Thursday, January 13, 2022
► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, Jan. 13 — The latest count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 1,009,187 infections (14-day average of cases per day: 11,929) and 10,103 deaths.
► From the Seattle Times — Washington logs 1M coronavirus cases — The number of coronavirus cases in Washington state has surpassed 1 million, with a new surge in cases largely driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
► From The Atlantic — COVID hospitalization numbers are as bad as they look — More Americans are now hospitalized with COVID-19 than at any previous point in the pandemic. The current count — 147,062 — has doubled since Christmas, and is set to rise even more steeply, all while Omicron takes record numbers of health-care workers off the front lines with breakthrough infections. For hospitals, the math of this surge is simple: Fewer staff and more patients mean worse care. Around the United States, people with all kinds of medical emergencies are now waiting hours, if not days, for help.
► From the Seattle Times — For retail workers, Omicron disruptions aren’t just about health — While data shows that people infected with the omicron variant are far less likely to be hospitalized than those with the delta variant, especially if they are vaccinated, many store workers are dealing with a new jump in illness and exposures, grappling with shifting guidelines around isolation and juggling child care. At the same time, retailers are generally not extending hazard pay as they did earlier in the pandemic and have been loath to adopt vaccine or testing mandates.
► From the Seattle Times — Seattle students demand masks and COVID tests, plan sickout as school closures climb — Last-minute closures in Seattle Public Schools this week have prompted students to organize a sickout, threaten a strike, demand improved safety protocols and call for more transparency from the state’s largest school district. They’re not alone. Parents and teachers alike say the district failed to anticipate the need to shift to remote learning as a predictable wave of coronavirus cases caused school cancellations around the region.
► From KIRO — SPS shortens COVID-19 isolation period for staff
► From the AP — Kids’ low COVID-19 vaccination rates called a ‘gut punch’ — Distrust, misinformation and delays because of the holidays and bad weather have combined to produce what authorities say are alarmingly low COVID-19 vaccination rates in U.S. children ages 5 to 11. As of Tuesday, just over 17% were fully vaccinated, more than two months after shots became available to the age group.
► From the Tri-City Herald — Federal judge refuses to overturn Hanford, PNNL COVID vaccine mandate — A lawsuit filed by 292 Tri-Cities area federal and federal contractor employees had asked the court to halt the enforcement of President Biden’s executive order requiring COVID-19 vaccinations.
► From the Seattle Times — Protesters descend on WA Board of Health after misinformation about vaccine plans goes viral — Late last week, disturbing rumors started to fly on social media. The state Board of Health, they claimed, was about to authorize local health officials and police to round up people for refusing to get coronavirus vaccines and forcibly lock them up in quarantine facilities. It wasn’t true. There was no such plan. But the falsehood spread with omicron-like rapidity, fueled by misinformation from anti-vaccine activists, some conservative radio hosts and at least three Republican congressional candidates.
► From the Washington Post — Rapid coronavirus tests are hard to find — unless you work for Google or play in the NBA — The Omicron variant and a surge of cases are exposing just how unequal access to coronavirus testing is in the U.S.
► From Reuters — Biden directs U.S. to procure 500 million more COVID tests to meet demand — The order comes on top of another 500 million tests that the White House pledged would be available to Americans in January.
► From KOMO — Republic Services garbage strike lands in Seattle after talks in Southern California fail — Solid waste company Republic Services sanitation employees are on strike in San Diego, they extended the picket line to four facilities in Seattle, Bellevue, Lynnwood and Kent. There are more than 300 employees at the facilities refusing to cross the picket line, according to a release.
The Stand (Jan. 12) — Striking Teamsters picket Republic Services
► From the PS Business Journal — Sanitation workers at Republic Services on strike in Seattle area — It brings the fight to Bill Gates’ home region. Gates is Republic’s largest shareholder, and Gates’ investment adviser sits on Republic’s board of directors, the Teamsters said… This is the second action by the Teamsters in the region. Concrete workers are on strike at five companies, delaying work on commercial real estate developments and the expansion of Sound Transit’s light rail network.
The Stand (Jan. 12) — In strike’s 6th week, Teamsters shut down Port of Everett
► From the (Longview) Daily News — L&I investigating after logger killed near Castle Rock on Monday — The logger worked for Brindle Technical Logging Inc., a small company registered out of Mossyrock. The name of the person killed has not been released.
► From the Seattle Times — Washington Democrats and Republicans want to spend more on transportation. But what will the Legislature get done? — After failing to pass a comprehensive transportation funding package in 2021, Washington state legislators are now mulling how they can resume the effort this year to make major investments in the state’s highways, ferries and transit. As elected officials enter a short 60-day session, negotiating a multi-billion-dollar agreement could be a tightrope walk.
► From the Oregonian — Renewed calls to give farmworkers overtime pay faces strong opposition from farmers — The discussions in the Oregon Legislature come as the Oregon Court of Appeals is considering a challenge of the regulations that exclude agriculture workers from the overtime pay requirement.
WSLC 2021 Legislative Report — Historic end of a racist legacy: Farmworkers in Washington state win overtime pay
► From the Spokesman-Review — Murray, Cantwell back filibuster change to pass election bills — A day after President Joe Biden called on Democrats to change Senate rules to pass sweeping election reform legislation, both of Washington’s senators threw their support behind the effort Wednesday.
► From Medium — Pass voting rights and restore the Senate (by Sen. Patty Murray) — As someone whose focus is always on getting things done for Washington state and our country, it is clear to me that the Senate is broken. Outdated, misused procedure is getting in the way of debate and legislation. And with all our country faces right now, we’ve absolutely got to fix it… To be absolutely clear: we cannot let the filibuster stop us from ever debating voting rights or any other issue one member might find objectionable. If it’s the filibuster or democracy, I’ll choose our democracy. If it’s Senate rules or a Senate that works for the American people, I’ll choose a Senate that works. And I am urging my Senate colleagues to make that same choice.
The Stand (Jan. 12) — We must Sideline the Filibuster to protect our right to vote
► From the AP — Dems switch strategy on voting bill as Biden pushes action — Senate Democrats are trying to force a public showdown over their sweeping elections legislation, aiming to launch debate on a key party priority even though there’s no assurance the bill will come to a vote.
► From Politico — Schumer reveals endgame for clash over filibuster and voting reform — The majority leader will trigger the battle over changing Senate rules when he moves to end debate on Democrats’ election reform bills.
► From Spectrum Local News — Federal offshore wind auction aimed at expanding clean energy in New York — More than 480,000 acres in offshore New York and New Jersey will be auctioned for offshore wind development, the Biden administration announced Wednesday. Officials also touted the clean energy efforts potential of creating union jobs in the country. “We’ve been laser focused on offshore wind because we think this can be the shining example of how the clean energy sector can create high road, high-paying jobs,” said AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler.
► From Politico — Down but not out: Dems plot course for Child Tax Credit as payments end — Though lawmakers have now shifted their attention to voting rights, they say they’ll return to the child credit.
► From Roll Call — Restaurants could get another $40B financial lifeline from Congress — The new bipartisan package is said to include aid to other businesses, including live entertainment venues and gyms.
► From The Hill — Texas-style abortion bans proliferate as court battle looms — State legislators who oppose abortion rights are preparing legislation to mirror a Texas law passed last year that would allow residents to sue doctors who perform abortions, as the U.S. Supreme Court considers striking down or undermining the half-century old decision that established a right to choose.
► From the AP — Abortion grows as priority issue for Democrats: AP-NORC poll — With Roe v. Wade facing its strongest threat in decades, a new poll finds Democrats increasingly view protecting abortion rights as a high priority for the government.
EDITOR’S NOTE — With the 2019 passage of Resolution #31, “the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, affirms that reproductive rights are workers’ rights and will defend and support efforts to obtain and maintain health care for working people covering all reproductive rights choices.”
► From the USA Today — Pay raises coming? One in three employers is boosting 2022 projected salary increases — With a tight labor market and the continuation of the Great Resignation, U.S. employers are planning to dole out bigger salary boosts in 2022, according to a new survey. By October and November, nearly one in three respondents (32%) bumped up original salary increase projections from June.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Why take a chance that your employer will be among the one in three? You have the power to demand better pay. 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 the LA Times — At a subsidiary of a $4-billion corporation, these low-wage workers are striking for better pay (by Michael Hiltzik) — Cristina Lujan, 46, has worked on the line at the Jon Donaire Desserts plant in Santa Fe Springs for 19 years, nearly half her life, making and decorating cakes for food chains such as Ralphs, Walmart and Baskin-Robbins. Since Nov. 3, however, she has been walking a picket line outside the plant, protesting a contract offer from Donaire’s parent, Rich Products.
► From the Washington Post — Colleges lost 465,000 students this fall. The continued erosion of enrollment is raising alarms. — Even as campuses have largely reopened and returned to some semblance of normalcy, people are not pursuing credentials at the same rate as before. Experts worry that the unabating declines signal a shift in attitudes about higher education and could threaten the economic trajectory of a generation.
TODAY at The Stand — Apprenticeship bills will boost opportunities
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.