Thursday, May 6, 2021
► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, May 6 — The latest count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 409,933 infections (7-day average of new infections per day: 1,410) and 5,539 deaths.
► From the Seattle Times — State remains in 4th COVID wave but new numbers are ‘hopeful,’ officials say — Washington health officials are seeing “hopeful numbers” in COVID-19 case and hospitalization data as the state begins its two-week reopening pause. But they also say that does not negate the fact the state remains in a fourth wave of infection, with a high rate of hospitalizations, often among people younger than those in previous waves… DOH announced a new COVID-19 vaccine hotline, 833-VAX-HELP, which will help residents find and schedule vaccine appointments.
► From the NY Times — ‘Turning the corner’: U.S. COVID outlook reaches most hopeful point yet — Cases and deaths have dipped, and vaccinations make scientists hopeful, even as variants mean the coronavirus is here to stay.
► From the NY Times — Taking ‘extraordinary measures,’ Biden backs suspending patents on vaccines — The Biden administration, siding with some world leaders over the U.S. pharmaceutical industry, came out in favor of waiving intellectual property protections for coronavirus vaccines.
The Stand (March 29) — The vaccine: Fair access or global apartheid? (by Michael Righi)
► From the Seattle Times — Among the first to close and likely last to return, Seattle’s theater stagehand community fears a mental health crisis — The first wave of Washington’s COVID-19 restrictions in 2020 banned gatherings of more than 250 people, putting thousands of stagehands out of work instantly. Thousands more followed days later, when gatherings of more than 50 people were banned. Eventually, live entertainment was prohibited altogether. Now, 14 months later, theater productions and live entertainment remain mostly dormant as the fight to contain the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Some entertainment professionals have managed to hobble along with Zoom performances or other creative options. But stagehands, the invisible artisans and technicians whose behind-the-scenes work manifests itself in the form of onstage pyrotechnics, dreamy lighting, enchanting sets and eerie sound effects, are still out of work, and they don’t see reprieve coming any time soon. “People set down their tools and were sent home,” said Jennifer Bacon, president of IATSE’s Local 15. “They’ve had nothing since that time. They’ve had no work in the industry.”
► From the Seattle Times — SPU should listen and be transparent about LGBTQ policies (editorial) — Two lawsuits may eventually determine whether Seattle Pacific University’s policies illegally discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. But only transparency and open dialogue will heal the rift in the campus community. So far, SPU’s Board of Trustees has done a poor job of leading that crucial conversation.
► From the Spokesman-Review — Downtown stadium approved by Spokane Public Schools board — During a special meeting Wednesday night, the Spokane Public Schools board found more than enough reasons to approve the construction of a new $31 million sports stadium in the downtown area and abandon its plans to build at the current Joe Albi Stadium site in Northwest Spokane. The decision caps almost three years of controversy over where to build the district’s new 5,000-seat stadium.
► From the Seattle Times — As Boeing and airlines contract, Paine Field airport faces churn, yet stays in the black — For the past year, Paine Field airport officials have watched commercial aviation collapse around them. And yet, as Boeing cut work severely and smaller aviation businesses at this key employment center struggled to survive, airport director Arif Ghouse said the county-owned operation fared well.
► From the NW Labor Press — Oregon Institute of Technology faculty win first contract after eight days on strike — Faculty at the Oregon Institute of Technology (OIT) were the last at any Oregon public university to unionize, launching OT-AAUP (Oregon Tech-American Association of University Professors) in 2018. On April 26, they became the first faculty at any Oregon public university to strike. With no union contract 555 days after bargaining began, they struck at OIT’s Klamath Falls, Wilsonville, and Salem campuses. Eight days later, university administrators came to terms Tuesday on a tentative agreement that union negotiators say provides fair wages, reasonable workload, and secure benefits.
EDITOR’S NOTE — It shouldn’t be this hard. Pass the PRO Act!
► From the NW Labor Press — Powell’s workers press for recall — The Powell’s Books union contract offers laid off workers recall rights when jobs reappear, but the CEO says those recall rights have expired.
► From the NW Labor Press — The Stand: boosting labor and labor’s story — There’s almost nothing else like it anywhere in the nation: Five days a week, for free, an email newsletter goes out to anyone who wants it with all the most recent labor news from Washington state and “that Washington.” Known as The Stand, it’s published by the Washington State Labor Council (WSLC), AFL-CIO. On May 1, The Stand marked 10 years of publication.
The Stand (April 30) — The Stand at 10: We need to hear from YOU on how to improve (by David Groves) — Please fill out this quick Reader Survey for The Stand. Tell us what we are doing right and what we are doing wrong. Tell us what you like and what you dislike. Tell us what you want to see covered more, and what do you want covered less. The survey is totally anonymous so you can feel free to be brutally honest in your feedback. Thank you in advance for helping us improve The Stand and make it more useful and effective.
► From the Yakima H-R — State task force will assess causes behind crisis of missing, murdered Indigenous women — A new task force within the Washington attorney general’s office will assess causes behind the high rate of disappearances and murders of Indigenous women. Attorney General Bob Ferguson said his office will lead the 21-member task force. He made the announcement Wednesday in recognition of May 5 as a national day of awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
► Meanwhile, south of the border from the NW Labor Press — Union vote set for Oregon legislative aides — Oregon’s Employment Relations Board will count mail ballots May 28 to determine whether a group of about 180 legislative assistants who work for individual Oregon lawmakers want a union.
► From the Washington Post — Protest by cake: Special deliveries to Sen. Mark R. Warner urge him to back the PRO Act — Rain or shine, there will be cake, and on Wednesday, huddling underneath umbrellas, the group of labor rights activists carried their latest to Sen. Mark R. Warner’s doorstep in Alexandria, Va. It was the kind of white sheet cake typically found at children’s birthday parties — the seventh they have delivered to Warner’s home on consecutive Wednesdays, each made by a union-member baker and decorated with a slogan urging Warner to co-sponsor the Protecting the Right to Organize Act. “Support the president,” the icing said, next to cutout pictures of Joe Biden. And then, partly quoting him: “Send me the PRO Act.” They knocked on Warner’s door three times around 8:15 a.m. No answer. So they set the cake on the doormat, then retreated back across the street with their signs — wondering what it would take to get the three-term Democratic senator to line up behind what they consider the most monumental piece of labor rights legislation in decades.
► From the Washington Post — Federal judge vacates CDC’s nationwide eviction moratorium — A federal judge in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday ruled that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention overstepped its legal authority by issuing a nationwide eviction moratorium, a ruling that could affect millions of struggling Americans. U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich vacated the CDC order, first put in place during the coronavirus pandemic under the Trump administration and now set to expire June 30.
EDITOR’S NOTE — The ruling does not affect the eviction moratorium in Washington state, which was established by the governor, and is currently set to expire on June 30. If you need rent assistance amid the pandemic, see the state Department of Commerce’s rent assistance providers list.
► From HuffPost — Mitch McConnell says he’s ‘100%’ focused on stopping Biden’s administration — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Wednesday that his biggest priority is stopping President Joe Biden’s proposed legislative agenda in Congress. Biden’s multi-trillion proposals face staunch GOP opposition in Congress, partly due to the way they are to be financed: by raising taxes on corporations and wealthy Americans. “I guess the contrast for people to consider is 100% of our focus is on delivering relief for the American people,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
► From the NY Times — In turning on Liz Cheney, GOP bows to Trump’s election lies — House Republicans were lobbying to replace Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who has vocally called out Donald Trump’s lies, with Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who has embraced them.
► From the Washington Post — Liz Cheney told the truth. Republicans must decide whether they value Trump over it. (editorial) — A strong conservative on policy, Cheney faces punishment for refusing to embrace, or at least to accept with silence, the falsehood that the Democrats stole the 2020 presidential election. In a Post op-ed posted Wednesday, Cheney spelled out the stakes for her party:
“The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution. While embracing or ignoring Trump’s statements may seem attractive to some for fundraising and political purposes, that approach will do profound long-term damage to our party and our country.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — It will be interesting to see how Washington’s Republican delegation votes on ousting Cheney. (If their votes are not made public, reporters should seek an answer.) None of the three were among the Sedition Caucus who voted to overturn the election results. But Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-3rd) voted to impeach Trump for inciting the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, earning her a formal censure from her district’s Republicans and multiple GOP challengers who want to primary her. Likewise, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-4th) voted to impeach Trump and now faces intraparty challengers, including failed gubernatorial candidate Loren Culp (who still claims his 545,000-vote loss was the result of widespread voter fraud). Those two may vote to oust Cheney for telling the truth like they once did in order to try to reestablish some cred with the local Trumpers.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-5th) will almost certainly vote to oust Cheney. She held Cheney’s current post as No. 3 Republican — a job reserved for women only — for four terms, but was challenged and criticized by Cheney for not being aggressive enough in delivering the party’s message. McMorris Rodgers subsequently dropped out of the race, but surely hasn’t forgotten that slight. Plus, her strong fealty to Trump may appear insufficient because she changed her mind at the last minute and voted against challenging the election results. McMorris Rodgers is sure to press the eject button on Cheney. But it’ll be fun to hear her “in the name of party unity” excuse for doing so. We communicators love us a good tap dance.
► From the AP — Florida governor signs GOP voting law critics call ‘un-American’ — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a sweeping elections bill into law Thursday that he and other Republicans said would place guardrails against fraud, even as they acknowledged there were no serious signs of voting irregularities last November. Democrats and voter rights advocates said the partisan move will make it harder for some voters to cast ballots.
► From Bloomberg — Amazon work rules govern tweets, body odor of contract drivers — The thousands of people driving those ubiquitous Amazon-branded blue vans aren’t employed by the Seattle leviathan. They work for small, independent businesses with contracts to transport packages for Amazon. But that hasn’t stopped the company from dictating the state of their fingernails—and a whole lot more. “Personal grooming must be maintained at an acceptable level, including but not limited to prevention of unpleasant breath or body odor, modest perfume/cologne, and clean teeth, face/ears, fingernails and hair,” Amazon.com Inc. says in a recent version of its policies governing these small delivery companies, or what the company calls Delivery Service Partners. The document, reviewed by Bloomberg, also requires that drivers refrain from “obscene” social-media posts, undergo training programs approved by Amazon, follow instructions from Amazon’s delivery app and be drug tested whenever Amazon representatives ask.
EDITOR’S NOTE — According to this report, “DSPs are required to have policies on ’employment at-will,’ the discretion of management to fire workers for almost any reason or with no stated reason at all.” Translation: if the drivers unionize, the company loses its contract with Amazon. It’s time for the government to stop ignoring this growing retail monopoly that is actively suppressing Americans’ basic rights. Amazon is the joint employer and must be held accountable.
► From The Hill — Trader Joe’s cuts employee ‘thank you’ bonus after three months — In February, Trader Joe’s upped its “thank you” wages, giving employees an additional $4 an hour. The pay bump came months after the initial hazard pay was introduced at the start of the pandemic. Now, Trader Joe’s is looking to drop the “thank you” pay back down to its initial rate of $2 extra per hour.
► From HuffPost — The solar industry has more union jobs than previously thought — COVID-19 took a toll on solar employment, but compensation is now comparable to other energy industry jobs, according to a new report.
► From the NY Times — Repairing generations of trauma, one lotus flower at a time — Buddhists from many cultures and communities gathered to repair the nation’s racial karma. The ceremony was held at a Los Angeles temple that had recently been vandalized in an arson attack.
► From the NY Daily News — Elon Musk hosting SNL: A very bad joke (by AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Liz Shuler) — Before we even find out if Elon Musk can do comedy, we know this: Letting him host “Saturday Night Live” is a joke. Musk has used his social-media megaphone to spread misinformation about COVID, endanger employees’ health and violate their organizing rights. He’s exactly the kind of union-busting CEO who proves why American workers need the PRO Act, a bill sitting in the Senate that will help us reclaim our power. As the pandemic raged, Musk ignored local health orders, reopened the Tesla facility in Fremont, Calif., and only granted unpaid leave to Tesla employees. When they took it, he fired them anyway — simply for trying to stop the spread and caring for their health. At least 450 Tesla workers were infected. Musk is far from the only boss to endanger his employees, and labor unions are far and away the best way to keep them safe. It is the official way coworkers unite to improve wages and working conditions, win safety protection, fight discrimination and guarantee equal pay. There’s power in numbers; labor unions leverage the collective voice of workers to make life-changing and, as we’ve seen over this past year, life-saving differences in a workplace.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Yesterday, Shuler tweet-challenged this weekend’s SNL musical guest Miley Cyrus to show some labor solidarity. Stay tuned.
Great pic, but @MileyCyrus you’re right—you should probably just show your dad how it’s done.
— Liz Shuler (@lizshuler) May 5, 2021
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.