Friday, March 26, 2021
► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, March 26 — The latest count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 358,606 infections (7-day average of new infections per day: 769) and 5,213 deaths.
► From the NY Times — Far-right extremists move from ‘Stop the Steal’ to Stop the Vaccine — Extremist groups are trying to bolster a rash of false and alarmist disinformation about coronavirus vaccines in an effort to try to undermine the government.
The Stand (Jan. 22) — WSLC offers COVID vaccination resource for union members — The WSLC has launched a COVID Vaccination Information resource for unions to protect their members’ interests and for rank-and-file members to get all the facts they need to make an informed choice when they have the opportunity to get vaccinated.
WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH
► From the AFL-CIO — Women’s History Month profiles: Monika Warner — This year, for Women’s History Month, we’re taking a look at a group of leaders who are currently active making women’s history across the labor movement. Check back daily for a new profile and meet some of the people working to improve not only their community, but also to improve conditions for working people across the country. Today’s profile is Monika Warner. Warner is a union leader to her core. At the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS), she works closely with the Washington State Labor Council, the local Pride At Work chapter and other groups. She is a mentor and role model to young women at the Federal Aviation Administration who are starting careers as technicians in an industry that is heavily male-dominated, in order to have them reach their full career potential.
► From KNKX — WA Senate Democrats unveil budget proposal; includes big boost in spending, capital gains tax –A new state capital gains tax. An expanded and fully funded tax credit for lower-income families. Fresh investments in disaster preparation and foundational public health. And significant new spending in early learning and child care. Those are among the elements of a proposed $59.2 billion, two-year budget Washington Senate Democrats unveiled on Thursday. In addition, the proposal would spend approximately $7 billion in one-time federal funds from the recently passed American Rescue Plan. Sen. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Is.), the Senate budget chair, said: “The boost [in spending] right now is because we have the resources to help get people back on their feet, so that’s really what it’s all about.”
Among the top spending items in the Senate budget are:
- $1.7 billion in federal grants to help schools reopen and address student learning loss
- $1 billion in federal funds to expand access to vaccines and continue the pandemic response
- $850 million in federal money for affordable housing and homelessness
- $450 million in state and federal funds to fund the Fair Start for Kids Act aimed at expanding access to affordable early learning and child care
- $300 million for Immigrant Relief Fund payments to individuals
- $268 million to expand and fund, for the first time, the Working Families Tax Credit
- $170 million to expand access to behavioral health services, including through higher Medicaid rates
- $125 million to address wildfire risk
- $100 million to reduce the cost of individual health insurance plans sold on the state’s Health Benefit Exchange
- $26 million to fund a new Office in Internal Investigations to investigate cases of police deadly force
► From the News Tribune — Inslee announces distancing can be 3 feet in schools, aligning with CDC –The governor announced that minimum requirements for distancing between K-12 students in classrooms will narrow from 6 to 3 feet, consistent with federal guidance updated last week. The shift is effective immediately, according to the governor’s office, and comes ahead of deadlines the governor set for next month by which schools must start offering at least some in-person learning along with remote instruction.
► From the AP — Washington state OKs bill to give voting rights to parolees — Washington state lawmakers have voted to automatically restore voting rights to people who have been released from prison after committing felonies, even if they’re still on community supervision. With the support of majority Democrats, the state Senate passed the measure 27-22 Wednesday night, following earlier approval by the House. It now heads to Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, who is expected to sign it. The main sponsor was Rep. Tarra Simmons (D-Bremerton), who was incarcerated herself before being released and becoming a lawyer.
► From Crosscut — Court’s legalization of drug possession has WA lawmakers scrambling — Republicans favor criminalizing drug possession again, but some warn against a return to the “war on drugs.”
► From the Oregonian — Oregon Democrats’ proposal would extend overtime rights to farmworkers; farmers say it would threaten industry — A House bill introduced in January would require employers to pay farmworkers overtime if they work more than 40 hours in a week, the same rights that most non-farm workers in Oregon already enjoy… The origins of the overtime exclusion are also steeped in the racism of the Jim Crow era. In the 1930s, Southern lawmakers agreed to support the progressive federal wage and labor legislation only if agriculture workers, at the time many of whom were Black, were exempt from the requirements. “We can’t continue to ignore this,” said Rep. Andrea Salinas (D-Lake Oswego).
The Stand (March 10) — Washington State Senate approves 40-hour work week for farm workers
► From the Seattle Times — Renewed push in Congress to ensure benefits for sick Hanford workers given faulty respirators — U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Adam Smith of Washington state reintroduced legislation on Thursday to make it easier for workers sickened by exposure to toxins at Hanford and other sites nationwide that bear the environmental legacy of the U.S. nuclear weapons program.
TODAY at The Stand — Murray, Smith fight for Hanford workers
► From The Hill — Social Security gives IRS data to speed delivery of COVID-19 relief checks — “The delays imposed by [SSA] Commissioner [Andrew] Saul defied congressional intent and imposed needless anxiety and pain on taxpayers,” said Democrats in a statement.
► From The Hill — Liberals think Biden just made getting rid of the filibuster easier — Senators who are the most adamant about eliminating the filibuster argue their job just got easier now that the president himself has associated it with the racist and oppressive policies of the Jim Crow South.
► From Politico — Chuck Schumer controls the future of the filibuster. Dems aren’t sure what he’ll do. — Senators are starting a flurry of bipartisan talks. But ultimately it’s Schumer who will have to decide.
EDITOR’S NOTE — In addition to passing the PRO Act, here’s why ending the filibuster is so important…
► From the NY Times — Georgia Republicans pass major law to limit voting amid nationwide push — Georgia Republicans on Thursday passed a sweeping law to restrict voting access in the state, introducing more rigid voter identification requirements for absentee balloting, limiting drop boxes and expanding the Legislature’s power over elections. The legislation, which followed Democratic victories that flipped the state at the presidential and Senate levels, comes amid a national movement among Republican-controlled state legislatures to mount the most extensive contraction of voting access in generations.
► From the AFL-CIO — Labor movement condemns Georgia Republicans’ outrageous voter suppression law — “America’s labor movement will not stand by quietly, and we will continue fighting for a future in which every voter has free and fair access to the ballot,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Working Georgians overcame enormous obstacles to win change in November and again in January. Organizing together, we can overcome this challenge as well.”
The Stand (March 4) — AFL-CIO hails voting rights bill, urges swift Senate action
► From The Hill — Georgia state lawmaker after arrest: ‘We will not live in fear’ — A Democratic Georgia state lawmaker who was arrested on Thursday after knocking on Gov. Brian Kemp’s (R) door during the signing of a controversial voting bill has been released and said “we will not live in fear.”
► From The New Yorker — The Amazon union drive and the changing politics of labor — Most contemporary union drives are ultimately about the past—about the contrast that they draw between the more even prosperity of previous decades and the jarring inequalities of the present. But one that will culminate on Monday, the deadline for nearly six thousand employees of an Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama, to cast ballots on whether to affiliate with the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, is the rare union campaign that is obviously about the future… But the significance of the drive has more to do with the company itself. Amazon is now among the largest private employers in the United States; its founder, Jeff Bezos, is arguably the wealthiest man in modern history. The company has paid every one of its workers fifteen dollars per hour since November, 2018, while also pioneering second-by-second monitoring of its employees. “This isn’t just about wages,” Stuart Appelbaum, the RWDSU’s president, told me, on Monday. It is also about the strenuous pace of work, and the real-time surveillance methods that Amazon has used to monitor employees. Appelbaum said some of the workers that his union has represented have had employers that monitored their locations with GPS chips in their delivery trucks, “but there’s nothing like this, where you’re expected to touch a package every eight seconds.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — You have the power to change your workplace. 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. Corporate executives won’t work without a contract. Why should you?!
► From The Stranger — Amazon just cut off warehouse workers from a companywide directory — Last Thursday, Amazon quietly removed entry-level warehouse workers and contractors from a massive company directory that employees use to communicate, collaborate, and socialize with one another. Amazon’s decision to revoke access to the directory, known as Phonetool, cut off over 500,000 workers from a broad company communication system they’ve enjoyed for years. The abrupt change siloed hourly wage workers and contractors from the rest of Amazon’s worldwide employee-base just days before the workers at the Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama plan to vote on whether to unionize. An employee who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation said the company’s decision to stymie communication now reeks of union-busting.
► From the Seattle Times — Amazon delivery drivers scoff at company’s claim that workers don’t urinate in bottles — On social media and in interviews, drivers delivering Amazon packages said the company’s claim was out of touch with their reality. “I bought a Shewee and peed in bottles,” former Everett driver Sosha Kjolso said in an interview, referring to the funnel-like female urinating device. On exceptionally busy days, she said, “I’ve peed my pants at work.”
► From the Intercept — Documents show Amazon is aware drivers pee in bottles and even defecate en route, despite company denial — If employees actually had to pee in bottles, Amazon said, “nobody would work for us.” That’s a lie.
► From the Verge — Amazon denies stories of workers peeing in bottles, receives a flood of evidence in return — Amazon is trying a new tactic in its endless PR battle against stories of its exhausting and exploitative working conditions: outright denial. It’s not working.
► From The Guardian — Bernie Sanders leads delegation to Alabama to boost Amazon union drive — A steady stream of federal lawmakers have been trickling into Alabama to cheer on workers hoping to unionize at an Amazon Inc warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, cementing the union drive as the highest profile American labor fight in recent memory.
► From The Guardian — ‘They don’t care’: U.S. supermarket chain shutters stores after hazard pay rules — Kroger, the largest supermarket chain in the U.S. which makes hundred of millions of dollars in profits, is shutting down grocery stores and laying off scores of employees in response to local hazard pay rules for essential workers even as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage. Maria Hernandez has worked at Ralphs grocery stores for 25 years before she recently found out her store would be shutting down. She’s worked through the pandemic and caught the coronavirus in May 2020. She still experiences lingering, long-term effects from it, and has dealt with panic attacks and anxiety from the stress and pressures placed on essential workers. “Why are they punishing us?” said Hernandez. “If it weren’t for us they couldn’t run the stores. As a person we have value. As workers we have value. They don’t seem to care about you as a human being. They don’t care.”
The Stand (Feb. 17) — UFCW 21 decries Kroger/QFC’s ‘greed, bullying’ in Seattle
► From Salon — 110 years since the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, its lessons are still unlearned (by Bob Hennelly) — On this day 110 years ago, 146 garment workers, including 123 mostly young immigrant women, died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in lower Manhattan. Many of these women were forced to jumped from several stories to the pavement below because the intensely anti-union sweat shop owners had insisted on keeping exits locked and only one of four elevators were operating… In the years since, the annual commemoration in lower Manhattan of this horrible day has served as a solemn occasion to remember all of the lives of workers lost the previous year as a consequence of corporate greed and of government complicity in the form of lax or non-existent regulation on the commercial interests that rent our politics to this very day.
► From the NY Times — In Suez Canal, stuck ship is a warning about excessive globalization — The shutdown of the vital waterway and its impact on trade underscore the world’s reliance on global supply chains.
► From Reuters — Dominion Voting Systems sues Fox News for $1.6 billion over election claims — It accuses the cable news network of falsely claiming the voting company rigged the 2020 presidential election in order to boost its ratings.
► From Reuters — Conservative news outlets, accused of election falsehoods, now airing disclaimers — In an apparent effort to minimize liability for defamation, Newsmax and some other outlets are relying on prepared disclaimers or additional pre-recorded programming to repudiate pro-Trump conspiracy theories spouted by guests and hosts.
► After a year of this pandemic, more and more of us are getting vaccinated for COVID-19. That’s the good news. The bad news is that infection rates are once again on the rise in the United States and across the world, reversing months of progress. Experts attribute this to more-contagious variants, increasing mobility and declining mask-wearing as states loosen pandemic restrictions. Now is not the time to let up! We all have pandemic fatigue — none more so than our health care workers — but if we want to return to “normal,” we have to maintain our vigilance. Don’t let your guard down. Keep your mask up!
In that spirit, The Entire Staff of The Stand presents our nominee for official theme song of Spring 2021.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.