Thursday, January 28, 2021
► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, Jan. 28 — The latest count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 305,289 infections (7-day average of new infections per day: 1,741) and 4,211 deaths (7-day average of deaths per day: 13)
► From the Seattle Times — Inslee to announce new COVID-19 metrics for some reopening and ‘additional flexibility,’ state senator says — Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig didn’t discuss any of the details, he said Wednesday night, “because I think he’s still working out the final step… But I think for those that are looking for just a little bit more opening, and to do it safely, I think you’ll be glad with what you hear tomorrow.”
► From The Hill — Hospitalizations decreasing as states begin lifting restrictions
► From the Washington Post — Oregon health-care workers were stuck in a snowstorm with expiring vaccines. So, they gave shots to strangers caught in traffic. — The impromptu vaccination session amid a snowstorm is the latest example of health-care workers scrambling to make use of leftover doses during a sometimes chaotic rollout that’s seen around 21.1 million people receive one or both doses of the vaccine in the United States.
► From the NY Times — The new virus strains make the next 6 weeks crucial (by Ezra Klein) — Coronavirus cases are falling. Vaccination numbers are rising. It feels like dawn is breaking. And that is what makes this moment dangerous… The B.1.1.7 variant of coronavirus, first seen in Britain, is here. It appears to be 30 to 70 percent more contagious, and it may be more lethal, too. And there’s evidence of another super-contagious strain developing in California. It will take some weeks or even months for these new strains to become dominant, but virologists tell me there is every reason to believe they will. The results could be catastrophic, with hundreds of thousands dying before vaccinations neutralize the threat… This is the part of the horror film where a happy ending seems in sight, but it is obvious, to those paying attention, that the monster is not dead, and that the worst may be yet to come. We cannot let ourselves be taken by surprise.
► From the Tri-City Herald — ‘Historic election.’ Twin City Foods workers celebrate nearly unanimous Pasco vote — Music blared as Twin City Foods employees celebrated their unionizing efforts at the Pasco plant. More than a dozen soon-to-be members of the United Food and Commercial Workers waived signs near one of the entrances of the plant as they celebrated their nearly unanimous vote to unionize. ”It was a long process, but we’re all good,” said Octavio Zamudio, one of the members of the organizing committee. “It gives us a chance to negotiate a better contract with our employer.” The celebration came after the 126-to-2 vote. The efforts to unionize began last fall as COVID-19 infections spread at the plant, reportedly leading to the death of two workers, according to their fellow employees.
► From L&I — COVID-19 safety violations result in large fine for Yakima area fruit company — Evans Fruit Co., Inc. has been fined more than $150,000 by the state Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) for violating COVID-19 workplace requirements designed to help keep workers safe on the job.The fruit grower and processor was cited this week for two willful serious violations for not following workplace mask and social distancing requirements. It’s the third time in recent months that the company has been cited for COVID safety and health violations.
► From the Spokesman-Review — Triumph Composite Systems closing Airway Heights factory in 2022 — Triumph Composite Systems plans to close its airplane parts factory in Airway Heights during the summer of 2022 amid financial turmoil in the aerospace industry. The closure is expected to affect more than 130 jobs for the company, which builds components for Boeing jets. As recently as 2017, Triumph had employed as many as 600 workers there. Last summer, the company laid off about 22 workers. The union workers at Triumph are represented by IAM District 751, whose president Jon Holden said in a statement he believed Triumph’s closing is the wrong decision:
“While COVID is one of the circumstances that may have led to this decision, unfortunately, Triumph built factories in Mexico where they’ve sent a large portion of the Spokane plant’s work over the last 7-8 years, At the same time, our members worked hard to ensure this factory was profitable.”
The union has received no details about how the reduction in force will take place. IAM District 751 had already secured a Trade Adjustment Assistance Petition, which provides additional training and unemployment resources to all employees who lose their jobs from the closure.
► From the PSBJ — Boeing CEO tantalizes analysts with remarks on plans to compete with new Airbus jet — Asked about Boeing’s lack of a competitive response to the A321 XLR, Boeing CEO David Calhoun replied Boeing faces several near-term challenges, including cleaning up its balance sheet, airplane program problems, and paying down $64 billion in debt. “It is what it is,” Calhoun said, but later added Boeing might be ready to go with a new jet in a year or two, but then said the company would “take its time.”
► From the (Everett) Herald — Slowly and surely, area public schools are reopening — Increasing numbers of elementary students are returning to classrooms around Snohomish County as school districts continue slow and deliberate reopenings. As of Wednesday, 12 of the 15 public school districts serving students in the county had resumed face-to-face teaching in one or more grades, or had a set date to do so… Not every teacher will be returning to a classroom. Some will continue teaching remotely under provisions worked out between the district and the Everett Education Association, which represents teachers. EEA President Jared Kink said that ensures that instructors with a higher risk of contracting the virus will be able to continue working off-site.
► From the Seattle Times — Strengthen school nursing to support COVID-19 recovery and resilience (by Sofia Aragon) — Recent media attention highlights the role of school nurses in developing pandemic-related health and safety plans for school-age children. We hope that this brings attention to the need for a stronger school nurse workforce. School nurses provide a valuable yet complex community health service. Putting a priority on solving the school-nurse shortage is long overdue, and the key to preventing and withstanding a community spread disease like COVID-19 or similar future pandemics.
► From the Seattle Times — Overlake Medical Center donors got special access to COVID-19 vaccine; Inslee rebukes hospital system — “Dear Overlake major donors…” the email read. “We’re pleased to share that we have 500 new open appointments in the Overlake COVID-19 vaccine clinic, beginning this afternoon and tomorrow (Saturday, Jan. 23) and next week.” The email gave the donors an access code to register for appointments “by invite” only. Last week, the public-facing Overlake registration site was fully booked through March. Overlake shut down online access to the invite-only clinic after getting a call from Gov. Jay Inslee’s staff.
► From Crosscut — More help for WA undocumented community could be on the way — Legislators are proposing an additional $70 million in grants for a population disproportionately hit by the pandemic.
► From Crosscut — Posibilidad de ayuda adicional para la comunidad indocumentada
► From the News Tribune — Mass vaccination clinics are for Washington residents and workers only, DOH declares — The upcoming clinics in Ridgefield, Spokane, Kennewick, and Wenatchee have limited spots due to the scarcity of the vaccine, DOH said. Still, DOH urged all eligible state residents to get vaccinated. Citizenship is not required.
► From the Seattle Times — 1 in 5 lobbyists come from state service; now Washington lawmakers may restrict revolving door — As they consider creating a waiting period for high-ranking public servants who want to become lobbyists, Washington lawmakers get to watch Olympia’s revolving door spin right before their eyes.
► From the Spokesman-Review — Ethics complaint against former Rep. Matt Shea dismissed
► From the NY Times — Extremists emboldened by Capitol attack pose rising threat, Homeland Security says — Warning that the deadly rampage of the Capitol this month may not be an isolated episode, the Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday said publicly for the first time that the United States faced a growing threat from “violent domestic extremists” emboldened by the attack. The warning was a notable departure for a DHS accused of being reluctant during the Trump administration to publish intelligence reports or public warnings about the dangers posed by extremists and white supremacist groups.
► From the Washington Post — California man made pipe bombs, plotted attacks on Democrats to keep Trump in power, prosecutors allege
► From the NY Daily News — Another police officer died by suicide after U.S. Capitol riot, police chief says
► From the Washington Post — Republicans back away from confronting Trump and his loyalists after the Capitol insurrection, embracing them instead — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced little more than a week ago that the mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol had been “provoked” by Donald Trump. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Trump “bears responsibility” for failing to respond more quickly to the bloody incursion. But that was then. The nation’s two most powerful elected Republicans have signaled that they are ready to look past questions of responsibility for the violent effort to overturn the result of the presidential election, an attempt that left a Capitol Police officer and four rioters dead, as they maneuver to avoid a divisive battle within the Republican Party and try to position it to reclaim power in 2022.
► From the LA Times — Biden orders sweeping actions to pause energy drilling and fight climate change — Biden announced Wednesday a moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on public lands, one of a slate of executive actions to demonstrate his commitment to fighting climate change, despite opposition from the fossil fuel industry and many Republicans.
► From the AFL-CIO — Family-supporting union jobs a major component of Biden’s climate actions — AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka: “President Biden has been clear in saying he will be the most pro-worker and pro-union president in history. This executive order lays out a worker-friendly, climate-friendly path for his entire administration, and we look forward to working with him to make that vision a reality.”
► From the Hill — Byrd Rule, politics threaten $15 per hour minimum wage — Democrats face a series of steep political and procedural challenges as they plot a path to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour using a budgetary process known as reconciliation that would sidestep the filibuster.
The Stand (Jan. 27) — Murray, Jayapal lead the charge for $15 minimum wage
► From Forbes — Some Biden Administration moves could panic CEOs — Biden asked NLRB General Counsel Peter B. Robb to resign immediately after taking office — ten months before the end of his term. When Robb refused, Biden fired him and deputy general counsel Alice B. Stock. “A union-busting lawyer by trade, Robb mounted an unrelenting attack for more than three years on workers’ right to organize and engage in collective bargaining,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Robb’s removal is the first step toward giving workers a fair shot again, and we look forward to building on this victory by securing a worker-friendly NLRB and passing the PRO Act so all working people have the freedom to form a union.”
► From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — Biden’s ‘Buy American’ provisions could spur factory orders in the Pittsburgh region — Factories in the Pittsburgh region could be poised for more orders from federally funded buyers — from making masks and protective equipment to combat COVID-19 to making steel for roads and bridges — after President Joe Biden moved to strengthen “Buy American” rules on Monday.
► From Politico — Biden weighs putting an end to private immigration detention facilities — The president is considering an executive order to phase out government contracts with private immigrant detention facilities, multiple sources with knowledge of the process say. But he has no immediate plans to issue such an order and the White House would only say that it “will take additional action in the future relating to the detention of undocumented immigrants.”
► From The Hill — Biden to implement special ACA enrollment period amid pandemic — Biden will direct federal agencies on Thursday to open a special enrollment period for Affordable Care Act exchanges in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and review existing policies from the Trump administration that “limit Americans’ access to health care.”
► From Politico — Biden may be stuck with the cronies and allies Trump appointed to government boards — Biden’s team is looking into whether it can replace dozens of Trump’s last-minute appointments to boards and commissions. It won’t be easy.
► From The Guardian — Amazon seeks to block workers from voting by mail in landmark union drive — Amazon is attempting to force workers planning to unionize at an Alabama warehouse to vote in person rather than by mail as it fights off a landmark attempt by its staff to organize. The NLRB has moved to supporting mail-in ballots during the coronavirus pandemic. Between March and November 2020, 90% of union election representation cases presided by the NLRB were conducted by mail rather than in-person. In April 2020, attorneys for the union avoidance law firm Jackson Lewis asserted that “Mail ballot elections favor unions,” citing the decreased ability of employers to dissuade workers from supporting unionization ahead of an election.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Or better still, block the votes entirely…
► From the Seattle Times — Amazon seeks to block shareholder proposals on hate speech, diversity, workplace conditions and surveillance tech — Amazon has asked federal regulators to block a number of shareholder proposals that strike at the heart of many recent criticisms of the Seattle-based commerce behemoth, including its stances on curbing hate speech and offensive content, diversity in hiring, workplace conditions for hourly warehouse employees and its surveillance technologies. If granted, Amazon’s requests would mean shareholders would not have an opportunity to vote on those proposals at the company’s shareholder meeting this year, where they would likely be rejected regardless. Last year, none of a dozen shareholder proposals was approved.
► From the Washington Post — 2020 was the worst year for economic growth since the Second World War — The U.S. economy shrank by 3.5 percent last year as the novel coronavirus upended American business and households. It is the first time the economy has contracted for the year since 2009, when Gross Domestic Product shrank by 2.5 percent during the depths of the Great Recession. It is also the worst year for economic growth since 1946, when the economy shrank by 11.6 percent as the nation demobilized from its wartime footing. The new federal data offers a comprehensive snapshot of a year marred by staggering job losses, waves of small-business closures, and mounting inequality.
► From Vice — Activision is resisting diversity hiring push by America’s unions — This month the AFL-CIO submitted shareholder proposals requesting that gaming industry giants Activision and Electronic Arts implement a “Rooney Rule” in their hiring practices to improve gender and racial diversity in the gaming industry. Lawyers from Activision Blizzard have rejected the proposal that many companies use to diversify their workforces, claiming it is “an unworkable encroachment” on its ability to compete for new talent.
► From the Washington Post — McDonald’s, Subway and other franchises got $15.6 billion in small-business funds — Franchises of Subway, McDonald’s, hotel chains, auto dealerships and other big businesses received a total of $15.6 billion from the government’s emergency coronavirus loan program for small businesses, according to data released by the Small Business Administration in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.