Wednesday, March 17, 2021
► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, March 17 — The latest count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 351,109 infections (7-day average of new infections per day: 692) and 5,149 deaths.
► From the (Longview) Daily News — Grocery workers, others in congregate settings eligible for COVID-19 vaccines Wednesday — Starting Wednesday, grocery workers, law enforcement, firefighters, public transit and other workers in congregate settings, as well as pregnant people and those with certain disabilities, are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines in Washington. The group joins the nearly 1.7 million healthcare workers, long-term care facility staff and residents, those 65 and older, 50 and older in multigenerational homes, K-12 educators and childcare staff already eligible.
The Stand (March 5) — WSLC thanks Inslee, state DOH for expanding vaccine eligibility — As supplies increase, WSLC continues to press for ALL essential workers to be eligible.
The Stand (March 3) — WSLC: Vaccinate all public-facing workers
► From the Seattle Times — State health officials race to vaccinate farm workers as more front-line employees become eligible — Employers are networking with health care providers to try to quickly reach the workers at the backbone of our food production and distribution system, who are often laboring in remote areas without access to easy transportation.
The workers who become eligible Wednesday have helped feed the nation during a harrowing 12 months when outbreaks sickened and killed some within their ranks. Washington health officials recorded 117 COVID-19 outbreaks in food manufacturing and 159 in agriculture. Staffing shortages also forced slowdowns or temporary shutdowns of processing plants. In early May, Yakima County was one of the nation’s COVID-19 hotspots, with the highest infection rate on the West Coast. Some workers in fruit processing plants walked off the job amid concerns about safety and the lack of hazard pay. The county’s per person infection rate in late May climbed to roughly quadruple the state-wide average, before receding closer to statewide trends.
► From Crosscut — Despite vaccines, WA health care workers struggle with burnout — The emotional and physical toll of fighting COVID on the front lines has implications for all of us.
► From the Columbian — Relay for immigration justice kicks off today in Vancouver — A national campaign urging leaders to create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants will kick off today in Vancouver, with a virtual and in-person rally that will include U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and Vancouver City Councilor Ty Stober. The campaign, called March to Victory: Relay Across America for immigration justice, starts in Vancouver but will continue across 30 states with subsequent rallies through May 1. It’s organized by the national immigrant and refugee advocacy organization OneAmerica Votes. A virtual rally including an appearance from Murray will begin at 5:30 p.m. via Facebook. April Sims from the Washington State Labor Council will serve as emcee. Participants can register here.
► From KUOW — Seattle Schools may reopen March 29 after tentative agreement with teachers union — Seattle Public Schools and its teachers union have reached a tentative agreement to restart in-person classes for pre-K, elementary, and certain special education students. Under the agreement, pre-K and elementary students who receive intensive special education services could come back to school March 29.
► From the Columbian — District Court Judge Zimmerman should resign (editorial) — Recent comments by Clark County District Court Judge Darvin Zimmerman have damaged his credibility as an impartial jurist. They also have besmirched the court and given credence to allegations of systemic racism in the region. For the good of the community, he should resign. Talking about Kevin Peterson Jr., who was shot and killed Oct. 29 by Clark County sheriff’s deputies, Zimmerman was caught on a hot mic referring to “the Black guy they were trying to make an angel out of.” He said he believed Peterson had a death wish and “was so dumb.”
► From Stars and Stripes — Boeing tests Dreamliner cockpit windows as search for flaws widens — Chicago-based Boeing has been testing the cockpit windows in a limited batch of aircraft after learning a supplier modified its production process, two of the people said, asking not to be identified because the matter is sensitive. Boeing wants to ensure the windows still meet its requirements after the change, but the testing isn’t expected to affect March deliveries, one of the people said.
► From KUOW — Olympia bill would remove voting rights barriers for former felons — Here in Washington, people convicted of felonies lose their right to vote, and that right isn’t automatically restored the moment they’re released from prison. First, they have to complete any community supervision that’s required by the court. They also have to be making payments on their financial obligations, like court fees or restitution. Now, state lawmakers are considering a new law that would change all that.
► From Crosscut — Far-right GOP state senators form their own caucus in Olympia — The leaders of the new Freedom Caucus say they just want to make sure their viewpoints are heard, but some Democrats take issue with that name.
EDITOR’S NOTE — As with the far-right “Freedom” Foundation, they don’t support the freedom to join together with co-workers in a union (among other freedoms).
► From The Hill — Amazon union battle comes to Washington — The unionization battle between workers at a Bessemer, Ala., plant and Amazon is set to take center stage during a Senate hearing on wealth inequality Wednesday. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos will notably be absent, even though one of the employees agitating for higher wages and less exhausting work quotas will be present for testimony. “I’m sorry Mr. Bezos won’t join our hearing on income and wealth inequality,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Budget committee. “As the wealthiest person on earth, I’d love to hear his reasoning as to why he is vigorously opposing a union organizing effort at Amazon which would improve wages and benefits for struggling workers.”
► From the NY Times — What Biden and FDR may end up having in common (by Steven Greenhouse) — So far, he appears poised to deliver on his campaign pledge to “be the most pro-union president you’ve ever seen” — the sort of lofty promise made and later broken by recent presidents, Republican and Democratic alike… It could turn on whether he and Senate Democrats eliminate the filibuster.
► From The Hill — Biden says he supports return to ‘talking filibuster’ — Biden said for the first time Tuesday that he supports changing the Senate filibuster rules to bring back the so-called “talking filibuster,” a notable shift after the White House insisted that his preference was to not make changes. “You’ve got to work for the filibuster,” he said. “It is almost getting to the point where democracy is having a hard time functioning.”
► From The Hill — Tensions flare over Senate filibuster — Tensions are reaching a boiling point in the Senate over the fate of the legislative filibuster as Democratic support grows for eliminating the procedural roadblock. Senators traded barbs on Tuesday, foreshadowing the likely political firestorm awaiting Democrats if they decide to move forward with reforming the filibuster — something they don’t yet have the votes to do. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warned that removing the need for 60 votes to advance most legislation would lead to dire consequences.
► And the headline of the day, from TPM — McConnell threatens to grind Senate to halt if Dems don’t let him keep power to grind Senate to halt
EDITOR’S NOTE — And speaking of things McConnell would have filibustered to stop, had he been given the chance…
► From the Washington Post — The IRS has sent out 90 million stimulus payments. Here’s how to check when yours will arrive. — The IRS told financial institutions to expect roughly 90 million direct deposits amounting to $242.2 billion on March 17 in the initial distribution of the American Rescue Plan stimulus payments, according to a banking industry group. Following the deposits, the IRS mailed an additional 150,000 checks amounting to $442 million, with a pay date of March 19.
► From Politico — Democrats treading lightly on Biden’s next big health care promise — Fresh off securing the first big upgrade to Obamacare since its 2010 passage, Democrats are eyeing a much heavier and politically riskier lift: creating a government-run public health insurance option. Yet the obstacles are many: universal opposition from Republican lawmakers, reluctance among centrist Democrats who wield outsized influence, a powerful health industry ready to spend big to block it, and a long list of priorities for a new administration still pouring energy and political capital into ending the pandemic.
► From the AP — Atlanta-area shootings leave 8 dead, many of Asian descent — A series of shootings over nearly an hour at three Atlanta area massage parlors left eight people dead and raised fears that the attack was yet another hate crime against people of Asian descent. Police arrested a 21-year-old Georgia man and said the motive wasn’t immediately known, though many of the victims were women of Asian descent.
► From NBC News — There were 3,800 anti-Asian racist incidents, mostly against women, in past year — New data has revealed over the past year, the number of anti-Asian hate incidents — which can include shunning, slurs and physical attacks — is greater than previously reported. And a disproportionate number of attacks have been directed at women. “There is an intersectional dynamic going on that others may perceive both Asians and women and Asian women as easier targets,” one professor said.
► From the AFL-CIO (March 5) — Labor movement fighting anti-Asian racism in all forms — The continued anti-Asian racism that has skyrocketed during the coronavirus pandemic is a stain on our nation. The labor movement again condemns this vile behavior and will continue to fight these injustices.
► From the Detroit Metro Times — Hundreds of union workers in Detroit lost their jobs even after Delta took billions in federal pandemic aid — Just before Christmas, employees of LSG Sky Chefs, the unionized catering contractor for Delta’s Detroit terminal, were told they were going to soon be out of a job. The airline announced it was switching its longstanding contract with LSG Sky Chefs to a non-union company, the Austria-based DO & CO. The news came as a shock to many of the workers. Delta, like other corporations, received federal coronavirus aid — at least $5.5 billion at the time, and a total of more than $8 billion including Biden’s latest relief package — in part to prevent people from losing their jobs during a pandemic. DO & CO also received at least $11 million in federal funds.
► From the Washington Post — Migrants are not overrunning U.S. border towns, despite the political rhetoric — Many of those who live along the border in Texas say that while there has been a dramatic increase in the number of migrants caught crossing illegally, the border itself has been heavily restricted for nearly a year because of the coronavirus pandemic. “There’s no open borders here,” Hidalgo County (Tex.) Judge Richard Cortez said. “The border is shut down to most everyone.”
► From the NY Times — In a first, Uber agrees to classify British drivers as ‘workers’ — The new legal classification, which follows a U.K. court ruling last month, will entitle the workers to more pay and benefits, but stops short of making them employees.
► From Vice — 8 people describe how unions changed their lives — For a more tangible idea of how an organized workplaces changes not only people’s experiences on the job, but impacts the rest of their lives — both during this pandemic and in general — Vice spoke to eight people about what difference it made for them when they became a part of a union.
Maria de Jesus Valdez, housekeeper, 49, San Antonio, TX — “Especially important to me is that we fought for affordable health insurance. I’m a breast cancer survivor, and the plan we won is more accessible to us. Health insurance is often very expensive, but with the plan we won I could also cover all my kids—and with dental and vision, too. The copays were affordable, like $25 or $40, so I was easily able to pay for all my prescriptions and visits with specialists.”
Priscilla Paras-Huerta, cook, 46, San Francisco, CA — “My union contract gives me a sense of security that I’m always going to be able to provide for my family. Before I started as a union cook at SFO, my husband was working a job where he had to pay a big premium for health insurance, and it didn’t even cover the whole family. Nothing beats having a good job that feels really secure.”
Henry Smith, electrical engineer, 33, Denver, CO — “I went looking for a union job, found one, and reached out to people who worked there and asking them about the culture and the contract. When I got that job, it changed my life significantly. My salary almost doubled. Overtime rules are not only fair, but they also set the tone that the time is yours.”
Kenzo Shibata, teacher, 42, Chicago, IL — “The Chicago teachers union was already unionized when I started teaching in 2003. What led me to become involved was the razing of public housing and the shutting down of neighborhood schools. I wanted my union to fight for our students.”
Donna Kelly-Yu, hospitality worker, 57, Las Vegas, NV — “Having a good contract has helped ensure workers like me, who work in the industry hit hardest during the pandemic, were protected. We kept our health insurance, our job security, and we will be recalled back to work.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — Well? What are you waiting for? Get more information about how you can join together with co-workers and negotiate for better working conditions and a fair return for your hard work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.