Thursday, December 14, 2023
► From the Bellingham Herald — More than 1,000 Western Washington University student employees file to unionize — More than 1,000 Operation Student Employees of Western Washington University filed to unionize on Wednesday, citing ongoing struggles with low and late pay, unsafe work environments and unpredictable schedules.
► From KING — Western Washington non-academic workers to be first in state to unionize — Operational student employees filed to join the Western Academic Workers United union, citing low and late pay, as well as unsafe working conditions.
Today at The STAND — 1,100 WWU Operational Student Employees file for union
► From the union-busting Columbian — Kroger-Albertsons merger has broad implications (editorial) — A proposed $25 billion merger between Kroger and Albertsons — the nation’s largest grocery store chains — is disconcerting. It is understandable that the companies would seek leverage in competing against nonunion outlets such as Walmart, but it is insulting that officials would claim the merger will benefit workers. It also is difficult to see how a merger would benefit consumers. Combining operations would incentivize the company to shutter outlets, increasing the likelihood of food deserts in Clark County and limiting choices for shoppers.
EDITOR’S NOTE — The Executive Board of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO approved a resolution in opposition to the Kroger-Albertsons mega-merger because it would lead to “job loss, higher prices for consumers, and creation of food deserts.”
► From the (Longview) Daily News — Lower Columbia College Head Start faces lack of staff, funding cuts — Head Start is a free federal program to prepare low-income children up to 5 years old for school. Like many Head Start programs nationwide, Lower Columbia College programs are struggling to find enough staff to function at full capacity. The average annual salary for a lead teacher at Head Start is about $35,000, while a kindergarten teacher makes $63,700. The average salary for an assistant teacher is even lower, at just over $26,000 annually.
EDITOR’S NOTE — At the current state minimum wage ($16.28/hour), a full-time worker should be paid $33,862 annually. Meanwhile, the appropriations bill introduced in the Republican-controlled House in October would cut the Head Start budget by $750 million, or 6% of its current funding
► From the (Everett) Herald — With bullet train sidetracked, upgrade Cascades (editorial) — Rather than a costly new line, an upgraded Amtrak Cascades offers faster travel, sooner and cleaner.
► From the LA Times — Starbucks audit finds ‘missteps’ by management but no evidence of an ‘antiunion playbook’ — Starbucks, contending with unionization at hundreds of its U.S. stores, should bolster guidance on how it disciplines workers and measures compliance with collective bargaining rights, a third-party assessment of the company’s labor practices found. The assessment — which shareholders requested in March against the company’s recommendation — ascribed “missteps” in how Starbucks has engaged with unionized workers mostly to the company’s lack of preparation for a wave of organizing, and to mistakes by local staff with no experience dealing with unions. In the view of Workers United, the assessment “acknowledges deep problems in the company’s response to workers’ organizing,” adding:
“The report shows Starbucks has a long way to go to shift policy and deconstruct the massive antiunion apparatus that remains in place and is active today.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — “Playbook” or not, the union-busting “missteps” continue…
► From KING — Starbucks accused of illegally closing stores, union busting — Starbucks is accused of illegally closing nearly two dozen stores to discourage union organizing. The National Labor Relations Board says Starbucks is breaking federal law, saying the coffee giant closed 23 locations because its employees engaged in union activities or prevented employees from doing so. Seven of those 23 stores are in Seattle and one is in Everett.
► From In These Times — Starbucks’ offer to resume contract talks comes with some serious fine print — Starbucks says it wants to bargain. Its behavior suggests otherwise. The company’s message is, “We’re saying we want to resume negotiations, but we will do so only if the union surrenders to us on this important hybrid bargaining issue.” That doesn’t seem like a conducive way or sincere way to resume contract talks.
► From KING — Boeing employees frustrated with requirement to work in office full-time — “We have heard from some of our members that if they are mandated to be full-time in office, they will look for other options,” said Bryan Corliss, a spokesperson for the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace. According to SPEEA, managers can allow employees to work remotely when it makes sense for their department. The union hopes Boeing will continue with this policy as employees currently work with varying degrees of a hybrid schedule.
► From the Olympian — Evergreen students demand answers at emotional vigil for student who died Monday — A large crowd gathered at The Evergreen State College at noon Wednesday to mourn a student who died in student housing Monday in a suspected carbon monoxide poisoning. Students, faculty and administrators met for a vigil at Red Square in the heart of the campus located northwest of Olympia. The event occurred two days after Jonathan Rodriguez, a 21-year-old student from DuPont, died and two others were hospitalized. Investigators suspect carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless gas, poisoned the students around 8 p.m. Monday in their modular housing unit.
► From the WA State Standard — Inslee pitches budget plan with $2.5B in new spending — Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday outlined a plan to boost state spending by nearly $2.5 billion in the next 18 months with the largest sums devoted to increasing behavioral health services, reducing homelessness, and combating climate change. His proposal relies on higher-than-expected tax collections and robust proceeds from the sale of pollution allowances.
► From the AP — House approves impeachment inquiry into President Biden as Republicans rally behind investigation — The House on Wednesday authorized the impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, with every Republican (including Washington Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Dan Newhouse) rallying behind the politically charged process despite lingering concerns among some in the party that the investigation has yet to produce evidence of misconduct by the president. Donald Trump has pushed his GOP allies in Congress to move swiftly on impeaching Biden, part of his broader calls for vengeance and retribution against his political enemies.
► From the AFL-CIO — AFL-CIO strongly condemns House Republicans impeachment inquiry vote — AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler:
“(It) will go down as yet another pathetic and dangerous stunt by a hyper-partisan group of politicians who are more interested in political retribution than governing.”
► From the AP — Republican leading the probe of Hunter Biden has his own shell company and complicated friends — Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), a multimillionaire farmer, co-owns land with a longtime campaign contributor that he has treated differently, transferring his ownership to Farm Team Properties, a shell company he co-owns with his wife.
► From Reuters — Biden administration to impose inflation penalties on dozens of drugmakers — The Biden administration will subject dozens of drugmakers to inflation penalties, the White House said on Thursday, in a move that would reduce out-of-pocket costs for Medicare recipients. President Joe Biden’s signature Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) includes a provision to penalize drugmakers for charging prices that rise faster than inflation for people on Medicare, a government program for those age 65 and older and the disabled.
► From the LA Times — Hollywood’s animation workers are unionizing at a rapid pace. Here’s why. — After Cartoon Network’s parent company, Warner Bros., merged with Discovery in 2022 — resulting in a sweeping creative overhaul, mass layoffs and other painful cost-cutting measures — Em Hagen said they and their peers became concerned about their futures at the entertainment behemoth. They waged a four-month campaign to unionize under the Animation Guild — a move that has become increasingly popular among production workers at animation studios in recent years.
► From Jacobin — Retail janitors clean up after holiday shoppers. They don’t get time off for themselves. — Janitors for big box stores see big workload increases around the holidays — but most of them get little time off to celebrate with their families. In Minnesota, unionized janitors are looking to change that by winning paid holidays and more vacation time.
► From the LA Times — UNITE HERE Local 11 reaches deal with Beverly Wilshire, strikes Sheraton near Disneyland — The union has reached a tentative agreement with a 10th hotel, marking continued momentum in the contract campaign it began earlier this year. The deal with the Beverly Wilshire was reached days after the union nailed down agreements with two other major Beverly Hills hotels, the Beverly Hilton and the Waldorf Astoria.
► On today’s date in 1979, our all-time favorite album was released. The Clash’s double-album London Calling had all the punk energy and politics we’d come to expect from the British rockers, but added a dash of pop, reggae, jazz, and you-name-it. At the time (like today), reactionary right-wingers were calling for government and law enforcement “clampdowns” on strikers, agitators, benefits claimants, football hooligans, punks, and all other perceived threats to Making England Great Again. But this song’s (mostly indecipherable) lyrics are about how capitalism forces young people to start wearing the “blue and brown” workers’ uniforms and find themselves “working for the clampdown.”
Here’s The Clash performing “Clampdown” from that album on Fridays. (Fun fact: The cast of Fridays, ABC’s short-lived answer to NBC’s Saturday Night Live, included Seinfeld‘s Michael Richards and Larry David when he looked like this.)
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.