The Stand

Beyond capacity | WA’s heat rule | IRA of ’22 | NAFTA of ’92

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Friday, August 12, 2022

 


HEALTH CARE

 

► From the PS Business Journal — Harborview Medical Center in crisis as it runs out of space for patients — Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center is in crisis, hospital leaders say, and patients who not seeking urgent care are being diverted to nearby hospitals through at least the weekend, and possibly longer. The First Hill hospital has 560 patients in its 413-bed facility, or about 30% over its licensed capacity. The overcrowding is pushing beds into hallways, and turning conference spaces into make-shift patient rooms. For more than a year, hospital administrators have been sounding the alarm that pandemic-induced pressures have put providers under immense strain. A growing number of hospital beds statewide are filled with patients that no longer require acute care, but they can’t be discharged because long-term care homes don’t have the room or staffing to take them.

At the same time, health care providers are dealing with skyrocketing expenses, as they turn to contract workers to fill gaps left by the nationwide nurse shortage. Traveling nurses often earn more than double what full-time employees are paid, which pushes more full-time nurses toward contract work, making it harder to recruit and retain staff.

EDITOR’S NOTE — There isn’t a nursing shortage, there is a nursing wage shortage. Pay nurses what they are worth — at Harborview, at Seattle Children’s, and elsewhere throughout the state — and they can afford to work in local hospitals and provide care in their communities.

► From the Seattle Times — King County, Seattle form coalition to boost mental health facilities and workforce — King County Executive Dow Constantine has announced the formation of a new coalition of area government leaders, state representatives and health care workers (SEIU 1199NW) who plan to rebuild and add more resources to the region’s depleted mental health workforce.

► From the Washington Post — CDC loosens coronavirus guidance, signaling strategic shift — The CDC on Thursday loosened many of its recommendations for battling the coronavirus, a strategic shift that puts more of the onus on individuals, rather than on schools, businesses and other institutions, to limit viral spread. The CDC is putting less emphasis on social distancing — and the new guidance has dropped the “six foot” standard. The quarantine rule for unvaccinated people is gone. The agency’s focus now is on highly vulnerable populations and how to protect them — not on the vast majority of people who at this point have some immunity against the virus and are unlikely to become severely ill.

 


AEROSPACE

 

► From the Seattle Times — Pension deadline could speed retirement of experienced Boeing engineers — Boeing may see hundreds of veteran engineers retire this fall ahead of a pension adjustment that will dramatically slash the payouts to those who choose to take the money in a single lump sum. The interest rates used to determine the lump sum will be updated in November, after which one 35-year Boeing employee calculates that his payout will be cut by more than $200,000… SPEEA’s Matt Kempf estimates around 600 or 700 experienced local engineers and technical staff close to retirement will have to at least consider an early exit.

 


THIS WASHINGTON

 

► From KUOW — Washington has new rules protecting outdoor workers from the heat — but advocates say they’re not being enforced — The new regulations are the strictest Washington has ever had, but worker advocates say the state needs to step up its enforcement, finding and fining employers who aren’t following the new rules, in order to adequately protect workers. “For employers to take this seriously, there’s got to be something to hold employers accountable that are not following the rules,” said Edgar Franks, a farmworker organizer in the Skagit Valley.

► From the Yakima Herald — Proposal would keep worker heat protections in place all year in WA — New rules for people working outside in Washington may be in place year-round under a proposal from the state Department of Labor and Industries. This year’s emergency heat protections are in effect from June 15-Sept. 29. But staff members said temperatures are rising and they could be high outside of summer months.

The Stand (July 27) — Outdoor workers have new protections from heat

► From the Spokesman-Review — If Rolovich takes the next step, he’ll be facing an unbeaten opponent (by Shawn Vestal) — WSU coach Nick Rolovich was fired from his $3-million-a-year job after his request for a religious exemption to the state vaccine mandate was denied by a university committee. The inevitable lawsuit threat followed – and Rolovich took the first step in that direction by filing a $25 million tort claim with the state at the end of April. But the coach is entering a game with long odds. The state’s legal record on defending pandemic emergency orders such as mask mandates is strong so far. These orders have stood up to 46 court challenges to date, and haven’t lost once, according to Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office.

 


THAT WASHINGTON

 

► From the Washington Post — House poised to send Inflation Reduction Act to Biden for his signature — Today, the House returns to Washington for the expected passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, a sweeping package that aims to lower health-care costs, combat climate change, raise taxes on some large companies and reduce the deficit. The legislation would then go to President Biden for his signature, handing the president the latest in a summer string of legislative victories.

The Stand (Aug. 8) — Inflation Reduction Act ‘will transform lives’ — AFL-CIO’s Liz Shuler hails Senate passage of bill and calls for swift House passage.

► From the Washington Post — The corporate minimum tax could hit these ultra-profitable companies — The House is expected to approve the Inflation Reduction Act on Friday that includes a minimum tax rate of 15 percent on highly profitable companies — a levy that could hit Amazon, Verizon and others. The tax would help pay for large investments across climate and health care.

► From Reuters — U.S. move to negotiate drug prices a rare defeat for Big Pharma — Big Pharma spent more than any other industry to lobby Congress and federal agencies this year, a Reuters analysis shows, but is still on course for a major defeat by failing to stop a bill that allows the government to negotiate prices on select drugs.

► From The Guardian — Republicans vote against insulin bill as price soars, dismaying diabetics — Cost of the life-saving drug will remain many times higher than in other affluent countries after Republicans defeated the measure.

► From The Hill — Saving the Veterans Administration means adequately staffing it (by AFGE’s Alma Lee) — When members of the U.S. Senate announced they would block confirmation of a nine-member commission that would have closed dozens of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care facilities across the country, it was a huge win for veterans, military families and our country. Lawmakers saw through the guise that closures would help “modernize” the VA and halted a pernicious privatization effort. Now it’s time to make the investments necessary to truly modernize the VA, starting with addressing the chronic staffing shortages in the Veterans Health Administration.

 


LAW & ORDER

 

► From the Washington Post — FBI searched Trump’s home to look for nuclear documents and other items, sources say — Classified documents relating to nuclear weapons were among the items FBI agents sought in a search of former president Donald Trump’s Florida residence on Monday, according to people familiar with the investigation. Experts in classified information said the unusual search underscores deep concern among government officials about the types of information they thought could be located at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club and potentially in danger of falling into the wrong hands.

► From CNN — Garland says DOJ filed motion to unseal Trump Mar-a-Lago warrant and property receipt — Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday said that the Justice Department had filed in court a request that the search warrant and property receipt from the search be unsealed:

“The Department filed the motion to make public the warrant and receipt in light of the former president’s public confirmation of the search, the surrounding circumstances and the substantial public interest in this matter.”

EDITOR’S NOTE — Trump has subsequently echoed the call to “immediately” release the warrant, a copy of which he has and could “release” at any time.

► From HuffPost — Gunman who tried to breach Cincinnati FBI claimed ties to Jan. 6, Proud Boys — The gunman who was killed following an attempt to breach the FBI’s Cincinnati office Thursday made previous threats against the bureau, advocated for terrorism online, and may have been in Washington, D.C., for the insurrection at the Capitol.

 


NATIONAL

 

► From the Guardian — Starbucks workers hold strikes in at least 17 states amid union drive — Workers at Starbucks have held over 55 different strikes in at least 17 states in the US in recent months over the company’s aggressive opposition to a wave of unionization. According to an estimate by Starbucks Workers United, the strikes have cost Starbucks over $375,000 in lost revenue. The union created a $1 million strike fund in June 2022 to support Starbucks workers through their strikes and several relief funds have been established for strikes and to support workers who have lost their jobs.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Yesterday, another Starbucks store in Portland voted to unionize. That’s the 14th in the city, where unionization has gone 14 for 14. There are now 16 unionized Starbucks stores in Washington state. The latest, in North Bend, voting 12-2 to unionize on Monday. Despite the company’s illegal firings of union supporters intended to scare Starbucks “partners” into submission, there are now 219 unionized Starbucks stores with many more union votes on the horizon.

► From Jacobin — Starbucks’s abortion promises for workers are PR stunts. We want a union contract. (by Alisha Humphrey) — Starbucks is seeking good PR by offering to cover travel costs for abortion and gender-affirming care for workers like me. But its promises come with caveats and can be revoked. We don’t want flimsy promises — we want these benefits in a union contract.

► From the AP — OSHA investigates deaths of Amazon workers in New Jersey — Federal investigators are looking into the death of an Amazon worker and an injury that potentially led to the death of another employee, adding to a probe already underway following a third fatality during the company’s annual Prime Day shopping event in mid-July. The investigations are putting fresh scrutiny on Amazon’s injury rates and workplace-safety procedures, which have long been criticized by labor and safety advocates as inadequate.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Ready for workplace safety and a real voice at work? Get more information about how you can join together with co-workers and negotiate for better working conditions and pay. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!

► From the Minnesota Reformer — Union nurses announce strike vote as negotiations with 15 hospitals stall — Unionized nurses at 15 hospitals across the Twin Cities and the Duluth area will vote on Monday on whether to authorize a strike, as negotiations remain stalled over staffing levels and wages.

► From the Eagle Online — AU’s staff union announces strike ahead of first week of classes — On Thursday, members of American University’s Staff Union (SEIU) announced they are planning a strike to protest what they alleged were unfair labor practices by the university.

► From the AP — Equal pay deal for US women’s soccer approved by judge

 


T.G.I.F.

 

► Thirty years ago today, the United States, Canada and Mexico announced completion of negotiations for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It ushered in an era when, despite aggressive opposition from organized labor and environmental groups, the Democratic Party joined Republicans in pursuing and enacting neoliberal trade policies — and created a major fissure between unions and the “party of the working class.” That “free trade” era is now over, but the economic and political consequences of NAFTA, subsequent similar trade agreements, and U.S. deindustrialization are incalculable.

In that context, you could say that the August 1992 finalization of the NAFTA deal was the beginning of a New Miserable Experience in America. That was the title of the Gin Blossoms’ breakthrough album released that month. No, it wasn’t a political statement about NAFTA or anything else, but this hit single from the album does includes the lyric: “The past is gone, but something might be found to take its place.”

(Stick around to the end and see a young Jon Stewart join them on stage.)

 


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

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