Wednesday, January 18, 2023
► From Reuters — Washington court paves way for Albertsons’ $4 billion dividend, declines to review case — Washington state’s highest court will allow Albertsons Companies Inc. to pay a $4 billion dividend ahead of its proposed deal with Kroger by declining on Tuesday to take up a claim that the payout would be uncompetitive. The Washington Supreme Court made the decision after a lower court judge refused last month to issue a preliminary injunction against the dividend. The Washington attorney general’s office in November sued to block the dividend, arguing that it would weaken Albertsons before Kroger’s $25 billion purchase.
EDITOR’S NOTE — According to SEC filings, Albertsons plans to pay shareholders more cash than the company has, so it will spend all of its $2.5 billion in cash on hand and borrow the rest. Whether or not the merger is allowed by federal authorities under anti-trust laws, this extraordinary dividend is a recipe for grocery store closures.
The Stand (Oct. 14, 2021) — Grocery unions decry proposed Kroger-Albertsons merger — Local unions representing grocery store workers in Washington, California and Colorado say the proposed merger would be “devastating for workers and consumers,” and call on anti-trust regulators to block it.
► From Crosscut — WA has 530 bridges in ‘poor’ condition — and limited repair money — Public inspection data shows about 530 of the state’s bridges are classified in “poor” condition, the agency’s lowest assessment. In Grays Harbor County, where the Heron Street Bridge crosses the Wishkah River, records show even greater deterioration: Nearly one out of 10 bridges are listed in poor condition, including several highly trafficked spans near downtown Aberdeen and Hoquiam.
► From KUOW — WA lawmakers consider minimum wage requirement for incarcerated workers — There are 2,200 incarcerated people across Washington who have jobs. They’re employed in prison facilities. They might be welders, food service workers, carpenters, or janitors. Altogether, Washington’s Department of Corrections generated $68.8 million in revenue last year. But only a small portion of that money makes it into the incarcerated workers’ wages. At most, inmates can make $2.70 an hour. A new proposal by State Rep. Tarra Simmons (D-Bremerton) would raise that minimum wage to match Washington’s at $15.74 an hour.
► From Crosscut — WA Democrats hid messages on Chinese American History Month bill — Records obtained by Crosscut show that House lawmakers used “legislative privilege” to shield emails, memos and text messages from public view.
► From the Seattle Times — Job cuts in tech sector spread, Microsoft lays off 10,000 — Microsoft is cutting 10,000 workers, almost 5% of its workforce, joining other tech companies that have scaled back their pandemic-era expansions. Microsoft is cutting far fewer jobs than it had added during the COVID-19 pandemic as it responded to a boom in demand for its workplace software and cloud computing services with so many people working and studying from home.
► From Q13 — Amazon begins cutting 18,000 workers in its biggest layoffs ever — Amazon’s
workforce reduction layoffs, the largest in its history, will begin Wednesday. Earlier this month, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy told employees in a blog post that the company was laying off about 18,000 people as it seeks to cut costs and would begin contacting impacted employees on Jan. 18.
► From the Seattle Times — Amazon slashed HR teams built to help warehouse workers — For Amazon warehouse workers, the COVID-19 pandemic — and the unprecedented number of questions about sick time and corporate polices — exposed flaws in the system that left some workers confused about how or why they were fired, and unable to reach anyone who could fix mistakes. In August, Amazon rolled out a new system to help its warehouse workers connect with a human — rather than a chatbot — when they had questions about such things. Less than six months after launching the new system, Amazon trimmed the workforce in charge of responding to those questions.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Sick of broken promises? Get it in writing… in a union contract! Get more information about how you can join together with co-workers and negotiate for better wages and working conditions, and a voice on the job. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!
► From Politico — Biden, House GOP refuse to budge as key debt ceiling deadline looms — The Biden administration and House Republicans are heading toward an initial Thursday debt ceiling deadline without even a hint of an endgame, ensuring a months-long standoff that’s poised to rattle financial markets amid worries about a recession this year.
► From the Chicago Sun-Times — University of Illinois Chicago faculty union goes on strike — Hundreds of faculty at the UIC hit picket lines across their Near West Side campus Tuesday on the first day of an indefinite strike after nine months of contract negotiations. The UIC Faculty United union announced late Monday that it would proceed with its walkout after a 12-hour bargaining session still didn’t yield enough movement to land a deal.
► From City Beat — REI’s Cleveland workers file to unionize, following California and New York colleagues — The move comes among complaints of “irregular scheduling” and unfair wages during what workers say is REI’s largest profit margin in its 84-year history. According to a press release from the RWDSU, a “majority” of REI Cleveland’s 55 workers leaned towards filing with the union, which represents 100,000 workers across the U.S.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Ready for a voice 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!
► From the People’s World — AFL-CIO’s Redmond: Disenfranchising workers boosts ‘fascist ideology’ — Disrespect, disenfranchisement and disinheritance of workers—of whatever race, color or creed—produces “a fertile environment” for hate and “fascist ideology.” So said Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in a speech to the AFL-CIO convention in 1961, and that’s still true today, says AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond.
► From CNBC — Economic data is often misunderstood, hurting Black workers: AFL-CIO chief economist William Spriggs — When there’s an economic slowdown, the racial employment gap grows. But mainstream economic data doesn’t always reflect the struggle, according to William Spriggs, Howard University economics professor and chief economist for the AFL-CIO.
► From CNBC — The richest 1% of people amassed almost two-thirds of new wealth created in the last two years, Oxfam says — A total of $42 trillion in new wealth has been created since 2020, with $26 trillion, or 63%, of that being amassed by the top 1% of the ultra-rich, according to the report. The remaining 99% of the global population collected just $16 trillion of new wealth, the global poverty charity says.
► From The Hill — Corporate tax rates fall globally as governments consider austerity measures — Falling corporate tax rates in the U.S. are part of a global trend that has governments charging big business less in tax while looking to make spending cuts across a wide range of social programs. Reports from nonprofit Oxfam, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) and other organizations are showing that as governments weigh austerity measures in the wake of the pandemic, corporations with surging profits are being asked to foot less of the bill.
EDITOR’S NOTE — And these related stories…
► From the AP — UK nurses stage new walkout as strike wave intensifies — Thousands of nurses in Britain walked out Wednesday in a new protest over pay, with no end in sight to a wave of strikes that has piled pressure on the U.K.’s overburdened public health system.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.