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Your body, my choice | Mass exodus over mandate? | Protect farm workers, voting rights

Thursday, August 26, 2021




► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, Aug. 26 — The latest count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 542,878 infections (14-day average of cases per day: 3,036) and 6,448 deaths.

► From the Seattle Times — Driven by Delta, COVID cases in Washington continue to rise, especially among the unvaccinated — The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Washington is doubling every 18 to 19 days, state health officials said at a Department of Health briefing Wednesday morning. The vast majority of cases involve unvaccinated patients. More than 94% of COVID-19 patients hospitalized between Feb. 1 and Aug. 3 were not fully vaccinated. The rise in cases is overwhelming hospitals.

► From the Yakima H-R — ‘Dramatic spread’ of COVID-19 in Yakima Valley prompts pleas for vaccinations, masks

► From the Spokesman-Review — ‘Difference between life and death’: COVID surge likely leading to increased mortality as patients wait to be transferred — While no figures exist yet, health officials believe the COVID surge in Washington is likely leading to excess deaths when patients who normally would be able to get care are unable to be transferred to hospitals because there are no beds available. This is due to the more than 1,300 people being hospitalized for COVID-19 in Washington. One patient recently needed to get from a rural hospital in Eastern Washington to a hospital where they could receive more intensive care. After waiting eight hours for an open bed, the patient died.

► From the Washington Post — Hospitalizations hit 100,000 in United States for first time since January — More than 100,000 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States, a level not seen since Jan. 30 — when coronavirus vaccines were not widely available — as the country grapples with the delta variant’s spread.




► From the Bellingham Herald — These Whatcom health care workers are fighting COVID disinformation, stress — “I think this is the biggest challenge that health care has faced in the last 100 years,” said Dr. Sudhakar Karlapudi of St. Joseph Hospital. “It’s being at the front lines for an 18-month period, day and night, seeing your colleagues fall sick and working longer shifts. It’s hard. It is very, very hard, to be a physician right now, a nurse, a CNA, a lab tech, a radiology tech, because we are — everybody is — kind of exhausted,” he said.

► From the (Everett) Herald — Anti-mask protest at hospital was insult to its staff (letter) — Those who work at Providence are overworked, at constant risk of illness themselves, and are there to care for the sickest of sick. You can’t tell me the protesters wouldn’t be begging for care from Providence should they come down with COVID or any other medical need. Perhaps they should move their protest to somewhere more appropriate, say Evergreen Cemetery.

► From the Spokesman-Review — The latest in a trend, Spokane Public Schools’ in-person meeting was canceled over an anti-mask crowd — Promptly at 7 p.m. Wednesday, board President Jerrall Haynes opened the meeting by asking attendees to follow Gov. Jay Inslee’s mask mandate. Several people refused, and seconds later, Haynes hit the gavel again and led other board members and staff out the door. The meeting continued via Zoom.

► From the Tri-City Herald — Franklin Commissioner Clint Didier’s anti-mask stunt was an embarrassing misuse of power (editorial)

► From the Seattle Times — Washington COVID vaccine rule stresses long-term care facilities struggling to keep staff — Amelia Thornton, a traveling certified nursing assistant, got the vaccine, but says some remain hesitant. And she’s heard from a few who say, now that they will be required to be vaccinated, they plan to switch careers. “I honestly wouldn’t blame them, if they are not making significantly more money than you would at a Walmart or something,” said Thornton, who lives in Quincy, Grant County. All Washington long-term care nurses, aides and other employees will be required to be vaccinated by Oct. 18. But as of Aug. 8, just 68% of nursing home workers in the state have been vaccinated, compared with 83% of residents.

► From Crosscut — Unions warn of ‘mass exodus’ over city of Seattle vaccine mandate — The city’s coalition of unions is raising the alarm that the timeline is too tight. Shaun Van Eyk, union representative with PROTEC17, said the mandate caught him and his members by surprise. In recent days, he’s been negotiating with the city, but said the reality of implementing the mandate — tracking compliance, defining exemptions, accounting for those who may have lost their proof of vaccination — is “exceptionally complex.” He adds,  “This whole situation is a little bit of a cart before the horse situation,” he said. “It’s pretty clear to me that there wasn’t a lot of policy or procedural development in advance of that. I think there’s an absolute risk of a mass exodus from the city.”

► From the Seattle Times — Vashon Island fire chief says he won’t get vaccinated, despite being required by state mandate — The Vashon Island Fire and Rescue Board of Commissioners is still figuring out legal details and how the mandate also applies to volunteers and employees, who respond to fire-suppression calls without any patient care.

► From the Oregonian — Oregon says people fired for refusing vaccines generally can’t collect jobless benefits

EDITOR’S NOTE — Washington officials have said the same thing.

► From the Washington Post — ‘I’m still not planning to get it’: FDA approval not swaying some vaccine holdouts — Federal officials have sought for months to persuade holdouts, who are among the roughly 85 million still-unvaccinated eligible Americans — a largely entrenched population despite a range of incentives, political appeals and now mandates to get the shots. But hopes that many of those skeptics would be swayed by vaccine approval appear to have been unrealistic, according to interviews with 16 unvaccinated Americans — including six who said earlier this year that they would be more likely to get vaccinated if the FDA approved the shots.

► From Politico — Delta Air Lines health surcharge for vaccines could cascade across industries — Unvaccinated Delta Air Lines employees will soon be forced to pay an additional $200 per month for the company’s health care plan, making the Georgia-based airline the first such major U.S. company to tie vaccination status to health care costs, a move other industries could soon follow.

► From the LA Times — Delta Air Lines’ raising insurance rates for unvaccinated makes sense — and it’s a scary idea (by David Lazarus) — There’s a cold logic to it: People who are more likely to get sick should pay more for health insurance. But where does this slippery slope take us? Should people with cancer, or a genetic predisposition for cancer, pay more for coverage? How about people with diabetes or heart disease? These can be very expensive ailments. Should drinkers pay more for health insurance than teetotalers? What about the obese and overweight?

► From Politico — Abbott bans vaccine mandates in Texas, regardless of FDA approval status — The executive order comes after the governor, who is recovering from his own case of COVID, touted the vaccine as the reason for his “brief & mild” infection.

► From CBS News…




► From the Tri-City Herald — 4 dead, 3 homes burned in hours-long Tri-Cities rampage by gunman — A Tri-Cities gunman who died in a shootout with police in West Richland is believed to have killed his parents and a neighbor and shot another man during a fiery rampage Wednesday. Investigators suspect he set fire to at least three houses, including his own, and two union halls.

EDITOR’S NOTE — The fires at the IBEW 112 union hall and training center in Kennewick were both put out with minimal damage and no one was injured. More details here.




► From the Yakima H-R — State sues Yakima orchards, claiming they owe workers $450,000 in back wages — The state Attorney General’s Office has filed a lawsuit against two Yakima orchards and the couple who owns them, seeking $450,000 in back wages it says are owed workers. The suit, filed Aug. 18 in Yakima County Superior Court, is based on an L&I investigation. It alleges that G&G Orchards Inc. and RC Orchards LLC, both owned by Rene and Carmen Garcia, underpaid workers by $408,000 for piece-rate work, and failed to pay $42,000 for time workers spent waiting for equipment to be repaired. More than 400 workers were not paid correctly, according to the release.

► MUST-READ from the Seattle Times — It shouldn’t take a 100-degree day to trigger heat protections for farmworkers (editorial) — The state’s emergency heat rules for outdoor workers — which began in July and trigger when the temperature is 100 degrees or higher — require that employers provide shade and paid cooling breaks. Yet organizers and volunteers with the United Farm Workers union found little had changed at the nearly 50 Washington sites they visited that day. That’s unacceptable. Just as Washington depends on its farmworkers to harvest the bounty it shares with the world — blueberries, grapes, cherries, apples — farmworkers must be able to depend on the state to keep them safe. That requires state regulators to develop new, stricter heat standards and improve enforcement. Right now, investigations by the Department of Labor and Industries largely depend on complaints filed by activists and workers, many of whom keep quiet to avoid potential retaliation.

The Stand (July 13) — L&I: Employers must protect workers from heat

The Stand (June 28) — Ask Congress to support heat stress standard




► From the Oregonian — Strike at NE Portland Nabisco bakery spreads to 5 other facilities, gains national attention — A strike that began at the Nabisco bakery in Northeast Portland on Aug. 10 has spread to five other facilities across the United States and gained national attention with both politicians and celebrities voicing support for the workers.

EDITOR’S NOTE — There will be a Solidarity Rally and March in support of striking Nabisco workers on Saturday, Aug. 28 from 10 a.m. to noon at 100 NE Columbia in Portland. Get details.

► From the Washington Post — Nabisco workers on strike in 5 states over pensions, outsourcingNabisco workers in five states are on strike over changes to work schedules and overtime being sought by the maker of Oreos, Ritz Crackers, Chips Ahoy! and other popular snack foods. The walkout began on Aug. 10 at a biscuit bakery in Portland, Ore., and has since swelled to about 1,000 workers in Aurora, Colo., Richmond, Chicago and, as of Monday, a distribution center in Norcross, Ga. They are represented by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM), which earlier this summer was involved in a 19-day strike at a Frito-Lay plant in Kansas. Nabisco’s Chicago-based parent, Mondelez International, continues to produce snacks with nonunion staff even though three of its four U.S. bakeries have been affected by the strike. Unionized workers in all five states are governed by a single contract that expired in May.




► From the (Everett) Herald — Senate Democrats must advance voting rights bills (editorial) — Making sure that ability to vote remains accessible is why recent adoption of two voting rights bills in the U.S. House of Representatives and their hoped-for passage in the Senate are worth attention. The House, on Tuesday, passed the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, a companion to the For the People Act that it passed in March. Both now are waiting for action in the Senate. Both bills passed only on party-line votes in the House, and face greater uncertainty in the Senate, where Democrats hold the slimmest of majorities and passage could easily be prevented by a Republican filibuster. But there may be a way around the filibuster, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, said following the House passage of H.R. 4. “The clock is ticking on voting rights. We need to use every legislative tool, including an exemption to the filibuster, to ensure voting rights protections can be signed into law,” Murray said in a statement Tuesday. Traditionalists in the Senate balk at attempts to maneuver past the filibuster, an invention that has kept the peace in the Senate but also has blocked legislation that a majority otherwise would have adopted. Murray is correct that passage of both pieces of voting rights legislation is too important — to crucial to voter confidence and participation and our representative democracy — to sacrifice to mere tradition.




► From KUOW — More retail workers are quitting than ever, but more stores are opening than expected — When the pandemic struck last year, retail spiraled into upheaval. Since then, it has become a world of seemingly contradictory trends. The industry is hitting many milestones: record numbers of workers quitting and getting hired, wages and prices on the rise. And despite the pandemic devastation, brand-new stores are still opening as shoppers spend more than ever.

► From The Hill — Jobless claims rise slightly with benefits cliff looming — Roughly 12 million people were on some form of jobless aid as of Aug. 7, but that number is set to drop dramatically when pandemic unemployment programs expire on Labor Day.

► From the Seattle Times — Lawyers allied with Trump penalized over Michigan lawsuit





► From Record West Virginia — 100 years later: The Battle of Blair Mountain — A little more than a year after the events of The Battle of Matawan, miners in the coal fields of West Virginia were prepared to improve their condition even if they had to die for it. The Battle of Blair Mountain is the story of the largest labor uprising in American History and how a bunch of coal miners from a diverse background banded together to fight the oppression of corporate America and ensure that American workers of the next generation would no longer endure such unjust conditions.


The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.

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