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Thursday, May 20, 2021




► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, May 20 — The latest count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 424,903 infections (7-day average of new infections per day: 1,096) and 5,673 deaths. Vaccination: 47.21% of Washington residents have received their first dose; 37.54% are fully vaccinated.

► From the PS Business Journal — Boeing lifts outdoor mask requirements for some fully vaccinated staff — Fully vaccinated workers at major Boeing sites across the U.S. will soon no longer be required to wear face coverings or physically distance from colleagues while working outdoors, but not in Washington and Oregon. Fully vaccinated Pacific Northwest Boeing workers must keep wearing masks, even outside, because of state laws, despite updated guidance from the CDC, Boeing told employees.

► From KIRO 7 — Kroger drops mask mandate for the fully vaccinated; rules varying by business — Kroger, which owns QFC and Fred Meyer stores, says it’s following CDC guidance and dropping the mask mandate for its stores starting Thursday.




► From the Spokesman-Review — Spokane MultiCare hospital workers rally as contract negotiations stall — Nurses and other workers at Deaconess and Spokane Valley hospitals held rallies Wednesday after months of negotiating for a new contract with minimal progress. Workers at both MultiCare hospitals say they are advocating for competitive wages to prevent staff from leaving to work at neighboring hospitals, like Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center or Providence Holy Family Hospital. “We are stuck on competitive wages that will retain staff,” said Zach Arnold, a nursing assistant at Deaconess and bargaining member. “We’re losing a lot of staff to other hospitals.”

TODAY at The StandEmployees rally for better care at MultiCare

► From the NW Labor Press — Reporters go union at The Daily News in Longview — Newsroom staff at The Daily News in Longview, Washington voted 6-0 to unionize with NewsGuild-CWA in mail ballots counted May 14. It’s the latest in a wave of unionization at news organizations around the nation. The key issue is stability, says union supporter Katie Fairbanks: The paper’s eight newsroom staff members love their work, but wages of less than $17 an hour make it hard to stick around.

► From KBOO — Stagehands shut out by Portland Trailblazers (labor radio) — Rose Etta Venetucci, Business Representative for the IATSE Local 28, tells the story of stage hands and other entertainment workers in struggle during the pandemic, both with Rip City Management who has shut them out even as games are being played, and with the difficulties of unemployment and isolation from each other.




► From L&I — New L&I agriculture safety team to focus on protecting Washington farm workers — L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health is launching a new safety team known as the Agriculture Compliance Unit. When fully staffed, the team will consist of 16 new positions — 13 of which will focus on improving safety and health by performing agriculture worksite inspections and looking into safety complaints. The other three will provide education and outreach to farm operators and employees.

► From the AP — State creates team on farmworker safety after employers’ violations spike — The agency formed the new team in response to “an unprecedented” 433 agriculture inspections in 2020. Those inspections led to employer citations for more than 500 violations. Worker fatalities in agriculture also increased from 10 in 2019 to 14 in 2020.

► From the Seattle Times — See you in court, governor, over infrastructure vetoes (editorial) — With long-sought climate change bills finally on Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk, he whipped out his veto pen Monday and deleted provisions essential to legislative approval. The action trashed a sensible bargain lawmakers struck to pass the climate bills while upping pressure for long-range upgrades for bridges, transit, ferries and roads — infrastructure Inslee claims to support. Inslee’s decision to shred that shrewd legislative construct diminishes lawmakers’ political motivation to pass a transportation package. It also eviscerates the faith his fellow Democrats had that the governor supported the deal-making that built a coalition to pass his environmental bills.

► From the News Tribune — Inslee’s slice-and-dice vetoes need close scrutiny from Washington Supreme Court — To be clear, there were big achievements worthy of attention this week, from the historic climate and plastic pollution measures Inslee signed into law Monday in King County to the hard-fought police reform package he signed Tuesday in Tacoma. But the uncertainty he set off with his partial vetoes doesn’t inspire celebration. Perhaps a Supreme Court decision upholding the balance of power in our state will.

► From The Hill — Oregon counties vote to secede to Idaho — Voters in five rural Oregon counties approved measures on Tuesday to consider joining the state of Idaho, a part of a long-shot grassroots movement to break with a state dominated by liberal voters west of the Cascade Mountains. “This election proves that rural Oregon wants out of Oregon,” said Mike McCarter, a conservative activist who heads the group.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Meanwhile in Washington, legislative Republicans once again introduced a bill that would have the counties east of the mountains secede from Washington to create a new state of “Liberty.” HB 1239 died without a hearing, but the number of sponsors doubled from the 2019-20 version of the bill. This year, Republican state Reps. Rob Chase, Bob McCaslin, Tom Dent, and Robert Sutherland sponsored the effort.




► From the AP — House backs commission on Jan. 6 riot over GOP objections — The House voted Wednesday to create an independent commission on the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, sending the legislation to an uncertain future in the Senate as Republican leaders work to stop a bipartisan investigation that is opposed by former President Donald Trump. Joining the 35 Republicans in voting in favor of the commission were Washington state’s Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Battle Ground, and Rep. Dan Newhouse of Sunnyside. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane (pictured at left) voted against creating the commission and voted against impeaching Trump for his role in the insurrection.

► From HuffPost — Capitol Police officers: ‘Inconceivable’ to ‘downplay’ Capitol riot — A group of United States Capitol Police officers signaled their “profound disappointment” that Republican congressional leadership has refused to support the proposed bipartisan commission

► From HuffPost — Family of officer who died by suicide after Capitol attack supports Jan. 6 commission — Liebengood’s death “was a direct result of the trauma and strain from the January 6th attack on the Capitol and the around-the-clock shifts in the subsequent days,” his family said.

► From the Washington Post — Once again, Mitch McConnell comes to Trump’s rescue (by Dana Milbank) — McConnell announced on Wednesday, before the House vote, that he would “oppose the House Democrats’ slanted and unbalanced proposal.” For good measure, he accused Democrats of “partisan bad faith.” Thus did McConnell, who as recently as Tuesday pronounced Republicans “undecided” on the commission legislation, parachute in to save Trump, at least for now, from a nonpartisan investigation into his and others’ actions that led to the sacking of the Capitol, five deaths and injuries to some 140 police officers. And McConnell did it with a baldfaced lie.

► A related story from the Washington Post — Inspired by Arizona recount, Trump loyalists push to revisit election results in communities around the country — The ramifications of Trump’s ceaseless attacks on the 2020 election are increasingly visible throughout the country: In emails, phone calls and public meetings, his supporters are questioning how their elections are administered and pressing public officials to revisit the vote count — wrongly insisting that Trump won the presidential race.




► From the NY Times — Senators introduce bipartisan bill to overhaul Postal Service — Legislation to address the Postal Service’s dire finances has languished in Congress for years. But with enough Republican support to pass the Senate, the announcement of the bill, called the Postal Service Reform Act of 2021, is an unexpected indication of bipartisan compromise in a divided Congress. The legislation would eliminate the requirement that the agency pre-fund its health benefits for retirees under a 2006 law and would integrate its health care with Medicare, which the senators and the Postal Service both estimate could save the agency more than $40 billion over the next decade.

EDITOR’S NOTE — The American Postal Workers Union supports the bill: “The bipartisan bill is an important step on the road to saving our public Postal Service. The bill will place USPS on the path toward financial stability by taking the critical step of repealing the unfair prefunding mandate, adding much-needed transparency to the Postal Service, and enacting prospective Medicare integration.” The National Association of Letter Carriers reports that the bill addresses two of NALC’s top priorities: ending the pre-funding mandate and Medicare integration.

► From the Washington Post — As GOP-run states slash jobless aid, the Biden administration finds it has few options — The Biden administration has scrambled to devise a way to keep paying heightened unemployment benefits to an estimated 3.6 million Americans who stand to lose them soon in Republican-led states, but Labor Department officials have come to believe that the law does not allow them to do so.




► From the Washington Post — Body-cam video shows Louisiana troopers stunned, hit and dragged Black man before his death — Body-camera footage — withheld for two years by authorities — captures Ronald Greene wailing and saying, “I’m sorry!” as Louisiana state troopers violently arrest him, deploying what the AP identifies as a stun gun after the Black man appears to raise his hands inside his car. Officers later punch Greene in the face, drag him briefly by his shackled ankles and leave him to moan alone while handcuffed for more than nine minutes, according to the AP.

► From KQED — They work on an app. They deliver groceries. And now they have a union. — Since the coronavirus pandemic began, workers across the grocery delivery business at places like Instacart, Safeway, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s have been trying to unionize to get more protections and benefits. Last month, delivery workers at Imperfect Foods succeeded. The vote was tight: 28 workers in favor, 23 against. The workers are now set to join the UFCW.


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