Friday, May 7, 2021
► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, May 7 — The latest count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 411,075 infections (7-day average of new infections per day: 1,379) and 5,553 deaths.
Never before has the critical role of nurses been so clear. Never before have we been so proud of our profession. To the nurses who have carried us through, thank you and happy National Nurses Month. #ANANursesMonth pic.twitter.com/7c8eiQFg6d
— WSNA (@myWSNA) May 6, 2021
► From the AP — Asian American health workers fight virus and racist attacks — Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have faced a tide of harassment and attacks during the pandemic. But those in health care are feeling the particular, jarring anguish of being racially targeted because of the virus while toiling to keep people from dying of it.
► From the NY Times — Health advocate or Big Brother? Companies weigh requiring vaccines. — It is a delicate decision balancing employee health and personal privacy. Some companies are sidestepping the issue by offering incentives to get shots.
EDITOR’S NOTE — The labor movement doesn’t believe workers should be forced to get vaccinated, but unions are educating members about the vaccines and urging them to do so. Learn more at the WSLC’s Vaccine Information page.
► From The Hill — Battle lines drawn over Biden’s support for vaccine waivers — The pharmaceutical industry and congressional Republicans blasted Biden’s announcement on Wednesday, saying it undermines incentives for American innovation.
TODAY at The Stand — Huge win: Biden backs vaccine patent waiver (by Hillary Haden) — The Biden administration’s support for a TRIPS waiver could help vaccinate the world and end this humanitarian crisis.
► From the NY Times — Our pathetic herd immunity failure (by David Brooks) — Could today’s version of America have been able to win World War II? It hardly seems possible. That victory required national cohesion, voluntary sacrifice for the common good and trust in institutions and each other. America’s response to Covid-19 suggests that we no longer have sufficient quantities of any of those things.
► From the AP — Pierce County Democrats call out inconsistency of Inslee’s 2-week pause — Gov. Jay Inslee is receiving criticism from lawmakers in his own party over his shifting economic reopening plan, with a group of Pierce County Democrats threatening the possibility of a special legislative session following the governor’s recent implementation of a pause that left their county stuck in a phase with tighter COVID-19 restrictions.
► From the News Tribune — He missed more votes than all other Pierce County senators combined, but won’t say why (editorial) — Sen. Jim McCune (R-Graham), had the fifth-most missed votes of Washington’s 49 senators during the recently concluded 2021 session. McCune has been unresponsive to questions about why he was out of action so much in his first session as a senator. McCune’s 29 missed votes dwarfed the total number for Pierce County’s other seven senators (eight missed votes combined)… Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale) who missed substantial time this session while traveling in El Salvador missed 53 Senate roll calls, second only to Sen. Jeff Holy (R-Cheney) who missed 63.
► From the Spokesman-Review — Unwilling to negotiate in public, labor union sues Spokane over new charter rule on bargaining — The largest public employees union in Spokane is suing the city over a new law that requires collective bargaining be conducted in open view. AFSCME Local 270, which represents about 1,000 city employees, filed a lawsuit in Spokane County Superior Court on Monday that claims the charter amendment approved by city voters in 2019 violates state law. The suit asks the court to issue an injunction prohibiting the city from enforcing its charter requirements and declare that it is contrary to state law.
► From the News Tribune — Grocery chain with Tacoma stores makes deal to keep its locations in place for years — A recent sale-leaseback, or “new 25-year leases,” involving nearly 30 Fred Meyer locations was announced this week. The Tacoma stores listed in the deal are at 7520 Pacific Ave. and 4505 S. 19th St. Other Washington state stores include Shoreline, Bellingham, Everett, Lynnwood, Longview, Vancouver, Puyallup and Richland.
► From the PSBJ — Report: Seattle’s hotel industry won’t fully recover until 2024
► From The Nation — Sports unions come together to fight for the PRO Act — The PRO Act has very loud and proud support from another group of “pros,” the major sports unions of the United States: the Major League Baseball Players Association, the NBA Players Association, the NFL Players Association, and the NHL Players Association. Together they released a statement where they said, “Now is the time to overcome decades of increasing obstacles to working people who choose to exercise their right to organize a union and bargain collectively we have all experienced firsthand the benefits a union can bring, and believe all workers should have the same fair chance to work together to improve their pay, benefits and working conditions. We urge passage of the #proacts without further delay.”
► From The Intercept — Opposing PRO Act, Uber and other gig companies spend over $1 million lobbying Congress — After spending a historic sum against similar worker protections in California, gig companies continue to lobby on labor reform in Congress, new disclosures show.
EDITOR’S NOTE — It’s worth noting that the PRO Act does not interfere with these gig companies’ ability to declare each of their employees are “independent contractors” (as California’s law did) in order to avoid paying minimum wage, workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance etc. They can still do that under the PRO Act. The one thing their drivers would get under the PRO Act is the ability to form a union if they choose.
► From The Verge — Google ‘arguably violated’ labor law by illegally firing three workers claims NLRB — The acting head of the NLRB said Google “arguably violated” U.S. labor law by illegally firing three workers in 2019 amid their organizing activities. On Wednesday, the NLRB reversed an earlier decision from the Trump-era NLRB which had dismissed claims from Sophie Waldman, Rebecca Rivers, and Paul Duke that Google had retaliated against them for labor activism.
► From Reuters — Analysis: U.S. Labor Secretary’s next move on gig workers likely to include company probes, experts say — U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh’s move this week to block a rule making it easier to classify gig workers as independent contractors is just a first step in what is likely to be a long battle over how to delineate the rights of America’s growing gig army.
► From the Washington Post — Biden frames infrastructure debate as choice between needed investments and tax breaks for wealthy — Backdropped by a dilapidated bridge that has outlived its expected working life by two decades, President Biden sought to define the debate on his $2 trillion infrastructure plan as a question of priorities: overdue investments that would benefit a wide swath of Americans vs. tax cuts that would help a wealthy few. “In my view, it’s an easy choice between giving tax breaks to corporations and the super wealthy and investing in working families,” Biden said in front of the Calcasieu River Bridge in Lake Charles, La.
► From The Hill — Manchin on collision course with Warren, Sanders — Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is headed for a high-profile battle with the Senate’s leading progressives over whether to expand Medicare eligibility as part of President Biden’s human-focused infrastructure agenda.
► From the Seattle Times — How to help employers and those struggling to get into the workforce (by Rep. Derek Kilmer) — I recently introduced the Long-Term Unemployment Elimination Act… This legislation would provide targeted funding to local communities to help generate work opportunities and get these unemployed Americans back into the workforce. It does this by, among other things, providing support to help people overcome the barriers keeping them out of the workforce in the first place — such as transportation, child care, job readiness training, substance-abuse treatment or assistance finding a permanent job — and training programs that build skills to sustain permanent employment.
► From the Spokesman-Review — Sen. Patty Murray’s decades-long fight to transform U.S. child care system may finally become reality — On April 22, she reintroduced the Child Care for Working Families Act, a bill that would use subsidies to raise child care workers’ pay while ensuring no family earning less than 150% of a state’s median income would spend more than 7% of its income on child care. Lower-income families would pay less or nothing at all.
► From the Washington Post — Economy picked up just 266,000 jobs in April, well below expectations as economy struggles to rebound — A growing fight between the White House and Republicans over workers and incentives has cast a new light on the labor market.
► From Reuters — What’s up with the labor market? Probably won’t know until the fall — As the economy revs up to meet the rapacious demand of tens of millions of newly vaccinated Americans, employers say they can’t fill their yawning need for labor.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This article mentions six possible reasons/factors at play in what appears to be a slow return to the labor market by some Americans. Not listed: Americans have come to realize that pre-pandemic jobs that pay poverty wages are not worth having. Employers may simply have to PAY MORE to find workers now and that’s not happening yet. In a tight labor market, wages are supposed to go UP. So far they haven’t.
► From HuffPost — South Carolina becomes 2nd state to drop federal unemployment benefits — South Carolina will stop federal unemployment benefits at the end of June as Republican Gov. Henry McMaster tries to please businesses that are complaining they can’t find workers. Montana announced it would drop the benefits on Tuesday, and other states are likely to follow.
► From the NY Times — Stefanik resurfaces false election claims as she moves to oust Cheney — Republicans say Liz Cheney, their No. 3, is being targeted because she won’t stay quiet about Donald Trump’s election lies. Her would-be replacement is campaigning on them.
► From The Hill — Lawyer for accused Capitol rioter says client had ‘Foxitis,’ ‘Foxmania’ — “(He) started believing what was being fed to him,” his attorney says.
► BREAKING from Politico — Grand jury indicts 4 ex-cops involved in George Floyd’s death — A federal grand jury has indicted the four former Minneapolis police officers involved in George Floyd’s arrest and death, accusing them of violating the Black man’s constitutional rights as he was restrained face-down on the pavement and gasping for air, according to indictments unsealed Friday.
► From The Hill — 1 in 6 U.S. workers say they keep unwanted jobs for health insurance — One out of every six adult workers said they remained in their unwanted jobs out of fear of losing their health benefits, according to a new survey released Thursday. The survey, conducted by West Health and Gallup, found that 16 percent of adult workers in the U.S. have stayed in jobs that they might have otherwise left because they do not want to lose their employer-sponsored health insurance. Black workers were 50 percent more likely to find themselves in this situation. According to the survey, 21 percent of Black adults are currently in a job they want to leave but won’t out of fear of losing health insurance benefits, compared to 14 percent of White adults.
► From the NY Times — Florida and Texas join the march as Republicans press voting limits — The efforts in two critical battleground states with booming populations and 70 Electoral College votes between them represent the apex of the GOP effort to roll back access to voting.
► From Vice — Amazon drivers are instructed to drive recklessly to meet delivery quotas — Amazon delivery companies around the United States are encouraging reckless and dangerous driving by ordering delivery drivers to shut off an app called Mentor that Amazon uses to monitor drivers’ speed and give them a safety score to prevent accidents. Drivers say they are being ordered to turn the app off by their bosses so that they can speed through their delivery routes in order to hit Amazon’s delivery targets.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Yesterday, Bloomberg reported that Amazon has chosen not to directly employ these drivers, an arrangement that shields it from costs and liabilities the work incurs. But they exert control over them in everything from their tweets, to their body odor, to whether they are unionized. (If the latter, the “independent” delivery company loses the contract. When will the government step in and protect these workers and their communities?
► From HuffPost — United’s catering workers unionized. Now their jobs might be outsourced. — In 2018, United Airlines’ catering workers in five cities voted to unionize by an overwhelming margin. Two and a half years later, they still have not secured a contract, and the airline may outsource their jobs. United has issued a request for bids from contractors interested in taking on the airline’s kitchen work at its hubs in Cleveland, Denver, Houston, Honolulu and Newark.
EDITOR’S NOTE — The PRO Act would stop corporations like United from refusing to negotiate in good faith on a first contract when their employees join together in unions.
► From the Washington Post — The pandemic drove Uber and Lyft drivers away. Many are in no rush to get back. — Drivers said the coronavirus pandemic provided the first glimpse in years at what a life after Uber could look like. For many of them, it was a meaningful reset that gave them a better understanding of the toll the gigs had taken on their bodies, their mental health and their vehicles. It was the push they needed to finally begin their lives after Uber.
► From the Washington Post — Elon Musk is being brought in to save SNL’s sagging ratings. He could sink the show in other ways. — In the days before the Tesla and SpaceX chief executive takes the stage of the landmark NBC show, several cast members have raised objections. Longtime SNL performer Aidy Bryant posted a quote from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to her Instagram page that “the 50 wealthiest people in America today own more wealth than the bottom half of our people. Let me repeat that, because it is almost too absurd to believe: The 50 wealthiest people in this country own more wealth than some 165 MILLION Americans.”
ICYMI… from the NY Daily News — Elon Musk hosting SNL: A very bad joke (by AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Liz Shuler) — 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.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Shuler has challenged Miley Cyrus, this weekend’s SNL musical guest, to show some labor solidarity.
► Point of personal privilege: Four years ago, The Entire Staff of The Stand offered up this TGIF video as we lamented taking our youngest — our beautiful daughter — off to college. This weekend, she is graduating with honors. We couldn’t be more proud of her and her accomplishments. “Just move on up towards your destination. Though you may find, from time to time, complication… Just move on up to a greater day. With just a little faith, if you put your mind to it, you can surely do it.”
She did it. Congratulations, Julia!
(Sorry about the German captions.)
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.