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Surge upon surge ● Ignored at MultiCare ● Let’s talk about higher wages

Monday, November 30, 2020




► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, Nov. 30 — The latest count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 162,700 infections (7-day average of new infections per day: 2,333) and 2,703 deaths (7-day average of deaths per day: 13)

► From the AP — Fauci: U.S. may see ‘surge upon surge’ of virus in weeks ahead — The nation’s top infectious disease expert said Sunday that the U.S. may see “surge upon a surge” of the coronavirus in the weeks after Thanksgiving, and he does not expect current recommendations around social distancing to be relaxed before Christmas.

► From CNN — Here’s who’s on President-elect Biden’s newly formed Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board — The team is led by established public health officials and staffed by a mix of doctors and current and former government officials. It includes Jane Hopkins, who specializes in mental health and worked for more than 20 years as a bedside nurse, most recently at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle and Snoqualmie Hospital. Hopkins is executive vice president of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, serves on Washington State’s COVID-19 task force and Safe Start Advisory Board, the Washington Workforce Board, and the boards of the 1199NW Training Fund and the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

► From Buzzfeed News — Outbreaks in meatpacking plants were likely much worse than official numbers show — Of the 45 JBS, Smithfield, Tyson, and Cargill facilities around the country that recorded at least 50 confirmed COVID-19 cases, only 20 ordered full-scale testing for all employees.

► From the Washington Post — As thousands of athletes get coronavirus tests, nurses wonder: What about us? — As sports lurched back to life over the summer, health experts debated the ethics of entire leagues jumping to the front of the testing line. But ultimately the leagues, with billions of revenue dollars at stake, contracted with private labs to pay for the best and fastest tests available — a luxury many hospitals and other healthcare providers, reeling from the pandemic, can’t afford… This month, registered nurses gathered in Los Angeles to protest the fact that UCLA’s athletic department conducted 1,248 tests in a single week while health-care workers at UCLA hospitals were denied testing. Last week National Nurses United, the country’s largest nursing union, released the results of a survey of more than 15,000 members. About two-thirds reported they had never been tested.

► From Politico — Millions of workers poised to lose access to paid leave as virus spikes — Tens of millions of workers stand to lose access to federally mandated paid sick and family leave at the end of December, compounding the hardship over the surging pandemic for American families.

EDITOR’S NOTE — In Washington, workers retain access to paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave under state law.




► From the Seattle Times — Health providers strike at 20 MultiCare urgent-care clinics in Puget Sound area — More than 100 doctors, physician assistants and nurse practitioners at urgent-care facilities within the MultiCare health system went on strike last week, as the COVID-19 pandemic worsens, to protest working conditions. “This is last resort for us,” said Dr. Amir Atabeygi, one of those on strike. “Lately, our biggest concern and challenge is having adequate PPE [personal protective equipment] at work and feeling like we’re in as safe a work environment as possible. Our concerns are being ignored and dismissed.”

ALSO at The Stand MultiCare docs strike for safer conditions

► From Q13 — Healthcare workers strike over COVID concerns


MORE coverage from the (Tacoma) News Tribune, KING 5, KIRO 7, and KOMO News.




► From the Spokesman-Review — Feds end Washington truckers’ more generous rest rules, arguing they’re actually unsafe — Until Tuesday, the employees of Washington trucking companies were entitled to a half-hour meal break after five hours on the job, plus a 10-minute rest break for every four hours of work. It also meant a second 30-minute meal period for those who worked three hours of overtime. But that has changed, after the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration granted a petition from the Washington Trucking Associations that asked for federal regulations to preempt the state’s rules.

► From the Seattle Times — Report: Washington prisons officials botched response to COVID-19 outbreak at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center — As a coronavirus outbreak ravaged a central Washington prison this spring and summer, corrections officials were slow, confused and ineffective in their response, a state watchdog report shows. Guards weren’t forced to wear masks. Symptomatic prisoners were allowed to mingle with others. Urgent calls from a nearby hospital went unanswered.

► From the News Tribune — L&I sees a spike in complaints about businesses violating COVID-19 rules and restrictions — With COVID-19 numbers rising rapidly, the Washington state Department of Labor and Industries is responding to an increasing number of complaints that companies are not following rules and regulations pertaining to employees and customers.

► From the Seattle Times — State auditor warns unemployment agency on ‘interference’ with audits into massive fraud — Since May, the head of Washington’s unemployment agency has been buffeted with criticism for a slow-footed response to a massive fraud that leeched away hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. Now Employment Security Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine is being rebuked by state Auditor Pat McCarthy for hindering her office’s investigation into what went wrong.

► From Crosscut — What happens if Gov. Jay Inslee takes a job in Biden’s cabinet — A federal appointment for Inslee would set off a cascade of political moves here in his home state.




► From Vox — Nine questions about the Georgia Senate runoffs you were too embarrassed to ask — Georgia voters will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate on Jan. 5, and thus decide the fate of President-elect Joe Biden’s agenda. There are not one but two runoff Senate elections in Georgia early next year. They have similar dynamics, with Democratic challengers going up against Republican incumbents. One race features a matchup between Sen. David Perdue (R) and Democrat Jon Ossoff, and the other involves Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) and Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock. Absentee ballots were mailed to voters who requested them starting on Nov. 18, while in-person early voting starts on Dec. 14 and continues until Election Day on Jan. 5.

FROM THE CALENDAR at The Stand — The Washington State Labor Council’s Labor Neighbor program needs union volunteers for its Tuesday FUN Banks for the Georgia Senate runoff elections that will determine control of the U.S. Senate. Join via Zoom as union members in Washington call their union siblings in Georgia from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays through Jan. 5. Click here to register.




► From the News Tribune — Tacoma Fire budget crisis shows sorry state of U.S. pandemic relief. Fix this, Congress (editorial) — The public health nightmare and economic pain caused by COVID-19 won’t suddenly disappear in 2021. The assurance of federal help shouldn’t, either. American cities, counties and state governments are floundering in red ink, trying to preserve basic services and help people knocked flat by the pandemic while sales tax revenues plunge. After months of election-year posturing and paralysis, Congress and President-elect Joe Biden must end this mess. They must waste no time finding compromise and approving pandemic-relief package 2.0.

► From Common Dreams — ‘Cruel slap in the face’: Senate GOP quietly pushing pay freeze for federal workers amid deadly pandemic — “As our federal employees work every day to deliver vital services to the American people, Republicans continue to try to strip them of their rights, politicize the merit-based system, and deny them fair pay for their hard work,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said. “We cannot let this stand. I will fight tooth and nail to stop this proposed pay freeze and ensure that the good work of federal employees is fairly compensated.”

► From the Washington Post — Trump moves to strip job protections from White House budget analysts as he races to transform civil service — The outgoing Trump administration is racing to enact the biggest change to the federal civil service in generations, reclassifying career employees at key agencies to strip their job protections and leave them open to being fired before Joe Biden takes office.

► From the NY Times — Let’s talk about higher wages (editorial) — Raising the wages of American workers ought to be the priority of economic policymakers and the measure of economic performance under the Biden administration. We’d all be better off paying less attention to quarterly updates on the growth of the nation’s gross domestic product and focusing instead on the growth of workers’ paychecks. Set aside, for the moment, the familiar arguments for higher wages: fairness, equality of opportunity, ensuring Americans can provide for their families. The argument here is that higher wages can stoke the sputtering engine of economic growth.

► From the NY Times — Biden’s expected economic team emphasizes focus on worker empowerment — President-elect Joe Biden is expected to officially name top members of his economic team this week, showcasing his commitment to diversity and placing several women in top economic roles. With the picks, Biden is sending a clear message that economic policymaking in his administration will be shaped by liberal thinkers with a strong focus on worker empowerment as a tool for economic growth.

► From Politico — Biden announces all-female White House communications team — The president-elect is appointing a team of veteran communicators who served in his campaign and in the Obama-Biden White House.




► From CNBC — Profits are ‘soaring’ for large retailers—but frontline workers are barely earning more — The Brookings Institute analyzed the earnings and compensation of frontline employees at 13 of the biggest retailers in the U.S. between March 13 and November 19 of this year. While the companies in the report made an average of 39% more in profit this year compared to 2019, pay for their essential workers increased by just 10% on average, or $1.11 per hour, over the course of the pandemic. And while some of these companies continue to make record profits, it has been over 130 days, on average, since many frontline workers have received any hazard pay at all, Brookings reports.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Get paid. Get a union! 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 Vox — The death of the department store and the American middle class — Across the U.S., department stores are shrinking or shuttering altogether. In 2011, U.S. department stores employed an estimated 1.2 million employees across 8,600 stores. But in 2020, there are now fewer than 700,000 employees in the sector, working across just over 6,000 locations. The contraction is upending local labor markets and the communities they called home. And rock bottom is not even here yet. More than half of all mall-based department stores will close by the end of 2021, according to estimates by Green Street Advisors. And that will have a massive impact on malls; as of January, department stores accounted for nearly one out of every three square feet in malls.

► From the NY Times — Food delivery apps are booming. Their workers are often struggling. — While delivery drivers have been essential to feeding New Yorkers and keeping them safe, their working conditions, already precarious before the pandemic, have gotten worse. Even as the food delivery companies have seen sales surge, the workers’ pay has remained erratic. Some workers also complain that many restaurants deny them the use of their bathroom out of health concerns, forcing them to carry plastic bottles.





The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.

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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!