Monday, July 20, 2020
► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, July 20 — The latest count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 46,946 infections (7-day average of new infections per day: 789) and 1,447 deaths (7-day average of deaths per day: 6)
► From the Olympian — Washington state has reached an “explosive” COVID-19 situation. What does that mean? — Public health experts from around Washington warned that the state is “in an explosive situation,” according to a report released by the State Department of Health. The report paints a grim picture of COVID-19 conditions in Washington. The state is in the early stages of a runaway outbreak, the experts said.
► From the News Tribune — COVID-19 testing sites struggle to keep up amid ‘explosive situation’
► From the Washington Post — The crisis that shocked the world: America’s response to the coronavirus — Six months after the coronavirus appeared in America, the nation has failed spectacularly to contain it. The country’s ineffective response has shocked observers around the planet. Many countries have rigorously driven infection rates nearly to zero. In the United States, coronavirus transmission is out of control. The national response is fragmented, shot through with political rancor and culture-war divisiveness. Testing shortcomings that revealed themselves in March have become acute in July, with week-long waits for results leaving the country blind to real-time virus spread and rendering contact tracing nearly irrelevant.
► From In These Times — OSHA complaints show the morbid dangers healthcare workers face during COVID-19 — These workers who we rely on so deeply — dubbed “warriors” by Trump and “heroes” by McConnell — continue to work under hostile management and in dangerous workplaces that make the disease even more contagious and deadly. That’s according to a dataset and interactive map recently released by Strikewave, a newsletter of original reporting and analysis for the U.S. labor movement. The data show at least 21,510 COVID-related OSHA complaints since the start of the pandemic. It’s unknown exactly how many more complaints than usual have been filed, as OSHA complaints are relatively confidential. But it’s clear that they are surging. Common in the complaints are allegations of managerial neglect, carelessness and abuse.
► From the Washington Post — Arizona reopened early to revive its economy. Now, its workers and businesses face even greater devastation. — A surge in coronavirus infections threatens residents and businesses at a moment when state and federal relief programs are expiring
► From the NY Times — How to reopen the economy without killing teachers and parents (by Shardha Jogee) — All classes should be online, but school buildings could still serve an important purpose for the kids who need them most.
► From the Washington Post — Trump defends bungled handling of coronavirus with falsehoods and dubious claims — Trump said in an interview aired Sunday that the rising number of U.S. deaths from the coronavirus “is what it is,” defended his fumbled management of the pandemic with a barrage of dubious and false claims, and revealed his lack of understanding about the fundamental science of how the virus spreads and infects people.
► From the Washington Post — Where is the outrage? (by Charles Blow) — Americans are getting sick and dying while Trump plays a political game.
► From the Olympian — L&I fines 3 companies for fatal trench collapse at wind farm on Lewis-Thurston county line — Three companies are facing fines after an L&I investigation found safety violations connected to a trench collapse that killed one man and injured another at the the Skookumchuck wind energy project near the Lewis-Thurston county line earlier this year. All told, the companies — RES System 3 LLC, RES America Construction Inc., and GEMS — face over a half million dollars in fines. RES America was the general contractor for the project and hired RES System 3 to construct the wind farm, according to L&I. GEMS was contracted to provide medical services at the site.
The Stand (Oct. 1, 2019) — An economic boost… gone with the wind? — Unions say RES Americas is not delivering on the promise of good local clean-energy jobs at Skookumchuck Wind Energy Project.
► From the Wenatchee World — Slidewaters will close for the season Monday — Slidewaters will close for the season Monday, ending a 30-day run in defiance of restrictions accompanying the state’s COVID-19 pandemic. The Chelan water park on Thursday received a “Notice of Immediate Restraint” from the state, along with $9,639 citation for the “willful” violation of state’s Safe Start rules. Those rules would allow it to open in Phase 3 of the restart plan. Chelan County currently is operating under a modified Phase 1.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Alternative headline: Bad legal advice from the Freedom Foundation results in a $10,000 fine.
► From the News Tribune — CHI Franciscan, Virginia Mason move toward combining operations — Tacoma’s CHI Franciscan and Seattle-based Virginia Mason are stepping up efforts to merge operations. The combined operation would employ more than 21,000, including nearly 5,000 employed and affiliated providers, according to a joint statement announcing the move, tentatively set to be completed by the end of the year. The officials said it was too soon to determine whether there would be any layoffs with the combined venture, but emphasized the potential for growth.
► From the PS Business Journal — Nordstrom lays off hundreds in Seattle — Nordstrom laid off 521 employees in Seattle beginning May 8, according to sate records. Nordstrom confirmed some were among its corporate team. As part of the cost savings plan, the Seattle-based company has permanently closed 16 stores.
► From the (Everett) Herald — Timber technology center could bring 100 jobs to Darrington — The Darrington Wood Innovation Center will house manufacturing companies and educational resources.
► From CNBC — More than 25 million Americans are set to lose the $600 unemployment boost this week — Unless Congress acts, the $600 per week boost to unemployment benefits will be cut off on July 25 at a time when a record number of Americans depend on that assistance. Roughly 25.6 million workers are set to be impacted by this benefit loss.
► From The Hill — Congress set for showdown on coronavirus relief legislation — Both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) say they think they’ll be able to get a deal, but leaders haven’t yet started negotiating and both sides have appeared skeptical of the other side’s key priorities.
► From Roll Call — Health care coverage for laid-off workers splits Republicans — Debate over providing a federal subsidy for COBRA coverage could pit two key groups of GOP supporters against each other.
► From HuffPost — Whatever happened to hazard pay? — Some Democrats are mounting a last-ditch effort to secure extra pay for essential workers. It doesn’t look promising.
► From the Washington Post — Thousands to walk off job today to protest racial inequality — Organizers of a national workers strike say tens of thousands are set to walk off the job Monday in more than two dozen U.S. cities to protest systemic racism and economic inequality that has only worsened during the coronavirus pandemic. Dubbed the “Strike for Black Lives,” labor unions, along with social and racial justice organizations from New York City to Los Angeles, will participate in a range of planned actions. Where work stoppages are not possible for a full day, participants will either picket during a lunch break or observe moments of silence to honor Black lives lost to police violence, organizers said.
► From The Hill — Democrats call for McConnell to bring Voting Rights Act to floor in honor of Lewis — Originally passed to ensure that racial discrimination would not affect the rights of minorities to vote in the U.S., a section of the original Act that forced particular jurisdictions, mostly in the South, to report any changes to voting laws to the Department of Justice was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013. Democrats, including Lewis, have pushed for a bill imposing a similar restriction and allowing the Justice Department to appoint election observers to be passed by the Senate after it passed the Democratic-controlled House in 2019.
► From the NY Times — After 50 years, sanitation workers still fight for dignity (by Daytrian Wilkin) — “All labor has dignity,” the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told striking sanitation workers in Memphis more than 50 years ago. “One day, our society will come to respect the sanitation worker, if it is to survive. For the person who picks up our garbage, in the final analysis, is as significant as the physician. For if he doesn’t do his job, diseases are rampant.” I never paid much attention to what sanitation workers did until a small group of them went on strike in early May in my hometown, New Orleans. They are called “hoppers,” because they spend all day hopping on and off the backs of trucks, rounding up garbage containers, and using their strength to dump them into the barrel that crushes the trash. My Uncle Jonathan is one of them, and he asked me to help him and his fellow Black workers organize their City Waste Union in the first weeks of the strike. Their fight, which has now gone on for more than two months, has shown me more clearly than ever before that Black people are still shackled to a cycle of generational poverty and mistreatment.
► From the Seattle Times — The police have long been a reliable source for some. But it’s time to reexamine that trust. (by Naomi Ishisaka) — Tacoma police killed Ellis on March 3, but it wasn’t until early June that his case started to get attention. Initially, as is all too common, early stories reported just the Police Department’s narrative. Police said Ellis harassed a driver, struck their police car and “slam dunked” an officer to the ground. They attributed his actions to “excited delirium,” a term used by police to justify deadly force but described as “pseudoscience” by critics. It wasn’t until mid-June that it was revealed that the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office investigating the case — supposedly to create investigatory independence — was at the scene of the killing as well. Video began to emerge that showed officers pummeling Ellis as he gasped, “I can’t breathe,” words now tragically familiar. The medical examiner ruled Ellis’ death a homicide from oxygen deprivation due to physical restraint… If we have learned anything from the protest movement of the past two months, we should have at least learned what people of color and other marginalized people have said forever: You can’t uncritically trust “official” accounts when it comes to policing and protests.
► From the Seattle Times — Police say officers injured, buildings vandalized during downtown Seattle protest — As protesters returned to downtown Seattle and Capitol Hill on Sunday afternoon — seemingly the largest presence in at least several days — two people were arrested and some in the crowd vandalized buildings.
► From the AP — Oregon sues feds over Portland protests as unrest continues — Oregon’s attorney general is seeking an order to stop federal agents from arresting people in Portland as the city continues to be convulsed by nightly protests that have gone on for seven weeks and have now pitted local officials against the Trump administration. Federal agents, some wearing camouflage and some wearing dark Homeland Security uniforms, used tear gas at least twice to break up crowds protesting systemic racism and police brutality.
► From the Washington Post — A Navy vet asked federal officers in Portland to remember their oaths. Then they broke his hand. — Christopher David, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and former member of the Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps, had never attended a protest before but he said he wanted to know what the officers involved thought of the oath they had sworn to protect and defend the Constitution. So he headed to downtown Portland to ask them… He has been hailed on social media as a hero. Some have dubbed him Portland’s own man of steel, a defender of the city, an anti-fascist super-soldier. David said he is none of those things:
“It’s just us normal people out there. There were a whole group of pregnant moms standing out there linking arms and they got gassed. You hear people like [President] Trump say it’s just a bunch of wacko fringe people in liberal cities who are out there, but no way. We’re all just normal people who think what’s happening is wrong.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — The Stranger has published a more detailed account of what happened Saturday at the Portland protests. Federal officers reportedly fired tear gas canisters and flash bang grenades indiscriminately into the crowd of peaceful protesters rather than targeting some individuals who had broken the law by tampering with police barriers near the federal courthouse. Police then began using batons to beat people (including the Navy vet above). Protesters subsequently marched to the offices of the Portland Police Association, the union for rank-and-file officers, vandalized it and attempted to set it on fire before police launched a second wave a munitions and tear gas to break up the crowd.
► From the Washington Post — Federal officials dismiss Portland leaders’ calls to leave city as clashes with protesters continue
► From the LA Times — Target-owned Shipt sparks worker protest with pay change — Drivers for Shipt say the company’s gradual shift to a new pay algorithm has slashed their earnings by 30%, and for some, up to 50%. Workers across the country protested Wednesday, calling out from the job and imploring customers to boycott the company. Workers are seeking a return to a commission-based pay model they say was more transparent and enabled them to earn a more livable wage.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Want a livable wage? Get a union! Learn 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!
EDITOR’S NOTE — In case you are wondering, the Seahawks chapter of the NFL Players Association are affiliated with the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.