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Healthcare system crumbles | Heroes of rain, snow | Betty was the best

Friday, January 7, 2022




► From the Spokesman-Review — Western Washington hospitals ‘closer than ever’ to crisis standards, as case counts continue to soar in Spokane — Upgrade your mask, wear it properly, avoid in-person gatherings and brace yourself for what could be a few difficult weeks in the state’s health care system. Amid the rising Omicron surge, hospitals in Western Washington are back to canceling elective procedures, diverting staff from other parts of their hospitals, and trying to discharge patients who no longer need hospital care. Case counts and hospitalizations continue to rise in the state.

MORE local Omicron coverage from the (Tacoma) News Tribune, and the union-busting (Vancouver) Columbian.

► From The Atlantic — Omicron isn’t mild for the healthcare system — The new variant is spreading quickly enough to inundate hospitals that were already buckling under the cumulative toll of every previous surge… When a health-care system crumbles, this is what it looks like. Much of what’s wrong happens invisibly. At first, there’s just a lot of waiting. When patients are seen, they might not get the tests they need, because technicians or necessary chemicals are in short supply. Then delay becomes absence. The little acts of compassion that make hospital stays tolerable disappear. Next go the acts of necessity that make stays survivable. Nurses might be so swamped that they can’t check whether a patient has their pain medications or if a ventilator is working correctly. People who would’ve been fine will get sicker. Eventually, people who would have lived will die. This is not conjecture; it is happening now, across the United States. “It’s not a dramatic Armageddon; it happens inch by inch,” said Anand Swaminathan, an emergency physician in New Jersey.

The Stand (Dec. 14, 2021) — Nurses to WA State Legislature: Address hospital staffing crisis — A coalition of healthcare workers launched the WA Safe + Healthy campaign on Monday calling on Washington legislators to pass safe staffing standards that protect healthcare workers from dangerously high patient loads.

► From the USA Today — COVID-19 boosters offer ‘potent’ protection against omicron, study says, recommending Pfizer and Moderna — New evidence underscores the importance of boosters against omicron, with an mRNA vaccine booster offering the best protection against the fast-spreading variant.

► From the Wichita Eagle — Why are vaccinated people catching COVID? It doesn’t mean vaccines aren’t working — Those who are unvaccinated are at the highest risk for catching COVID-19 and having more severe outcomes, experts say, but even the fully vaccinated are susceptible…. The vaccines are best at reducing the seriousness of the illness rather than preventing it from spreading.

► From the Washington Post — White House, USPS finalizing plans to begin shipping coronavirus test kits to U.S. households

► From the AP — In omicron outbreak, U.S. governors lose appetite for mandates — While governors are sending help to hospitals, they are displaying little appetite for widespread public orders or shutdowns. Even Democratic governors who passed strict mandates early on are now relying more on persuasion than dictates. They largely are leaving it up to local officials to make the tough calls on decisions such as whether to limit capacity in restaurants and theaters or keep schools open.

► From The Hill — One airline is cutting flights due to COVID-19 staffing shortages — Alaska Airlines announced the omicron variant had disrupted the company’s operations so much so it decided to reduce departures by about 10 percent through the end of January.

► From the AP — Chicago nixes school for 3rd day as virus, union debate rage — Leaders of the nation’s third-largest school district canceled classes for a third consecutive day as heated negotiations continued with the Chicago Teachers Union over remote learning and other COVID-19 safety measures.




► From the Seattle Times — Torrential rain breaks records across Western Washington

► From the Seattle Times — Pass closures prevent travel between east and west sides of state

► BREAKING from KIRO — Flooding closes 20-mile stretch of I-5 in Lewis County

EDITOR’S NOTE — Meanwhile, much of Eastern Washington faced blizzard conditions Thursday, including in Ellensburg, Moses Lake, Spokane, Tri-Cities, Walla Walla, Wenatchee, and Yakima.

A big THANK YOU to first responders, road crews, power line workers, and all the other public service employees who are working to keep the rest of us safe!


► From the Tri-City Herald — Unions always helping out community (letter by Andy Wellington) — As a retired Teamster Local 839 Union member, in the public sector I like to stay active and involved. We all know Unions promote economic equality and build worker power. But every year at this time, I take a little extra joy and pride in having been a union member, when we discuss all the charitable work and holiday programs our Local (and other unions) do in our community. During the holiday season (and throughout the rest of the year really), the union spirit of helping people often goes unnoticed and unheralded. Often quietly, it’s what our local Teamsters do.

The Stand (Dec. 22, 2021) — Union community service for the holidays




► From the AP — State lawmakers return with money to spend, differing goals — Flush with cash, Washington state lawmakers return to Olympia next week with Democrats and Republicans disagreeing over how to spend the unexpected windfall. A revenue forecast released in November showed projected revenue collections for the 2021-2023 budget cycle are $898 million above what had been originally predicted in September.

EDITOR’S NOTE — The Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO will announce its 2022 Workers’ Recovery Agenda on Monday, the first day of the legislative session. Read all about it Monday at The Stand!

► From Crosscut — Staffing shortages on Washington ferries predate the pandemic — For more than two decades, the state’s ferry system has been chronically underfunded and staffing efforts are lagging. As bad as the geriatric fleet is, the ferry system’s dwindling workforce is its most troubling problem — and one that won’t be fixed easily or quickly. According to the latest figures from Washington State Ferries, 12% of its employees are currently eligible to retire, and within the next five years, 26% will be eligible. This attrition has been exacerbated by a pandemic, which has pushed other staff out the door. And replacing these skilled workers is no fast or simple matter for the ferry system.

► From the (Everett) Herald — Supreme Court won’t take up lawsuits challenging redistricting — The state Supreme Court said Thursday it won’t dive back into the fight over redistricting. In a unanimous vote, justices declined two lawsuits that sought to toss out political maps because state redistricting commissioners negotiated in secret, purportedly in violation of open meeting laws.

► From the (Everett) Herald — Inslee: Officials’ lies about election results should be crime — The governor wants lawmakers to pass legislation making it a gross misdemeanor.




► From the Seattle Times — Boeing keeps giving big money to lawmakers who voted to overturn the election after Amazon, Microsoft stopped — Boeing, after a brief pause, has shown no hesitation in supporting the Republican legislators who voted against certifying the presidential election of Joe Biden. Boeing actually gave more money to Republican candidates who voted to overturn the results than it did to Republican candidates who voted to accept the results of a free and fair election. Boeing declined to comment Thursday.

The Stand (Jan. 6) — ‘Democracy is fragile and must be protected’

► From the PS Business Journal — Analysts: Boeing’s Allegiant deal suggests airline market recovery is underway — An order this week that could include as many as 100 Boeing 737 MAX jets by no-frills carrier Allegiant Air signals a broader airline recovery, analysts suggest. Airlines need jets, and they need them quickly.




► From the Washington Post — Battle over Biden’s vaccine rules for workers arrives at Supreme Court — The Supreme Court convenes in a special session Friday to consider challenges to the Biden administration’s most significant intervention to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus and its public health impacts — vaccine policies that cover about 100 million American workers. The justices will hear hours of arguments over a vaccine-or-test requirement for workers at the country’s largest companies, and a separate vaccine mandate for health-care personnel at facilities that receive federal Medicaid and Medicare funds.

► From the Washington Post — The Supreme Court has strict COVID rules. Will it let OSHA protect other workers? — During much of the pandemic, the nine Supreme Court justices conducted their work via teleconference, safely in their homes. Now, the justices, all of whom are fully vaccinated and boosted, hear oral arguments in person but require participants to follow safety rules that are stricter than the ones they’re considering: All attorneys, vaccinated or not, must take a PCR test at a court-designated facility. Only those attorneys who test negative are permitted in the building, which is otherwise closed to the public, and they are required to wear an N95 or KN95 respirator except when arguing the case, eating or drinking. The OSHA case is fundamentally about the power of the government to protect workers — who, unlike the justices, have no power to create safe working conditions for themselves.

► From Vox — Supreme Court could hand down another major attack on Roe v. Wade any day now — Brnovich v. Isaacson could trigger a flood of decisions reinstating long-dead anti-abortion laws.




► From Around the O (Univ. of Oregon) — A voice for the people — In one sense, Liz Shuler’s journey to the AFL-CIO presidency began at the age of 11. Growing up in Gladstone, Oregon, Shuler and a friend babysat for neighborhood families—until they determined they weren’t being paid the same rate. That realization led to Shuler’s first collective bargaining experience, resulting in equal hourly wages for both sitters. Shuler, BA ’92 (journalism), brings lifelong principles of fairness and equity to her role as president of the AFL-CIO. Elected in August, Shuler oversees the federation’s 57 national and international labor unions representing 12.5 million people. “We use the power of our scale to advocate for a better life for all working people,” Shuler says. “We’re here to make sure people have good, high-quality jobs that can support a family, to help them through their careers, and to retire with dignity.”

► From Vox — Image Comics workers win union election in historic first for comics industry —  After management failed to voluntarily recognize the union, Image workers have won an NLRB election to become the first unionized comics company.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Are you ready for some respect on the job? Get more information about how you can join together with co-workers and negotiate a fair return for your hard work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!

► From — ‘I’m staying to help get the union done’: Bessemer Amazon workers waiting for second vote — Perry Connelly works in outbound stowing at Amazon’s Bessemer fulfillment center. A year ago, before the warehouse became ground zero for a push by organized labor against online retail’s biggest player, Connelly said he was ready to quit. But he decided to stay, and he remains on the job, he said, working toward a day when he and his co-workers will be represented by a union. Without it, Connelly said company will look at its employees as “just another body.”

► From the Denver Post — Union calls for a strike against King Soopers stores in Colorado — UFCW Local 7 is calling for a strike that could start as early as Sunday, a day after its contracts end with stores in the Denver area and Colorado Springs. Union members at nearly 90 stores voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike based on unfair labor practices.

► From Reuters — Apple’s Tim Cook paid over 1,400 times the average worker in 2021 — Apple Inc. boss Tim Cook’s pay in 2021 was 1,447 times that of the average employee at the tech giant, fueled by stock awards that helped him earn a total of nearly $100 million… For Corporate America, CEOs were paid 351 times as much as a typical worker in 2020, a report by the Economic Policy Institute showed.

EDITOR’S NOTE — But we can’t have universal preschool, affordable child care, climate action, lower prescription drug costs, or a Corporate Minimum Tax because of… (wait for it)… inflation.




► On the passing of acting legend and SAG-AFTRA Life Achievement Award winner Betty White, SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said:

“Betty was the best! A kind woman, sensitive to the feelings of all animals. A talented woman blessed with a long life. She enjoyed being recognized by her peers in her lifetime and it was well deserved. In this biz, in this town, to have that kind of longevity in one’s career is rare and wonderful. God bless you Betty, now you’re with all the doggies you loved and lost over the span of your 99 years!”

Here’s the multi-genre band Lake Street Dive celebrating Betty White’s remarkable career and life by performing the Golden Girls theme song written by the late Andrew Gold. Enjoy!


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

CHECK OUT THE UNION DIFFERENCE in Washington: higher wages, affordable health and dental care, job and retirement security.

FIND OUT HOW TO JOIN TOGETHER with your co-workers to negotiate for better wages, benefits, and a voice at work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!