Thursday, April 29, 2021
► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, April 29 — The latest count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 400,149 infections (7-day average of new infections per day: 1,421) and 5,474 deaths.
► From the AP — Pacific Northwest faces restrictions amid rising virus cases — As COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations rise to alarming levels, Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to order new restrictions next week for several counties, likely including the state’s largest, that would force businesses and churches to reduce their indoor gathering capacity from 50% to 25%. The moves come, ironically, as the supply of vaccines in many places is exceeding demand.
► From the Seattle Times — Unvaccinated people 65 and up hospitalized with COVID nearly 10 times more often, says Washington state — While the data about hospitalization rates among all age groups is not in yet, the numbers show that among those 65 and older, unvaccinated state residents were being hospitalized at 9.7 times the rate of those who had been vaccinated.
► From Crosscut — Facebook group in WA wants to help you get a vaccine appointment — The group’s founders say the real magic is in the 75 trained volunteers who speak more than 15 languages and provide one-on-one help. “Find a COVID shot WA” now has more than 52,000 followers.
► From KNKX — Labor leaders honor fallen workers after a year of devastation due to COVID — The ceremonial ringing of a bell concluded the reading of 119 names during a virtual memorial Wednesday — names of people who left for work one day and never came home. Each year, the state Department of Labor & Industries pays tribute to the workers who died on the job. L&I resumed its Worker Memorial Day tradition despite the pandemic, which forced the closure of the event in 2020. “These people cannot be considered statistics. They matter,” Inslee said. “They went to work to provide for their family or fulfill their passion.”
► From the Seattle Times — Legislature approves $340M for COVID-19 Immigrant Relief Fund, making it one of the country’s largest — Washington’s Immigrant Relief Fund got an enormous boost this week when the Legislature approved $340 million in additional funding. That brings the total allocated so far, first by Gov. Jay Inslee and then by the Legislature, to $467 million — believed to make this the second-largest fund of its kind in the country, behind New York’s. The fund provides payments to immigrants shut out of other forms of pandemic relief, like federal stimulus checks and unemployment insurance, because they are not in the country legally.
The Stand (April 22) — Apply now for Washington COVID-19 Immigrant Relief Fund — Applications are open until May 21, 2021, and funds will be distributed to approved applicants between June 1 and June 15, 2021. Apply at www.ImmigrantReliefWA.org.
► From the Columbian — Overtime for agricultural workers overdue (editorial) — Farm work – disproportionately performed by people of color – is exhausting. Employees don’t have the luxury of heading to the nearest coffee shop during a break, nor do they have the luxury of an air-conditioned office. While the seasonal nature of the industry demands long work days during certain times of year, it is reasonable to expect the workers to be equitably paid for that work… The new law improves equity and working conditions throughout our state, and that is an invaluable benefit.
The Stand (April 10) — House passes overtime pay for farm workers
(March 10) — State Senate approves 40-hour work week for farm workers
► From the Seattle Times — First lawsuit filed against capital-gains tax passed by Washington lawmakers — Washington’s new tax on capital gains above $250,000 isn’t even law yet, but it’s already being challenged in the courts. Supporters and opponents of the tax have long known the policy would become grist for a legal challenge that could potentially go up to the state Supreme Court. That clash kicked off on Wednesday, with the conservative group Freedom Foundation, working in conjunction with a Seattle law firm, filing suit on behalf of seven state residents in Douglas County Superior Court.
EDITOR’S NOTE — The so-called Freedom Foundation, funded by right-wing billionaires and their foundations to oppose and defund unions, has always been about pursuing the legislative and political objectives of the wealthy. Given that the tax on extraordinary capital gains and the Working Families Tax Credit are attempts to rebalance our upside-down tax code, the effect of the Freedom Foundation’s advocacy is to keep taxes high for poor and working-class Washingtonians so they continue paying disproportionately to fund our state government.
► From the Bellingham Herald — Council requires these ‘essential’ workers get pandemic hazard pay in Bellingham — Bellingham City Council has approved a measure that requires businesses give hazard pay of $4 per hour to workers at grocery stores with more than 40 employees. The measure passed on a 5-2 vote Monday, April 26, with council members Gene Knutson and Pinky Vargas dissenting. “We’re very grateful that the council recognized what the front-line workers, what grocery workers have been doing over the past year,” said Marc Auerbach of UFCW 21.
The Stand (April 28) — Bellingham approves hazard pay for city’s grocery workers
► From the PSBJ — Paccar reveals surge in truck orders, profits
► From the Oregonian — TriMet approves new contract with its union workforce after lengthy dispute — TriMet’s board on Wednesday approved a three-year contract with its union workforce (ATU 757), officially ending a stalemate that stretched on for more than a year-and-a-half and spanned a global pandemic, catastrophic wildfires and a massive snowstorm. The arrangement includes raises retroactive to December 2019, a retooled apprenticeship program and tuition assistance for workers to add skills in their trades.
EDITOR’S NOTE — How do raises and tuition assistance sound to you? Get more information about how you can join together with co-workers and negotiate a fair return for your hard work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!
PASS THE PRO ACT
► From The Hill — Biden calls for passage of PRO Act, $15 minimum wage in joint address — The PRO Act, a sweeping pro-union bill, passed the House in March. The legislation, which is the top priority of labor unions, remains stalled in the Senate. President Biden said:
“The American Jobs Plan is a blue-collar blueprint to build America, that’s what it says. And, it recognizes something I’ve always said. The guys and women on Wall Street, Wall Street didn’t build this country. The middle class built this country. And unions build the middle class. And that’s why I’m calling on Congress to pass the Protect the Right to Organize Act, the PRO Act, and send it to my desk to support the right to unionize. By the way, while you’re thinking about sending things to my desk, let’s raise minimum wage to $15.”
► From the AFL-CIO — Trumka: Congress should heed President Biden’s call for action — AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka: “More than any of his recent predecessors, President Biden understands we are at a crossroads. A deadly pandemic has laid bare the systemic inequalities that have prevented too many working families from realizing the American Dream. Any just recovery will require structural changes to our economy, a fundamental strengthening of our democracy and unprecedented federal investments in the communities that have lost the most. That means creating good-paying union jobs to rebuild our country’s capacity to provide for its people—from fixing our roads and modernizing our energy grid to educating our kids and caring for our grandparents. And it means restoring the balance of power in our workplaces by passing the PRO Act.
► From the AFL-CIO — 5 ways the PRO Act will help address systemic racism — The union advantage is greater for Black, Latino, women, immigrant, LGBTQ and other workers who have experienced workplace discrimination.
FROM The Calendar at The Stand — Today at 5 p.m., the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO is hosting a workers’ forum on Why Washington State Needs the PRO Act featuring special messages from Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and workers explaining how the PRO Act will help them exercise their freedom to join together in unions. It will be conducted live via Zoom (register here). It will also appear via Facebook Live on the WSLC’s page.
► From the Washington Post — Biden, in speech to Congress, offers sweeping agenda and touts democracy — President Biden on Wednesday night used his first speech to a joint session of Congress to argue for a dramatic expansion of government services, making a plea for sweeping plans to provide universal preschool, free community college and expanded health care and new tax breaks for families — much of it funded by higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
► From The Hill — Biden makes case for sweeping change
► From Reuters — The four-decade decline in global corporate tax rates
► From the NY Times — Biden, calling for big government, bets on a nation tested by crisis — The president’s speech laying out trillions of dollars in new economic proposals plays to voters’ warm feelings toward federal aid in the coronavirus pandemic.
► From the Washington Post — Biden is going big, and momentum is on his side (by Gary Abernathy) — Conservatives in Congress will pay Reaganesque lip service to worries about the debt and deficit, but they lost their credibility on spending after they partied on with Trump. The United States turned the corner into socialist-style waters when “trillions” became an acceptable term for a single spending package last year, and again this year, and now Biden wants at least two more with the T-word attached.
► From the Washington Post — Democrats seek to push Medicare expansion as part of Biden’s $1.8 trillion families plan, defying White House — Democrats aim to lower the eligibility age for Medicare to either 55 or 60, expand the range of health services the entitlement covers and grant the government new powers to negotiate prescription drug prices. Biden has sought to address the contentious issue separately, but his congressional allies see an opening.
► From Common Dreams — ‘A slap in the face’: Postal union slams DeJoy plan to close mail processing facilities — The 200,000-member American Postal Workers Union reacted with outrage Tuesday to news that USPS management is moving ahead with a plan to consolidate 18 mail processing facilities as part of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s sweeping overhaul of delivery operations. Calling the previous round of processing plant closures “a complete failure,” APWU President Mark Dimondstein vowed that “we will fight back facility-by-facility and community-by-community to save these processing plants.”
► From the Washington Post — FAA agrees to pay $44 million to resolve long-running age discrimination lawsuit — The lawsuit was brought by former employees who alleged that their jobs were outsourced because of their ages. Their lawyers say the settlement is the largest of its kind.
► From the NY Times — Democrats and Republicans can’t agree on anything. They shouldn’t have to. (by Ezra Klein) — Democrats should get rid of the filibuster. But it’s not because I believe Democrats necessarily have the right answers for what ails America. It’s because I believe the right answers are likelier to be found if one party, and then the other, can try its hand at solving America’s problems. Partisan governance gives both parties true input over how America is governed; they just have to win elections. Bipartisan governance, at least with parties this polarized, does the opposite: It deprives both sides of the ability to govern and elections of their consequences.
► From the Washington Post — Deadly air pollutant ‘disproportionately and systematically’ harms Americans of color, study finds — Nearly every source of the nation’s most pervasive and deadly air pollutant disproportionately affects Americans of color, regardless of their state or income level, according to a study published Wednesday. The analysis of fine-particle matter, which includes soot, shows how decisions made decades ago about where to build highways and industrial plants continue to harm the health of Black, Latino and Asian Americans today.
► From the Washington Post — Three men charged with federal hate crimes in fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery — A federal grand jury indicted three White men on hate-crime and attempted kidnapping charges Wednesday in the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man whose fatal shooting last year in coastal Georgia sparked a national outcry.
► From Vice — Amazon launches another union-busting campaign — Amazon has started showing anti-union messaging on TV screens at a Staten Island warehouse after defeating the unionization effort in Bessemer, Alabama.
► From the Washington Post — Federal agents execute search warrant at Giuliani’s home
► From the Washington Post — Giuliani’s long quest to put himself in legal jeopardy appears to have paid off (by Aaron Blake) — Ukraine is hardly the only issue on which Giuliani has flown close to the sun in recent years — and now faces the legal problems that come with it. In some ways, he seemed to have been begging for such scrutiny.
► From the Washington Post — Voter turnout is low on purpose — and it has been for more than a century (by Jon Grinspan) — In the debate over restrictive new voting laws, many have warned about what President Biden called “backsliding into the days of Jim Crow.” But there is a stronger, subtler parallel: the deliberate discouragement of working-class voters, around 1900, by wealthier Americans scared that “hordes of native and foreign barbarians, all armed with the ballot” would replace them at the polls. This nearly forgotten panic caused a century of low turnouts… (The wealthy) finally targeted working-class politics in the Gilded Age, fearful about talk of unions, strikes, maybe even socialism. Though often hailing from old abolitionist families, Northeastern elites began to argue in the 1880s and ’90s that they were the new enslaved people, with an impoverished, immigrant electorate as their masters. The Manhattan economist Simon Sterne complained (ridiculously) that “our better class voters, in our larger cities, are as much disenfranchised … as any plantation negro was anterior to 1860.” So, under the guise of “good government,” reformers targeted the three pillars of working-class democracy: the saloon, the rally and the ballot box.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.