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Monday, April 25, 2011
Every year, we commemorate April 28 as Worker Memorial Day, a day to mourn those who died due to injuries or illnesses sustained on the job, and a day to rededicate ourselves to the fight to improve workplace safety and avoid these preventable tragedies. With the recent one-year anniversary of the deadly Tesoro refinery explosion in Anacortes, and with the significant increase in workplace fatalities in Washington State in 2010, this year's Worker Memorial Day commemorations planned in Bellingham, Everett, Tacoma and Tumwater will be especially poignant and meaningful. Read more.
State Legislature news:
► In the Kitsap Sun -- Bills on ferry surcharge, management stalled until special session -- The Senate told the House that it would pass the revised surcharge ferry-construction bill only if the House first passed the ferry management bill -- which eliminates the Marine Employee Commission. On Friday, the Senate approved a "compromise" version of HB 1516 on a 31-14 vote that would allow terminal supervisors and chief engineers to remain with their unions -- reversing previous incarnations of the bill -- but eliminates the MEC.
► In the Olympian -- Cuts, not closings used to close budget hole -- Much remains to be decided on the state budget as a special session of the Legislature opens Tuesday and could run 30 days. The House and Senate spending plans both contain deep cuts to schools, services and the social safety net. But unlike Gregoire's plan, neither would completely eliminate agencies and social programs.
► At SeattlePI.com -- Governor: Liquor privatization proposals "don't pan out" -- Gov. Gregoire says that two competing plans to change the liquor sales and distribution system seem like a bad deal for taxpayers. She would be open to having the state seek non-binding privatization proposals to study.
► From AP -- Governor signs bill to improve campaign finance disclosure -- The law signed by Gregoire aims to ensure that voters know who is sponsoring the campaign materials they receive.
► In today's Columbian -- Jacks: "I felt like I was falling off a cliff" -- Former Vancouver State Rep. Jim Jacks said he had a moment of clarity about a month ago when it came to his drinking. His heavy drinking. So on March 25, a typically cool, showery, dreary day, Jacks resigned from his House seat. He then got into the passenger seat of his car and had his wife Brenda drive him to rehab.
► In the PS Business Journal -- Boeing squeezed for space in Renton, Everett -- Locally, the most pressing issue in Boeing's protracted decision about a 737 successor isn't what materials or engines Boeing will use, but "will they build it here?" The answer to that question may depend on how much space Boeing has available at its two aircraft assembly sites, in Everett and Renton. If Boeing doesnít have room to build a new aircraft in either location, the company may have to look for a site elsewhere in Washington, such as the Moses Lake or Spokane areas, or outside the state entirely.
► In the PS Business Journal -- Boeing-NLRB fight could lead to permanence for 2nd 787 line in Everett (Steve Wilhelm column) -- Relative permanence for a 2nd Everett line could help cool the heat from the NLRB, and also help Boeing cool customers grumpy about delays.
► In the NY Times -- NLRB case against Boeing points to fights to come -- NLRB's acting general counsel Lafe Solomon said this case was straightforward: Boeing had retaliated against workers for exercising their federally protected right to strike. "They had a consistent message that they were doing this to punish their employees for having struck and having the power to strike in the future," he said. "I can't not issue a complaint in the face of such evidence." He dismissed accusations that he was following Obama's wishes in bringing the Boeing case, saying he had had no conversations with the White House about it.
► In the News Tribune -- A complaint too far against Boeing's S.C. plant (Kathleen Parker column) -- The key question in the NLRB complaint against Boeing isn't whether executives are trying to avoid strikes and maximize productivity and profits. Of course they are. The more compelling concern is whether unions should be allowed essentially to veto where a company locates and conducts business.
► In the Seattle Times -- Boeing's S.C. 787 assembly line disappointing but not unfair -- The NLRB has labeled Boeing's decision an unfair labor practice, and is asking a federal court to order the line to be moved here. We would celebrate the day Boeing decided to do that -- but it is Boeing's decision.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Much of the coverage of this issue is missing the point. Clearly, unions don't have the power to veto corporate production decisions. What's illegal is to threaten employees and retaliate against them with the loss of their jobs because they exercised their right to strike. The NLRB has found that Boeing has repeatedly and publicly done just that. If Boeing had simply said, "We are opening this line in South Carolina because we can pay workers less there and we don't think it will harm the quality of our product," that would not only be refreshingly candid, it would be totally legal. But instead, the company has repeatedly citied past strikes and the threat of future ones as its reason for making the decision. The NLRB believes that is clearly retaliation and it is illegal.
With Walmart once again stepping up its efforts to expand its stores in Washington state, a new report from United Food and Commercials Workers Local 21 underscored the big-box retailers history of broken promises made to local government officials regarding economic growth. The report, which focuses on Snohomish County, finds that "politicians could help protect local communities and improve working conditions by making sure they hold Walmart to its word... Walmart should be willing to live up to standards that provide workers with decent wages, pay raises, and quality and affordable health and retirement benefits. Read the report.
► In the News Tribune -- Washam attempted to lay off employee while publicly denying it -- Newly disclosed records and emails reveal a fourth investigation critical of Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam and indicate he worked in private to oust a high-level employee while publicly claiming he was doing no such thing.
Health care news:
► From AP -- Supreme Court rejects fast-track review of health care challenge -- The Supreme Court rejected a call Monday from Virginia's attorney general to depart from its usual practice and put review of the health care law on a fast track. Instead, judicial review of President Barack Obama's signature legislation will continue in federal appeals courts.
► At Huffington Post -- Health insurance executives making more than ever before (column by former health industry executive Wendell Potter) -- If I had stayed in the insurance industry, my net worth would have spiked between 4 p.m. Wednesday and 4 p.m. Thursday last week -- and I wouldn't even have had to show up for work. I'm betting that just about every executive of a for-profit health insurance company, whose total compensation ultimately depends on the value of their stock options, woke up on Good Friday considerably wealthier than they were 24 hours earlier. Why? Because of the spectacular profits that one of those companies reported Thursday morning.
► At AFL-CIO Now -- Koch Brothers tell employees whom to vote for -- The right-wing extremist billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch mailed an "election packet" to employees last fall, telling them who they should vote for and warning them of the consequences to their families, their jobs and their country if they voted wrong. Experts say employers likely will send out more of this political propaganda in 2012. Although employers can spew out political propaganda like this in the workplace, they can bar unions from even handing out a list of endorsed candidates on the job.
EDITOR'S NOTE: That's one of the reasons why the Washington State Labor Council supports the Worker Privacy Act, so employees would have the right to opt out of such employer communications without fear of reprisal.
► At AFL-CIO Now -- Jobs clock ticks as Republicans can't find time for jobs bill -- House Republicans talk the jobs talk, but they sure aren't walking the jobs walk. Here we are, 109 days into the 112th Congress, and House Republicans haven't produced one piece of jobs legislation. The economy is not going to heal itself. Instead of a jobs bill that could help the more than 24 million Americans who are unemployed or underemployed, Republicans have given us their proposed budget that could cost between 1.7 million and 2.2 million jobs in the first two years alone.
► In the USAToday -- Air-traffic controllers union asserts safety, pushes for controlled naps -- The union representing air-traffic controllers says it will continue to press for carefully controlled naps and other measures to reduce fatigue, despite transportation officials' insistence that this will not be allowed.
► In The Hill -- With an eye toward polls, Democrats to push tax hikes for the wealthy -- Congressional Democrats say they will aggressively push for allowing taxes to rise for the wealthiest Americans -- a move they say is not only widely popular, but sets up a stark contrast with Republicans who want to keep the tax rates the same but make broad changes to entitlement programs.
► In today's NY Times -- Let's take a hike (Paul Krugman column)-- Why isnít someone offering a proposal reflecting the reality that the Bush tax cuts were a huge mistake, and suggesting that increased revenue play a major role in deficit reduction? Actually, someone is. The "People's Budget" from the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which -- unlike the Ryan plan, which was just right-wing orthodoxy with an added dose of magical thinking -- is genuinely courageous because it calls for shared sacrifice. We do need to bring the deficit down, although we aren't facing an immediate crisis. How we go about stemming the tide of red ink is, however, a choice -- and by making tax increases part of the solution, we can avoid savaging the poor and undermining the security of the middle class.
Every year, we commemorate April 28 as Worker Memorial Day, a day to mourn those who died due to injuries or illnesses sustained on the job, and a day to rededicate ourselves to the fight to improve workplace safety and avoid these preventable tragedies. With the recent one-year anniversary of the deadly Tesoro refinery explosion in Anacortes, and with the significant increase in workplace fatalities in Washington State in 2010, this year's Worker Memorial Day commemorations planned in Bellingham, Everett, Tacoma and Tumwater will be especially poignant and meaningful.
The Spokane Regional Labor Council hosted its annual commemoration on Saturday at Spokane City Mission Park.
Here are the remaining Worker Memorial Day events planned around the state this week:
This year is
also the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New
York City, where 146 workers -- most of them young immigrant women -- were
killed when trapped behind locked doors with no way to escape.
That terrible tragedy spurred major labor reforms in New York and
across the nation.
Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO