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Friday, April 22, 2011
One week from today, WSLC Reports Today's more than 13-year run as your source for daily news and information online -- Almost Every Day!™ -- will come to an end. Alas, time and technology have caught up with the capabilities of this site and software, and it's past time for it to be put to rest. Appropriately, on May Day 2011, the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO will launch a new project online that continues the tradition of providing you the ONLY source of news and information dedicated to union members and the concerns of Washington's working families. So mark your calendars for Sunday, May 1. Everyone on the WSLC email list, and everyone who returns to the WSLC Reports Today site starting that day, will get the details! Read more.
State Legislature news:
Per our last update, the Senate on April 11 amended a Washington State Ferries management performance bill to include anti-union language sponsored by Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen (D-Camano Island). Thanks in part to the thousands of emails and calls legislators received urging them to protect ferry workers' rights, the House refused to concur with the changes.
Now legislators must reconcile the labor-supported House version of HB 1516 with the anti-union Senate version, which would abolish the Marine Employees Commission, take away union representation from some ferry workers, and severely restrict all ferry workers collective bargaining rights. Please TAKE ACTION AGAIN to contact the 3 State Representatives and 3 State Senators on the "conference committee" that will reconcile the two versions of the bill. Urge them to stop the attacks on unions and collective bargaining rights!
► In today's Olympian -- 2nd Republican-led House workers' comp motion fails -- Republicans attempted again a procedural motion on the House floor that would have allowed a vote on a Senate bill establishing the option of settlements to workers' compensation, but failed to get the votes necessary. The motion was defeated 41-51. Four of eight Democrats (Reps. Eddy, Hurst, Kelley and Takko) who earlier this week released their own proposal on establishing settlements abstained from voting, an unusual move in the House.
► In today's Kitsap Sun -- Kitsap legislators involved in procedural fight over workers' comp -- It erupted in a parliamentary smackdown Thursday that could have repercussions within the Democratic caucus.
► At TheOlympian.com -- Tax breaks trigger debate in much-awaited hearing -- A litany of complaints come from both sides of the tax-exemption mountain. The scene was a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on three bills that would close tax breaks for big banks, out-of-state shoppers or debt collectors -- to help public schools, mental health programs, or in-home care.
► In today's Olympian -- House, Senate leaders have different preferences for special session timing -- Gregoire is still mulling whether to bring lawmakers back early next week for a new 30-day session, an option the Senate leadership prefers. Or she might ask lawmakers to wait a few weeks before starting, an option the House prefers, so negotiators can move closer to agreeing on budget cuts.
What other states are doing:
► In today's Wall St. Journal -- States to business: Give our cash back -- The budget vise squeezing states and cities is changing the economic-development game. Governments are attaching more strings to their offers of tax breaks designed to lure business, and are getting tougher on past recipients who didn't come through. Officials fret that taxpayers will look askance on any giveaways to business that don't yield a clear benefit, at a time when governments are paring services to save money.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story leads with the example of right-wing conservative Ohio Gov. John Kasich demanding money back from businesses who failed to live up to job-creation promises after getting state money. That it's difficult to imagine the Democrat-controlled state government in Washington doing this speaks volumes about the dominant corporate influence in Olympia.)
► At Huffington Post -- Workers' compensation targeted by business, insurance groups across U.S. -- There's a flurry of legislative activity around the country -- notably in Maine, North Carolina, Illinois, and Montana -- geared towards reining in the costs to employers of workers compensation claims. The efforts seem to dovetail nicely with the anti-labor zeitgeist fostered in Wisconsin and Ohio, as stories of able-bodied workers gaming the system now abound in legislative halls.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Of course, add Washington to this list. Our Democrat-controlled government seems intent on allowing business groups to capitalize on recession-generated instability in the workers' comp system as an excuse to approve lump-sum buyouts. The "sky is falling" rhetoric from the business community on this issue demonstrates their desperation to capitalize on economic anxiety and anti-labor sentiment now before legislators realize the system is already stabilizing on its own and pressure on rates is dropping. Get the facts!
► In today's Columbian -- Furloughs shutter many state agencies today -- Many state agencies will be closed today for an unpaid furlough day. Among the dozens that will be closed today are the departments of commerce, corrections, fish and wildlife, health, personnel and veterans affairs.
► In today's Seattle Times -- I-90 light-rail opponents led by Kemper Freeman lose case at high court -- The State Supreme Court has rejected an attempt to keep light rail off the Interstate 90 floating bridge, prompting cheers from transit backers. But opponents expect to wage a second legal fight.
► In today's (Everett) Herald -- Boeing to fly 747-8 test freighters to Texas for work -- Its five 747-8 flight test freighters will go to San Antonio to be refurbished prior to delivery. "It's mostly a capacity issue," said a Boeing spokeswoman, explaining why the company isn't doing the work in Everett.
► In today's (Everett) Herald -- Marysville Fire Department lays off 3 firefighters, 4 others -- The layoffs were effective immediately. Declining property values have reduced the district's revenue.
► In today's Seattle Times -- Microsoft pay raises expected to boost local economy -- In the midst of a slow-going economic recovery, economists say the unprecedented pay raises Microsoft announced Thursday are a harbinger of hope for the Puget Sound area's economy. Every new dollar earned by each of the 40,000 employees who live in the region will generate another dollar in car sales, restaurant meals, sales of flat-screen televisions and maybe even housing sales.
EDITOR'S NOTE: When was the last time you saw a news story that touted the benefits of a union contract agreement to boost wages as being a positive thing for the local economy? And for that matter, what about the Unemployment Insurance system, which pumped $4.3 BILLION into the state economy in 2010? That money was immediately spent locally on basic needs, providing a significantly greater dollar-for-dollar economic boost than Microsoft employees' raises will. And yet all news coverage of the Unemployment Insurance system focuses on its cost to employers. Discuss.
$10,000 Berger-Marks award for young women organizers
The Berger-Marks Foundation has just launched a new $10,000 award to be given to a young woman (under 35) who is organizing for social justice. The award is named for Edna Berger, the Newspaper Guild's first woman International Representative. Young women from labor unions, women's groups, workers' rights groups and other areas of social justice are encouraged to apply. Learn more at AFL-CIO Now or go to the foundation's website for eligibility and application information.
► In today's NY Times -- New Hampshire Senate approves bill curbing unions -- Its State Senate passed the bill -- by a veto-proof vote of 16 to 8 -- that would make New Hampshire the 23rd right-to-work state, and the first in the Northeast. The House passed a similar bill in February.
► In today's NY Times -- Nation's mood at lowest level in two years, poll shows -- Americans are more pessimistic about the nation's economic outlook and overall direction than they have been at any time since Obama's first two months in office, when the country was still ensnared in the Great Recession.
(Surely, some credit goes to the blame placed on working-class folks and the attacks against them.)
► At Politico -- AFGE calls for boycott of "anti-labor" states -- With their salaries frozen, some AFGE locals urge members to hold off on discretionary spending. And if they must vacation, they are suggesting members boycott states that have taken steps to limit the power of organized labor.
► From McClatchy -- Business leaders urge Congress to "put everything on the table" to tackle deficit -- More than 100 current and former CEOs sign an influential business group's declaration saying tax increases and spending cuts are needed to restore the nation's finances to health.
► In today's NY Times -- Patients are not consumers (Paul Krugman column) -- How did it become normal, or for that matter even acceptable, to refer to medical patients as "consumers"? The idea that the health reform debate debate can be reduced to money -- that doctors are just "providers" selling services to health care "consumers" -- is, well, sickening. And the prevalence of this kind of language is a sign that something has gone very wrong not just with this discussion, but with our society's values.
One week from today, WSLC Reports Today's more than 13-year run as your source for daily news and information -- Almost Every Day!™ -- will come to an end. Alas, time and technology have caught up with the capabilities of this site and software, and it's past time for it to be put to rest.
Appropriately, on May Day 2011, the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO will launch a new project online that continues the tradition of providing you the ONLY source of news and information dedicated to union members and the concerns of Washington's working families. So mark your calendars for Sunday, May 1. Everyone on the WSLC email list, and everyone who returns to this page starting that day, will get the details on launch day!
WSLC Reports Today began in September 1997, with news of a WSLC-organized forum in opposition to electrical deregulation, which the powers-that-were considered an inevitable process for the "new economy" and pitched as a way to increase competition and lower energy prices for consumers. Organized labor stood up and said "no way, not in this state," starting at that important 1997 conference. Ultimately, and blessedly, Washington didn't follow the course that California and several other states did. Although we were negatively impacted by the phony energy crisis and Enron scandal that followed, things could have been much, much worse in Washington.
WSLC Reports Today had chronicled the major labor stories -- good and bad -- since that time almost 15 years ago: Spokane and Tacoma's Kaiser Aluminum strike-turned-lockout in 1998; passage of the minimum wage Initiative 688 in 1998 (filed by then-WSLC President Rick Bender and coordinated from the WSLC's Seattle office); the Seattle WTO protest in 1999; the steady and uninterrupted survival of this website when the Y2K crisis ravaged our planet; the 2000 Boeing engineers strike and the emergence of SPEEA as a powerful union; the 2001 horror of 9/11; and 2002's historic approval of full collective bargaining rights for Washington's state employees.
In 2003, the utterance "we suck" -- by some shameless, grossly overpaid Boeing suit who now spends his days trying to convince Michigan how much IT sucks -- marked the culmination of more than two years of Washington state-bashing by the business community and their political lackeys about our business climate. That "we suck" mantra returned with the Great Recession as business lobbying groups have sought to capitalize on economic insecurity and revenue shortfalls to privatize government services and cut benefits for injured and unemployed workers. And this site has responded with a series of award-winning Outside the Echo Chamber reports that have brought a sense of perspective -- and reality -- back to the business-climate discussion. (OK, they didn't win any awards, but no doubt that was because we never entered them in any contests.)
WSLC Reports Today sure had fun with the Gregoire-Rossi smackdowns in 2004 and in 2008, but not-so-much fun covering the painful 2005 AFL-CIO split as Change to Win unions left the AFL-CIO and the WSLC -- almost all of which have since returned to the WSLC thanks to our extraordinary labor solidarity here in Washington state. In 2009, we faced the sad task of responding to Democratic leaders calling the cops on us over an inadvertent email that dared suggest labor would withhold contributions to candidates that didn't support our agenda.
But enough of this stroll down memory lane. After one more week of postings right here, WSLC Reports Today will be put to bed. And it will be time for all of us to take The Stand!
Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO