Friday, March 17, 2023
The Entire Staff of The Stand is off next week, so our next Daily News will be posted on Monday, March 27.
► From the Bellingham Herald — Idled Whatcom County Intalco smelter closure announced by Alcoa — In a “devastating” development for Whatcom County, the idled Alcoa Intalco Works aluminum smelter is closing, the company said. It announced Thursday that the smelter west of Ferndale, where production was curtailed in 2020, will not reopen. Closure of the site that once employed more than 1,300 people ultimately came because the smelter “lacks access to competitively priced power and would have required significant capital expenditures to restart,” Alcoa said. Sen. Sharon Shewmake (D-Bellingham) said:
“The inability to come to an agreement on electricity rates proved to be insurmountable. I wish Bonneville Power Administration had been able to do more to support the smelter, the opportunities for green manufacturing and the jobs it brought.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — It’s truly a sad day for the International Association of Machinists, Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, elected officials, and many others. This coalition succeeded in finding a buyer, winning state support for environmentally friendly smelter upgrades, negotiating a new contract for the idled workers, and taking other steps necessary to restart Intalco. But ultimately, the effort was doomed by the Bonneville Power Administration—a federal agency that supposedly answers to the people—which refused to offer the prospective new owners preferred industrial power pricing similar to what Alcoa enjoyed for decades. So these family-wage jobs are lost and America’s unstable supply chain gets longer. As former WSLC President Larry Brown wrote a year ago:
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a powerful reminder of another reason (we need to restart Intalco). Right now, U.S. industry imports most of the aluminum it needs — much of it from places like China, the Middle East and Russia. We need American-made aluminum for Boeing aircraft, to make electric cars and for national defense. Intalco will restore a domestic supply, one that isn’t subject to bottlenecks. President Joe Biden and elected officials of both parties have emphasized the importance of making sure America has safe domestic, environmentally sound supplies of critical materials like aluminum. Intalco can help.
Alas, they didn’t. Thanks for nothing, BPA.
► Also from the Bellingham Herald — Five decades of aluminum smelting in Whatcom County (timeline)
UW professional advising staff are organizing a union with SEIU 925!🥳 They believe they are long overdue for union representation. We couldn’t agree more. We are stronger together, and together we can build a truly just, equitable, and sustainable university. #UnionsForAll pic.twitter.com/Rpw5ZnKYiH
— SEIU Local 925 (@SEIU925) March 16, 2023
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 KOMO — Seattle bus drivers ask health board to re-examine guidelines on fentanyl smoke — Transit workers from Sound Transit and King County Metro have told KOMO News they have suffered acute and chronic health issues from being exposed to fentanyl smoke while on the job. ATU Local 587, which represents transit workers in King County, is asking for more protections against drug use on the bus, including increased security, and QR codes on buses to report drug use.
► From KOMO — Despite tears from board members, Bellevue School District votes to close 2 schools — Weeks of anxiety, stress, and pleading with the Bellevue School District to keep all elementary schools open-ended, with the school board voting to close Wilburton and Eastgate Elementary schools at the end of this school year.
► From KING — Alaska Airlines is expanding its training facility in Renton — Alaska Airlines is more than doubling it’s training facility in Renton, saying it’s hiring more pilots than ever before.
► From the NW Labor Press — Bill would require ‘good faith’ by workers comp administrators — Vancouver firefighter Erik Becker should have qualified for worker’s compensation after doctors removed a tumor from his lungs — a cancer that the law recognizes is caused by his job. Yet the City of Vancouver, his self-insured employer, denied the claim arguing that he had “cancer in lung tissue, not lung cancer.” Becker testified in support of two bills that would impose a duty of good faith and fair dealing on self-insured employers and the third party administrators they employ. The bills — HB 1521 and SB 5524 — also increase fines for rule violations.
► From Crosscut — Washington has a shot at passing a massive housing reform package — So far, state lawmakers have passed bills to increase housing density and reform residential zoning. Can they keep the momentum going?
The Stand (Jan. 5) — WSLC announces 2023 agenda for state legislature — Among the legislative priorities of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO: Housing Options for Working Families. The Legislature can increase housing options for the unhoused, retirees, and low- and middle-income families by reforming exclusionary zoning, legalizing significant density near transit, and making it easier to build affordable housing.
► From Vox — Medicare is being privatized right before our eyes — Medicare is undergoing a subtle but fundamental transformation from government program to public benefit provided by private companies, a shift with major implications for both patients and taxpayers. The driver of that change, an alternative version of the program known as Medicare Advantage, has been the subject of scrutiny in recent weeks… MedPAC, the independent committee tasked with overseeing Medicare on Congress’s behalf, found Medicare Advantage plans cost the federal government more money per patient than the original program would have if those same people had stuck with the traditional benefits. Private companies are also making healthy margins on their Medicare business.
The Stand (Feb. 23, 2023) — PSARA aims to stop Medicare privatization — As Congress muddles through the next two years, PSARA will use this time to educate, organize, and expose our members, political and community leaders, and the wider public on the threat privatization poses to traditional Medicare and how and why we need to terminate Medicare privatization in all of its forms.
► From the Washington Post — After Silicon Valley Bank collapse, Washington asks: Is it to blame? — The new scrutiny focuses on the Federal Reserve, its regional bank in San Francisco, the state of California and lawmakers on Capitol Hill, after Washington moved in recent years to dial back oversight of important regional institutions.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) told us so.
If only someone could have warned us about the impact of rolling back Dodd-Frank…
— Groundwork Collaborative (@Groundwork) March 13, 2023
► From The Hill — Ohio teachers retirement fund takes massive hit in Silicon Valley Bank collapse — Retirement funds for public workers in Ohio lost millions after the Silicon Valley Bank collapsed last week.
► From the LA Times — I’m an LAUSD teacher. This is why my colleagues and I are going on strike (by Ingrid Fey) — Wednesday, I watched thousands of Los Angeles Unified School District employees, students and families converge at Grand Park. There was a sea of red and purple, a cacophony of whistles and bells and the reunion of former co-workers happy to see each other again. But there was something else I saw emblazoned on posters and T-shirts — the word “respect.” If someone were to ask me what is causing anger and exhaustion among so many people in the field of education, I would have to say the lack of respect for teachers like me and other critically important employees who serve the needs of students in the second largest school district in the country.
► From KXLY — Cancer-causing ‘forever chemicals’ line firefighters protective equipment — “Forever chemicals,” also known as PFAS, are known to cause cancer, which is the leading cause of death amongst firefighters. These chemicals are in the standard protective equipment used by all 300,000 firefighters across the county each day. “Our brand new, out-of-the-box set of bunker gear has about a pound of what they call PFAS,” said Edward Kelly, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters.
► From CDM — Bandcamp’s workers in the USA are unionizing — Bandcamp workers announced Thursday they are unionizing under the name Bandcamp United (OPEIU). It’s doubly relevant because this workforce represents everyone from engineers to journalists, working at a meeting point between music, tech, and gaming. And they’re asking artists and labels to support them.
► From Vox — Inflation is the best thing that ever happened to food companies — The eyebrow-raising price spikes at the grocery store can only partly be blamed on manufacturers’ higher costs. The inflation narrative offers the perfect jumping-off point for companies to raise prices, and major food manufacturers are taking advantage of the moment to boost their profits… Why are corporate profits so high at a time when regular people feel increasingly strapped? Because a small number of players have gobbled up most of the food chain. Cargill and just three other agribusiness companies control about 70 percent of the world’s agriculture market, according to Oxfam. Brands like PepsiCo, Nestle, Mondelez, and Conagra produce and market the vast majority of the offerings found in U.S. grocery stores.
► From the NY Times — North Dakota Supreme Court blocks abortion ban — The court’s opinion is not the final word on the case, but it upheld a lower court’s decision to suspend the state’s abortion ban.
► From the LA Times — His parents died. Then Amazon fired him for seeking time off, a worker’s suit alleges
► From Reuters — Pressure mounts on Macron after violent unrest over pensions — French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday faced the gravest challenge to his authority since the so-called Yellow Vest protests after his decision to push through a contested pension overhaul without a vote prompted violent unrest overnight.
► From Reuters — Flights cancelled in fresh round of strikes at German airports — Strikes at four German airports led to the cancellation of hundreds of flights on Friday in the latest bout of industrial action to disrupt travel plans in recent months.
► Today, The Entire Staff of The Stand celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with the Ireland’s most famous rock band singing their worldwide hit from the 2000 album All That You Can’t Leave Behind. We hope you all enjoy a beautiful day. Don’t let it get away.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.