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Protect farmworkers ● New value in the union ● Hilton die-in

Monday, August 10, 2020




► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, Aug. 10 — The latest count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 63,072 infections (7-day average of new infections per day: 748) and 1,688 deaths (7-day average of deaths per day: 13)

► From the (Everett) Herald — State must do more to protect farmworkers’ health (by Guadalupe Gamboa, Rebecca Saldaña and Rosalinda Guillen) — Fruit warehouse workers in Yakima went on strike out of fear: fear of contracting the virus, fear of dying, fear of infecting their families. These fears were well founded. Yakima Health District records from this time-period indicate that Allan Brothers had 11 confirmed cases of coronavirus. Twenty-four other apple facilities in the county had documented COVID-19 outbreaks with 595 confirmed cases. These strikes received high-profile coverage in Yakima Valley media, including images of workers with picket signs declaring “Our health is indispensable!” and “We are worth more than your apples.” Despite these pleas for help, no effective action was taken by the state agencies responsible for safeguarding their health: the departments of Health or Labor and Industries.

► From the Walla Walla U-B — Smith Frozen Foods works to contain COVID-19 outbreak — Smith Frozen Foods in Weston, Ore., has been put on Oregon’s COVID-19 outbreak list for worksites. While officials from the frozen vegetable processing and packaging company said prevention measures have been stringent, union officials say the plant’s administration is putting profit over employees. More than 80% of the 150 or so union members at Smith are Latino and are afraid of being at work right now, said Jesus Alvarez, union representative for Pasco-based Teamsters Local 839, which represents Smith employees.

► From the Seattle Times — Interconnected: The Latino community calls for action amid high COVID-19 rates — While Latinos are 13% of Washington’s population, they comprise 43% of the state’s positive COVID-19 cases as of Aug. 9. Contributing factors such as poverty, housing discrimination, system inequities within public health care, and proximity to food deserts underlie the high rate of COVID-19 cases within King County’s Latino population, said Fernando Luna of Entre Hermanos.




► From Crosscut — Washington to create $40M fund for undocumented workers hurt by pandemic — Undocumented workers who lost income because of the coronavirus pandemic, but were passed over for federal assistance, will finally be getting some help in Washington state, thanks to a new $40 million relief fund. Inslee is setting up the new financial assistance program with cooperation from a broad coalition of immigrant rights organizations, including OneAmerica, the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network and the Washington Dream Coalition.

► MUST-READ from WFSE — Faced with crises, WFSE members find new value in the union — Amidst a renewed movement for racial justice, a global pandemic, and a recession, workers across the country are seeing the benefit of unions more clearly than ever. At WFSE, members are reframing racial justice as a “lunchbox issue,” arguing that it’s as central to the union’s mission as pay, benefits, or working conditions—that without racial justice, economic justice is impossible. They are addressing life-threatening safety conditions and financial strain caused by the pandemic. They are running for office to advocate for working families and supporting elected officials that will reject knee-jerk budget cuts and austerity measures à la the Great Recession. Conversations with members from across Eastern Washington about these crises show a diversity of opinion on where WFSE can focus its resources to make the greatest impact.

► From the (Everett) Herald — Some waited months for jobless benefits, and some wait still — Not all 81,000 cases are resolved, but some people finally received thousands of dollars in back payments.

► From the Olympian — Families of prisoners plead for DOC to release inmates after COVID-19 outbreaks — The are demanding that Gov. Inslee and Department of Corrections Secretary Stephen Sinclair release more inmates from DOC facilities to prevent them for contracting COVID-19.

► From the Spokesman-Review — Washington’s top elections official warns of ‘very concerning’ changes at Postal Service that could impact voting — Washington election officials are worried that attempts to cut costs at the U.S. Postal Service could impact the November election amid growing bipartisan concerns about the agency’s ability to handle a surge of mail-in ballots across the country. Secretary of State Kim Wyman said that Washington is preparing for a “very concerning” impact on voting. The cause for her concern can be found in a July 31 letter to Wyman from USPS General Counsel Thomas Marshall. Marshall’s letter warns of a “mismatch” that “creates a risk that some ballots will not be returned by mail in time to be counted.”

► From MSNBC — Postal Workers Union head confirms slowdown of postal service — “Something’s definitely changed at the post office,” says President of the American Postal Workers Union Mark Diamondstein. “A few weeks ago, the new postmaster general put in some policies that we don’t think can do anything but slow down mail.”




► From The Stranger — Their health care cut, Hilton workers stage die-in — On Friday, dozens of Hilton workers staged a die-in outside the hotel, protesting Hilton’s decision to cut off their access to health care in the middle of a global pandemic. At the protest, a Grim Reaper walked the workers out to the sidewalk alongside a black casket. I can’t even imagine how stressful this must have been for the participants, for whom death isn’t just some abstract far-off possibility, but a very real threat now that their bosses have decided they shouldn’t be able to afford to go to the doctor. According to UNITE HERE Local 8, the hotels that have decided not to extend health coverage are the Hilton Seattle, the Arctic Club Seattle, the Hilton and Doubletree near Seatac Airport, the Duniway Portland, and the Hilton Portland Downtown.

► From the NW Labor Press — Sheet Metal union restructures — Five Sheet Metal union locals across the Northwestern United States have been reorganized into a new regional council, headquartered in Everett. Under the reorganization, members will elect delegates to the regional council, and local business managers and staff will be appointed and paid by the regional council. The change came at the direction of the locals’ parent organization, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART). SMART Northwest Regional Council became official June 1, 2020. It includes Locals 16, 23, 55, 66, and 103, covering members in Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Nebraska. All told, it brings together about 9,500 active members. SMART Ninth General Vice President Tim Carter, former business manager of Local 66, was appointed as the first president of the new regional council.

► From the NW Labor Press — Introducing IUPAT Local 101 — For the first time since their craft was born 70 years ago, Portland-area drywall finishers in Oregon and Southwest Washington have their own union local: On June 1 the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) chartered Local 101 as the union for drywall finishers.




► From Politico — Trump announces executive actions after stimulus talks break down White House walks away from talks — Trump on Saturday announced he would move forward with multiple executive actions he said would provide relief to millions of financially struggling Americans after he ended talks between his aides and Democratic leaders on a new pandemic relief package. Trump said he would cut payroll (Social Security/Medicare) taxes for workers through the end of the year, extend unemployment benefits but at a reduced rate, renew a moratorium on evictions during the pandemic, and defer student loan payments and interest until the end of the year.

► From the AFL-CIO — Trump’s coronavirus retreat — AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka:

“With a thousand Americans dying a day, the economy in tatters and millions of working people in dire need of relief, President Trump is doing what he does best: cut and run. His decision to walk away from negotiations on an overdue, comprehensive COVID-19 response package is just the latest retreat in the face of this historic virus. For someone who claims to have mastered the art of the deal, the president is once again withdrawing to his corner and signing wholly inadequate executive orders that do not meet this moment. He just cut the benefits of out-of-work Americans by $200 a week, and is trying to stop Congress from moving forward to allow schools to open safely. And in the case of cutting Social Security and Medicare, he is acting recklessly and illegally. It is time for the administration to go back to the negotiating table or, better yet, the Senate should pass the HEROES Act so Trump can sign something that actually starts us on the path to recovery”

► From the Washington Post — Trump’s executive orders spark confusion among businesses and state officials as Democrats assail them as ‘unworkable’ — Trump’s new executive actions to disburse coronavirus relief without congressional approval sparked confusion and frustration on Sunday among businesses, Democrats and state officials, some of whom lamented the moves would not deliver the necessary relief to cash-strapped Americans.

► From The Hill — In the COVID-19 economy, we are running out of time to prioritize child care (by Liz Shuler) — For working mothers with young children, balancing a career and responsibilities at home during the coronavirus crisis has meant bearing an astronomically outsized share of the burden — a burden that for many exhausted and isolated mothers is not sustainable; a burden which, if we do not act, could result in a significant portion of women being pushed out of the labor force, erasing the progress we have made.




► From The Guardian — Why the officers who shot and killed Breonna Taylor may never be arrested — Arresting the police officers is not that simple, partly because of a tangled legal doctrine that applies to Kentucky and 28 other states. There is no specific law in these jurisdictions addressing police shooting in self-defense, which means officers have the same rights and obligations as any resident. Yet police have the unique power to initiate violence – like knocking down the door of a private home in the middle of the night – that other people don’t.

► From Politico — Facing bleak November, Republicans look to stoke BLM backlash — Facing possible electoral calamity, Republicans are now turning to a familiar playbook: stoking fear by trying to redefine the Black Lives Matter movement as a radical leftist mob looking to sabotage the white, suburban lifestyle.

► From the Seattle Times — Seattle City Council takes a swing at the police — and mostly misses (by Danny Westneat) — For all the heated rhetoric about Seattle defunding the police, both from activists demanding it and the police union decrying it, the key take-away right now is this: Seattle is not defunding the police. Not by half. Not by a quarter. It’s not even clear whether this first phase of proposed cuts to the city’s police force, up for a full City Council vote on Monday, would reduce the current number of officers out on the street at all. That’s the headline. The city isn’t defunding the police.

► From the NY Times — In the wake of protests (by Charles Blow) — Much of what we saw in response to protests amounted to performative gestures, symbolism that cost nothing and shifted no power. We must come to the conclusion that some of what we saw as a racial awakening was prone to whither. Some of what we saw was people cosplaying consciousness, immersing themselves in the issue of the moment. I am very leery of tokenism, leery of the illusions of progress as the system holds fast. I’m leery of appeasement, of being told that there is a change coming as a way of quieting me in the waiting. America has a sterling track record of dashing Black people’s hopes.




► From IAM — IAM Local S6, Bath Iron Works reach tentative contract agreement — The IAM Local S6 negotiating committee, representing more than 4,300 shipbuilders at Bath Iron Works in Maine, has reached a tentative contract agreement with the company, a General Dynamics subsidiary that builds ships for the U.S. Navy. The agreement keeps existing subcontracting language and protects seniority, the top issues that forced 87 percent of Local S6 members to reject the previous contract and begin the largest strike in the United States on June 22. The tentative three-year agreement, reached late in the evening on Friday, Aug. 7, is being unanimously recommended by the Local S6 negotiating committee. Local S6 members will receive the contract in the mail and vote online and via phone in the coming weeks.

► From the Athens News — Ohio University classified staff unionize amid layoffs after decades of unsuccessful attempts — More than 450 full-time and part-time clerical and technical employees across all OU campuses are now included in a bargaining unit represented by AFSCME Council 8, AFL-CIO. The union’s formation provides them with the right to collectively negotiate their wages, educational benefits and health insurance, and other labor concerns with the university administration.

EDITOR’S NOTE — 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 NY Times — McDonald’s sues former CEO, accusing him of lying and fraud — The fast-food chain said Steve Easterbrook, who was fired last fall but walked away with tens of millions in compensation, concealed evidence during an investigation into his sexual misconduct with employees.

► From The Hill — Uber CEO proposes flexible ‘benefits funds’ for drivers without making them employees — Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is calling for a set of new laws providing more benefits for independent contractors without designating them as employees.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Or you could just try OBEYING EXISTING LABOR LAWS and stop pretending your employees aren’t employees. Just a thought.

► From The Atlantic — College-educated professionals are capitalism’s useful idiots (by Kurt Andersen) — What’s happened since the 1970s and ’80s didn’t just happen. It looks more like arson than a purely accidental fire, more like poisoning than a completely natural illness, more like a cheating of the many by the few—and although I’ve always been predisposed to disbelieve conspiracy theories, this amounts to a long-standing and well-executed conspiracy, not especially secret, by the leaders of the capitalist class, at the expense of everyone else. A Raw Deal replaced the New Deal. And I and my cohort of hippie-to-yuppie liberal Baby Boomers were complicit in that.


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!