Thursday, January 11, 2024
► From The Stranger — Democrats could pass huge wins for workers — As workers continue to breathe new life into the labor movement across the United States, some Washington State Democrats want to make it easier for workers to organize and fight for better working conditions. In the third-most union dense state in the country, the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, expects the pro-worker Democrats they helped get elected to get shit done. WSLC Government Affairs Director Sybill Hyppolite:
“Working people statewide have shown up year after year to bring lawmakers to Olympia who are committed to meeting the needs of workers, not just the wealthy few – we expect big progress this year.”
From The STAND — WSLC sets legislative agenda to ‘improve jobs and lives’ (Jan. 8)
► From KIRO — ‘Last few years have been devastating’ for family of 19-year-old killed in Seattle crane collapse — On Wednesday morning, Sarah Wong’s parents and lawmakers announced a new bill that calls for harsher punishments in tragedies like this.
EDITOR’S NOTE — In response to the tragic incident in Seattle in 2019 when a tower crane fell, killing two Ironworkers and two members of the public, HB 2022/SB 5900 would address safety by establishing permits for tower crane operation including assembly and disassembly, establish a work zone for traffic closures and public notification when tower cranes will be assembled and disassembled, and establish criminal penalties on industries that violate certain safety laws.
► From the WA State Standard — Democrats propose new tax on real estate sales over $3M to fund affordable housing — Revenue from that tax, estimated at just under $300 million every two years, would provide a funding stream to pay for affordable housing projects. The bill would also decrease the tax rate for property sales under $750,000.
► From the Cascadia Daily News — WWU student workers aim for ‘wall-to-wall’ union protection — More than 2,000 student employees at Western Washington University will be part of a union if students’ efforts come to fruition. That would constitute “wall-to-wall” union protection, as organizers call it, an effort that reflects broader efforts to unionize across industries in recent years. It’s part of a movement of students organizing across the state and nationwide: Postdoctoral students at Washington State University have organized, and academic student workers are heading for a strike. Central Washington University students are also organizing, said Sarah Tucker of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO.
Previously at The STAND:
1,100 Operational Student Employees at WWU file for union (Dec. 14, 2023)
Student workers at Central WA University are forming a union (Nov. 30, 2023)
WSU Postdocs file to join together in a union (Sept. 19, 2023)
► From the UAW — Mercedes-Benz workers in Alabama launch public campaign to join UAW — Workers at the Mercedes-Benz plant outside Tuscaloosa, Ala., went public Wednesday with their campaign to join the UAW. Over 30% of the plant’s workforce have signed union authorization cards, a major milestone on their path to form a union with the UAW. The launch at Mercedes in Alabama comes just one month after Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga, Tenn., reached the 30% threshold and went public with their drive to join the UAW. It comes just six weeks after non-union autoworkers across the nation started organizing to join the UAW.
► From The Guardian — UAW announces union campaign at Mercedes-Benz plant in Alabama — The news is another significant boost to the UAW’s plans to unionize non-union auto workers throughout the U.S. after securing historic contracts for workers at the big three automakers last year.
► From The Guardian — ‘We don’t have a say’: Workers join push to unionize flagship Volkswagen plant — The UAW is going all out to unionize Volkswagen’s flagship plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. So far more than 1,000 workers have signed union authorization cards, more than 30% of the bargaining unit.
► From the Manitoban — Video game workers need to further unionize in 2024 — Rather than hoping that companies solve their many workplace issues themselves, the video game industry needs to unionize. While unions don’t magically fix all the issues, they can improve them by standing up to management on behalf of workers and demanding better pay and conditions through bargaining and labor actions like strikes.
► A related story from KING — Unity to lay off 25% of workforce impacting positions in Bellevue — Unity is best known for its game engine, which is used for some of gaming’s biggest titles including Pokémon Go, Call of Duty Mobile and Among Us.
► From HuffPost — Trump says he’s ‘proud’ to have overturned Roe v. Wade — At a Fox News town hall, Donald Trump takes the credit for ending the right to abortion.
► From Roll Call — Drama reigns as House GOP targets Mayorkas, Hunter Biden, and can’t adopt rule — Amid a conservative rebellion, the House Republican majority was unable to muster the votes to adopt a rule governing this week’s scheduled business, again stalling action on the House floor.
► From the AP — Speaker Johnson is facing conservative pushback over the spending deal he struck with Democrats — House Republicans are off to a raucous start in their first week back in Washington after an extended holiday break. The open criticism of the speaker and the parliamentary standoff reflects deep divisions within the party that have continued despite new leadership, raising questions about his ability to unite the conference.
► From The Hill — Johnson risks same fate as McCarthy with spending deal
► From the Alaska Beacon — Alaska advocates submit petition signatures to put minimum wage increase on ballot — The initiative campaign, the third since 2002, would also mandate paid sick leave and protect workers from having to hear employers’ political or religious messages. Joelle Hall, president of the Alaska AFL-CIO, said the initiative campaign is a necessity for this issue. “This is the only way the minimum wage gets raised in this state.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — Sound familiar? Washington now has the nation’s highest state minimum wage ($16.28/hour) thanks to labor-led initiative campaigns that were wildly popular with voters. Initiative 688 in 1998 made Washington the first state to automatically adjust its lowest legal wage each year to account for inflation. Nineteen states now do this. In 2016, Initiative 1433 further raised the state minimum wage and ensured that all workers in the state also receive paid sick leave.
► From Jacobin — Grocery giant Kroger has maintained ties with a grower accused of human trafficking — Kroger, the major grocery chain, has pointed to its connections with local growers to defend a recent proposed merger. But one of those growers has been linked to a huge human trafficking scheme to maintain a steady supply of exploited farmworkers.
Previously from The STAND:
Grocery unions decry proposed Kroger-Albertsons merger (Oct. 14, 2022)
Study: Kroger-Albertsons merger will cost workers over $300M (May 9, 2023)
► From the Guardian — Majority of debtors to U.S. hospitals are now people with health insurance — This marks a sea change from just a few years ago, when people with health insurance represented only about one in 10 bills hospitals considered “bad debt,”analysts said.
AFL-CIO MLK CONFERENCE
The 2024 AFL-CIO Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Civil and Human Rights Conference begins Friday and runs through Sunday. This event is running during a crucial moment for the labor and civil rights movements, as workers across the country are organizing at historic rates for dignity, respect and justice, both on the job and in our communities. We are facing unprecedented attacks on our rights from politicians and judges who would rather put the interests of corporations over the needs of working people. We will come together not only to strengthen the bond between our two movements, but also to reignite our shared commitment to democracy and winning racial and economic justice for all. Select sessions will be livestreamed starting Friday morning, and you can watch along at TheMLKConference.org.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.