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Wednesday, January 19, 2022




► From the Washington Post — Omicron hasn’t peaked in U.S., surgeon general says, warning that ‘next few weeks will be tough’ — The national peak of this variant, whenever it is reached, is less important than the point when the decline starts to mean relief for health systems and the return of normal activity, said Gabe Kelen, chair of the department of emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins University.

► From NPR — The Postal Service is now taking orders for free COVID-19 test kits — Each household order will contain four rapid tests, which the Postal Service says will be shipped for free “in late January.”

EDITOR’S NOTE — Order yours today!

► From the USA Today — Biden administration to ship free 400 million N95 masks across the U.S. starting this week — Americans will be able to pick up their masks at one of “tens of thousands” of pharmacies, thousands of community centers and other locations across the country, beginning late next week, the official said.

► From the (Everett) Herald — How many ICU beds open in Snohomish County? One.

LOCAL coverage of strained hospitals in today’s Bellingham Herald, The Olympian, Peninsula Daily News, Spokesman-Review, Tri-City Herald, and the Wenatchee World.

► From the News Tribune — Good Samaritan, other hospitals use refrigeration trailers to expand morgue capacity

► From the Guardian — ‘It’s a war zone’: Healthcare workers show signs of stress similar to combat veterans — After nearly two years of caring for COVID patients, many providers are leaving the field amid hospital staffing shortages.

► MUST-SEE opinion video from the NY Times — We know the real cause of the crisis in our hospitals. It’s greed. — Nurses set the record straight about the root cause of the nursing crisis: chronic understaffing by profit-driven hospitals that predates the pandemic. “I could no longer work in critical care under the conditions I was being forced to work under with poor staffing,” explains one nurse, “and that’s when I left.” They also tear down the common misconception that there’s a shortage of nurses. In fact, there are more qualified nurses today in America than ever before. To keep patients safe and protect our health care workers, lawmakers could regulate nurse-patient ratios, which California put in place in 2004, with positive results. These laws could save patient lives and create a more just work environment for a vulnerable generation of nurses, the ones we pledged to honor and protect at the start of the pandemic.

TODAY at The Stand Video: Why we need safe-staffing standards — As Washington state considers legislation, a must-see video from The New York Times features nurses explaining the real crisis.

PREVIOUSLY at The Stand:

Lawmakers introduce bipartisan healthcare safe staffing bills (Jan. 11)
Nurses to WA State Legislature: Address hospital staffing crisis (Dec. 14, 2021)




► From the Olympian — Bills to strengthen workers rights introduced in Legislature — SB 5835 by Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle) would align workers’ compensation benefits, regardless of marital status, to end the practice of paying lower claims to injured workers who are unmarried. SB 5761 by Sen. Emily Randall (D-Bremerton) would build on Washington’s Equal Pay and Opportunity Act and relates to job transparency. Randall’s SB 5763 is more of a “clean-up bill” for laws passed previously. State lawmakers with bipartisan support abolished the practice of paying workers with disabilities less than minimum wage last year. SB 5763 would remove an outdated carve-out for those workers to receive prevailing wages as well.

► From the (Everett) Herald — Child care’s heightened burden takes parents out of workforce — The outlandish cost of child care and its effect on parents is well documented in a series of reports by the state Child Care Collaborative Task Force. According to a report published in 2019, child care issues caused 27% of parents to quit their jobs, leave school or leave a training program. The most recent report from the task force says the cost of full-time child care for an infant and a child in pre-K can equal up to 35% of a two-parent family’s income. It can reach 150% of a single parent’s income.




► From KING 5 — Some King County inmates should be released amid COVID-19 spike, unions say — In a rare move, the unions representing the King County Corrections officers and public defenders believe that some inmates should be released because of a COVID-19 spike.  A letter, sent late Friday to every key elected leader, suggests that roughly a third of inmates in Seattle and Kent are infected with COVID.

► From OPB — Trade unions accuse Portland officials of interfering in labor effort — The District Council of Trade Unions alleges the city’s supervisors are trying to stop their employees from striking.




► From NPR — Senate Democrats march forward on their all-but-doomed voting rights bills — Senate Democrats on Wednesday will try to get closer to a floor vote on the two voting rights bills that have sat inactive for months in the chamber, despite having no apparent path to victory on the legislation.

► From The Hill — Desperate Dems signal support for cutting Biden bill down in sizeHouse Democratic leaders scrambling to salvage President Biden’s massive Build Back Better health, climate and education package are facing plenty of internal disputes about the best strategy in the coming weeks — with one big exception. Doing nothing, all sides agree, is not an option.

► From the NY Times — Facing a shortage of truck drivers, pilot program turns to teenagers — A federal apprenticeship program will train thousands of new truck drivers who are as young as 18.

EDITOR’S NOTE — What could possibly go wrong? Maybe a better solution would be to address the low pay and grueling, dehumanizing conditions that truck drivers face, rather than training teenagers to take such jobs. There’s no labor shortage in trucking, the industry just can’t find people willing to do the job because they’ve busted what was once a heavily unionized industry and created horrible working conditions. As one driver pointed out in recent report:

“The shippers, they treat us like criminals, basically. Don’t use the bathroom, don’t get out of your truck. The port-a-potty’s in the yard, but it’s 25 degrees out.”

► From Roll Call — Abortion fight in states picks up as legislative sessions begin — The Supreme Court’s consideration of a near-total abortion ban in Texas and other limits in Mississippi are motivating state officials to pursue either tougher abortion restrictions or protections in case legal precedents change.




► From the Teamsters — Republic Services Teamsters vote to approve contract, end strike — Republic Services workers who have been on strike since December in protest of the company’s violations of federal labor law reluctantly voted to accept the company’s latest contract offer. The new contract for the members of Teamsters Local 542 provides for wage increases and some improvements to their health insurance but falls significantly short of what Republic Services workers in neighboring Orange County received following their seven-day strike last month.

The Stand (Jan. 12) — Striking Teamsters picket Republic Services — Teamsters 117 members honor picket lines as San Diego recycle, yard waste drivers extend them to Puget Sound area.

► From Axios — King Soopers strike negotiations deteriorate — A week after thousands of unionized King Soopers workers at nearly 80 stores across metro Denver went on strike, the two sides are even further from reaching a compromise.

► From the AFL-CIO — AFL-CIO calls on GM, Mexican labor authorities for fair Silao facility election — On Feb. 1 and 2, more than 7,000 workers at the General Motors (GM) Silao facility, in the Mexican state of Guanajuato, will cast their vote to elect a new union to represent them. While we welcome the opportunity afforded by the Mexican labor law reform for workers to choose their union, we are concerned by the lack of protection for workers’ rights inside the GM plant and reports of continued harassment and violence targeting independent union activists.

► From the Boston Globe — Lyft makes largest one-time political donation in Massachusetts history, fueling gig worker ballot fightThe vast sums underscore what was long expected: The debate over whether rideshare drivers, DoorDash delivery people, and others should be classified as independent contractors or employees is drawing millions of dollars from the same companies that prevailed with voters in a costly ballot fight in California in 2020.


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

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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!