Wednesday, January 4, 2023
► From the Cascadia Daily News — How could the Defense Production Act restart Intalco? — Hopes of a green aluminum smelter restart in Whatcom County were dashed late last year, when the private equity firm pushing the restart backed out of negotiations to reopen the Intalco aluminum smelter. In the weeks since negotiations halted, Washington senators and representatives have pushed alternative methods to restart the Whatcom County plant, seeking creative ways to bring back the 700 union manufacturing jobs lost when Intalco curtailed in mid-2020. Local politicians such as U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen have zeroed in on the federal Defense Production Act of 1950 (DPA) as a possible reopening route. Larsen, who instructed his staffers to review the DPA to see if it could be used to help restart the smelter, said:
“There’s a national security question about this. Where do we get aluminum from, and where do we want to get it from?”
► From the PS Business Journal — WA Supreme Court speeds up review of Albertsons’ $4B dividend payout ahead of sale — The fate of Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s temporary restraining order against Albertsons’ $4 billion shareholder dividend will soon be in the hands of the state Supreme Court. Ferguson filed the order in November, seeking to stop the special payment while state and federal authorities vet the grocer’s $25 billion sale to Kroger. Following rulings against other orders from attorneys general across the country, Ferguson’s appeal could be the dividend’s last remaining legal roadblock.
► From NPR — Minimum wage just increased in 23 states and D.C. Here’s how much — In Washington state, not only has the state’s minimum wage gone up by $1.25 to $15.74 an hour, the city of Seattle has raised its minimum wage for small and large employers by $0.75 and $1.42, respectively.
The Stand (Jan. 3) — Higher wages, new rights for Washington workers in 2023
► From Vox — The ultrarich are getting cozy in America’s tax havens at everyone else’s expense — Illinois’ flat income tax is one example of a regressive state tax system, in which the tax burden decreases the richer someone is. They are designed for the benefit of the wealthy — and sometimes by the wealthy — at the expense of low- and middle-income taxpayers.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Meanwhile, Washington state has the most regressive tax system in the nation. Democrats are trying to change that and make our tax system more fair by, among other things, creating an excise tax on extraordinary capital gains.
► From the Washington Post — Patty Murray makes history as first female Senate pro tem — Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) was elected Senate president pro tempore Tuesday, becoming the first woman to hold the job since its inception and putting her third in the line of presidential succession. Murray, who was elected to the Senate in 1992 as a self-proclaimed “mom in tennis shoes,” was selected for the role after Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) declined to seek it. Said Murray:
“As the first woman to serve as President Pro Tempore, I will be the first woman to sign the bills we send to President Biden’s desk for his signature and to be designated to preside over the Senate in the absence of the Vice President. It’s a responsibility I am deeply honored to take on for my country and for Washington state. And I hope that when young women watch footage of the first female Vice President—my friend Kamala Harris—swearing me in today, they don’t question for a moment whether their voices matter, or if they belong in Congress. Because we need even more women to serve at every level of government.
► From the Seattle Times — Murray, for now, is second in line for presidency — The Senate president pro tem position is typically third in line for the presidency, after the vice president and the House speaker. But there currently is no House speaker.
► From the Washington Post — Kevin McCarthy faces open GOP revolt as House fails to elect speaker — Republican leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) faced open revolt in the House chamber Tuesday, failing in three rounds of balloting to earn enough votes to capture the speakership in a once-in-a-century showdown that will now spill into a second day.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Neither Washington Republican Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Dan Newhouse were among the 20 GOP members who voted to oppose McCarthy’s bid to be speaker.
► From HuffPost — A far-right gang of House members will hold power over their caucus — with a megaphone — The Republican lawmakers, who have spent years becoming far-right influencers, are poised to hold a concerning amount of control over the new Congress.
► From Reuters — Union-friendly changes in the works at U.S. labor board — The U.S. National Labor Relations Board’s Democratic majority is poised to make a series of key changes to federal labor law in 2023 that will aid unions amid a surge in organizing that gained momentum during the COVID-19 pandemic. The NLRB and its general counsel, Jennifer Abruzzo, have signaled their interest in overturning a number of Trump-era decisions that were favored by business groups. Here is a look at five areas where the NLRB is likely to have the biggest impact this year.
► From Roll Call — Providers say Medicare Advantage hinders new methadone benefit — Providers say Medicare Advantage plans make it difficult for enrollees to receive much-needed, evidence-backed opioid treatment.
► From the AP — Video game workers form Microsoft’s first U.S. labor union — A group of video game testers has formed Microsoft’s first labor union in the U.S., which will also be the largest in the video game industry. The Communications Workers of America said Tuesday that a majority of about 300 quality-assurance workers at Microsoft video game subsidiary ZeniMax Studios has voted to join the union. Microsoft already told the CWA it would accept the formation of the union at its Maryland-based video game subsidiary. Said ZeniMax senior game tester Wayne Dayberry:
“Throughout the industry, the quality assurance departments are treated poorly, paid very little, and treated as replaceable cogs. There’s not a lot of dignity involved in it. That’s something we’re hoping to show people in the industry who are in like situations, that if we can do it, they can do it as well.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — Ready for some dignity at work? Get 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!
P.S. — Microsoft has to “accept” the formation of this union as a matter of LAW. The problem: those laws intended to protect the freedom to choose unionization are so weak that companies like Starbucks, Amazon and many others routinely refuse to “accept” their workers’ decisions and instead launch years-long legal battles to prevent unionization.
► From the AP — UAW workers to vote on CNH offer 8 months after strike began — More than 1,000 striking CNH Industrial workers will soon vote on an offer from the maker of construction and agricultural equipment for the first time since they walked off the job eight months ago. The United Auto Workers union said this week that it decided to put the company’s “upgraded last, best and final offer” to a vote, but the union didn’t offer any details of what is included in it.
► From Jacobin — During the pandemic, workers were told they were heroes — and given little to show for it (by Jamie McCallum) — At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, the American working class faced a paradox: workers were told they were “essential” and touted as “heroes,” yet they were often treated as sacrificial lambs.
► From the NY Times — Why are energy prices so high? Some experts blame deregulation. — California and the 34 other states that have deregulated all or parts of their electricity system tend to have higher rates than the rest of the country.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.