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Layoffs and a raise ● Our sacrificial lambs ● U.S. workers need more power

Monday, June 29, 2020




► From the News Tribune — Tacoma schools superintendent gets raise at same meeting paraeducators are laid off — The Tacoma Public Schools Board of Directors on Thursday approved a new contract for Superintendent Carla Santorno, which includes a salary increase of around $9,000. The decision drew criticism when, immediately after the approval of the superintendent’s new contract, the school board also voted to approve layoffs for numerous paraeducators. “Frankly, it feels like a slap in the face when her monthly salary is what most paras make in a year,” Kari Madden, a 13-year Tacoma paraeducator who had her hours cut next year, told The News Tribune through text. “I recognize she has a tough job, however I struggle to see the rationalization of that amount she was making before but especially taking a large raise during a pandemic.”

The Stand (June 26) — Tacoma schools to slash jobs, give superintendent a raise

► From the Seattle Times — Flight tests of grounded 737 MAX planned to begin Monday — Boeing and federal regulators are planning to begin a critical set of test flights on the 737 MAX on Monday in a signal that the government is finally comfortable with the multiple fixes that the plane manufacturer has devised for the aircraft.




► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, June 29 — The latest count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 31,752 infections (7-day average of new infections per day: 423) and 1,310 deaths (7-day average of deaths per day: 7)

► From Crosscut — Yakima County farmworkers called ‘sacrificial lambs’ of pandemic — Latinx community leaders say the agriculture industry and state officials have left workers unsafe and forgotten. Yakima County, half Latinx, has a 26.5% positive COVID-19 rate; the state’s average is 6%. Yakima County also has the highest number of deaths per capita in the state. “No healthcare, poor housing, exhaustion, crowded into packing sheds, crowded into buses. They have been vulnerable for generations. And nothing was done to change that environment during this pandemic,” said Rosalinda Guillén was one of the community leaders who sounded the alarm about farmworker safety in March. “It’s almost like we’re someone’s sacrificial lamb in this pandemic. And again, every time something happens, our community has to suffer for it.”

► From the Yakima H-R — Strained staff, new COVID-19 infections may still overwhelm Virginia Mason Memorial — Yakima County has had more than 7,200 reported cases, roughly a thousand less than the number of confirmed cases in all of Oregon, which has nearly 17 times more residents.

► From the Tri-City Herald — Kennewick firefighter’s family speaks out about his struggles with COVID — Shane Webb came home from work at the Kennewick Fire Department feeling a bit run down on Father’s Day. When his wife, Julie, came in to check on him at 3 p.m., he sat up and started coughing. They soon learned he was infected with COVID-19.

► From the Seattle Times — The Reynolds Six are illuminating coronavirus outbreaks some officials would rather keep in the dark (by Naomi Ishisaka) — The saga of the Reynolds Six began on May 1, after coronavirus infections inside the Reynolds Work Release facility in Seattle led family members of the incarcerated men to protest outside to demand safer conditions for their loved ones. In what family members say was retaliation for the protest, five of the men were sent to the Shelton prison, including the man whose family was leading the protest. One of the men, Abdizikar Mohammed, was infected with COVID-19 and sent to Monroe Correctional Complex. There he was placed in isolation for 22 days and denied books and treatment, said Columbia Legal Services attorney Nick Allen — actions Allen said seemed like punishment for testing positive for coronavirus. All but one of the men are Black, or Black and Indigenous, and two are Muslim.

► From the Seattle Times — Coronavirus pandemic job losses falling hardest on people who were already hurting — Where previous recessions killed jobs across many industries and demographic groups, layoffs in the COVID-19 era often have been concentrated among workers who were often behind economically before the pandemic. Among them, working moms, younger workers, and workers who are less educated, lower-paid, and non-white.

► From the (Longview) Daily News — Inslee hits pause on Phase 4 applications statewide — Gov. Jay Inslee announced Saturday that for now, no counties in Washington state will be allowed to progress to Phase 4 of his “Safe Start” coronavirus opening plan due to rising caseloads across the state.

► From the Seattle Times — Mask up, Washington: It’s a matter of life and death (editorial) — Wear a mask. For yourself, your community and our economy… Forgoing a mask without a medical reason is not a political statement or expression of independence. It’s an act of selfishness or ignorance. Those who are deliberately spreading misinformation about masks’ effectiveness are cynically putting lives at risk.

►From the Columbian — Mask mandate suppresses virus, not rights (editorial)

► From the (Everett) Herald — Stopping COVID-19 is now up to each of us (editorial)

► From HuffPost — Former CDC head: Surge in coronavirus cases due to new spread, not increased testing — “As a doctor, a scientist, an epidemiologist, I can tell you with 100% certainty that in most states where you’re seeing an increase, it is a real increase,” said Dr. Tom Frieden. “It is not more tests. It is more spread of the virus. … The numbers you’re seeing are just a tip of the iceberg of even more spread.”

► From The Hill — Fight over COVID-19 workplace rules moves to states — The battle over workplace safety rules during the coronavirus is spreading to states. Virginia this week took a major step toward creating its own set of safety rules for workplaces amid frustration with the OSHA declining to impose a nationwide COVID-19 standard. Unions and other worker advocates are hoping the state’s eventual regulations will serve as a framework for other states and prompt them to take action instead of waiting for a federal mandate that may never come.

► From the Washington Post — Nurses suffer ‘insufficient resource trauma’ when they lack required knowledge, personnel or supplies — As COVOD-19 sweeps through hospitals, nurses’ cries for better personal protective equipment have become commonplace. Now, research suggests that a lack of resources could put nurses’ psychological well-being at risk.

► From the News Tribune — Is this the stupidest moment in U.S. history? Probably not, but it might be most dangerous (by Matt Driscoll) — Morally and politically, we’re fighting about wearing a mask while public health officials plead with us and the coronavirus cases spike. As countries around the world manage to make progress in the fight against COVID-19, we seem content to approach the pandemic like MTV Spring Break… We distrust scientists, academics, journalists, experts and “elites,” while our hardened views are shaped by things our anti-vaxxer uncles posted on Facebook.




► From the Seattle Times — Inside Amazon’s Kent fulfillment center warehouse, a proving ground for the company’s coronavirus response — The last three anxious months have brought dramatic changes to the Kent warehouse as the company learned on the fly how to operate during a pandemic. Updates refined at the facility have been implemented across Amazon’s empire.

EDITOR’S NOTE — As always, when reporters — and government safety inspectors, for that matter — are invited to tour a secretive corporate facility, the company has an opportunity to present a PR show that often doesn’t reflect what employees say are the normal working conditions. But when workers at Amazon have spoken up, they have been retaliated against and fired. That’s why workers need a union so they can have a voice on the job for workplace safety and fair pay, and protection from retaliation.

► From Vox — The real cost of Amazon — “I feel like I’m risking my life for a dollar” — what the struggle Amazon workers face during the pandemic says about the future of work in America.

► From Reuters — Amazon workers in Germany to go on strike over coronavirus infections — Workers at six Amazon sites in Germany will go on strike on Monday in protest over safety after some staff at logistics centers warehouses tested positive for coronavirus, labor union Verdi said.




► From the Seattle Times — Washington reckons with a budget shortfall that evokes painful memories of the Great Recession — Democrats for years have pointed back to the budget cuts made after the 2008 economic downturn as the source of long-term damage to the state’s social-safety net, especially the mental health system… As lawmakers and Gov. Jay Inslee confront the latest bleak numbers, they wrestle with hard choices. The state’s emergency reserves won’t cover even the current budget’s shortfall. Democrats are talking up new taxes as a way to avoid deep cuts while rebalancing Washington’s regressive tax system, which depends heavily on the sales tax. Some have urged new taxes on capital gains or on large employers, or the elimination of some business tax breaks.

The Stand (June 25, 2020) — Washington can’t afford austerity; tax the rich to save jobs, services (by Marilyn Watkins)

► From the Spokesman-Review — Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announces furloughs — The agency will continue to staff positions related to public safety, according to its news release, but most other Fish and Wildlife services, including customer service, won’t be available Monday as well as July 10, 17 and 24. The agency expects additional furlough days this fall, according to the release.




► From the Seattle Times — After a full month of protests, demonstrators bring march to Seattle mayor’s neighborhood — Hundreds of people marched to the neighborhood of Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan on Sunday, shouting the name of a pregnant Black mother killed by police in 2017 at the start of their march and continuing their persistent calls for the city to invest more in communities of color and cut the Police Department’s budget by half.

► From the News Tribune — Protesters take to street of Tacoma for ‘Black LGBTQ+ Lives Matter’ march — Behind a banner that read “Black Queer Lives Matter,” a large group marched through the streets of downtown Tacoma on Saturday afternoon, seeking to bring together the Black LGBTQ community and speak out against inequality.

MORE local coverage of similar protests/marches in Bellingham, Vancouver,

► From the Seattle Times — Police recruits in Washington state are determined to be different, but it may take more than training — They see themselves as the solution to racism and violence in policing, not as part of the problem. Their instructors hope so. But others in the field doubt much will change without radical reinvention and sweeping alterations to the way departments recruit, train and equip their officers.

► From the Washington Post — Police chiefs and mayors push for reform. Then they run into veteran officers, unions and ‘how culture is created.’ — Police and city leaders have repeatedly adopted changes, only for these efforts to run headlong into two formidable and interconnected forces: veteran officers who resist these efforts and the powerful unions fighting discipline. This combination can make it difficult for departments to evolve, even after they publicly pledge increased training and greater accountability, former law enforcement officials and experts say.

► From the AP — Detroit police SUV plows through group of protesters

► From Roll Call — On policing, it’s all politics now — In all likelihood, the question now is not whether Congress will act in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis by a police officer, Derek Chauvin, but who will the voters blame because it failed to act?




► From CNBC — U.S. airline labor unions seek billions more to extend coronavirus payroll aid as demand remains weak — Unions representing tens of thousands of airline employees asked lawmakers on Thursday for $32 billion in additional government aid to maintain their jobs through the end of March, as air travel demand remains low because of the coronavirus pandemic. “(Passing the House-approved CARES Act) is the simplest and fastest way to maintain Congress’ historic commitment to keep aviation workers on payroll — many of whom are on the front lines of this deadly virus,” said a letter signed by unions representing flight attendants, pilots, mechanics and other employees to congressional leaders.

► From Roll Call — USCIS official: ‘Every office’ would be hit by agency furloughsAbout 13,400 employees would be furloughed without $1.2 billion in emergency funding from Congress.

► From The Hill — This week: Democrats set to move health-care, infrastructure proposals — First up, the House will vote on legislation to expand the Affordable Care Act, while steering clear of the Democratic debate over Medicare for All by avoiding any kind of public option. Democrats will also vote on a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan before leaving Washington on Thursday, which would provide funding for transportation, the expansion of broadband and investments in schools and hospitals.

► From Roll Call — Border wall funding fight expected to head to Supreme Court The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Friday that the Trump administration does not have the authority to transfer billions of dollars in military funds to help finance the construction of the president’s long-promised border wall, potentially sending the fight back to the Supreme Court. In a 2-1 ruling, the appeals panel said the administration violated the Appropriations Clause of the Constitution, which gives Congress exclusive funding powers, when it transferred $2.5 billion slated for other purposes.

The Stand (Sept. 5, 2019) — Trump’s border-wall military cuts hit home at Naval Base Kitsap

► BREAKING from the Washington Post — Supreme Court strikes down restrictive Louisiana abortion law that would have closed clinics — Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. joined the court’s liberals in the 5 to 4 decision. It was a blow to conservatives who had hoped for a dramatic change in the court’s abortion jurisprudence in the first case heard by a court reinforced by Trump’s two conservative appointees.

► From the NY Times — Russia secretly offered Afghan militants bounties to kill U.S. troops, intelligence says — American intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan — including targeting American troops — amid the peace talks to end the long-running war there, according to officials briefed on the matter… Twenty Americans were killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2019, but it was not clear which killings were under suspicion. The intelligence finding was briefed to President Trump in late March, the officials said. Officials developed a menu of potential options for possible responses, but the White House has yet to authorize any step, the officials said.

► From the Washington Post — Russian bounties to Taliban-linked militants resulted in deaths of U.S. troops, according to intelligence assessments

► From Politico — Voters in deep-red Oklahoma weigh Medicaid expansion as virus cases climb — Voters in deep-red Oklahoma this week could order Medicaid expansion for at least 200,000 poor adults, defying state and Trump administration officials fighting to limit the Obamacare program.

► From The Hill — Filibuster reform gains steam with Democrats — The renewed discussions are being spurred by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), an outspoken liberal who has long championed a revamping the procedural tactic that Democrats see as a serious obstacle to passing legislation and confirming nominees.

► From the Washington Post — Zuckerberg once wanted to sanction Trump. Then Facebook wrote rules that accommodated the president. — Concessions to Trump have led to a transformation of the world’s information battlefield and paved the way for a growing list of digitally savvy politicians to repeatedly push out misinformation and incendiary political language to billions of people.

► From The Hill — Trump retweets, deletes video with supporter shouting ‘white power’




► From Facing South — Families of Tyson workers with COVID-19 condemn company’s labor practices — Family members of Tyson workers in Northwest Arkansas who have contracted COVID-19 tell Facing South that the company is demanding they go back into work or risk losing their hazard pay. Jackie Tobias said her uncle received his positive test results on June 8, and his health almost immediately took a turn for the worse. Then Tyson called. “It was less than four days later after my uncle tested positive for COVID-19 he received a call from the supervisor at Tyson, saying ‘you’re expected to return to work’,” Tobias said. “And of course, he can’t even get out of bed right now because he’s so weak from the virus.”

► From the Boston Globe — Whole Foods workers sent home for wearing Black Lives Matter masksAfter seeing reports of Whole Foods workers in other states being sent home for refusing to take off Black Lives Matter face masks, Savannah Kinzer decided to bring the movement to Cambridge. And, sure enough, when she and her colleagues put on masks emblazoned with the phrase Wednesday afternoon, the manager told them they either had to remove the masks or go home. So seven of them walked out.

The Stand (June 26, 2020) — Whole Foods censors Black Lives Matter

EDITOR’S NOTE — Organize for change at your workplace. Get a union! Find out more 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 Washington Post — U.S. workers need more power (by Lawrence Summers and Anna Stansbury) — Some portion of the decline in worker power may have been an inevitable outcome of globalization or technological change. But our research — which examines shifts in labor shares and corporate profits across different industries — indicates that changes in policy, norms and institutions are the most important explanatory factors. This view is supported by the fact that the legal and political environment has been tilted substantially in favor of shareholders and against workers since the 1980s, a trend exemplified by the expansion of state right-to-work laws undermining unions’ ability to fund themselves and the increasing corporate use of union avoidance tactics, both legal and illegal… Increasing worker power must be a central and urgent priority for policymakers concerned with inequality, low pay and poor work conditions. If we do not shift the distribution of power toward workers, any other policy changes are likely to be short-term and insufficient.


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.

FIND OUT HOW TO JOIN TOGETHER with your co-workers to negotiate for better wages, benefits, and a voice at work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!