Tuesday, May 4, 2021
► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, May 4 — The latest count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 407,191 infections (7-day average of new infections per day: 1,442) and 5,507 deaths.
► From the Seattle Times — Washington counties find out Tuesday if they’ll move back in the state’s reopening plan — It is expected that a number of counties, including King, could revert to the second phase because of rising case counts and hospitalizations, two of the metrics used to determine a county’s place in the reopening plan. Any changes would take effect Friday.
► From the AP — ‘Horrible’ weeks ahead as India’s virus catastrophe worsens — COVID-19 infections and deaths are mounting with alarming speed in India with no end in sight to the crisis and a top expert warning that the coming weeks in the country of nearly 1.4 billion people will be “horrible.” The country has witnessed scenes of people dying outside overwhelmed hospitals and funeral pyres lighting up the night sky.
► From HuffPost — Majority of House Democrats want Joe Biden to waive COVID-19 vaccine patents — A majority of House Democrats signed a letter to President Joe Biden on Tuesday calling for the White House to temporarily waive patents and other intellectual property protections preventing developing countries from mass-producing COVID-19 vaccines. Biden “has an incredible opportunity” to reverse Trump administration damage, 110 House Democrats told him in the letter.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash., 7th) was the only member of Congress from Washington state who signed the letter.
The Stand (March 29) — The vaccine: Fair access or global apartheid? (by Michael Righi) — Governments put billions into research and demand nothing from hugely profitable companies. These corporations want to be seen as our saviors during this pandemic. But they make billions and keep the patents, which allow them to decide who gets the vaccine and at what price — who lives and who dies. The balance between the power they have and the public good is way off. That has to change! Lives matter more than profit.
► From The Hill — Pressure builds for Biden to back vaccine patent waivers — A group of Democratic lawmakers met with White House officials on Friday to push for the waiver at the WTO, which proponents argue would enable lower-income countries to manufacture the vaccines themselves.
► From the NY Times — Pfizer reaps hundreds of millions in profits from COVID vaccine — The company said its vaccine generated $3.5 billion in revenue in the first three months of this year.
► From the News Tribune — Pierce County Council to consider requiring COVID-19 hazard pay for grocery workers — Grocery store workers in Pierce County cities and the unincorporated area could be in for a $4 per hour pay increase. Pierce County Council is expected to vote Tuesday on a proposal to require hazard pay for grocery store workers. The ordinance would require grocery stores to pay employees the additional $4 per hour to compensate for the health risks of working during the COVID-19 pandemic. Angel Gonzalez, president of the UFCW Local 367, estimated this legislation would impact 10,000 families. “We all know what the risks are. We all know what has been happening at the stores. We really need this to happen for grocery workers in Pierce County,” he said.
The Stand (April 27) — Pierce Council Council considers hazard pay for grocery workers — A council vote is scheduled for Tuesday, May 4 at 3 p.m. Watch it live here.
The Stand (April 28) — Bellingham approves hazard pay for city’s grocery workers
► From the Yakima H-R — Governor signs bill to increase hospital transparency in Washington — The state’s hospitals will be required to be more transparent about their finances under a bill Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law on Monday. Under HB 1272, hospitals will start reporting additional financial and patient demographic information to the state Department of Health, and submit other reports about charity care and emergency aid. Supporters of the bill, including unions and patient advocates, say the legislation will give the public more information about how hospitals are spending their money and how that influences their decisions. Patient advocates say more information is needed to determine whether grants and other funds are being used that positively impact patient outcomes and meet the state’s health care needs.
EDITOR’S NOTE — The WSLC strongly supported HB 1272. Stay tuned for more details in the WSLC’s 2021 Legislative Report and Voting Record to be published in the coming days.
► From the Spokesman-Review — ‘You’re on mute’: How a virtual session changed the dynamic in the 2021 Legislature — After 105 days, dozens of Zoom backgrounds and too many “You’re on mute” utterances to count, the Legislature finished what many are calling a “historic” session. And not one COVID-19 case was noted during the session. It left big wins for Democrats, who came away having passed major climate, police accountability and tax bills that they have been pushing for years. They passed a $59 billion budget and policies they said would help the state recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. How much a mostly remote session had to do with all of that isn’t quite clear, but with a campus closed to the public and only about a dozen lawmakers on the floor at once for debates, the political dynamic was changed.
► From the NW Accountability Institute — “Freedom” Foundation senior fellow, Oregon Rep. Mike Nearman, criminally charged — Embattled Oregon state representative Mike Nearman was criminally charged by the Marion County District Attorney for his actions on Dec. 21, 2020, when he opened the door for violent rioters to attack the Oregon Capitol and State Police. After a four-month investigation by the Oregon State Police, District Attorney Paige Clarkson charged Nearman with first-degree official misconduct and second-degree criminal trespass. His first court hearing is scheduled for May 11. Nearman faces jail time, fines, and possible expulsion from the legislature.
► From the People’s World — Postal workers fight DeJoy plan to close processing centers and eliminate jobs — The 10-year U.S. Postal Service “reform” plan unveiled by Trump-imposed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy includes “the good, the bad, and the ugly” among its elements APWU President Mark Dimondstein says. And right now, he adds, DeJoy is pushing the bad ahead of the good, as the PMG delivered a notice to the nation’s postal unions on April 27 that he intends to close 18 processing centers nationwide, shifting their services elsewhere. The closures, Dimondstein said in a video Q-and-A with APWU members that night, would slow down service and cost postal workers’ jobs. “Fighting the closures is not easy, but it can be done if we mobilize,” he said.
► From Yahoo Sports — 9 U.S. sports unions align against GOP-led voting restrictions — The National Basketball Players Association released a statement on Monday opposing voting restrictions enacted or being debated in state legislatures across the country. The statement titled “Stand for Democracy” was co-signed by unions from eight other U.S. sports leagues. It calls for “every eligible voter” to have “an equal and fair opportunity to cast a ballot.”
► From the NY Times — Schumer readies Plan B to push immigration changes unilaterally — Should bipartisan talks stall, the Senate majority leader is exploring trying to use budget reconciliation to legalize millions of undocumented immigrants.
► From the AFL-CIO — Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, 2021 — This 2021 edition of “Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect” marks the 30th year the AFL-CIO has produced a report on the state of safety and health protections for America’s workers. This report features national and state information on workplace fatalities, injuries, illnesses, the workplace safety inspections, penalties, funding, staffing and public employee coverage under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. It also includes information on the state of mine safety and health and the COVID-19 pandemic.
► From the Washington Post — Grocery workers, already reeling from the pandemic, face new trauma from store shootings — In the six weeks since a gunman killed 10 people — including his manager and two colleagues — at the King Soopers market in Boulder, Joel Loomis has come to avoid crowds and public places. He is sad, angry and anxious, and following months of working the front lines of pandemic, worn out. “A lot of people are quitting, and others are still too shaken up to talk about what happened,” the 21-year-old cashier said. “Wherever I go now, I’m looking at people, thinking, ‘Does he have an assault rifle? Was that a gunshot? How do I escape?’ ”
► From Reuters — Unions push back as U.S. refiners shunt aside longtime trade workers — Operators of U.S. Midwest refiners, including BP, Marathon Petroleum Corp and Cenovus, are hiring lower-cost subcontractors to handle massive, months-long maintenance projects, setting aside longtime unionized workers, six sources familiar with the projects told Reuters. Unions claim that shifting to less-trained workers undermines long-established refinery safety standards, and takes high-paying jobs away from locals who have served the industry for decades. Labor’s efforts are having some success in state legislatures like Ohio and Minnesota, which are considering bills that require certain levels of training that favor unionized workers.
EDITOR’S NOTE — In 2019, Washington lawmakers approved HB 1817, which addressed refinery safety by establishing apprenticeship and wage standards, modeled after a similar California law. “This is truly a win-win-win,” wrote Mark Riker, Executive Secretary of the Washington State Building Trades, in the WSLC’s 2019 Legislative Report. “Workers and the surrounding communities will be safer, the local economy and workers will benefit financially, and the natural environment is preserved.”
► From Reuters — Exxon refinery dispute centers on seniority, pay, demand for vote — Disputes over seniority rights and pay for union workers at Exxon Mobil Corp’’s Beaumont, Texas, refinery led to Saturday’s first lockout at the 118-year-old plant. Workers represented by the United Steelworkers union (USW) walked picket lines for a third day outside the gates of the refinery and its lube oil plant. No talks took place and no proposals were swapped on Monday between two sides.
► From the AP — U.S. trade deficit hits record $74.4 billion in March — The U.S. trade deficit surged to a record $74.4 billion in March as an improving U.S. economy drove purchases of imported foreign goods.
► From the LA Times — Wells dry up, crops imperiled, farm workers in limbo as drought grips San Joaquin Valley
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.