Friday, February 4, 2022
► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, Feb. 4 — The latest count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 1,355,428 infections (14-day average of cases per day: 17,218) and 10,845 deaths.
► From the Yakima H-R — Omicron wave levels off in parts of Washington; hospitalizations still high in Yakima County — Yakima Health District spokesperson Stephanie Badillo-Sanchez said community transmission is still high in Yakima County, “which is why it is crucial to get vaccinated and get your booster dose, while also following additional public health recommendations, such as wearing a mask,” she said.
► From the Spokesman-Review — Certain immunocompromised patients now eligible to get fourth dose of COVID vaccine — The CDC and the Department of Health recommend people in this category receive a fourth dose five months after the third dose was administered.
► From the (Everett) Herald — Corrections officers, inmates frustrated and fatigued by COVID — In Washington state prisons, COVID is exacting a growing human toll and deepening sense of anxiety, regardless of which side of the bars you’re on. Those in custody are frustrated and angry. They wonder each day if they will have a hot meal, a chance to shower, a few minutes outdoors or even heat in the cells. They worry a positive COVID test will land them in isolation for days and fear a botched prisoner move will bring the virus into their wing. Corrections officers are exhausted and angry. Fatigue from 16-hour shifts is setting in, especially days spent in medical isolation units, where for their health and safety, they must wear rubber gloves, a full-length gown, a respirator and a face shield the entire time. Managers are making meals and carrying out other front-line chores.
► From the PS Business Journal — Boeing’s massive Qatar deal bolsters outlook for Everett factory — The Boeing Co.’s largest freighter order is a significant deal both for its dedicated cargo jets and its 777X production line in Everett, where the planes will eventually roll off the lot. The deal did not come as a surprise to most industry observers. For several months, rumors of a plan to launch a new version of the 777X jet had surfaced. In a White House deal signing Monday, Qatar Airways emerged as the launch customer and expects to begin taking deliveries of at least 34 new 777X freighter jets in 2027. The deal includes options for up to 16 more jets.
TODAY at The Stand — Boeing 777-8 deal hailed as investment in local aerospace jobs
► From the Seattle Times — WA unemployment agency to cut nearly 800 staff — Washington’s unemployment agency is sending out layoff notices to a quarter of its own staff, due to the loss of temporary federal money. That’s renewing questions about the state’s capacity to promptly process claims and pay benefits. Officials at the Employment Security Department say losing the 769 temporary workers, brought on to help with heavier claims volumes earlier in the pandemic, won’t bring back problems from that period, when claimants sometimes waited months for benefits and spent hours on hold with agency’s call centers. Labor and worker advocacy groups will be closely watching to see whether ESD actually can absorb those cuts without falling behind again. “We certainly hope that [ESD] will have the capacity to manage upcoming needs, but I think it’s hard to say at this point what our capacity will be in Washington,” said Sybill Hyppolite, legislative director with Washington State Labor Council and an employee representative on the state Unemployment Insurance Advisory Committee. “I think that we still have to watch and see.”
► From KOMO — Echo Glen starts making security changes after five child inmates escaped — A Critical Incident Response Team has since started an investigation into the escape to address the risk, root causes and review the situation. But Echo Glen said it has already started taking steps to prevent another incident.
► From the Tri-City Herald — Franklin County rejected highest percent of 2020 election ballots in WA state — The analysis, requested by state lawmakers, also found that younger voters, men and people of color were more likely to have their ballots rejected. While Franklin County had the highest rejection rate, the state report did not examine the demographics of those who were rejected there.
► From the Hill — Labor legislation failure looms over Amazon union vote — Ballots are being mailed to employees of Amazon’s Bessemer, Ala., location starting Friday, kicking off the second union election in as many years at the warehouse. Despite the victory of getting a second election, labor experts and Amazon critics are concerned that the company will be able to employ many of the same anti-union tactics it did the first time around without fear of punishment. Lawmakers have sought to counter such tactics with the PRO Act, a labor bill aimed at correcting the imbalance power of employers in the unionization process. But after passing through the House with five Republican votes last spring, the bill has been unable to reach the 60 vote threshold in the Senate.
The Stand (July 22, 2021) — ‘Our calling now’ is to pass the PRO Act
► From Politico — House sets up Senate showdown with vote on partisan China bill — The House vote, expected on Friday, will represent the culmination of months of wrangling in the lower chamber. The White House is eager for the China legislation to reach Biden’s desk before his State of the Union, but lawmakers’ next task will be to reconcile major policy differences between the bipartisan package the Senate passed in June by a 68-32 vote and the House bill filled with trade and climate change policies backed by Democrats and labor unions.
► From Roll Call — Short-term stopgap funding bill could go to House floor Tuesday
► From Politico — Jayapal’s early leadership maneuvers raise House Dem eyebrows — As House Democrats’ top trio seeks reelection, their looming leadership battle is essentially frozen in place — with one big exception. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) is stepping up calls to her colleagues about seeking a caucus-wide position next year, according to more than 15 lawmakers and aides. Her approach is a stark contrast with the other dozen or so Democrats privately eyeing leadership posts after the midterms, all of whom have avoided overt campaigning of any kind that might risk being seen as overstepping their longtime leaders.
► From Politico — ‘Ground up and spit out’: Inside the Hill staffer Instagram rebellion — Pay so low that aides survive on food stamps. Office cultures that drive committed employees to seek mental health support. Staffers of color feeling cut off from pursuing senior roles. A deluge of anonymous Instagram posts is pulling back the curtain on the ugly secrets of how the Hill treats its most vulnerable workers. An anonymously run account, known as “Dear White Staffers,” has exploded in popularity and is dragging longstanding problems with staff diversity, paltry pay and punishing hours into the light.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Washington’s Legislature can help address this problem at the state level by extending collective bargaining rights to the hard-working people who make the legislative process work at the State Capitol
► From HuffPost — Starbucks is desperately trying to slow a union campaign that’s caught fire — The company’s lawyers have been busy trying to slow the fast-spreading union campaign that’s stunned the labor world. In a matter of months, Starbucks workers have filed petitions for union elections at more than 50 stores in at least 19 states. Starbucks has been using the same legal argument to stop these elections from moving forward at the NLRB, even though the board rejected it the first time Starbucks tried it. Meanwhile, the coffee chain is running up a big legal tab on its as-yet unsuccessful effort to halt elections. That number may have grown during the writing of this article, since Starbucks Workers United just filed new petitions this week that haven’t had NLRB hearings yet.
► From the AP — U.S. employers shrug off Omicron, add 467,000 jobs in January — U.S. employers added a burst of 467,000 jobs in January despite a wave of omicron infections that sickened millions of workers, kept many consumers at home and left businesses from restaurants to manufacturers short-staffed. The government’s report Friday also drastically revised up its estimate of job gains for November and December by a combined 709,000. It also said the unemployment rate ticked up last month from 3.9% to a still-low 4%.
► From Reuters — Record number of Americans missed work due to illness in January — A record number of people, totaling more than 3.6 million, were unable to work due to illness during the week that officials gathered data for the benchmark U.S. monthly employment report, which coincided with the peak in infections from COVID-19.
► Neil Young has been in the news for calling out Spotify over its distribution of podcaster Joe Rogan and his COVID misinformation. Some of you young’uns might have heard about this principled stand and be wondering, who is this 77-year-old rocker anyway? Well, he’s probably the most prolific Canadian-American singer-songwriter of all time, and still puts out great albums to this day. He was twice inducted into the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame, as a soloist and with the band Buffalo Springfield. He’s mostly defined by his guitar work, his deeply personal and sometimes political lyrics, and his signature high tenor singing voice. Here he is performing one of our favorites from his classic album, Harvest. If you like it, do yourself a favor and check out Live at Massey Hall 1971, a performance released in 2007. Enjoy.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.