The Stand

Grocers sue | Child care crisis | ALEC in Olympia | Been to jail for justice?

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Friday, February 5, 2021

 


COVID-19

 

► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, Feb. 5 — The latest count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 317,878 infections (7-day average of new infections per day: 1,553) and 4,416 deaths (7-day average of deaths per day: 13)

► From the Seattle Times — Employers can require the coronavirus vaccine, but most major Seattle businesses are holding off for now — For office employees and front-line workers, a vaccine requirement could mean safety and peace of mind as the economy starts to return to pre-pandemic levels. But a mandate could also turn off some workers who are skeptical of the vaccine and introduce new headaches as long the vaccine is in short supply. For a middle ground, some businesses are turning to incentives like extra pay to nudge employees to get vaccinated as soon as they’re able.

EDITOR’S NOTE — The WSLC is opposes a vaccine mandate, and instead is encouraging all frontline workers and union members to make an informed decision to get vaccinated. Learn more at the WSLC’s COVID Caccination Resource for Union Members.

► From the Washington Post — U.S. COVID deaths top 454,000 ahead of Super Bowl

► From the NY Times — The NFL had over 700 coronavirus positives. The Seahawks had none. — The only team to play the entire season without any confirmed positive cases did so with innovative thinking, vigilance to protocols and some Pete Carroll-style competition.

EDITOR’S NOTE — The WSLC is proud to count the Seattle Seahawks players’ union among its affiliated organizations. Go Hawks!

 


LOCAL

 

► From the AP — Grocery industry suing Seattle over new hazard-pay law — Two grocery industry trade groups, the Northwest Grocery Association and the Washington Food Industry Association,  have filed a lawsuit against the city of Seattle over its new law mandating $4 an hour pay raises for grocery stores. Seattle’s law passed last week and went into effect Wednesday. A spokesperson for Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said, “We will absolutely defend the City’s right to see essential grocery workers receive the hazard pay they so rightly deserve.”

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 KNKX — Black History Month celebrations include hip-hop, pioneers, painters — Black History Month is being celebrated around the region through a series of programs and events, mostly virtual this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 


THIS WASHINGTON

 

► From the Longview Daily News — Child care system ‘crippled’ by pandemic, needs ‘influx of resources’ to survive; Cowlitz County better than neighbors — Southwest Washington employers racked up $83.5 million in costs in 2019 when employees missed work because they had no child care, according to a report from Washington Communities for Children. Local child care experts say the pandemic has only worsened the child care crisis and serious steps will have to be taken to repair the damage.

EDITOR’S NOTE — The WSLC is urging state lawmakers to make bold, audacious investments in expanding childcare subsidy access, increasing subsidy rates to meet the cost of care, and immediate financial relief so that these essential businesses will survive the pandemic and support our economic recovery. See the WSLC’s one-pager on the issue.

► From the House Democrats — Senn proposes capital gains tax to invest in child care — Rep. Tana Senn (D-Mercer Island) introduced HB 1496 to bolster economic recovery and economic well-being of working families by funding the expansion and affordability of child care through a capital gains tax. Senn’s proposal targets assets that are regularly sold by the ultra-wealthy and includes several exemptions to avoid taxing working families, helping to rebalance Washington’s regressive tax code.

► From the (Everett) Herald — Maintain investment in higher ed and its students (editorial) — This is not to question the commitment of state lawmakers toward education and higher education in particular, but broad calls for funding thoughout the state for legitimately worthy programs and needs may — at a time of reduced revenues because of the pandemic’s economic effects — seem to overwhelm the resources available. A reminder, then, of the return on investment that education provides — in public schools and in higher education — is worth repeating.

► From HuffPost — Major conservative groups are fueling a state-level push to hamper COVID-19 restrictions — Major conservative groups backed by some of the Republican Party’s wealthiest donors appear to be helping fuel a massive GOP state legislative push to limit the emergency executive powers governors across the country have wielded in an effort to combat the nation’s COVID-19 crisis. Many of the bills proceeding in those states and others appear to be based at least partially on model legislation proposed by the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization of thousands of state legislators and deep-pocketed corporate interests that has for years helped push conservative policy priorities on the state level, a HuffPost analysis of the bills found. Republican lawmakers in at least nine states ― Arizona, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia and Washington ― have introduced legislation that appears to be modeled on ALEC’s proposal. In some cases, the legislation uses language that is almost verbatim to ALEC’s model bill.

EDITOR’S NOTE — For months, the right-wing anti-union Freedom Foundation has been actively opposing COVID-19 public safety requirements and providing legal services to employers that defy Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 restrictions. Other corporate-funded think tanks in our state, like the Washington Policy Center, are also actively promoting the passage of ALEC cookie-cutter restrictions on gubernatorial authority.

► From the Tri-City Herald — 4 Republican Washington state senators announce formation of ‘Freedom Caucus’ — Sens. Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale), Mike Padden (R-Spokane), Phil Fortunato (R-Auburn), and Jim McCune (R-Graham) pledge to push back against Democrats’ “radical agenda.”

EDITOR’S NOTE — “You know… right after lunch,” Ericksen added.

► From the Spokesman-Review — Matt Shea, the Redoubt rock star, keeps riling up his followers for ‘total war’ (by Shawn Vestal) — Less than a month after the fatal Capitol takeover by self-described patriots battling supposed tyranny, former Rep. Matt Shea (R-Spokane Valley) stood before an adoring crowd in North Idaho and told them to prepare for “total war.” The rambling visions of massive, global conspiracy Shea shared for more than an hour last weekend at a Boundary County Fairgrounds “Freedom is the Cure” event were in many ways, an energetic recitation of his greatest hits. In the shadow of the Capitol riots, though, all that incendiary talk has taken on a much darker cast, even at its silliest.

 


THAT WASHINGTON

 

► From the AFL-CIO — AFL-CIO calls for urgent passage of landmark worker rights bill — AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka: “After decades of disappointment, it’s time for the party of FDR to finish what he started. If you stand on the side of America’s workers, you won’t just vote for the PRO Act—you’ll sponsor it, you’ll whip for it and you won’t rest until it’s signed into law.”

The Stand (Feb. 4) — WSLC applauds introduction of PRO Act in Congress

► From Roll Call — Labor pick Walsh questioned over energy jobs, wage hike — Senate Republicans challenged Boston Mayor Martin Walsh on the Biden administration’s policies over energy and minimum wage hikes, but they acknowledged at a hearing Thursday that their concerns weren’t enough for him to lose support in his bid to become Labor secretary.

From the Washington Post — As transit agencies ramp up mask enforcement, Congress airs concerns about safety of transportation workers — Biden’s nationwide mask mandate for public transportation took effect late Monday. Transportation experts said the vast majority of transit agencies have mask requirements on paper, but enforcement has been loose to nonexistent, even as the virus has spread and some workers have been attacked for pressing passengers to comply. The House Transportation Committee held a hearing Thursday on renewed efforts to protect transportation workers and passengers from the virus.

► From the Washington Post — Senate vote paves way for passage of Biden’s economic relief planThe Senate approved a budget bill early Friday that paves the way for passage of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, with Vice President Harris casting the tiebreaking vote on the measure that will be key to enacting Biden’s first major legislative initiative. Passage of the budget bill by a 51-to-50 vote came just after 5:30 a.m. Friday, after an all-night Senate session during which senators plowed through dozens of amendments in a chaotic process known as a “vote-a-rama.”

► From the LA Times — Biden sweeps Trump’s rabidly anti-union appointees out of a key federal labor agency (by Michael Hiltzik) — Continuing his considerable effort to strip the government of all vestiges of Trumpism, President Biden on Tuesday swept a clutch of union-busting officials out of a little-known but all-important federal labor relations agency. The agency is the Federal Service Impasses Panel, which rules on disputes over government union contracts when an agency and its union can’t reach agreement. Trump stacked the 10-member panel with professional union-busters and anti-union ideologues, including corporate lawyers and officials from Koch network-funded right-wing organizations. Biden’s action should write finis to an especially noxious period in government labor relations.

The Stand (Feb. 4) — Biden removes all 10 members of powerful federal labor board — All ten of the Trump-appointed members of a powerful federal labor board — including Maxford Nelsen of the Olympia, Wash.-based Freedom Foundation — were removed from their positions this week in a move one union leader said would “restore basic fairness” to contract negotiations between federal government agencies and their employees.

► From Common Dreams — New bill aims to scrap ‘ludicrous’ mandate forcing Postal Service to prefund retiree benefits decades in advance — A bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers introduced legislation this week that would scrap an onerous 2006 mandate requiring the U.S. Postal Service to prefund retiree benefits decades in advance, an obligation that’s been blamed for the beloved mail agency’s financial woes—which Republicans have readily used to justify recent attacks on the institution.

► From The Hill — Minimum wage push sparks Democratic divisions — Senate Democrats are facing internal divisions over efforts to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, which could result in the proposal being watered down or jettisoned from the coronavirus relief bill.

► From The Hill — Sanders defuses late-night fight over $15 minimum wage — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) defused a middle-of-the-night fight over increasing the federal minimum wage, effectively allowing Democrats to sidestep going on the record on the issue for now.

► From The Hill — ICE union contract prompts fear of resistance to Biden — A union contract signed by the Trump administration on its last full day in office could enable Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers to stall President Biden’s vision for a reimagined immigration system. The agreement, signed by acting Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli, forces the administration to get the blessing of the union before enacting any policy changes. Despite all of Trump’s complaints of an active resistance within the federal government, the ICE agreement gives an unusual level of power to a union that twice endorsed him to resist the next administration.

► From the NY Times — House exiles Marjorie Taylor Greene from panels, as Republicans rally around her — Democrats pressed past GOP objections to remove the Georgia freshman from her two committee posts in a vote without precedent in the modern Congress.

EDITOR’S NOTE — All three Washington GOP Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler, Dan Newhouse and Cathy McMorris Rodgers voted to keep this woman, who says school shootings have been staged by government actors and Jewish people fired a Space Laser to start the California wildfires (among other things), on the House Education and Budget committees.

 


NATIONAL

 

► BREAKING from WSJ — Amazon union election to proceed as Labor Board denies delay request — Federal labor authorities rejected Amazon’s request to delay a union election at one of its warehouses in Alabama, clearing the way for thousands of workers to begin casting their votes this month.

► From the Seattle Times — For unions and Amazon, much is riding on vote in Alabama (by Jon Talton) — This could play out several ways. The vote might go against the union. It might win and gain a labor foothold at Amazon. The company might retaliate by closing the warehouse or increasing automation. Or Bezos, who is stepping aside as chief executive but will be executive chairman and continue to own the largest block of shares, could be a grudging corporate statesman. It happened at GM.

EDITOR’S NOTE — It would be illegal for Amazon to close the warehouse in response to a union drive. The fact that they might do it anyway, and consider the subsequent legal costs and potential penalties a worthwhile cost of doing business if it keeps them union-free is what’s wrong with labor law in the United States. Pass the PRO Act!

► From CBS News — Amazon employee advocating for unionization: ‘Amazon doesn’t treat their employees like people’ — Some Amazon employees in Bessemer are advocating for union representation, saying the company treats them like robots with long hours and few breaks. Jennifer Bates works at the Amazon Bessemer Distribution Facility. She said she has expressed her concerns to human resources, but her concerns went ignored. “The voices are speaking out, but we’re not heard,” said Bates. “Amazon doesn’t treat their employees like people… We’re treated like we’re robots. Long hours.”

EDITOR’S NOTE — Want to be treated like a human? Get more information about how you can join together with co-workers and negotiate better working conditions and a fair return for your hard work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!

► From Bloomberg — Alphabet Workers Union alleges contract workers were silenced about pay — Google contract workers were banned from discussing their pay, and one was suspended for her labor activism, according to a complaint from the Alphabet Workers Union. In a Thursday filing with the National Labor Relations Board, the union accused the Google vendor Adecco of violating U.S. labor law by trying to silence employees. Management forbid employees at a data center in South Carolina from discussing their pay, according to the complaint.

The Stand (Jan. 5) — New union at Google invites all Alphabet employees to join

► From NPR — Teachers union leader: Examples of success and trust key to reopening schools — AFT President Randi Weingarten tells NPR’s Morning Edition that for teachers, it’s not a matter of simply preferring to stay home. It’s a safety issue.

► From the AP — Trump, facing expulsion, resigns from Screen Actors Guild — Donald Trump has resigned from the Screen Actors Guild after the union threatened to expel him for his role in the Capitol riot in January. In a letter dated Thursday and addressed to SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris, Trump said he was resigning from the union that he had been a member of since 1989. The guild responded with a short statement: “Thank you.”

► From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — Anne Feeney, folk singer and political activist, dies at 69 — Anne Feeney, the legendary Pittsburgh folk singer-songwriter and self-described rabble-rouser, has died of COVID at age 69. Her daughter, Amy Sue Berlin, shared the news in a Facebook post on Wednesday night: “It is with a very heavy heart that we must announce the passing of our courageous, brilliant, beautiful mother, Anne Feeney. We were very lucky that she fought hard enough to open up her eyes, and give us a couple days to be with her before she finally decided it was time to let go.”

 


T.G.I.F.

 

► As noted above, this week the labor community lost folk singer/songwriter Anne Feeney to COVID-19 at the age of 69. Feeney was an inspiring and entertaining performer who performed regularly in the Pacific Northwest over the years. Here’s part of her memorable performance at the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle. See if you can spot yourself getting sent to jail for justice. R.I.P., Anne.

 


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

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