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UPDATED Monday through Thursday by 9 a.m.

Links to press stories are functional at the date of posting.  In some cases, free registration is required at newspapers' sites.  Links sometimes "expire" when the source would like to begin charging for old news. WSLC Reports Today  links to all stories of interest to organized labor; some positive, some negative.  The intention is to inform.  The creation of a link does not constitute an endorsement of that story's content.

THURSDAY, JAN. 5 ■  Register now for the Feb. 16 WSLC Legislative Conference

Legislative news:
■  In today's NY Times --
Wal-Mart in their cites, states press for health benefits -- Lawmakers in 30 states (including Washington) are introducing legislation that would require large corporations to increase spending on employee health insurance. AFL-CIO press conference is this morning.
■  In today's Seattle P-I --
Don't let Tim Eyman slip-slide away (Sen. Kline op-ed) -- Tim, if you're going to sell us another initiative, pretend to speak for the little guy, and rail against "fraud, waste, and abuse" by us evil "politicians," then answer the doggone question. Where's the fat?
■  In today's Bellingham Herald --
Ericksen outlines state GOP agenda -- House and Senate Republicans pledge to join together to support their "Commitment to Washington" plan. 
■  In the new Stranger --
Strategy session: This year's session will be all about election posturing
■  In today's Everett Herald --
Council OKs all-mail voting -- Snohomish County joins 33 other counties in Washington that hold all-mail elections.

Local news:
■  In today's Yakima H-R --
Global Horizons fixed all but one labor violation -- Newspaper must have gotten another threatening letter from GH's lawyers. Meanwhile GH's president vows to appeal the state's decision to revoke the company's license. See yesterday's GH news for more info.
■  In today's Seattle P-I --
State Basic Health Plan's oversight criticized -- Audit: The program that provides health coverage to about 102,000 low-wage workers lacks oversight and direction.
■  In today's Spokesman-Review --
Sacred Heart talks ongoing -- About 450 technical workers (UFCW 1001) anticipate a new contract this month as union bargaining with the hospital moves along. The employees have been working without a contract since Dec. 31.
■  In today's Everett Herald --
Care service (OPEIU 8) to shut down -- The program, run by Visiting Nurse Services of the Northwest, serves some 200 seniors and disabled people in the county.
■  In today's Kitsap Sun --
Decision on Southworth passenger ferry still out to sea
■  In today's Bellingham Herald --
Fire District 10 aiming to correct weaknesses (editorial)

Mine disaster news:
■  In today's Seattle P-I --
Tragedy reminds us that not every worker is safe in the U.S. (Virgin column)
■  In today's News Tribune --
West Virginia's tragedy, America's debt (editorial)
■  In today's NY Times -- Company owner says cost cutting didn't lead to mine explosion
■  In today's NY Times --
The Sago Mine disaster (editorial) -- Just as Hurricane Katrina forced us to look at the face of lingering poverty and racism, this tragedy should focus us all on another forgotten, mistreated corner of society. The dozen dead miners deserve to be memorialized with fresh scrutiny of mine safety regulation and a resurrection of political leadership willing to look beyond Big Coal to the interests of those who risk their lives in the mines.

National news:
■  Today from Bloomberg --
Machinists object to cuts at Northwest Airlines -- The company is trying  to eliminate almost half of the union members’ jobs to cut costs in bankruptcy.
■  In today's Capital Times -- Alito's rulings put him at odds with workers (op-ed from Wisconsin AFL-CIO)
■  In today's LA Times --
GOP tries to outrun Abramoff scandal -- From the White House to Capitol Hill, prominent Republicans scramble to shed campaign contributions linked to the disgraced lobbyist, and a painful debate opens within the party over its leadership and direction.
■  In today's Seattle Times -- Abramoff tribal clients donated thousands to state lawmakers
■  In today's Washington Post -- Cheney defends spying on Americans -- Taking a break from his campaign to legalize torture, the vice president says domestic spying could have averted 9/11.

Last Throes update:
■  Today's from AP --
Attacks in Iraq kill 110 as post-election violence escalates -- Also today, five more American soldiers were killed when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device.




Global Horizons news:
Today from AP -- Farm labor contractor Global Horizons loses license -- Global did not apply to renew its license for 2006 by the Dec. 31 deadline, so it cannot legally operate in Washington.
■  Also see our Oct. 19 posting -- UFW: Global Horizons labor abuses continue after settlement 
■  And our Sept. 23 posting -- State settles with firm accused of exploiting Thai farm laborers
■  Also, for your continued reading pleasure -- Check out an Aug. 31 letter from a Global Horizons attorney demanding that the Yakima Herald-Republic publish a correction and retraction of "Chicken Little assertions won't solve farm labor issue," an op-ed co-written by the WSLC's Jeff Johnson and the UFW's Erik Nicholson, and finally, the WSLC's response to the attorney.

Legislative news:
Today from AP --
Legislators promise prompt action -- Legislative leaders all agreed they need to set aside part of the surplus to whittle down a $4 billion unfunded liability for public pension systems. Gregoire seeks $176 million, but some say more should be put into a pension reserve.
■  In today's Seattle P-I -- Democrats plan to "tweak" '05 agenda -- Democrats want to spend more on education, health care and an economic-development plan that centers on alternative fuels.
In today's Olympian -- Legislators likely to leave big issues for 2007 and beyond
In the Seattle Weekly -- The new year agenda -- Democratic leaders resolve to combine "kitchen table" issues, like education and jobs, with fiscal prudence. It's an election year, after all.
In today's Everett Herald -- Lawmakers' first task: Move the primary date (editorial) -- The need for this change is so obvious that it hardly needs explaining. With the majority of voters now casting ballots by mail, seven weeks between primary and general elections simply isn't enough.
In today's News Tribune -- Bringing data to bear on state health spending (editorial) -- Something clearly needs fixing, and Gov. Christine Gregoire is making a brave stab at the problem.

Local news:
In today's Seattle Times -- Run Southworth ferry privately, adviser suggests -- A passenger-ferry service using private operators, makes the most financial sense among three ferry proposals reviewed by a consultant hired by a task force looking at Puget Sound foot-ferry service.
■  In today's Seattle P-I -- Attention now turns to building the 787 -- With it looking like a best seller, Boeing and its partners are about to take a giant step in the life of a new airplane: manufacturing.
■  From AP -- "Buy American" dropped from refueling tanker program, allowing Airbus to compete 

National news:
In today's Seattle Times -- Horror follows joy; 12 miners found dead in W.Va. coal mine
■  In today's Wash. Post -- Safety violations have piled up at coal mine -- In the past two years, the mine was cited 273 times for safety violations, a third of which were "significant and substantial." 
■  At -- President Bush delivers "stunning blow," to America's steel pipe workers
Today at Working Life blog -- Watching Wal-Mart in Maryland -- Next week, keep an eye on the Maryland state legislature. It looks like it will override the governor's veto of a bill that would require retailers like Wal-Mart to increase their share of spending on healthcare for its workers.



TUESDAY, JAN. 3  ■  Karen Keiser's retirement party TONIGHT at Seattle Labor Temple

Legislative news:  The 2006 session convenes Monday, January 9. Learn more at
■  In today's Yakima H-R -- Legislators, spend energy resolving three big issues (editorial) -- Stay the course on the WASL, take the initiative on tort reform, and tighten the law on sex offenders.
■  In today's Seattle P-I -- Remember $30 car tabs? They could be coming back -- "We feel (weight-based surcharges are) reasonable," said Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island. "There is a direct correlation between the weight of a car and (its) wear and tear on roads."
In the Columbian -- Proponents of renewable energy say they'll pursue 2006 ballot initiative
■  Today from AP -- Lobbying in Olympia, environmentalists now touting benefits to economy
■  In today's Seattle P-I -- Another NASCAR go-round -- Some say a speedway in Kitsap County would spark an economic boost for the region and state, but it will have to overcome deep and widespread suspicion in Olympia about using public dollars to finance another sports complex.

State of the Unions news:
■  Yesterday from Gannett -- AFL-CIO president upbeat about labor's future -- Sweeney: "America's labor movement is stronger when we are united and the AFL-CIO will continue to look for ways to speak with a unified voice... the agreement we came to with the solidarity charters for the local labor movement... was a big step in keeping our unions united at the local level."
In yesterday's Washington Post -- Love, labor, loss -- A daughter's death stirred SEIU President Andrew Stern to challenge himself -- and unionism. He has taken the American labor movement to the brink of a new era, for better or worse, while an interior dialogue of grief and loss has shaped his leadership, adding volume to an already voluble voice.

National news:
■  In today's NY Times -- A fair day's pay (editorial) -- Unions and others are increasingly taking minimum wage increases directly to voters. Their intentions are laudable, but the efforts only highlight Congress's failure to set the federal minimum wage at a reasonable level. (Also see yesterday's post: Washington's workers celebrate minimum wage increase to $7.63)
■  In today's Washington Post -- Hispanics underrepresented in the federal workforce

■  In today's LA Times -- Workers' comp to be revisited in California -- An overhaul of the state's once-troubled system has cut premiums, but Democrats say some were denied proper care.
■  In today's Seattle Times -- Rescuing U.S. automakers: A view on "Buy American" from the Left (op-ed) -- Rescuing American automakers from competitive quicksand and high health-care costs with "buy American" campaigns only encourages more self-indulgent greed.
■  In today's Seattle Times -- Rescuing U.S. automakers: A view on "Buy American" from the Right (op-ed) -- We cannot afford to shrug off the downturn of an industry that directly contributes 3.5%  of our GDP and accounts for more economic productivity per worker than almost any other.

Last throes update:
■  In today's Washington Post -- A life, wasted (guest column) -- Early on Aug. 3, 2005, we heard that 14 Marines had been killed in Haditha, Iraq. Our son, Lance Cpl. Edward "Augie" Schroeder II, was among them. Let's stop this war before more heroes like our son are killed.
■  In today's Military Times -- Military poll finds high morale, but less support for Bush, war -- Approval of Bush’s Iraq policy fell 9 percentage points from 2004; a bare majority, 54%, now say they view his performance on Iraq as favorable. Support for his overall performance fell 11%.



MONDAY, JAN. 2  ■  Keiser's retirement party Tuesday night at Seattle Labor Temple
In the Puget Sound Business Journal -- In person: Talking with Karen Keiser, State Senator

Also today  Washington's workers celebrate minimum wage increase to $7.63
In today's NY Times -- States take lead in push to raise minimum wages
In today's NY Times -- Another Marie Antoinette moment (editorial) -- If the minimum wage had advanced at the same rate as CEO compensation since 1990, America's bottom-of-the-barrel working poor would be enjoying salad days, with legal wages at $23.03 an hour instead of $5.15. It would be nice to see corporate America put more effort -- and money -- into fair living wages for workers and less into exorbitant pay packages and bonuses for corporate chieftains.

Local news:
■  In the Dec. 30 Seattle P-I -- Heating oil truck drivers (IBT 174) agree to contracts, end strike
■  In the Dec. 24 Everett Herald -- AWPPW has contract agreement at Kimberly-Clark mill in Everett
In the Dec. 30 Kitsap Sun -- IBU, ferry food operator OK plan -- Union agrees to health-care cuts, avoiding a planned Jan. 31 shutdown of the galleys on the Southworth-Vashon-Fauntleroy route.
In today's Seattle P-I -- Ferry food: Work it out (editorial) -- Food service on ferry vessels isn't just a profit center; it's part of the service that should be reasonably expected onboard. For the sake of customer service, one would expect the ferry system to support those trying to provide it.
■  In today's Everett Herald -- Pensions go the way of the dinosaurs (Benbow column) -- If you've got one, count your blessings. Even financially strong companies are dumping them these days.

Legislative news:
In today's News Tribune -- New vehicle fees kick in, but could crumble to Eyman initiative
■  From AP -- Rep. Steve Kirby wants to repeal "sin taxes" -- House Democrat is asking colleagues to give his blue-collar constituents a break by repealing new liquor and cigarette taxes.
In today's King Co. Journal -- Lawmakers to discuss Snoqualmie Pass fixes Tuesday at Gonzaga

National news:
■  In today's Seattle Times -- Immigration bill only a half measure (editorial) -- Better enforcement must be part of immigration reform. But a one-sided approach that doesn't consider the economic ramifications on businesses and whole communities is bound to fail.
■  Today from AP -- Cruise lines hire low-cost workers -- To support their families, thousands of workers on U.S. based ships work 12 to 16 hours a day, seven days a week for 10 months at a stretch -- some for salaries as low as $75 per month. (They) are a critical ingredient in an industry that avoids U.S. tax and labor laws and reaps billions in profits every year.



Previous weeks' news: Dec. 12-16 -- Dec. 5-8 --  Nov. 28-Dec. 2

Register now for the Feb. 16 WSLC Legislative Conference

Our first Legislative Update newsletter will be distributed Friday  (click here to see it) and will outline the WSLC's legislative agenda for 2006. If you don't already receive regular e-mails from the WSLC -- or you would like to have a printed version of this newsletter mailed to you -- make sure you Get on The List!

The 2006 legislative session begins Monday and there are many challenges ahead: an improving economy with basic needs still greater than revenue, more families without health care, attacks on Unemployment Insurance benefits and workers' compensation. We, in the labor movement, will meet these challenges head on and continue to work towards an agenda that improves the lives of working families.

This session will require a continuation of our rank-and-file activism as we work with the legislature to do its job to protect working families. Our progress and priorities in those efforts will be discussed at the Washington State Labor Council's 2006 Legislative Conference beginning at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 16 at the Olympia Red Lion Hotel, with registration starting at 7:30 a.m.  We will define, with you, the steps we must take to make progress for working people.

The WSLC urges all union leaders, staffers, and especially rank-and-file member activists to attend this conference and find out what is happening in Olympia and what they can do to help us all achieve our goals. Various legislative leaders have been invited to speak at the conference and all state legislators have been invited to join us for lunch at the end of the half-day conference.

As usual, the night before the conference on Wednesday, Feb. 15, there will be a reception from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the hotel. There will be many legislators and other state officials in attendance.  All conference attendees are urged to join us at this reception and engage in informal conversation with legislators and other officials. If you would like to bring a guest(s) to the reception on Wednesday night, there will be a nominal fee of $15 per guest. To make the registration for the reception (and conference) go faster and smoother, we will be opening early registration in the hotel lobby at 2 p.m. on Wednesday.

The conference registration fee, which includes materials, lunch and one admission to the reception, is $30. Click here to download a registration form (in Word format) or call 206-281-8901 to have one mailed or faxed to you. A block of rooms has been reserved at the Olympia Red Lion Hotel, but the block will be released Jan. 20. Make your reservations now by calling 1-800-325-4000 or 360-943-4000. Tell them you are entitled to the Washington State Labor Council group rate.

We urge all who plan to attend to fill out and return their registration forms, with their registration fees, by Friday, Jan. 27 so we can more effectively plan to accommodate all who will join us. Thank you for registering early, and urging your co-workers and other rank-and-file union members to attend.

Karen Keiser retirement party
tonight at Seattle Labor Temple

Having served as Communications Director for the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, since 1981, Karen Keiser is retiring to focus on her positions as State Senator and Chair of the Senate Health Care Committee. So please join us for a casual, fun get-together to recognize her years of WSLC service advocating for Washington's working families.

5:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Seattle Labor Temple, Hall 1, 2800 1st Ave.

At Karen's request, this will be a fundraiser for the King County Labor Agency food bank, and admission will be $20 per person. There will be a hosted bar, light hors d'oeuvres, and music.

See you tonight!

For more information about Karen's retirement, see our Nov. 23 posting: WSLC Communications Director Karen Keiser to retire

Washington's workers celebrate minimum wage increase

Yesterday, the Washington state minimum wage increased 28 cents to $7.63 an hour. The regular annual adjustment for inflation is the result of Initiative 688, filed by Washington State Labor Council President Rick Bender, supported by the state labor movement and dozens of community organizations, and ultimately approved by voters by a 2-to-1 margin in 1998.

The initiative set out to take the politics out of the minimum wage issue by requiring an annual cost-of-living adjustment based on changes in the federal Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). For the 12 months ending August 2005, that nationwide index increased 3.8 percent. The new wage applies to workers in both agricultural and non-agricultural jobs; 14- and 15-year-olds may be paid 85 percent of the adult minimum wage.

"It's great news for minimum wage earners every year that they will be getting the cost-of-living raise they deserve," Bender said, "but $7.63 an hour is still poverty wages for thousands of Washington families who are struggling to afford a tank of gas or a trip to the doctor. Every year, we should congratulate ourselves that the law is working as voters intended, and then rededicate ourselves to the fight for maintaining and creating good family-wage jobs."

At $7.63 an hour, a full-time worker would earn $15,870 a year.

Washington was the first state to approve a state minimum wage increase that included annual inflationary adjustments, but the idea caught on in Oregon, where voters approved an initiative similar to I-688. Oregon's minimum wage rose to $7.50 an hour on Jan. 1. In Alaska, the current minimum wage is $7.15. California's is $6.75, and will remain there after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's recent veto of a bill to increase it and index it for inflation. Other states with minimum wages above $7 are Vermont and Connecticut. (State minimum wage rates are posted at the DOL website.)

The reason many states are raising the minimum wage is that the federal minimum wage remains at a shameful $5.15 an hour, or $10,712 a year. (See today's New York Times story, States take lead in push to raise minimum wages.)  Under the Bush administration and the Republican-controlled Congress, the wages of the lowest paid workers in the country have been allowed to stagnate -- and be eroded by inflation -- for more than eight years now. There is still no sign that President Bush or Congress intend to address the issue.

Washington's indexed minimum wage has prevented the state rate from becoming mired in politics as it has in the other Washington. But the powerful restaurant and agriculture industries continue to pressure the state legislature every year to try to exempt their industries' workers from the wage requirement or stop the annual adjustments. The labor movement has aggressively opposed those efforts, and so far, attempts to create sub-minimum wages for certain workers or employees who earn tips have been unsuccessful.

"Still Working Well: Washington's Minimum Wage," a 2004 study by the Economic Opportunity Institute, demonstrated that Washington's indexed minimum wage is helping the state's lowest-paid workers as intended with no demonstrable negative effect on employment in retail, restaurant and other minimum-wage paying industries.

For more information on Washington's minimum wage, visit the state Department of Labor and Industries' web site:


If you have news items regarding unions or workplace issues in Washington state that you would like to see posted here, please submit them via e-mail to David Groves or via fax to 206-285-5805.

Copyright © 2006   Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO