Thursday, January 6, 2022
► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, Jan. 6 — The latest count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 899,036 infections (14-day average of cases per day: 6,389) and 9,909 deaths.
► From the Tri-City Herald — COVID-19 numbers set record Wednesday in Washington — The state Department of Health reported 11,325 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, a record high since the start of the pandemic.
► From the News Tribune — State to expand COVID-19 testing, push vaccination and offer free masks, governor says — Gov. Jay Inslee announced Wednesday that new steps will be taken to help address the surge in statewide Omicron cases. Those steps include expanded testing, mass vaccination and free masks. Inslee’s administration said the Washington state Department of Health acquired 800,000 at-home testing kits this week, with an additional 4.7 million tests expected to arrive next week.
► From the AP — U.S. hospitals seeing different kind of COVID surge this time — This time, they are dealing with serious staff shortages because so many health care workers are getting sick with the fast-spreading variant. People are showing up at emergency rooms in large numbers in hopes of getting tested for COVID-19, putting more strain on the system. And a surprising share of patients — two-thirds in some places — are testing positive while in the hospital for other reasons… Nearly two years into the pandemic, frustration and exhaustion are running high among health care workers.
► From the Washington Post — Record 4,000 children hospitalized amid U.S. Omicron surge — The tally reflects a steep rise in infections in that group. Less than two weeks ago, on Christmas Day, fewer than 2,000 children were in hospitals with COVID. Hospitalizations of adults are also rising rapidly.
► From Safety & Health — Coalition sues OSHA in effort to force permanent standard on COVID-19 for health care workers — The AFL-CIO and National Nurses United are part a coalition of labor unions and organizations that has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Labor and OSHA, petitioning a federal court to direct the agency to issue a permanent standard on COVID-19 focused on health care workers.
► From the AFL-CIO (Dec. 28, 2021) — Health care workers need mandatory OSHA protections from COVID-19 — The AFL-CIO, AFT, AFSCME, UFCW, USW, RWDSU and SEIU “strongly disagree with the Biden administration’s decision to discontinue the enforceable OSHA ETS for health care workers. With the omicron variant surging and no permanent standard in place, our front-line heroes are in grave danger of COVID-19 infection. Workplace COVID-19 outbreaks are exploding; recent data show the number of infections doubled and deaths nearly quadrupled among nursing home workers alone.”
► From Crosscut — Poll says WA economy is top legislative concern for 2022 — For the first time in eight years, the economy tops the list of issues Washington voters want the Legislature to address in 2022, eclipsing homelessness and COVID-19 as the leading concerns statewide, according to a new Crosscut/Elway Poll. The new poll, released Thursday, asked 400 registered voters an open-ended question about what topics state legislators should focus on when they convene for a new session next week. Nearly a third of respondents — 32% — named economic issues as the most important for the Legislature to tackle. Last January, 52% of poll respondents said the Legislature should focus most on responding to the novel coronavirus; that number dropped to 23% this year.
JAN. 6 INSURRECTION
► LIVE from the Washington Post — On Jan. 6 anniversary, Biden calls out Trump for ‘web of lies’ about 2020 election — President Biden on Thursday decried the violent mob of Trump supporters who breached the Capitol a year ago, saying that “democracy was attacked” and urging Americans to ensure such an attack “never, never happens again.” Biden took direct aim at former president Donald Trump, who he said could not accept his loss and “created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election.”
ALSO TODAY at The Stand — ‘Democracy is fragile and must be protected’ — On the anniversary of the violent Jan. 6 insurrection, AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler urges passage of voting rights legislation.
TAKE A STAND — Sign the AFL-CIO pledge to protect voting rights.
► From the Spokesman-Review — A year after Trump supporters stormed U.S. Capitol, Northwest lawmakers reflect deep partisan divide over events of Jan. 6 — While Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash., 5th) said she believes Biden was legitimately elected, she added she still has “concerns about election integrity,” a term Republicans have used to lend credence to Trump’s claim that state-level reforms to make voting easier during the COVID-19 pandemic led to massive voter fraud that tilted the election in favor of Biden. Trump-appointed judges, GOP election officials and numerous audits have found no evidence to support that allegation.
► From the Washington Post — How Republicans became the party of Trump’s election lie after Jan. 6 — As the nation prepares Thursday to mark the anniversary of the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Trump has pushed a majority of his party into a full embrace of his false election fraud charges, while simultaneously leading the ongoing efforts to whitewash the violence carried out that day by a pro-Trump mob. Daniel Ziblatt, a professor at Harvard University and the co-author of “How Democracies Die,” said that many Americans expected Jan. 6 to “be a breaking point, where Republicans would finally have an excuse to separate themselves from Trumpism. But, in fact, what we’ve seen is very much the opposite, in which a lot Republican politicians have begun to think it is in their interest electorally to support the lie.”
► From The Hill — Democratic agenda stuck in limbo — Less than a week into the new election year, Senate Democrats acknowledge their ambitious legislative agenda is in limbo and they don’t see a breakthrough happening anytime soon. Democratic senators say they expect Republicans to once again block voting rights legislation later this month, and predict a vote to change the Senate rules to eliminate the GOP blockade will also fail. And they say there’s no clear path forward on the stalled Build Back Better bill, which needs to be overhauled to secure Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) support, and isn’t expected to come to the floor before March.
► From the Washington Post — Supreme Court is set to review Biden’s vaccine rules for businesses, health-care workers. Here’s what to know. — The Supreme Court on Friday will review two challenges to the administration’s vaccine policies affecting nearly 100 million workers. Most already have made the choice to be vaccinated, but Biden has said the numbers are not good enough. The Supreme Court must decide whether to block the requirements while legal battles continue, or to let them be implemented during that time.
► From the Washington Post — Mounting Omicron infections force businesses to scramble, threatening economic recovery — The Omicron coronavirus variant is slowing the economic recovery, making worker shortages for already-shorthanded employers more severe and leading consumers to pull back from spending on restaurants, hotels and airlines that have been battered by two years of pandemic upheaval.
► From Reuters — Walmart halves paid leave for COVID-positive workers — Walmart Inc. workers in the United States who must isolate or who have tested positive for COVID-19 will receive one week of paid leave instead of two. The retailer, the largest private employer in the United States with about 1.6 million workers, is among the first major retailers to reduce paid leave for COVID-19, and could serve as a bellwether for other major employers.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Reminder: If you have a union contract, your employer can’t arbitrarily slash your wages and benefits. Get more information about how you can join together with co-workers and negotiate for better working conditions and a fair return for your hard work — and get it in writing! Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!
► From NPR — Unionized Starbucks workers walk out in Buffalo, citing safety worries over COVID — Employees of a Starbucks store in upstate New York who voted to unionize last month walked off the job Wednesday, saying they lacked the staff and resources to work safely amid surging COVID-19 cases.
► From The Hill — Chicago schools closed again amid COVID-19 standoff — Chicago schools are closed for a second day on Thursday as the teacher union and city officials are in a standoff regarding COVID-19 safety. Classes were first canceled Wednesday after 73 percent of members in the Chicago Teachers Union voted Tuesday night to switch to remote learning due to the current Omicron surge.
► From Politico — Chicago mayor: Teachers union made us a ‘laughingstock’ — An increasingly toxic relationship between the Chicago Teachers Union and Mayor Lori Lightfoot has been waiting to explode for months — if not years. The Omicron variant turned out to be the spark.
► From KRDO — Possible strike Sunday as negotiations continue between King Soopers and union workers — In Southern Colorado, 95% of Colorado Springs retail workers, and 97% of meat workers voted to strike. King Soopers workers will work through their current UFCW agreement, which ends Saturday, Jan. 8 at 11:59 p.m.
► From Business Insider — Companies still aren’t hiring Black men, despite 10.6 million open jobs in the US. It’s costing the economy $50 billion. — The unemployment rate for Black men remains high: 7.3% in November, compared to 3.4% among white men looking for work, according to Labor Department data. Roughly 697,000 Black men need employment, even as the country recorded 10.6 million vacant jobs in November.
► From The Hill — U.S. air travel hits new low in 2021: Gallup — U.S. air travel hit a new low in 2021, with fewer Americans opting to travel by air, according to a new survey. According to Gallup, fewer than four in 10 adults flew in 2021, a marked shift from pre-COVID-19 years.
► From Sports Illustrated — Solidarity and betrayal: The rise and fall of the Players’ League — If this question seems relevant amid the ongoing lockout—echoing off the walls of a frozen game—a reasonable answer might be in the friction baked into MLB’s last collective bargaining agreement, in 2016. Another reasonable answer might suggest that the groundwork was laid in the agreement before that, in 2011, or two agreements before that, with the modern implementation of the competitive balance tax, in 2002. But if you’re going back two decades … well, you might as well go back all the way. Go closer to the origins of the historically fraught relationship between baseball players and owners. Go past the work stoppages of the last generation, past the fight for the first union in major professional sports and past, oh, another half-century and then some.
Welcome to the late 1880s. The American League did not yet exist. But the National League had been around for a little more than a decade—enough time for labor relations to have grown tense. The players felt that the owners’ vision for the game was fundamentally untenable for them. So they set off on their own. They had an idea for a version of baseball where they would have both a share of the profits and a say in the operations. This was the Players’ League. The name captured the idea—a league by and for the players who made it. It was a radical concept, not just for organized labor in sports, but for organized labor, period.
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