Thursday, January 20, 2022
► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, Jan. 20 — The latest count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 1,119,228 infections (14-day average of cases per day: 15,753) and 10,230 deaths.
► From the Spokesman-Review — COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations continue to rise as omicron infects entire households –Spokane County likely won’t hit its omicron wave peak until the beginning of February, local health officials said Wednesday.
► From the (Everett) Herald — As omicron surges, frustrations and challenges mount in correction facilities — Omicron is ripping through state corrections facilities, forcing the suspension of visitation, mounting overtime for guards and deployment of managers to the front line as staffing shortages persist. At Monroe Correctional Complex, the Department of Corrections declared a facility-wide outbreak Wednesday evening. It is one of five state prisons battling a facility-wide outbreak. An estimated 700 of 8,000 Department of Corrections employees are off the job due to COVID-19.
► From the Seattle Times — Omicron flips ‘big switch’ at Seattle-area hospitals as ICUs are spared from COVID surge — The Omicron surge has largely hit hospital acute-care units, which generally treat less-severe illness, harder than ICUs — a difference from previous waves.
► From the Spokesman-Review — Viral ‘internment camp’ conspiracy climbs to the top of Misinformation Mountain (by Shawn Vestal) — Every good conspiracy requires a camp threat, and boy did COVID conspiracists cook one up this time. In the latest example of the deluded Holocaust-ification of the pandemic, tens of thousands of people deluged state officials with their outraged objections to concentration camps for the unvaxxed – including, of course, threats of violence aimed at government officials. As usual, the lies crept from the fringes toward the mainstream. The Skagit Valley Republican Party passed it along as an “Emergency Action Alert!” and gave members a cut-and-paste opinion to email into the state. Three far-right candidates for Congress tried to whip their followers into a frenzy over the false story. All of it – every bit – for a story that was obviously 100% false.
► From the Seattle Times — Fred Meyer, QFC workers struggle in Washington to make ends meet, new report shows — Cindy Wilbur has worked for Fred Meyer, on and off, for 20 years. For the last two years, she’s worked at the store in Federal Way, walking the aisles, filling grocery orders — nine at a time — for customers who, out of convenience or COVID-19 concern, have opted to do their shopping online. Wilbur makes $18.10 an hour. But she’s usually only scheduled for 20 hours a week. “I am three months behind on rent and I’m several months behind in my power bill,” Wilbur said. “I have massive anxiety every week when I go to open that check because I know what I need to survive and to eat and I rarely make it.”A new survey of more than 10,000 unionized Kroger grocery workers in the Western United States finds that 78% are like Wilbur, sometimes struggling to afford basic necessities like food and shelter. Nearly one-third of survey respondents were from Washington, where Kroger owns Fred Meyer and QFC stores.
The Stand (Jan. 13) — Survey: 78% of Kroger workers are food insecure
► From the Yakima H-R — Toppenish superintendent gets raise despite teachers union declarations of ‘no confidence’ — The\Toppenish Education Association took a vote of no confidence in the Toppenish school board and Superintendent John M. Cerna over the handling of an investigation of two district employees. The school board, meanwhile, voted to extend superintendent Cerna’s contract for another year, through June 2025, and approved a 3% pay raise retroactive to July 2021.
► From the NW Labor Press — Metal Trades unions ask shipyard owner: ‘Where’s the love?’ — Unions and management at Vigor Marine remain far apart on economics in bargaining for a contract representing several hundred trade workers at Portland and Seattle shipyards. The AFL-CIO Metal Trades Department and Vigor have been in negotiations for a new contract since the previous one expired at the end of November. Seeing that their bargaining team and Vigor Marine were far apart on wage increases, the unions held a strike pre-authorization vote in December. The strike authorization passed by a 95% margin. After additional bargaining in late December, union representatives report the company’s offer is still not acceptable.
► From the NW Labor Press — SW Washington Central Labor Council elects new set of officers — The SWWACLC finalized the election of officers at its Jan. 5 meeting. The top officer is Shannon Myers, who was reelected to an eighth term as president.
► From the NW Labor Press — City unions in Portland near the brink of a strike
EDITOR’S NOTE — For more great labor news from Oregon and Southwest Washington, subscribe to the Northwest Labor Press, featuring new Editor Don McIntosh. For that matter, subscribe if you live anywhere in Washington for great stories like this…
► From the NW Labor Press — Construction workers on public assistance? — Low-wage non-union construction industry jobs aren’t just hard on the workers. They’re also a strain on public tax dollars, according to new research. The Labor Center, located at the University of California, Berkeley, this month published research examining the impact of low-wage construction jobs both nationally and in specific states, including Washington. It found 38% of Washington construction workers’ families are enrolled in at least one of the major federal assistance programs, compared with 32% of all working families. And 22% of Washington construction workers have no health insurance—three times the uninsured rate for all workers across the state.
► From the Seattle Times — Our daughter and all victims of 737 MAX crashes deserve DOJ investigation of Boeing’s duplicity (by Michael Stumo) — We now know that a culture of expedience, profit and recklessness contributed directly to both crashes — since the MAX 8 contained serious design flaws that should have grounded the aircraft. In fact, a subsequent Department of Justice investigation revealed Boeing’s criminal conspiracy to conceal safety problems from the FAA. However, the Justice Department never conferred with victims’ families about Boeing’s behavior. Instead, it chose to deliberately conceal its investigation and covertly negotiate with Boeing toward a favorable, deferred prosecution agreement. It’s now time to bring these facts to light.
► From the (Everett) Herald — Alaska Airlines to add Boeing 737s to the Paine Field fleet — It’s a sign of the growing popularity of flying from Everett. So far, much smaller Embraer E175s have been the rule.
► From the News Tribune — House passes changes to long-term care insurance program — HB 1732, introduced by Rep. Pat Sullivan (D-Covington), would delay implementation of the payroll tax on Washington employees until July 1, 2023. The House approved it 91-6 and the legislation now awaits a floor vote in the Senate… HB 1733 passed the House on a 67-29 vote. Introduced by Rep. Dave Paul (D-Oak Harbor), it would allow disabled veterans, military spouses of active duty members, temporary workers and those who work in the state but reside in another to opt out of the long-term services program.
► From the WA State Wire — Lyft puts $2 million into ballot initiative committee — The Washington Coalition for Independent Work is a ballot measure committee formed by Lyft, Uber, Doordash, and Instacart. It’s still not clear what, if any, ballot measure this committee plans to pursue, but the companies are putting up some serious money and spending freely on lobbyists and other consultants.
► From the Seattle Times — Washington’s snow response snowballs into an ideological storm — As Washington dug itself out of snowstorms that crippled cross-state travel early this month, critics of Gov. Jay Inslee have sought to tie the pace of roads reopening to his vaccine mandate for state employees…. State Department of Transportation data shows it lost more than 300 employees in the first half of 2020, the steepest drop since 2013. Nearly 30% of the department’s workforce that year was eligible for partial or full retirement benefits.
► From the union-busting Columbian — Robust minimum wage is an important tool (editorial) — As the United States deals with increasing wealth inequity, a robust minimum wage is an important tool for adequately rewarding workers while boosting the economy. It is an important tool for ensuring that all Americans can have at least a minimum standard of living. In this regard, Washington is on the right track.
EDITOR’S NOTE — You’re welcome.
► From the Washington Post — Manchin, Sinema join with GOP in rejecting attempt to change filibuster rules, effectively killing Democratic voting bill — The year-long Democratic push for federal voting rights legislation died in the Senate on Wednesday night, after Republicans blocked an elections bill for the fifth time in six months and Democrats failed to unite their caucus behind a plan to rewrite the Senate’s rules and pass it anyway.
TODAY at The Stand — Voting rights blocked, but Shuler vows labor will continue fight — AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler: “This year and beyond, we will put the full force of our federation behind efforts to defeat racist voter suppression tactics and secure voting rights for working people nationwide.”
► From Vox — Senate filibuster vote dooms much of Democrats’ agenda — A failed vote on filibuster reform guarantees little progress on voting rights — and many other policies… including protections for workers’ rights to organize.
► From Politico — GOP considers more ruthless redistricting — After months of play-it-safe map-drawing, some Republicans are urging the party to go for the jugular in states yet to complete their congressional redistricting.
► From HuffPost — Democrats are rebuilding the Build Back Better Act — Senate Democrats are quietly trying to revive the Build Back Better Act with a new version of the bill that Sen. Joe Manchin ( .) might like better than the old one. The bill he disliked had billions for green energy; subsidies for child care, home care and health care; expanded access to prekindergarten and a continuation of monthly child tax credit payments. A source familiar with Senate Democrats’ legislative efforts said they were considering a more Manchin-friendly measure that would likely drop child care and tighten rules for the child tax credit, such as by requiring parents to have employment-related tax forms in order to qualify.
► From The Hill — White House forms council to oversee ‘Made in America’ push — The White House on Wednesday established a council of officials from dozens of federal agencies to guide the administration’s efforts to boost purchasing of U.S.-made goods.
► From Bloomberg Law — Employer appeals for temporary worker visas meet union pushback — As the Biden administration pursues the expansion of temporary work visas to meet employer demands during ongoing labor shortages, it’s facing pushback from key allies in organized labor who say those programs harm both U.S. and foreign workers.
► From Vox — Biden’s offshore wind plan is also a jobs plan — Biden’s new plan for offshore wind power may be an indicator of how the administration intends to address issues related to climate change, energy, and jobs at the same time.
► From HuffPost — More Republicans take credit for infrastructure funding they voted against — Only 13 House Republicans voted for the bill, which includes funding for roads, bridges, highways, railways and ports.
► From Politico — Supreme Court rejects Trump’s bid to shield records from Jan. 6 committee — The only member of the high court who signaled he would have granted Trump’s request was Justice Clarence Thomas.
► From CPR News — King Soopers granted restraining order against workers’ union and picketers as strike enters week two — The company claims picketers have intimidated shoppers, harassed temporary employees, destroyed property and blocked store entrances, among other things. The union denied the charges, but a judge set a maximum number of picketers per store to 10 people and said they must also stay 20 feet away from customers and employees while chanting and shouting. Said: UFCW 7 President Kim Cordova:
“This company refuses to bargain. They want to stop our freedom of speech and curtail even more of the workers’ rights. We will not stand for that. We remain focused on our fight to give King Soopers/ Kroger workers the industry-leading contract that they deserve.”
► From the AP — Workers at 2 more Boston Starbucks began unionization effort — Workers at two more Starbucks locations in the Boston area have started efforts to join a union after a one of the national coffee shop chain’s locations in Buffalo, N.Y., became the first to unionize last month.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Tired of being disrespected? Get a union! Find out 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 AP — Starbucks walks back vaccine requirement for workers
► From the Atlanta J-C — Stacey Abrams lands key union endorsements for 2022 bid — Stacey Abrams centered her first in-person campaign event around an announcement from the Georgia AFL-CIO that endorsed her run for governor, highlighting the prominent role that organized labor will play in her 2022 bid.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.