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UPDATED DAILY  M-F by 9 a.m. Pacific

Links to commercial press stories are functional at the date of posting. In some cases, links "expire" when the source would like to begin charging you 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 October 21-24, 2003

Previous weeks' news: Oct. 13-17 -- Oct. 6-10 -- Sept. 29-Oct. 3

FRIDAY, Oct. 24 -- U.S. Navy has adopted Washington State Ergonomic Rule
— In today's News Tribune -- State unions gain recruits -- State workers are flocking to labor unions by the thousands as Washington and its government work force get ready to start negotiations on a historic contract.
...plus -- Call to Action from IAM District 751: Tell U-Haul to recognize U-nion!
— In today's Seattle P-I -- 860 Boeing workers to lose jobs today; 115 get notices -- Today, 710 local Boeing workers -- people with names, homes and families -- lose their jobs. That's roughly half of the total number of jobs expected to created by the 7E7 assembly work. And yet, this 3-paragraph story appears on Page D2 of the P-I in a collection of news briefs entitled "Quick Hits." But on the P-I's Page A1: PCC's premium fish was wrongly labeled. A local grocer's "certified environmentally responsible" EcoFish was really just plain old fish!  No word on whether it was wrapped in a P-I.
— In today's Everett Herald -- 767 tanker deal back on track as Senate panel breaks deadlock
— In today's Seattle Times -- Light-rail construction could begin in two weeks
— In today's Bellingham Herald -- BPA deal offers Intalco hope, if PUDs ratify it
— In today's Olympian -- Nurses in shrinking supply
— In today's Yakima H-R -- Labor group endorses three for City Council
Today at AFLCIO.org -- Medicare bills now in Congress would make seniors pay more
— In today's L.A. Times -- Immigrant Wal-Mart janitors arrested -- U.S. agents seize papers at Wal-Mart executive offices; feds think company execs may have "turned blind eye" to practices.

— In The Nation -- A watershed strike -- The strike of 70,000 Southern California retail food workers, which started on October 11, may be the first in a series of battles that could ultimately shape the future of labor-management relations throughout the United States.

THURSDAY, Oct. 23 -- Friday, Oct. 24 is "National Take Back Your Time Day"
— In today's Seattle P-I -- Take back some time to read this -- Op-ed by professor/contributing author for "Take Back Your Time: Fighting Overwork and Time Poverty in America."
— In today's UW Daily -- UW to take day for no-time blues
...plus -- I-841 would "let unsafe employers off the hook," says Stranger
— In today's Everett Herald -- Keep voters healthy by voting 'No" on I-841 (Op-ed by WSLC's Bender)
— In today's Seattle P-I -- Paccar, unions swap proposals; contract expires Oct. 31
...plus -- Outsourcing is changing business as usual -- Virgin column: An emerging grass-roots business organization known as Save American Manufacturing Now is trying to get government officials to "connect the dots" between trade policy, job losses and long-term economic trends.
— In today's King County Journal --
Darigold Teamsters stage walkouts at four plants
— In the P.S. Business Journal -- Aberdeen hospital warns 80 of pending layoff
— In today's Seattle Times -- Calculating the real cost of "everyday low prices" -- Harrop column: Business Week described Wal-Mart's "everyday low prices" slogan as the core value of "a cult masquerading as a company." All those yellow smiley faces and front-door "greeters" are part of a bigger strategy: to get rich off America's workers, while undercutting them at every turn.
— In today's N.Y. Times -- Congress strikes tentative deal on Medicare drug benefits
— In today's L.A. Times -- Safeway's merger loss eclipses labor woes
...plus -- The supermarket strike: Clash focuses on co-pays, premiums -- and risk

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 22 -- Ergonomic experts oppose I-841 as "setback to safe workplaces"
— In yesterday's Everett Herald -- Ergonomics rule helps workers do a better, safer job (letter)
— In today's Seattle P-I -- Marysville teachers look to election, back school board challengers
...plus -- Marysville schools' teaching moment -- Editorial:
The strike's end does not, in itself, resolve the merits of the dispute in the district's favor. So now we look to the district for signs of growing up. Get back to the bargaining table and, if resolution doesn't come swiftly, go to binding arbitration.
...plus -- Tanker deal may drive 7E7 sale; Boeing competes with Airbus for British deal
— In Monday's Yakima H-R -- Quit feeding the 800-pound gorilla known as Boeing (editorial)
— In today's Spokesman-Review -- Hospitals offer healthy dose to state economy -- New study offers reminder that "when the Legislature talks about budget cuts they're also talking about job cuts."
At AFLCIO.org -- Is Wal-Mart setting the (low) standard for employer health coverage?
— In today's N.Y. Times -- Workers feel pinch of rising health costs -- On average, the annual out-of-pocket costs for employees of large companies have more than doubled since 1998, to $2,126 this year, according to a benefits consulting firm. A 22 percent jump is expected next year.
— Today from Scripps News Service -- Health care looms as election issue -- Many of the uninsured work for companies with more than 500 employees, once almost a sure ticket for health benefits.
— In today's L.A. Times -- Supplies dwindle at strike-affected Southern California grocers 

TUESDAY, Oct. 21 -- No on I-841: Keep working families and employers healthy
— In today's Seattle Times -- States play high-stakes game to try to outscore rivals for 7E7 plant
— In today's News Tribune -- 7E7 to offer pick of 2 engines ...plus Florida could go after 7E7 plant
— In today's Everett Herald -- Bitter end to Marysville strike; teachers back to work sans contract
...plus yesterday -- Business climate of state a hot topic; do we "suck" or not?
...plus -- Minimum wage debate centers on jobs and "bottom line survival" (column)
...plus -- Wal-Mart expanding Tulalip store to sell groceries
(Also see, in Sunday's N.Y. Times -- Wal-Mart, driving workers and supermarkets crazy)
— In today's Bellingham Herald -- Lynden WestFarm (Darigold) workers off the job to honor picket
— In today's Tri-City Herald -- Fluor Hanford to lay off 80 workers
— In yesterday's Aberdeen Daily World -- ILWU Local 24 celebrates a century
— In today's L.A. Times -- Portraits from the front line of Southern California grocery strike
— In today's N.Y. Times -- Farmers, labor press global trade as campaign issue
— In today's Washington Post -- GOP sees Gephardt as toughest rival for Bush
...plus -- Federal program for sick nuclear workers faulted by Senators
...plus yesterday -- The "conversation" begins on Homeland Security personnel rules
— Today at BusinessWeek Online -- Why health care costs keep soaring -- It's a not-so-simple combination of an aging population, high-tech medicine, profit-hungry companies, and more.
...plus -- All the world's a call center -- Commentary: Outsourcing jobs is a touchy business. Executives would rather not talk about the job losses at home, preferring to focus on the cost savings. Here's another thing they don't like to talk about: those manning the phones at call centers overseas often provide better customer service than their American counterparts.

Previous weeks' news: Oct. 13-17 -- Oct. 6-10 -- Sept. 29-Oct. 3

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 24
U.S. Navy has adopted Washington State Ergonomic Rule

The United States Navy implemented a prevention-based ergonomics standard last year identical to Washington state’s ergonomic rule.

"World-class organizations do not tolerate preventable accidents," said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a memo challenging all defense departments to reduce injury rates at military installations by 50 percent over the next two years. "We owe no less to the men and women who defend our nation." (This memo is posted at www.navosh.net/ergonomics/documents/challenge.pdf.)

The U.S. Navy Occupational Safety and Health (NAVOSH) Program Manual (posted at www.navosh.net/docs/public/481/23f.pdf) in Chapter 23, Appendix A includes a worksite assessment checklist identical to Washington’s -- even citing the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries as a source -- which is being used at Navy bases across the country to identify "risk factors" for workplace ergonomic injuries.  In addition, Naval officers who identify these hazards are instructed to reduce the hazard level "to the degree technologically and economically feasible," exactly as Washington employers are under the state rule.

"We saw Washington’s rule as a great tool to identify risk factors (for ergonomic injuries) so we wanted to adopt it for the Navy," said Cathy Rothwell, a Navy Ergonomics Program Manager based in San Diego. "The feedback we’ve gotten from people in the field is that they like the checklist.  It is widely accepted and widely used as an easy way to identify hazards."

The Washington state business lobbying groups financing Initiative 841, which would repeal the state ergonomic safety rule, have argued that the rule is too confusing and that there is no proven benefit to ergonomic safety prevention.

"Obviously, the United States Navy disagrees with the special interests trying to kill our ergonomic safety rule," said Rick Bender, President of the Washington State Labor Council, which opposes I-841. "I agree with the Secretary of Defense, we owe no less to the working men and women of Washington state to insist that workplace hazards be removed and injuries prevented.  It’s good common sense."

"The Navy is very serious about ergonomic safety," said Rick Williams, president of the Bremerton Metal Trades Council which represents workers at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. "They know that avoiding preventable injuries saves money and improves mission readiness.  It’s really just common sense and it absolutely works."

For more information, contact David Groves at (206) 281-8901 or via cell (206) 979-1299.

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 24
Call to Action from IAM 751: Tell U-Haul to recognize U-nion!

The following Call to Action comes from International Association of Machinists District 751:

Sisters and Brothers:

The workers at U-Haul in Las Vegas Nevada voted to be represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. U-Haul has refused honor the elected and recognize the Machinists.

Please help in our efforts to organize these workers, by calling the president of U-Haul Mr. Joe Shoen (602) 263-6805 today and tell him "the IAM won the election in Nevada, and we do not like the way the employees are being treated.  Please do the right thing and begin the negotiations."

Let Schoen know how you feel!

If have additional questions, please call Judy Young (916) 985-8101.

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 23
Friday, Oct. 24 is "National Take Back Your Time Day"

If you lived in Western Europe, you'd be done working for the year.

Americans now work nine weeks more each year than Western Europeans. We're putting in longer hours on the job now than we did in the 1950s, despite promises of a coming age of leisure before the year 2000. In fact, we're working more than medieval peasants did, and more than the citizens of any other industrial country.

Friday, October 24, with nine weeks left in 2003, thousands of Americans will JUST SAY NO to the overwork, over-scheduling and overstress that threaten to overwhelm our lives. They'll take the day or part of it off work, and join in hundreds of activities to initiate a much-needed national conversation about work/life balance and how we can reclaim it.

In Seattle, the celebration of National Take Back Your Time Day will begin tonight (Thursday) at a forum from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at The Mountaineers hall, 300 3rd Ave. West in lower Queen Anne. There will be music, theater and conversation for a suggested donation of $3. Speakers will include Gretchen Burger of NTBYT, Cecile Andres of Simplicity Circles, State Sen. Karen Keiser, Stephen Bezruchka of the UW School of Public Health and others.

Are you, or your friends or relatives, working more now but enjoying it less? Does your family's schedule feel like a road race? If so, you're not alone. Millions of Americans are overworked, over-scheduled and just plain stressed out. They complain of unprecedented levels of busyness in everyday life. They worry about frenetic schedules, hurried children, couples with no time together, families who rarely eat meals together, and an onslaught of "hidden work" from proliferating emails, junk mail and telemarketing calls.

American life has gotten way out of balance. Producing and consuming more have become the single-minded obsession of the American economy, while other values -- strong families and communities, good health and a clean environment, active citizenship and social justice, time for nature and the soul -- are increasingly neglected.

Overwork hurts all of us in different ways:

  • Overwork threatens our health. It leads to fatigue, accidents and injuries. It reduces time for exercise and encourages consumption of calorie-laden fast foods. Job stress and burnout costs our economy more than $200 billion a year.

  • Overwork threatens our marriages, families and relationships as we find less time for each other, less time to care for our children and elders, less time to just hang out.

  • It weakens our communities. We have less time to know our neighbors, supervise our young people, and volunteer.

  • It reduces employment as fewer people are hired and then required to work longer hours, or are hired for poor part-time jobs without benefits.

  • It leaves many of us with little time to vote, much less be informed, active citizens.

  • It leaves us little time for ourselves, for self-development, or for spiritual growth.

  • It leads to growing neglect and abuse of pets.

  • It even contributes to the destruction of our environment. Studies show that lack of time encourages use of convenience and throwaway items and reduces recycling.

Take Back Your Time Day is not anti-work. Useful and creative work is essential to happiness. But American life has gotten way out of balance. Producing and consuming more have become the single-minded obsession of the American economy, while other values -- strong families and communities, good health and a clean environment, active citizenship and social justice, time for nature and the soul -- are increasingly neglected.

The Take Back Your Time Day model is the first Earth Day, which brought a new environmental awareness to America, leading within two years to the passage of the most significant ecological legislation in our history -- the EPA, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air and Water Acts.

For more information, visit www.timeday.org.

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 23
I-841 would "let unsafe employers off the hook," says Stranger

The following election endorsement appears in the latest edition of the Seattle weekly newspaper The Stranger, which joins the state's most powerful and influential newspapers in urging voters to reject Initiative 841:

Initiative Measure 841 Ergonomic Rules -- VOTE NO

I-841 is an evil plot by homebuilders to roll back reasonable workplace safety regulations enacted by the state Department of Labor and Industries. Therefore, unless you own a homebuilding company or are an evil person (or sit on the Seattle Times editorial board), you should vote no.

At issue is whether to repeal a comprehensive set of ergonomics rules that require Washington businesses to try to cut down on employee injuries caused by heavy lifting, repetitive motion, or awkward body positioning.

Proponents of repeal fought the rules in the legislature and the courts and lost. Now they're pushing I-841, claiming the rules are a needless and costly job killer championed by power-mad union bosses.

That's a crock. Even Governor Gary Locke, a card-carrying Republicrat -- and no friend of big labor -- supports the rules.

These standards are reasonable, and they let businesses off the hook if making changes would be too expensive. Meanwhile, passing I-841 will let unsafe employers off the hook. Vote against it.

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 22
Ergo experts oppose I-841 as "setback to safe workplaces"

A group of leading ergonomists, doctors, nurses and other public health experts has stepped forward to support safe workplaces by opposing Initiative 841, the measure created by special-interest business organizations to repeal the state’s workplace ergonomic safety rule.

QUID PRO ERGO

The Association of Washington Business, one of the business lobbying groups financing Initiative 841, is hosting a $350-a-head post-election ergonomics workshop facilitated by none-other-than Ian Chong, one of the two ergonomists they tout as supporting I-841.

Contrary to the I-841 talking point suggesting there is no proven benefit to ergonomic safety prevention, the pricey 3-hour workshop will explore "applied ergonomic principles to reduce worker's compensation premiums... Savings have been shown to reduce premiums $500,000 on a 5 year spread."

On behalf of the AWB and other special-interest business groups, Chong has been an outspoken advocate for I-841 to repeal our state ergonomic safety rule.

In an Inside OSHA interview published last month, Chong admitted his position is based in self-interest. He said the ergonomic safety rule adversely affects his consulting business because the state Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) is offering free consultations for employers seeking compliance with the rule.

Chong likened his situation to that of a contractor forced to compete with prison workers who construct roads.

“Why should my taxes go toward paying someone who is competing against me?” Chong asks.

Rubbing salt in Chong's wounds, L&I has conducted dozens of free workshops for employers, helping them save money through ergonomic prevention.

In fairness, WSLC Reports Today feels compelled to note that the $350 Chong will get for the same type of workshop includes lunch.

“Washington workers and employers can’t afford the setback to safe workplaces that Initiative 841 would cause,” said Kate Stewart, MS, CPE, an ergonomist with StewartPrezant Ergonomics Group.  “We shouldn’t allow business to recall a common sense rule that protects thousands of workers from serious injuries.”

After the special-interest business groups sponsoring I-841 recently touted two "leading" ergonomists who support repeal of the safety rule (see story at right), a group of Certified Professional Ergonomists and other work safety professionals in Washington stepped forward to express opposition to I-841 and support for the state's prevention-based ergonomic safety rule. (See list of names below.)

Many professional health care groups have already endorsed the No-on-841 campaign.  They include the Washington State Nurses Association, the Washington Academy of Family Physicians, the Washington State Public Health Association, the Washington State Council of Perioperative Nurses, the Washington Chiropractic Association, the Washington Council of Fire Fighters and others.

Washington's ergonomic safety rule also has been endorsed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Centers For Disease Control). Dr. Linda Rosenstock, the Director of NIOSH, testified: “The bottom line is that we know enough now to prevent or reduce many of these disorders, and the Washington state ergonomics rule is an effective and scientifically valid way to do so.”

The State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) adopted its ergonomics rule in May 2000. It requires employers with hazardous jobs to take feasible steps to limit workplace exposure to those hazards that cause work-related musculoskeletal injuries like tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and low back strain. Every year, more than 50,000 Washington workers suffer these injuries costing the workers' compensation system more than $1 billion -- nearly one half of all costs to that system.

Ergonomics is the science and practice of designing workplaces with workers in mind, so that jobs can be done safely without exceeding the physical limits of the human body. This means taking measures to ensure that jobs do not require highly repetitive motions, excessive hand forces, extremely awkward postures, or frequent heavy lifting.

“Ergonomics works, “ said Randy Loomans, Safety and Education Director for the Washington State Labor Council. “By taking simple, inexpensive steps to keep jobs safe employers not only prevent injuries but also usually find that they have become more productive and competitive. Ergonomics is not only good science, it is good business.”

There are many positive examples of ergonomics in Washington workplaces. However, after more than 10 years of working with employers on a voluntary basis, an L&I survey of 5,000 Washington businesses revealed that 60 percent of employers report no efforts to reduce ergonomic-related injuries. Even among employers who recognize that injuries have occurred in their workplaces, 40 percent report no efforts to reduce the hazards that cause them.

An economic analysis by L&I demonstrates that the benefits of the ergonomics rule will outweigh its costs. For every dollar invested in fixing a dangerous job, L&I estimates four dollars will be saved through reduced medical costs and improved productivity.

The rule was designed to protect jobs. Employers are only required to take steps that are economically feasible and no employer is required to replace full-time with part-time workers or to reduce an employee’s work hours.

A Blue Ribbon Panel of national experts -- that included representatives from the business community, including Boeing -- has found the ergonomics rule easy to understand and use. The panel reported “the rule itself is clearly written… and usually free of bureaucratic legal jargon.” 

Here is a list of ergonomists and health care experts who have expressed opposition to the ergonomic rule-repealing I-841: 

Kate Ackerman, CAE, Ergonomist, Donley and Associates

LaRayne Anderson, Ergonomist

Cathy Bloome, OTR, Occupational Therapist/Ergonomist, StewartPrezant Ergonomic Group

David Coward, CPE, Ergonomist

Mindy Craig, Ergonomist

Steve Davis, MEd, CPE, Ergonomist, StewartPrezant Ergonomics Group

Deborah J. DeWolfe, PhD, Psychologist

Barb Faville, CIH, CPE, Ergonomist, Clayton Group

Joan Himmes, RN, BSN, Nurse

Lynn Lasalle, Ergonomist

Sheila McConnell, CIH, McConnell & Associates, Incorporated

Kendra McGranahan, Ergonomist

Jeannette Murphy, Ergonomist

Erin Murray, Safety Manager, Precor, Inc.

Gary Orr, CPE, PE, Ergonomist

Janet Peterson, RPT, Physical Therapist/Ergonomist, APTA (American Physical Therapy Association), National Board Member

Leslie Pickett, RPT, Physical Therapist/Ergonomist

Brad Prezant, CIH, CPE, MBA, President and CEO, Prezant Associates

Deborah Read, Ergonomist

Steven Russell, OTR, Ergonomist/Occupational Therapist, StewartPrezant Ergonomics Group

Scott Schneider, CIH, Safety Manager, Laborers Health and Safety Fund of North America

Kate Stewart, MS, CPE, Ergonomist, StewartPrezant Ergonomics Group

Robyn Stolte

Ben Zavitz, CPE, Ergonomist, StewartPrezant Ergonomics Group

 

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 21
No on I-841: Keep working families and employers healthy

The following op-ed by WSLC President Rick Bender appears in today's edition of the Seattle Times:

Keep working families and employers healthy

By Rick Bender
Special to The Times

It's important to our economy to keep Washington working families healthy. When we reduce workplace injuries, we reduce employee turnover, improve productivity and lower employer costs.

But the real savings come from preventing painful, chronic workplace injuries. Whole families suffer when a worker becomes disabled, and so does our economy.

Initiative 841, on the Nov. 4 ballot, would repeal our effective workplace-safety standard on ergonomics and for added insult, it would also forbid the state from ever again adopting such a workplace-safety standard unless the federal government acts first.

Every year, 50,000 Washington workers suffer these kinds of "soft tissue" injuries such as carpal-tunnel syndrome and tendonitis. These injuries are expensive. Nearly half the cost of our state's workers-compensation system is attributed to these injuries. When business complains about the increasing cost of workers' compensation, doesn't it make sense to look at proven ways to reduce costs?

These injuries are preventable; they're not accidental. That's why so many health professionals are joining us in opposing Initiative 841. The Washington Academy of Family Physicians, the Washington State Nurses Association, the Washington Public Health Association and the Washington Association of Chiropractors are just some of the groups representing thousands of nurses, doctors and health-care professionals that oppose I-841.

As registered nurse Maggie Flanagan said recently, "It's the hardest workers who are destroyed by these types of injuries." Flanagan suffered neck and back injuries while working in a newborn intensive-care unit where medical equipment was simply mounted too high.

Good workplace safety is good business. That's why many of our local businesses, including Boeing, have successfully adopted the ergonomic safety standard and have realized millions in savings. But a recent survey found that more than 40 percent of companies that knew they had ergo-injuries had done nothing to address the problem.

Under our workplace-safety standard, businesses can get free training materials and consultations from professionals to comply with the rule. Special consideration allows small business to take up to six years to comply. A state standard is needed because it will "level the playing field" so working people won't have to gamble when they go to work that they'll have a safe workplace.

A cost-benefit analysis of the standard found that it will save Washington businesses nearly $340 million a year, and have a benefit-cost ratio of more than 4-to-1. And if I-841 passes, taxpayers will get stuck for an additional $30 million a year from higher insurance rates and other factors, according to the measure's official financial-impact statement.

When President Bush took office, one of his first official acts was to repeal the federal workplace-safety standard on ergonomics. This is the president who has presided over the biggest loss of jobs in our economy since Herbert Hoover. It's incredibly cynical of the proponents of I-841 to call our workplace-safety standard a "job killer." It isn't workplace safety that causes layoffs, it's bad economic policy. Just look at how bad the economy is throughout the country.

According to the Public Disclosure Commission's reports for July, August and September, the special-interest business groups backing Initiative 841 and calling workplace safety rules a "job killer" have spent tens of thousands of dollars in this campaign, virtually all of it on out-of-state printing, public relations and media companies. If they really wanted to save jobs in our state, I would suggest they could have spent at least a few thousand of their campaign war chest in this state at local businesses. (For the record, we support our local businesses by purchasing all of our campaign materials in state.) One might be tempted to ask these business groups: "Why don't you put your money where your mouth is?"

It just makes common sense to prevent these injuries before they happen. The experts predict that at least 20,000 injuries a year would be avoided if the ergonomic workplace-safety standard were fully in place in our state.

Dr. Tim Takaro, director of the University of Washington occupational and environmental clinic, opposes Initiative 841. He notes that a two-year study by the National Academy of Sciences, the most prestigious scientific authority in the country, strongly supported workplace changes to prevent ergonomic problems. Takaro says his clinic has treated hundreds of workers ranging from Microsoft millionaires to minimum-wage production workers, and he warns that everyone who works in Washington has a stake in this decision.

Let's not leave a legacy of pain to our kids and grandchildren. Let's keep Washington workers healthy. Vote NO on Initiative 841.


Rick Bender is president of the Washington State Labor Council, the largest labor organization in the state.

     

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 © 2003  Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO