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N95 masks still rationed | Hazard pay movement grows | Pension rescue plan

Tuesday, February 16, 2021




► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, Feb. 16 — The latest count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 328,047 infections (7-day average of new infections per day: 1,175) and 4,675 deaths (7-day average of deaths per day: 13)

► From the Spokesman-Review — Lawmakers from both parties push for teachers to be vaccinated to open schools faster — With the CDC suggesting new guidelines for reopening schools, lawmakers of both parties are calling on the state to revise its vaccine priorities to allow all teachers to be vaccinated.

► From the AP — Vaccine delays leave grocery workers feeling expendable — As panicked Americans cleared supermarkets of toilet paper and food last spring, grocery employees gained recognition as among the most indispensable of the pandemic’s front-line workers. A year later, most of those workers are waiting their turn to receive COVID-19 vaccines, with little clarity about when that might happen.

► From the Seattle Times — Ways to take action, improve equity in vaccine distribution (by Naomi Ishisaka) –What are the best ways to achieve vaccine distribution equity? Luckily, our region’s Black, Indigenous, Pacific Islander and other people of color-led organizations, as well as disability justice leaders, have answers — they just need to be heeded.

► From the AP — Hospitals still ration medical N95 masks as stockpiles swell — While supply and demand issues surrounding N95 respirators are well-documented, until now the reasons for this discrepancy have been unclear. The logistical breakdown is rooted in federal failures over the past year to coordinate supply chains and provide hospitals with clear rules about how to manage their medical equipment. Internal government emails obtained by The Associated Press show there were deliberate decisions to withhold vital information about new mask manufacturers and availability. Exclusive trade data and interviews with manufacturers, hospital procurement officials and frontline medical workers reveal a communication breakdown — not an actual shortage — that is depriving doctors, nurses, paramedics and other people risking exposure to COVID-19 of first-rate protection.




► From the Seattle P-I — New proposal in King County would give grocery store workers $4 per hour in hazard pay — A new proposal introduced in King County would give some grocery store workers in unincorporated areas of the county an extra $4 per hour in hazard pay throughout the coronavirus pandemic. The proposal comes a few weeks after the Seattle City Council passed an ordinance requiring large grocery stores in the city to give workers hazard pay… “I work at the Roxbury Safeway and every day when I go to work I put myself and my family at risk, King County passing a hazard pay ordinance would make sure workers like me receive the same compensation for the essential work that I do as workers in neighboring Burien and Seattle,” said Safeway employee Jeanette Randall, a member of UFCW 21.

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 Spokesman-Review — ‘We’ve got a clock ticking’: Calls for help grow as end to eviction moratorium inches closer — Without a lifeline, thousands of renters in Spokane County could face eviction when the state’s moratorium is lifted, drowning courts with paperwork, disrupting the region’s housing market and placing many people stung by the pandemic economy at risk of homelessness.




► From the Seattle P-I — Washington sees ‘fairly low’ levels of COVID-19 transmission in K-12 schools, report finds — The Washington State Department of Health released a new report showing the number of outbreaks reported in K-12 public and private schools from Aug. 1 through Dec. 31 of last year. “We are seeing fairly low levels of COVID-19 transmission within school settings so far,” said Laura Newman, COVID-19 outbreak response senior epidemiologist. “The majority of COVID-19 outbreaks in schools involve three or fewer cases, and school administrators, teachers, and staff are doing a good job of implementing preventative measures that limit the spread of COVID-19.”

► ICYMI in the Seattle Times — The road to recovery: A healthy, equitable economy starts with investments in transportation (by Larry Brown, Alex Hudson Steve Mullin) — Our coalition — business leaders, labor unions, local governments, and environmental and transit advocates — has worked together for more than 15 years. We know a healthy transportation system is essential to economic activity, jobs and opportunity, healthy communities, equity and quality of life… Washingtonians deserve jobs that allow them to support themselves and their families. They deserve safe and reliable options for getting to and from work, school and recreation. They deserve to live in neighborhoods free from pollution and preventable traffic fatalities. They deserve a chance to get back up and rebuild, together. We look forward to working with legislators to push forward on new transportation investments and build the road to that recovery.

► From KING 5 — KING 5 poll: Majority disapprove of proposed Washington gas tax hike — About 52% of respondents to a KING 5/Survey USA Poll opposed the increase, while just 35% voiced support for it. 12% were undecided.  The funding would pay for road and bridge projects, converting ferries from diesel to electric and work on the court-mandated culvert updates for salmon across the state.




► From HuffPost — Democrats’ coronavirus relief plan could save the pensions of 1 million people — Congressional Democrats are moving a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan through a process known as budget reconciliation, hoping to send it to President Joe Biden’s desk this month. A proposal to shore up troubled multi-employer pension plans and the federal agency that insures them may end up hitching a ride on that package, saving retirees from having their pensions cut. The House is already considering the pension proposal in its version of the relief bill. If the Senate includes the measure and it survives under reconciliation rules, a lot of retirees will be celebrating. “It’s been a long, hard struggle,” said John Murphy, vice president of the Teamsters, a union with one of the most threatened pension funds. “We’re on the 5-yard line, it’s first down and goal, and I like our chances.”

► From the Seattle Times — Lift children out of poverty (editorial) — The American Family Act, co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Medina), would increase the Child Tax Credit to up to $3,600 a year, per child, for children under age 6 and $3,000 for each child aged 6-17. The credit would be refundable, so families would receive the full amount regardless of tax owed. And it would be paid monthly, offering timely financial help with monthly bills like groceries, rent, child care and other expenses. The once-yearly bonus would be transformed into a practical source of funds.

► From the Washington Post — Heartland factories losing ground as Biden readies manufacturing push — As President Biden promises to spur domestic production through a Buy America initiative and massive investments in infrastructure and clean energy, Indiana could struggle to capitalize. Its technology and labor shortcomings illustrate broader concerns about U.S. competitiveness and national security that are drawing attention from lawmakers in both parties.




► From the Washington Post — Pelosi says there will be a 9/11 Commission-style panel to examine Jan. 6 Capitol riot — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday that the House would move to establish an independent commission to investigate what led to a mob storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 — one similar to the body that studied the 9/11 attacks for 15 months before issuing a sweeping 585-page report.

► From the Columbian — How will high-profile role affect future of Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler? — Some rank-and-file Republicans and independents are declaring a renewed surge of support for the GOP congresswoman from Battle Ground, lauding her for her backbone in standing up to her party. But according to the Clark County Republican Party, where murmurs of a right-leaning 2022 primary challenger are already picking up steam, Herrera Beutler’s vote and testimony amounted to political suicide.

► From the Columbian — Herrera Beutler’s principled stand rarity in GOP (editorial) — Local Republican Party leaders should focus their efforts on rebuking those who attempted to overthrow the United States government; they should acknowledge that an endless string of lies about election fraud are a larger threat to our nation than an elected representative who stands up for the truth.

► From the News Tribune — Rep. Herrera Beutler earns all Washingtonians’ respect for role in Trump impeachment (editorial)




► From WBUR — One Amazon warehouse worker in Alabama has ‘no doubt’ her coworkers will vote to unionize — Amazon employees in Alabama began voting this week on whether they want to form the first union of Amazon warehouse workers in the U.S. Past efforts at organizing Amazon warehouse workers have failed, but workers in Bessemer, Alabama, think this time will be different, despite efforts by the company to dissuade them from voting to join the union.

► From Jacobin — At Kroger and Amazon, capital is going on the offensive — Some of the country’s most profitable companies, like Kroger and Amazon, have been escalating their hardball tactics against workers. Flush with cash, they’re more confident than ever — and they’re doing whatever they want.

► From KUOW — What McDonald’s shows about the minimum wage — A new study by economists Orley Ashenfelter and Štěpán Jurajda crunched the numbers to see what happens at McDonalds restaurants when a city or state increases its minimum wage. It found: 1) Self-service touch screens weren’t installed in response to a higher minimum wage, but have generally been phased in nationwide. 2) A substantial fraction of restaurants preserve their pay premiums for workers who were previously earning more than the minimum wage. That is, if a worker was making a dollar more than the old minimum wage level, many McDonald’s will make sure those workers will continue to make a dollar more than the new minimum wage. 3) When the minimum wage goes up, the price of a Big Mac goes up, too. Ashenfelter says the evidence on increased food prices suggests that basically all of the “increase of labor costs gets passed right on to the customers.”


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

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