Friday, September 18, 2020
► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, Sept. 18 — The latest count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 81,198 infections (7-day average of new infections per day: 411) and 2,031 deaths (7-day average of deaths per day: 7)
► From the Seattle Times — EvergreenHealth reports two patients likely became infected with coronavirus at hospital — Two patients on the same medical unit at EvergreenHealth in Kirkland likely became infected with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 after receiving care in the hospital, according to hospital leaders. The hospital is contacting some 100 employees who might have been exposed to the two hospital-acquired COVID-19 cases. Staffers who might have been exposed are being tested for COVID-19.
The Stand (TODAY) — Amid outbreaks, state updates hospitals’ COVID-19 requirements
► From HuffPost — How OSHA failed its biggest test ever with COVID-19 — Tiny fines. Few inspections. No new regulations. Experts say the agency entrusted with protecting workers has been AWOL amid a historic crisis.
► From the Washington Post — Trump contradicts health advisers on coronavirus vaccine timetable as death toll mounts — Trump’s public rebuke of a top federal health official who did not parrot White House talking points about a fast-track coronavirus vaccine is the latest example of the president’s effort to enforce an upbeat narrative about the pandemic, even if that does not square with the facts.
► From today’s Spokesman-Review — Washington farmworkers push through hazardous smoke to feed America with little choice — Smoke blankets the state and it’s harvest season. Farmworkers are climbing ladders, picking apples, burdened by pounds of fruit hanging in picking bags slung to their chests – all in fields fogged by hazardous smoke. There are “really no rules” preventing employers from keeping workers in the orchards 24 hours a day, even as the general public gets the message to be indoors as much as possible, said Edgar Franks, political director at Familias Unidas por La Justicia (FUJ), a farmworker union in Washington.
► From KIMA — Effects of poor air quality on agricultural workers
The Stand (Sept. 17) — UFW Foundation steps up for WA’s essential farm workers
► From the Oregonian — Oregon farmworkers face ‘awful choice’ as wildfire smoke plagues harvest — The wildfire smoke inundating Oregon’s (and Washington’s) fields and farms this month arrived right at harvest season for many crops, presenting agricultural laborers with an impossible dilemma: Come to work in hazardous conditions, or stay away without pay. That didn’t sound like much of a choice to many of the people who harvest Oregon’s crops.
► From the Tri-City Herald — When exactly will the smoke clear in Tri-Cities? And will storms cause more fires? — A storm system forecast to reach the Eastern Cascade Mountains on Thursday night and north central and western Oregon on Friday could bring lightning strikes that increase fire danger.
► From the Yakima H-R — A welcome break from smoke expected Saturday in Yakima area
► From the Seattle Times — Smoke expected to drift away from Seattle area, but weather drama isn’t over — Friday’s showers won’t be enough to clear the smoke completely, but the change in weather will make things better for the Puget Sound region.
► From the AP — Court: Public employees who leave union can’t recover dues — Public employees who leave a union can’t recover back dues, a federal appeals court ruled. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled Wednesday against seven Washington state employees that left their union and were trying to collect paid fees. The federal appeals court said that a June 2018 Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus did not give union members a right to resign and recover dues they have already voluntarily agreed to pay. The Washington state employees dropped out of their AFSCME branch had promised in April 2018, under a new union membership agreement, to pay dues for the next year. But the seven plaintiffs argued, in a proposed class-action suit, that they signed the agreement without being properly advised of their constitutional rights. “The First Amendment does not support employees’ right to renege on their promise to join and support the union,” Judge M. Margaret McKeown said in the Ninth Circuit’s 3-0 ruling, the first by any federal appellate court on the issue. The ruling applies to several similar cases in California. The case is one of a series of efforts by foes of government employee unions to enlarge on the victory they scored in 2018.
► From the Seattle Times — Hiring plummets in Washington state as employers look to an uncertain autumn and a long recovery — After a strong rebound this summer, the state’s job market now seems caught between a steady stream of layoffs and a slowdown in hiring by employers. Washingtonians filed 18,403 new, or “initial,” claims for unemployment benefits for the week ending Saturday. Although that’s down 8% from the prior week — and well below the massive levels from the first weeks of the pandemic — it’s still more than three times the number of claims that were filed the same week last year.
► From the Spokesman-Review — Unemployment taxes likely to go up next year as trust fund depletes — Six months of economic fallout from the pandemic has led to unprecedented levels of payment of benefits to more than 1 million laid off Washington workers and drained nearly half of the state’s once healthy Unemployment Trust Fund. Businesses that may still be fighting for their survival are bracing for higher unemployment taxes in 2021, and the state could ask the federal government for an interest-free loan before year’s end to shore up the fund, officials from the state Employment Security Division told a legislative committee this week.
► ICYMI from L&I — Labor & Industries proposes keeping workers’ comp rates steady for 2021 — The state Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) is proposing no increase in the average price employers pay for workers’ compensation insurance next year. If the proposal is adopted, this will be the first time in 20 years that workers’ compensation rates have dropped or stayed steady for four years in a row.
► From the Spokesman-Review — Federal judge in Washington issues temporary injunction against USPS operational changes amid concerns about mail slowdowns — A federal judge in Yakima granted a nationwide injunction Thursday that halts changes by the U.S. Postal Service that could slow mail ahead of the Nov. 3 election, arguing that the postal service is under a “politically motivated attack.” U.S. District Court Judge Stanley Bastian issued the preliminary injunction that would block controversial changes implemented under Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to save money. In his ruling from the bench, Bastian noted Trump’s repeated attacks on vote-by-mail and his unfounded claims that it is rife with fraud. Bastian said the defendants took the “remarkable” position that nothing had changed in the approach to election mail. “This is simply not true,” Bastian wrote. “The states have demonstrated the defendants are involved in a politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the Postal Service.”
► From The Hill — Judge issues nationwide injunction against Postal Service changes — A judge issued a nationwide injunction to temporarily halt changes to U.S. Postal Service policies that have delayed mail delivery across the country ahead of a presidential election expected to see record numbers of mail-in ballots.
► From the Washington Post — Trump is trying to undermine our democracy. It’s un-American. (editorial) –Trump tweeted Thursday that the presidential election results “may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED” because of the “new and unprecedented massive amount of unsolicited ballots.” “RIGGED ELECTION in waiting,” he exclaimed in another tweet. This is not the first time Trump has cast doubt on the legitimacy of a vote that polls indicate he is likely to lose, and it will not be the last. Rather than internalizing the notion that the coming election is likely to be fraudulent — which experts adamantly insist is not the case — Americans must take every such utterance as more evidence of the president’s underlying goal: to discredit and deny their choice, if they are to eject Trump from the White House. Typically, it doesn’t pay to be distracted by every outlandish presidential tweet. But Trump’s repeated insistence that he can lose only if there is fraud must be called out for what it is: un-American, antidemocratic hogwash.
► From the AFL-CIO — AFL-CIO statement on shooting of sheriff’s deputies in Los Angeles — AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka: “Dr. King reminded us that violence begets violence. The labor movement is appalled by the brutal attack on two union Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies, 31 and 24 years old. We send solidarity and love to our members and their families as the recovery process begins, and call for the perpetrator of this crime to be found, arrested and prosecuted. We also renew our call for police reform and an end to systemic racism and violence against people of color. Supporting law enforcement and demanding justice for our communities are not mutually exclusive, and we will continue to use our voice to be a champion for both.”
► From Vox — “They didn’t see me as innocent” — Can you remember your first experience with the police? For these 9 Black and brown people, the encounters would shape their sense of safety forever.
► From the Seattle Times — Leader of Amazon employee group says changes benefit Black workers — Three months after pledging its support for Black lives, Amazon has made several substantive changes to the benefit of Black employees, said the leader of the company’s Black Employee Network (BEN) affinity group.
► From Crosscut — Joining the fight for racial justice? Learn to find accountable leaders (by Lola E. Peters) — Imagine the accident victim getting to the hospital and being met by a surgeon who immediately calls in all the bystanders and asks them what to do. Racist systems work in a similar way. Such systems have a history of anointing their preferred leaders — rather than those known by and accountable to oppressed communities — funneling resources to those individuals or organizations, then declaring disappointment when the programs are ineffective or corrupted.
► From the Seattle Times — Proposed Boeing 737 MAX fixes win key endorsement of NTSB — A letter this week from National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt said safety reviews by the regulators and proposed changes to pilot procedures had followed the NTSB’s recommendations. The letter is significant because the NTSB is an independent agency and has been critical of the FAA’s oversight of the MAX. The FAA will review the comments filed in the case before deciding on whether to formally approve a set of fixes to the plane so that the grounding order can be lifted. Comments are due by Monday. Boeing hopes to return the plane to service this fall.
► From Roll Call — White House backs $25B airline relief extension — White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows urged Congress on Thursday to extend payroll grants for airline employees through next March, in order to avoid sweeping furloughs throughout the industry. He said $25 billion was necessary to provide sufficient relief for six more months, mirroring the amount approved in March that expires Sept. 30.
The Stand (Sept. 18) — Aviation unions urge extension of Payroll Support Program
► From Reuters — United Airlines moves closer to saving pilot jobs, American pleads for more gov’t aid — United Airlines said on Wednesday it was “one step closer” to saving thousands of jobs after pilot union leaders voted to approve a tentative deal with the company, while American Airlines launched a fresh plea to the federal government for more industry aid.
► From Roll Call — Flight attendant advocate Sara Nelson fights to protect their jobs — When Sara Nelson goes online to exhort the 50,000 members of the Association of Flight Attendants to urge lawmakers to extend aid for airline workers clobbered by the economic impact of COVID-19, she does so in front of a tidy bookshelf in her suburban Maryland home.
► From The Hill — Pelosi: ‘Hard to see’ Democrats supporting less than $2.2T in COVID-19 aid — Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday said that she’s hopeful the parties will reach an agreement on the next round of coronavirus relief but suggested Democrats aren’t prepared to accept anything less than her last offer — $2.2 trillion — on a deal.
► From the NY Times — Stop begging corporations to behave (by Binjamin Appelbaum) — Fifty years after Milton Friedman blessed corporate greed, liberals are still trying to rebut his arguments. They’re fighting the wrong battle. Instead of redefining the role of the corporation, we need to redefine the role of the state. Government remains the most powerful means to express our collective will. The necessary solution is to create stronger incentives for good behavior and laws against bad behavior.
► From MSN — Unions eye long term as pandemic weighs on members — With 80 percent of its 307,000 members still out of work and not paying dues, UNITE HERE had to lay off organizers and force early retirements — cuts copied by the union’s local chapters. So why is union president D. Taylor optimistic? “Look at when the labor movement grew at its greatest: It was during the Depression,” he said. “We’re making long-term plans.”
► From the Sacramento Bee — Joe Biden wants to be unions’ ‘best friend.’ What does that mean for California? — Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is courting union members with what California Labor Federation spokesman Steve Smith described as “the strongest platform to support workers since FDR.” Biden wants to end “right to work,” allowing unions to collect fees from everyone they represent even if a worker does not choose to join. He wants to hold company executives liable if they interfere with workers’ efforts to unionize, and he wants to allow workers to form a union without holding an election if they gather signatures from a majority of them.
► From ABC News — After months of debate, Mission Hospital nurses vote to unionize — In the first private sector hospital union election win in North Carolina, the largest at any nonunion hospital in the South since 1975, RNs at Mission Hospital have voted to join the nation’s largest RN union. The nurses voted by 965 to 411 to join the National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United, in a secret, mail-in ballot election conducted and counted by the NLRB. “We’re all thrilled that we’ve finally won,” said Lesley Bruce, RN, who works in chest pain observation at Mission. “This victory means we can use our collective voice to advocate for patient safety and safer staffing. I can’t wait to see what improvement we’ll win together.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — You, too, can win together! 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!
► “It’s almost impossible to quantify the vast impact that (Jimi) Hendrix, who died 50 years ago Friday, Sept. 18, had on pop culture,” Seattle Times music writer Michael Rietmulder writes today. “He pushed the limits of what the guitar was capable of and his almost mystical individuality has inspired generations of artists across genres and continents to wave their freak flags, too… Half a century later, Hendrix’s spirit lives on in some of Seattle music’s modern-day luminaries — as do the effects of racism Hendrix endured throughout his lifetime… For all the barriers Hendrix broke during his short but wildly influential time in the spotlight, 50 years later, there’s a lot more progress to be made. More than a statue on Broadway, perhaps that’s the best way to honor his legacy.”
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.