Thursday, May 18, 2023
► From the Seattle Times — $3.4 million fine resolves lawsuit against WA mushroom farm — Ostrom Mushroom Farms, a major producer in the Pacific Northwest, will pay a $3.4 million fine for gender discrimination and other unfair and discriminatory practices, resolving a lawsuit filed last year by the Washington Attorney General’s Office. The resolution comes as Yakima Valley workers now employed by the Canadian company (that purchased Ostrom) continue to push for union recognition. Several who made the trip to Seattle said they won’t work for Windmill Farms until officials recognize the union. Former Ostrom employee Neyra Escovedo said:
“Without the protections that unionized workplaces bring you, you’re at the mercy of your employer, and we saw what can happen then. They essentially control you. Even your opinion bothers them.”
TODAY at The Stand — Mushroom workers get $3.4 million for civil-rights violations — State Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s announcement comes as Ostrom (now Windmill Farms) workers continue to demand recognition of their union with UFW.
► From the NW Labor Press — Locals snubbed for nuclear work — Almost 50 union boilermakers in Eastern Washington are losing work because managers at a nuclear energy facility decided to hire an out-of-state contractor to save money. Boilermakers Local 242 representative Luke Lafley said Columbia Generating Station, a nuclear power plant in Richland, contracted with the Pennsylvania-based Merrick Group to clean, inspect, and repair heat exchangers. Using out-of-state workers saves money for executives at the facility, but it leaves behind skilled local craftsmen and their families, who work and live in the community, and spend their money in the local economy.
► From Reuters — U.S. West Coast ports regain lost volume as competitive pressure mounts — Some U.S. importers who shifted cargo away from West Coast ports to rival gateways over fears that labor contract talks could disrupt shipments have begun bringing some of that volume back, even as those negotiations stretch into their 13th month. Some large and small retailers have been diverting cargo away from West Coast ports since before the contract covering 22,000 dockworkers at ports stretching from California to Washington state expired on July 1.
► From the (Aberdeen) Daily World — Eight train cars derailed due to heat expansion of tracks
► From the (Everett) Herald — Everett Community College president set for $281K salary
SOUTH OF THE BORDER
► From the NW Labor Press — Painters win $9.66 over three years in new contract — For the second time in a row, Painters Local 10 obtained a contract with historic pay raises for members in the Portland metro area. On May 4, union members approved an agreement with Oregon Signatory Painting Contractors Organization (SPCO) that raises total compensation $9.66 over three years. Painters District Council 5 representative Scott Oldham said that’s the largest pay bump the local has ever seen.
Ready for a real raise? Get more information about how you can join together with co-workers and negotiate for better wages, benefits and working conditions. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!
► From the NW Labor Press — Postal unions to Biden: Stop stalling and fill postal board vacancies — Almost 60 union supporters gathered outside the East Portland Post Office May 9 for a rally to preserve and protect the U.S. Postal Service.
► From the NW Labor Press — Lawmakers end Oregon’s lowest-in-nation OSHA penalties — A bill to enact tougher penalties for workplace safety violations is on its way to Oregon Governor Tina Kotek’s desk after a bit of committee room drama and a failed Republican attempt to gut a key feature of the bill.
EDITOR’S NOTE — For more great labor news in Oregon and Southwest Washington, subscribe to the Northwest Labor Press!
► From Reuters — Air Canada nears 787 Dreamliners deal with Boeing — Air Canada is closing in on the purchase of up to 20 787 Dreamliners to renew and expand its long-haul fleet, Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday.
► From The Street — Elizabeth Warren calls out Boeing, Lockheed Martin for disturbing reason — In an op-ed for The Military Times, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) argues that “it’s time to slap a padlock on” the process that turns former Pentagon officials into fat-cat defense contractor board members.
► From the Washington Post — GOP rejected White House effort to close tax loopholes in debt ceiling talks — The White House recently gave Republican congressional leadership a list of proposals to reduce the deficit by closing tax loopholes during the ongoing negotiations over the federal budget and the debt ceiling. But Republican negotiators rejected every item.
The Stand (May 5) — How Republican spending cuts will hurt Washington state — On a 217-215 vote, Washington Republican Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Dan Newhouse both voted to approve the “Limit, Save, Grow Act,” which is estimated to make the following cuts to Washington state:
- 4,800 preschool and child care slots would be eliminated
- 187,000 Washingtonians would lose food assistance
- 89,000 students would see the cost of college go up
- 17,000 Washington families would see an increase in their housing costs
- 164,500 veterans could lose medical care
- 371,000 Washingtonians could lose Apple Health (Medicaid) coverage
- 1.5 million seniors would have to wait at least 2 months longer for Social Security and Medicare assistance
► From The Hill — Democrats warn Biden against cutting debt ceiling deal with McCarthy — Senate Democrats, caught off guard by President Biden’s decision to tap two senior advisers to negotiate a debt ceiling deal with Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), are warning the president not to agree to anything that would hurt low-income Americans or undermine the battle against climate change. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said she would oppose stronger work requirements for SNAP benefits.
► From the union-busting Columbian — Cantwell wise to make safety focus of rail bill (editorial) — In February, a derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, spilled hazardous materials into a ditch that feeds a stream leading to the Ohio River. There were no fatalities, but residents soon reported health effects from the dangerous chemicals, bringing the issue of railroad safety into sharp relief. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) has helped lead the way on developing congressional action and garnering some bipartisan support. The Railway Safety Act has passed the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which she chairs, and now heads to the full Senate.
► From HuffPost — Federal appeals court appears likely to restrict mifepristone — Amid the legal battles surrounding access to the abortion pill mifepristone, a federal appeals court seems to be leaning toward restricting access to the drug after hearing arguments on Wednesday
EDITOR’S NOTE — At Gov. Inslee’s direction, the Department of Corrections purchased a 3-year supply of mifepristone. Then the Legislature approved SB 5768 allowing the DOC to distribute/sell it to clinics, thus guaranteeing uninterrupted access to safe abortion medication in our state. For now.
► From The Hill — South Carolina House passes six-week abortion ban
► From Jacobin — In Georgia, 1,400 electric bus manufacturing workers have just won a union — Electric vehicle manufacturing in the U.S. is overwhelming nonunion, but 1,400 workers for an electric bus manufacturer in Georgia have just unionized with USW. It’s one of the labor movement’s biggest victories in the South this century.
EDITOR’S NOTE — REI store employees in Bellingham recently filed for a union election.
► From the American Prospect — A great week for American labor (by Harold Meyerson) — Two signal union victories last week suggest that, against all odds, the American labor movement may have a future. The first confirmed a new trend in worker organizing; the second could mean that the government has finally found a way to help workers to join a union. Residents and fellows at the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Med hospital voted 892 to 110 to join SEIU’s Committee of Interns and Residents. The second of last week’s union victories is even more astonishing. Last Friday, largely African American workers at a rural school bus factory in Southwest Georgia joined the United Steelworkers by the decisive margin of 697 to 435.
► From NBC News — SAG-AFTRA calls for strike authorization vote ahead of studio talks — The performers union won’t necessarily join the Writers Guild on the picket line. But “we must get all our ducks in a row,” union President Fran Drescher said.
► From Reuters — FedEx pilots vote in favor of strike in push for pay rise
► From The Guardian — Top five U.S. executives hoard $9 billion tax-free for retirement as workers face limits — A new report found the top five executives at S&P 500 firms held a combined $8.9 billion in special tax-deferred accounts at the end of 2021. These so-called “top hat” plans allow unlimited tax-deferred retirement while ordinary workers face strict limits on their 401(k) retirement plan contributions. The survey found that at many of these companies, a sizeable percentage of workers – in some cases as much as half – had no money in their 401(k)s.
► From the Duluth News Tribune — 48 hours of annual sick time will soon be Minnesota law — A final jobs and labor package passed by the House and Senate Tuesday creates a new “sick and safe time” mandate. Gov. Tim Walz supports the policy.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Thanks to the passage of Initiative 1433 — a successful ballot measure proposed and supported by the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO and a coalition of labor and community allies in 2016 — Washington workers have had paid sick and safe leave since 2018. Learn more here.
► From the Wall Street Journal — U.S. workers testing positive for marijuana reaches 25-year record — Drug testing by employers reveals a surge in employee marijuana use as more U.S. states legalize.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.