Thursday, February 4, 2021
► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, Feb. 4 — The latest count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 316,294 infections (7-day average of new infections per day: 1,597) and 4,388 deaths (7-day average of deaths per day: 13)
► From the Seattle Times — Shameful vaccine favoritism worsens rollout’s inequities (editorial) — For most eligible Washington residents, securing a COVID-19 vaccination requires a high tolerance for frustration. Vaccine shortages, convoluted websites, short-notice clinic events and waiting lists have all made the process hard to navigate. Except, that is, for privileged insiders extended special access by area medical systems. That even one hospital committed such a glaring ethical lapse is shocking. That three separate Puget Sound providers played vaccine concierge for board members, fundraisers and other favored friends beggars belief… The pandemic has been especially brutal on communities of color. Vaccine rollout should have been laser-focused on correcting this inequity. Yet in 13 of 16 states examined by Kaiser Family Foundation, white people have grabbed a disproportionate share of vaccinations compared to their rate of COVID-19 cases… Providers can make this system work by acting conscientiously. All hospitals should step up to get the greater public immunized on a fair basis. COVID-19 plays no favorites. The vaccination process must be equitable for all.
► From the Spokesman-Review — Spokane hospitals: No VIP vaccine access for donors, volunteers
► LIVE from the Washington Post — U.S. infection rates are dropping; global vaccine trust is on the rise, survey says — A growing number of people around the world say they are willing to get a coronavirus vaccine, according to a survey on global vaccine trust.
► A MUST-READ from the NY Times — A parallel pandemic hits health care workers: trauma and exhaustion — A year into the pandemic, with emergency rooms packed again, vaccines in short supply and more contagious variants of the virus threatening to unleash a fresh wave of infections, the nation’s medical workers are feeling burned out and unappreciated. Over the last year, there have been the psychological trauma of overworked intensive care doctors forced to ration care, the crushing sense of guilt for nurses who unknowingly infected patients or family members, and the struggles of medical personnel who survived Covid-19 but are still hobbled by the fatigue and brain fog that hamper their ability to work. Researchers say the pandemic’s toll on the nation’s health care work force will play out long after the coronavirus is tamed. The impact, for now, can be measured in part by a surge of early retirements and the desperation of community hospitals struggling to hire enough workers to keep their emergency rooms running.
► From the NY Times — Toll worker job losses highlight long-term fallout of pandemic — John Mahalis of Philadelphia was two and a half months from his pension’s vesting when he learned that he would be permanently laid off from his job as a toll collector on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The news was a gut punch; Mahalis said it would leave him less able to financially weather retirement… The United States may be witnessing the bleeding edge of a labor force shuffle that often occurs during recessions: Employers who have been forced to cut workers turn to existing or new technology to carry on with less labor. But this time the shift could be magnified by a wave of forced layoffs at the start of the pandemic and by the fact that demand in some cases came back before employees safely could.
► From KING 5 — Hazard pay kicks in for Seattle grocery workers, Burien eyes similar measure — Many Seattle grocery workers began earning an extra $4 an hour Wednesday as part of a recently passed hazard pay ordinance. UFCW 21, the union representing grocery workers, has been fighting for hazard pay for its members. Seattle City Council voted unanimously in favor of the ordinance during a council meeting on Jan. 25… The union wants the ordinance to expand beyond Seattle and helped introduce legislation in Burien. The Burien City Council discussed moving forward with its own hazard pay ordinance Monday night.
The Stand (Jan. 26) — UFCW 21 celebrates victory on $4/hour hazard pay in Seattle — Help the union fight for grocery workers’ hazard pay in YOUR city!
► From the PSBJ — PCC urges Durkan to reconsider ‘hazard pay’ bill for Seattle grocery workers — Mayor Jenny Durkan on Wednesday signed the “hazard pay” bill, approved by the Seattle City Council last week. The extra pay acknowledges the health risks faced by grocery workers during the pandemic. Suzanne Monford, CEO of Seattle-based PCC Community Markets which employs more than 1,700 people across its 15 locations, emailed Durkan last week asking her to reconsider signing the bill.
► From the Seattle Times — Boeing outsourcing 600 IT jobs to Dell — Starting in late April, Boeing will outsource significant IT work to Dell — including support of cloud services, databases, IT security and end users — in a move that eliminates some 600 jobs. Affected employees, who are mostly nonunion, must either find different work within Boeing, apply to work for Dell, or be laid off.
► From Crosscut — Can Washington lawmakers finally flip the state’s upside-down tax system? (by Katie Wilson) — The Washington State Budget & Policy Center has done the math. Using the Regional Economic Models Inc. model, an industry standard, the center estimated the statewide impact of raising $3 billion annually in new progressive revenue for community investments. This infusion would create nearly 66,000 new jobs next year, over half of them in the private sector. It would boost consumer spending by nearly $4 billion, and state gross domestic product by nearly $6 billion. What if state lawmakers settle for budget cuts instead? That would have the opposite effect, killing jobs, depressing consumer spending and shrinking the economy.
The Stand (Feb. 2) — Support the state wealth tax on billionaires
The Stand (Dec. 14) — We must invest in post-COVID Washington (by Larry Brown)
► From the Columbian — Rep. Sharon Wylie of Vancouver will wait to see on billionaire tax — A bill that would impose a 1 percent tax on Washington residents worth more than $1 billion was introduced in the House Finance Committee this week, to mixed reactions from lawmakers. Rep. Sharon Wylie (D-Vancouver), who serves on the committee, projected tentative support for the idea of a so-called “billionaire tax.” With the bill still in its earliest stages, however, she said she’d wait to see any amendments before announcing how she’ll vote.
► From the (Everett) Herald — Pay freeze for Inslee, lawmakers this year; pay hike in 2022 — A citizen salary-setting panel voted Wednesday to forgo pay hikes this July for the state’s executive, legislative and judicial branches due to continuing economic uncertainty wrought by the pandemic. Then the independent commission approved a 1.75% wage hike effective July 1, 2022, for all positions in the three branches of government.
► From the News Tribune — First bill from state Sen. T’wina Nobles passes unanimously off floor — The first bill sponsored by state Sen. T’wina Nobles (SB 5184) is personal, aimed at supporting children in the foster care system — a system she experienced as a young person. “I want to stand here and say the name of Manny Ellis,” Nobles said following its Senate passage. “And I want to stand here for my four children, and I want to stand here for other youth who are experiencing foster care and moms who are teen moms and single moms and other community members who are experiencing homelessness.”
► From Politico — House votes to speed
stimulus relief passage after Biden meets with Dems — President Joe Biden met with Democrats on Wednesday as the House took its first step toward passing his sprawling $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package through Congress without any Republican help. The lower chamber approved a budget measure in a 218-212 vote, directing a dozen committees to start drafting the pieces of Biden’s bill, including $1,400 stimulus checks, $350 billion in state and local aid and more controversial provisions, like a $15 minimum wage hike.
EDITOR’S NOTE — All seven Democratic members of Washington’s House delegation voted “yes,” while Republican Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse (pictured at right) voted “no” as their party attempts to derail swift passage of Biden’s COVID-19 relief bill.
► From the NY Times — Jim Justice, a GOP governor, on why Biden needs to ‘go big’ on COVID aid — The governor of West Virginia, who supported a bigger relief bill than Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) initially did, spoke with us about government spending, COVID-19 vaccinations and climate policy.
► From HuffPost — Democrats determined to avoid their old mistakes with big COVID-19 stimulus — This time, moderate and progressive lawmakers are largely united around the need to act aggressively and quickly.
► From the Washington Post — Here’s the new Democratic plan for $1,400 stimulus checks — The latest version under discussion would send $1,400 payments to individuals earning under $50,000; and $2,800 to married couples earning under $100,000.
► From Roll Call — Democrats claim gavels as Senate adopts organizing resolution — The Senate broke out of limbo Wednesday, adopting a power-sharing resolution that allows for committees to organize and Democrats to take the gavels after a month of tenuous and divided control.
TODAY at The Stand — Sen. Murray is now Chair of Senate health, education, labor panel
► From The Hill — Biden honors labor ‘giant’ Sweeney — President Biden on Wednesday honored the late John Sweeney, former leader of the AFL-CIO labor union, calling him “a giant of the American labor movement, and a good man.” Sweeney died Monday at the age of 86.
The Stand (Feb. 2) — John Sweeney, former President of the AFL-CIO, dies at 86
► From the Washington Post — Trump spurred major shifts in public opinion on race, policing and protests — toward his opponents (by Radley Balko)
► From The Guardian — Amazon intensifies ‘severe’ effort to discourage first-ever U.S. warehouse union — A push to unionize workers at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama is running into tough opposition as the retail giant, whose profits have boomed during the coronavirus pandemic despite concerns over worker safety, has launched an aggressive anti-union drive. If workers at the BHM1 warehouse in Bessemer, near Birmingham, succeed in their efforts they would form the first union at an Amazon warehouse in the U.S. “When it comes to this union busting, it’s severe. We’ve never seen anything like it on this level,” said Joshua Brewer, an organizer with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Tired of being disrespected? Forced to work in unsafe, unhealthy conditions? Get a union! Learn more information about how you can join together with co-workers and negotiate for better workplace conditions and a fair return for your hard work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!
► From Reuters — Union leaders backing Amazon election in Alabama discuss effort with White House — A White House spokeswoman said President Biden supports union organizing and collective bargaining and has urged employers not to run anti-union campaigns or interfere with organizing and bargaining. He has also called for holding employers accountable and increasing penalties when they do, she added.
► From the Washington Post — Antitrust threats, unionization, workplace unrest all await Amazon’s next CEO — Jeff Bezos’s successor will step into a thicket of issues when he becomes CEO this summer, and Amazon’s foes are already waiting for him.
► From Politico — His polls are sinking. Democrats are mobilizing. The Newsom recall just got real. — The campaign to oust California Gov. Gavin Newsom went from unlikely to unavoidable this week as pervasive frustration with Newsom’s pandemic management cut sharply into his approval numbers.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.