers join UFCW — Dozens of workers for Hearthside Food Solutions in Byhalia, Mississippi, one of the country’s leading producers of cereal and baked goods, voted Wednesday in favor of joining the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.
► From the Washington Post — Crowded housing and essential jobs: Why so many Latinos are getting coronavirus — Latinos young and old are contracting the virus at alarmingly high rates in places such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
► From the NY Times — An incalculable loss (editorial) — America is fast approaching a grim milestone in the coronavirus outbreak. But a count only reveals so much. Memories, gathered from obituaries across the country, help us to reconnect with what was lost.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.