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NEXT UPDATE -- Monday, March 7 by 9 a.m. --  Why so long?

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.

Reports for February 21-23, 2005

Previous weeks' news: Feb. 14-18 -- Feb. 7-11 -- Feb. 1-4

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 23 -- AFL-CIO's Social Security petition: "Fix it, don't risk it."
— In today's Everett Herald -- Privatizing Social Security won't fix solvency problem (Rep. Larsen op-ed)
— In today's Wash. Post --
Social Security tactics escalate; unions, businesses seek to influence debate
Olympia news:  The clock is ticking on the HCRA (the latest WSLC Legislative Update)
— In today's Seattle Times -- Longtime legislator Ruth Fisher dies
— In today's News Tribune -- Ruth Fisher, a lawmaker with vision and spine (editorial)
— In yesterday's Walla Walla U-B --
Washington's minimum wage law needs to be modified (editorial)
Editorials urging that the State Senate pass the simple-majority school levy bill and "let the voters decide" appear in today's Everett Herald, King County Journal and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Local news: — In today's Yakima H-R -- More trouble ahead, Snokist growers told -- While Snokist was able to operate its cannery this fall despite a 5-month strike, Woerner told the cooperative's annual meeting that the troubles facing the industry haven't gone away. If anything, they've worsened.
— In today's Seattle P-I -- Boeing sells 3 plants in the Plains -- See SPEEA news release.
— In today's Everett Herald --
Jet within a jet: Boeing's 747 large cargo freighter pivotal to 787 production
— Today from BusinessWeek --
Boeing catches a tailwind -- News analysis: Since New Year's, the jetmaker has racked up orders for 138 new planes, compared with just 38 for its European rival.
— In today's Olympian --
Team of doctors will buy outpatient clinic at St. Peter -- SEIU Local 1199NW is working to minimize the loss of jobs from the proposed sale.
— In today's Seattle P-I --
Seattle Times Co. to cut 99 jobs by September
— In today's Seattle P-I --
Who won the illegal votes of felons? -- Was it the chief law enforcement officer of the state, or was it the man whose career was mentored by a felon?
National news: — In today's Washington Post -- In search of... working-class Democrats -- Must-read Meyerson column: Democrats kid themselves if they think this problem is Kerry-specific. De-unionization has taken a huge chunk out of Democratic vote totals. Plus, on a broad range of economic matters, Democrats have alarmingly little to say to working-class Americans.
— Today from the AP --
California pension overhaul draws fire -- The state's public workers question Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to convert funds into 401(k)-type plans.
More Social Security news: — In today's NY Times -- Some inheritance -- Editorial: As he stumps for Social Security privatization, Bush always gets a big round of applause for promising that the money in a private account could be passed on to one's heirs. If those happy clappers only knew the details. --
Appeal to young on Social Security plan gets attention of their elders --
Conservative group makes pre-emptive strike against AARP -- The advertisement had two pictures, one of an American soldier that was crossed out and the other showing two men in tuxedos kissing each other and carrying a check mark. It carried the slogan "the real AARP agenda."
— In The Onion -- New generation of dynamic, can-do seniors taking on second jobs -- "Whoever said people should settle into just one job at 65 never witnessed the pride of an 80-year-old grocery bagger," said Skip Eldrud, CEO of the job-placement company Vital Signs Temporary Labor.

TUESDAY, Feb. 22 -- DOL to host meetings on nuclear illness compensation in Richland
— In yesterday's News Tribune -- Laboring for the right word -- Zeek Green is a longshoreman and poet who works Tacoma's waterfront for meaning.  He's also part of today's "Call to Conscience" event.
— In today's Everett Herald -- Keeping energy prices low will be a battle -- The lack of a congressional powerbroker could make Bush's BPA rate hike hard to stop. (Meanwhile, a lie is debunked. At one time, Bush argued that, through competition, privatizing energy markets was good for consumers. BPA now sells at cost, but will have to double its prices to reach Bush's goal of "market rates.")
Olympia news: — In today's Seattle P-I -- Closing the divide for mental illness -- Rep. Schual-Berke: "The distinction between mental and physical health is an artificial one and one it is time for us to end." --
House proposes simple majority for school levies -- Measure passes House 73-25, but its Senate sponsor says the Republican votes are not yet there to allow voters to decide this issue.
— In today's Seattle Times -- Question of the day: How will we pay? -- A day in the life of Gov. Gregoire.
National news: — In today's Wash. Post -- At home, a hard sell touting Bush' plan on Social Security
— In today's NY Times --
Latin America fails to deliver on basic needs -- As privatization is rejected across Latin America, the job of providing basic services is being returned to ill-equipped states. --
Pension funds think twice about stocks -- Some pension officials say stocks and pensions were a bad marriage, and the pursuit of higher returns exposed their companies to too much risk. --
Wag the dog protection -- Krugman column: The campaign against Social Security is going so badly that longtime critics of President Bush, accustomed to seeing their efforts to point out flaws in administration initiatives brushed aside, are pinching themselves. But they shouldn't relax: if the past is any guide, the Bush administration will soon change the subject back to national security.
— In today's LA Times --
State's private pension funds make a weak showing -- Bush believes Americans are so eager to join the "ownership society" that, given a chance, two-thirds of those eligible would divert funds from Social Security into the personal investment accounts he proposes. But when public employees in seven states were offered the opportunity for similar accounts during the last decade, nowhere near two-thirds signed up for them. In many instances, the figure was closer to 5%. on Sunday -- Labor's lost love -- Op-ed by President of National Writers Guild: Over the last 20 years, the labor movement has poured billions of our members' hard-earned dollars into electoral politics -- and we've gotten very little to show for it except a weaker labor movement, too many election day whuppings and too many politicians who, when they do win, promptly turn their backs on working men and women. It's time we turned off the spigot and put the money to better use.

MONDAY, Feb. 21 -- Unions support plan to cut AFL-CIO contributions
— In the Washington Post -- UNITE HERE president Wilhelm eyes bid to lead AFL-CIO
Local news: — In Saturday's Tri-City Herald -- Union files objection to Tyson vote -- Teamsters Local 556 lays out 22 charges of illegal actions by Tyson management that interfered with decertification vote, including alleged threats by Tyson managers to close the plant if the union remained.
— In Sunday's Spokesman-Review --
Don't fix it; it isn't broken --  Excellent Caldwell column: There is no crisis in Social Security. The system is not broke, will not be broke in 2018, nor will it be broke in 2042. Retirees, spouses and the disabled will be paid benefits 75 years into the future, the planning horizon for the system today. (paid subscription required; e-mail us for a "sample" story) --
Upward mobility: Demand is high for electrical linemen -- "There will continue to be a shortage until we can get people pumped through (apprenticeship programs)," said Don Guillot, business manager for IBEW 77. "We do have a problem, but we are trying to address it." (paid subscription req'd)
— In the Seattle Times --
State's newest import: Thai farmworkers and Guest worker contracts in doubt
— In Saturday's Seattle Times --
Labor "harmony" set as criteria for Seattle's school-bus contract
— In today's Seattle P-I --
Big-name celebs are turning out in Tacoma for "Call to Conscience"
Olympia news: — In today's Seattle P-I -- A push to share the burden for health care (re: HCRA)
— In Sunday's Olympian --
The challenge: Find $2.2 billion without raising taxes Saturday --
Legislators push plan to expand gasoline tax -- Less than two years after the state gasoline tax hit motorists for an extra nickel a gallon, state legislators are saying it wasn't enough.
— In Sunday's Seattle Times --
Reduce state costs before raising taxes -- Editorial with suggestions on how to close the budget gap, including laying off 3,000 state workers, more than doubling state employee health premiums, repealing pension gainsharing, and deferring the I-728 (again).
— In Sunday's Walla Walla U-B --
State should not consider raising taxes -- Editorial: Boosting taxes could slow the state's economic growth and, as a result, curb the projected revenue gains.
— Saturday from the AP --
Two prescription drug bills pass House
— In the PS Business Journal --
For restaurateurs. a chilly visit to State Capitol --
Government overboard: Let the private ferries sail (editorial)
National news: — Today from AP -- Debate over pesticides, exposure growing again -- Take action!
— In today's NY Times -- DOL to investigate its treatment of Wal-Mart -- At issue is its agreement to give Wal-Mart 15 days' notice before investigating any stores facing complaints of child labor violations. --
New target for Swift Vets' advisors: AARP -- Conservative group to orchestrate attacks against critics of Bush's Social Security privatization. Says its director: "They are the boulder in the middle of the highway to personal savings accounts. We will be the dynamite that removes them."
— In Saturday's Washington Post -- Poorest face most risk on Social Security privatization

Previous weeks' news: Feb. 14-18 -- Feb. 7-11 -- Feb. 1-4

AFL-CIO's Social Security petition: "Fix it, don't risk it."

The AFL-CIO has set up a new website at to urge members of Congress to sign a pledge to strengthen, not privatize, the Social Security system. At the site, union members and other supporters are urged to download and collect signatures on a citizens' petition, and to send an e-mail to their members of Congress.

The "Pledge to Strengthen Social Security" that members of Congress are asked to sign reads:

I pledge to the people of my district and to the American people that I will work to strengthen retirement security, including Social Security.

I will oppose Social Security privatization proposals that would:

  1. Require cuts in guaranteed benefits to pay for private accounts.
  2. Weaken the system by diverting money from the Social Security Trust Fund to pay for private accounts.
  3. Increase the federal deficit to pay for private accounts.
  4. Increase the retirement age.

The Washington State Labor Council will not only formally request that each member of Washington's congressional delegation sign this pledge, it will also be asking state legislators to sign the pledge. We will post at this site the names of all the representatives and senators who agree to sign the pledge, and all of those who don't.

SJM 8014 and HJM 4015 are resolutions introduced in Olympia requesting that Congress reject the privatization of Social Security. A handful of Republicans have sponsored SJM 8008, a resolution supporting Bush's effort to privatize Social Security.

Make sure you visit the website for more information about President Bush's plan to privatize Social Security.

DOL hosts Richland meetings on nuclear illness compensation

Following is an announcement from the U.S. Department of Labor:

U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) officials will be available to answer questions about the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA) at a town hall meeting to be held on March 9-10, 2005 in Richland, Washington.  In addition, current and former employees of contractors, subcontractors, and eligible survivors will receive information about Part E of the EEOICPA.  The town hall meeting will be held at the Shilo Inn in Richland.

Part E replaces the Part D program formerly run by the Department of Energy.  In October of 2004, the President signed into law an amendment creating Part E to provide monetary compensation and medical benefits to contractor and subcontractor employees, or their survivors, who worked at DOE facilities and sustained an occupational illness as a result of exposure to toxic substances.

“Thousands of workers sacrificed to keep our country safe,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment Standards Victoria A. Lipnic. “It is our responsibility to ensure these workers and their families are well served by the new energy workers’ compensation program.” 

Workers who need assistance filling out claim forms may schedule appointments following the town hall meeting or by calling toll-free, (888) 654-0014.

DATE & TIME:        March 9 -- 6 p.m.; and March 10 -- 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.

LOCATION:            Shilo Inn, 50 Comstock, Richland, WA

The Labor Department also administers Part B of EEOICPA.  Over the past four years, the department has issued more than $1 billion in compensation and medical payments to over 13,000 claimants.  Part B provides a lump sum payment of $150,000 and medical expenses to current and former DOE employees who became ill as a result of their exposure to radiation, beryllium or silica.  DOE contractor employees, and certain survivors, are also potentially eligible.  Covered conditions include radiogenic cancers, beryllium diseases and chronic silicosis.  Qualified survivors of deceased covered employees may also be eligible for the lump sum compensation of $150,000.

Unions support plan to cut AFL-CIO contributions

The following story by Steven Greenhouse appeared in Saturday's edition of the New York Times: (For more information, visit Strengthening Our Union Movement for the Future, an AFL-CIO web site where union members, activists and leaders can add their ideas about the union movement’s challenges and opportunities and keep up to date on proposals for change.)

Many of the nation's largest labor unions, including the Teamsters and Service Employees International Union, are pushing a plan to cut in half most unions' contributions to the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and instead devote the money to organizing workers, several labor leaders said yesterday.

With union membership and power steadily declining, such a move would in theory increase membership, although it would weaken the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and force it to lay off many employees.

The push for these changes comes as a few union presidents are quietly maneuvering to persuade John J. Sweeney, the federation's president, not to run for a new four-year term.

At a meeting in Washington on Thursday, the presidents of several major labor unions backed a Teamsters-led plan to cut contributions to the federation, hoping the A.F.L.-C.I.O.'s executive council will approve the plan at its meeting in Las Vegas in early March.

Under the Teamsters' plan, the A.F.L.-C.I.O., a federation of 59 unions representing 13 million workers, would be forced to cut its staff of 425 and to narrow its focus mostly to politics, lobbying and serving as a spokesman for workers.

"I support the Teamsters' proposal because it puts the financial resources where they belong -- into organizing," said Bruce Raynor, president of Unite Here, the newly merged union representing apparel, hotel and restaurant workers. "We need to do everything we can to reverse the decline in living standards for American workers, which has been brought about by declining union density."

The percentage of workers in unions has plunged to 12.5 percent from nearly 35 percent in the 1950's.

Among the presidents at Thursday's meeting supporting the 50 percent cut in contributions were Mr. Raynor, James P. Hoffa of the Teamsters and Andrew Stern of the service employees. Although in the hospital, Joseph Hansen, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers, participated by telephone to back the plan. Terence M. O'Sullivan of the Laborers' International Union has also voiced support.

Together, these unions represent almost five million workers, nearly 40 percent of the A.F.L.-C.I.O.'s membership.

Union officials say Mr. Stern and Mr. Raynor have told other labor leaders that while they believe Mr. Sweeney is doing the best he can to reverse labor's decline, it is time for new, more forceful leadership. Mr. Sweeney is viewed as a consensus builder, who acknowledges that he has not succeeded in persuading many unions to increase their organizing as much as he had hoped.

When Mr. Sweeney, 70, was first elected federation president in 1995, he said he would serve at most 10 years. But he has reversed himself and has said repeatedly in recent months that he wants to head the federation for four more years.

"What we're seeing is a little what we saw before, when some labor leaders thought it was time to get rid of Lane Kirkland," said Charles Craver, a labor relations expert at George Washington University, referring to Mr. Sweeney's predecessor. "There's a feeling that the organization has not been moving forward. John Sweeney has tried very hard to turn things around, but if you look at the bottom line, there is no significant change. The decline has continued unabated."

In 1995, several union leaders maneuvered openly to pressure Mr. Kirkland to retire, and that effort succeeded. The effort to nudge Mr. Sweeney aside is smaller, quieter and less forceful, partly because he is so well liked and respected.

"John has talked to a lot of union presidents, and he has more than 50 percent backing for re-election," said Mr. Sweeney's spokeswoman, Denise Mitchell.

Several union presidents at Thursday's meeting have told others that they hope that John W. Wilhelm, one of the two top leaders of Unite Here, will run for the federation's presidency if Mr. Sweeney decides not to run again -- and perhaps even if he decides to run.

Mr. Wilhelm declined to comment, although at a forum last week in Los Angeles he indicated he would not be interested in the federation's presidency unless union leaders embraced some of the proposed structural changes.

Richard Trumka, the A.F.L.-C.I.O.'s secretary treasurer and a former president of the United Mine Workers, has signaled that he plans to seek the federation's presidency if Mr. Sweeney steps down.

At Thursday's meeting, several officials said, the presidents backed a proposal to have unions focus more on organizing workers in their core industries, an idea intended to get unions to stop undercutting one another in recruiting workers and in negotiating contracts. Under the Teamsters' plan, unions would have their contribution to the A.F.L.-C.I.O. cut only if they pledged to spend more than 10 percent of their budgets on organizing. The reduced contributions could reach $35 million a year.

"What I'm picking up is there is growing sentiment for major changes, and certainly the current A.F.L.-C.I.O. leadership is going to have to respond one way or another to the call for changes," said Greg Tarpinian, a labor consultant and adviser to Mr. Hoffa. "Once that happens, then the next course of action will be determined."

Ms. Mitchell, Mr. Sweeney's spokeswoman, said, "John agrees with some of these reform ideas."

She said Mr. Sweeney supported some form of cut in dues payments by unions.


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 © 2005   Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO