Wednesday, February 9, 2022
► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, Feb. 9 — The latest count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 1,382,782 infections (14-day average of cases per day: 12,874) and 11,099 deaths.
► From the Seattle Times — COVID hospitalizations now falling throughout WA
► From the News Tribune — WA state food distribution center hit with hefty COVID fines after workers infected — Three businesses tied to grocery distribution in Centralia were assessed more than a quarter-million dollars in fines Tuesday by the state’s Department of Labor & Industries over COVID-19 safety violations between July and October. L&I described grim treatment of both direct hires and contract workers exposed to COVID-19 in cases tied to the United Natural Foods Inc. distribution center in Centralia.
TODAY at The Stand — UNFI cited for severe COVID violations at Centralia warehouse — Teamsters 117’s John Scearcy: “This company has repeatedly shown that they do not respect their employees or local communities.”
► From the Washington Post — Fauci says U.S. exiting ‘full-blown’ pandemic; 500,000 deaths globally since Omicron — Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s top medical adviser, said decisions on coronavirus restrictions will be increasingly made on a local level.
► From the AP — Hospitals begin to limp out of the latest COVID-19 surge — As Omicron numbers drop at Denver Health, Dr. Anuj Mehta is reminded of the scene in the 1980 comedy “The Blues Brothers” when John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd pile out of a battered car after a police chase. Suddenly, all the doors pop off the hinges, the front wheels fall off and smoke pours from the engine. “And that’s my fear,” said Mehta, a pulmonary and critical care physician. “I’m worried that as soon as we stop, everything’s just going to fall apart.”
► From the Seattle Times — Bounties and bonuses leave small hospitals behind in staffing wars — Smaller facilities — particularly rural ones that have struggled for years to stay afloat — are finding it difficult, if not impossible, to compete for health care workers in this labor market. If a hospital is unable to maintain safe staffing levels, it could be forced to curtail services or possibly close, a devastating blow for both the patients and economies of those communities.
► From the Trio-City Herald — Fred Meyer employee shot by customer in the Richland store remains critical — Friends and co-workers were rallying Tuesday to help Mark A. Hill, the Fred Meyer employee shot inside the Richland store Monday morning, as he remained in critical condition after surgery. Another man, Instacart shopper Justin Krumbah, 38, died after being shot by the same customer, said officials. Hill was shot near the customer service counter, after Krumbah was shot in a store aisle, according to court documents.
► From The Nation — The town that QAnon nearly swallowed — Right-wing demagogues tried to take over Sequim, Wash., a small town in the Pacific Northwest. Here’s how concerned citizens stopped them.
► From the Seattle Times — WA Democrats propose $16B for transportation, hoping to boost highways, transit and ferries — Democrats in the Washington Legislature want to spend $16.8 billion over the next 16 years on the state’s transportation system, releasing a proposal Tuesday that would shore up the state’s largest highway projects and promote transit ridership through grants for improved service and free ridership for anyone 18 and under. The proposal also envisions adding four new hybrid-electric boats to the state’s aging ferry fleet, matching available federal dollars to move forward on a high-speed rail project between British Columbia and Oregon and spending nearly $2.5 billion removing barriers to fish passage. At a time when the state’s infrastructure groans under the weight of age and as staffing shortages disrupt key pieces of the state’s transportation system, the need for more funding is a view shared widely in Olympia.
TODAY at The Stand — Coalition backs ‘Move Ahead Washington’ — Labor, business, and environmental interests support state Democrats’ bold transportation package. WSLC President Larry Brown:
“The Move Ahead Washington proposal will make critical investments that will ensure our transportation system is able to equitably support our economy, our workers and families. Bold transportation infrastructure investments support job creation and continued economic recovery. This will put folks to work maintaining and preserving current infrastructure, building key projects, moving goods more effectively and efficiency, and ensuring mobility options for workers returning to their workplaces.”
► From the WEA — Teacher Larry explains: How much will you pay with WA’s new capital gains tax? — Before becoming president of the Washington Education Association, Larry Delaney was a high school math teacher in the Lakewood School District in Snohomish County for 27 years. And here, he shows us the math! Under Washington state’s new capital gains tax on extraordinary stock market profits, how much will you pay? HINT: Likely $0.
► From HuffPost — Starbucks fires union leaders in Memphis — Starbucks has fired several workers in Memphis, Tennessee, who were part of the growing unionization effort that’s spreading quickly through the coffee chain. The campaign, Starbucks Workers United, said Tuesday on Twitter that the company had canned “virtually the entire union leadership in Memphis,” calling it a case of retaliation for their union support. The group said the total number of firings came to seven, or about a third of the workers at the store. “The arc of Starbucks’ union-busting is long, but it bends toward losing,” the campaign wrote.
EXCLUSIVE: Pro-union Starbucks workers in Memphis speak publicly for the first time since being fired.
They say they were fired for “policies that were never enforced before” including “working off the clock” by “locking the door.”
“It’s to silence us and we won’t be silenced.” pic.twitter.com/Md592w36nG
— More Perfect Union (@MorePerfectUS) February 9, 2022
Starbucks actually over here like: “We’re celebrating Black History Month by firing Black workers for joining a union in the same city Dr. King died in while fighting for the right to join a union.”
— zack p (@zackpattin_) February 9, 2022
► From the Seattle Times — Seattle City Council spars over, passes Starbucks union resolution — Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s resolution to express support of workers at three Seattle Starbucks locations who are attempting to unionize passed the council 6-0 on Tuesday with Councilmembers Sara Nelson and Alex Pedersen not voting and Councilmember Lisa Herbold absent from the meeting.
► From the PS Business Journal — Boeing’s strong start to 2022 dogged by lagging deliveries — Boeing reported net orders of 75 aircraft in January, equaling 14% of its orders for all of 2021 in what is typically a slower month for the industry. The orders were dominated by the Renton-built 737 MAX, which snared 53 net orders. January orders also included the cargo order for the new 777X freighter by Qatar Airways, which will be built at Boeing’s factory in Everett. But the company delivered just 32 jets in the month. While up six aircraft year over year, it marked Boeing’s worst delivery performance in three months. The sequential slowdown of deliveries in January came as handovers of the 787 Dreamliner remain halted due to ongoing production issues on the widebody aircraft.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Last year, Boeing moved all its 787 assembly work to South Carolina. Just sayin’.
► From the Washington Post — House Republicans, Democrats agree on $57 billion USPS overhaul — The House on Tuesday advanced a major financial overhaul of the ailing U.S. Postal Service, relieving it of tens of billions of dollars in liabilities that agency leaders said prevented it from modernizing and providing efficient service. The bill, which passed 342-92, marks a major breakthrough for the mail agency and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. The Postal Service has implored Congress to help fix its balance sheet for nearly 15 years, and agency leaders are cautiously optimistic about prospects for the Postal Service Reform Act in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the chamber would vote on the legislation by the end of next week, citing its bipartisan popularity.
► From Bloomberg — Warehouse industry — and Amazon — targeted by Biden’s wage enforcers — The U.S. government’s minimum-wage enforcers plan to zero in on the warehouse and logistics industry, amplifying scrutiny of a sector criticized during the COVID-19 pandemic for its labor practices. A combination of explosive growth, low wages and the widespread use of contract staff demands that greater attention be paid to how the sector treats its “essential workers,” Jessica Looman, the acting administrator of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, said.
► From Politico — Left splits over Supreme Court pick pushed by top Biden ally — While most progressive lawmakers aren’t directly criticizing Childs for her past work (for a union-busting law firm), they are making it clear that the balance of power between corporations and the average American worker could prove their litmus test for Biden’s nominee. And on paper, it may be that Childs has the most work to do to meet that test… The White House is standing by its consideration of judge Michelle Childs, even as the pick has raised eyebrows among labor groups.
► From TPM — Biden supports push by congressional staffers to unionize — Comments of support from the White House come less than a week after the Congressional Workers Union announced its organizing efforts amid rising discontent with congressional staffers’ pay and working conditions. The group cited a recent survey from the Congressional Progressive Staff Association that found that 91% of congressional staff respondents, including management staff, “would like to see more protections to give them a voice at work.”
EDITOR’S CHOICE — But of course…
► From The Hill — Manchin skeptical of congressional staff union — Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said he hadn’t heard of the unionizing effort, said he and his staff served at the “will and pleasure” of West Virginians.
► From Vice — Garment workers owed $60 million in ‘largest global wage theft,’ watchdog says — Top brands like Walmart, Abercrombie & Fitch, Nike, H&M, Zara and The Gap source their clothes from Indian factories that refused to pay workers nearly $60 million over the course of the pandemic, a labor-rights watchdog says. The crisis left some households unable to buy basic staples like rice, meat, and vegetables, or pay off their debts. In total, more than 1,000 clothing factories in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, a garment-producing hub in the country, failed to give their laborers a legal monthly minimum wage increase of 417.60 rupees—or about $5.60, according to the Worker Rights Consortium. WRC general counsel Ben Hensler said:
“Brands are basically happy to look the other way when hundreds of thousands of the workers who make their products are being denied wages that they need for daily survival. To allow that to go on unchecked for months—nearly two years—until the brands are called publicly to account for it—I think it says a lot about the thinness of the commitments that they claim to have for the welfare of the workers.”
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.