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July 1, 2010


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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Broad coalition to oppose initiative that hurts small business, workers

A statewide group of small business owners, workers, and community leaders have formed to defeat Initiative 1082, the move by out-of-state insurance giants and the Building Industry Association of Washington to scrap Washington's public non-profit workers' compensation system. I-1082 would allow largely unregulated, for-profit insurers to sell workers' comp insurance. Read more.

►  From AP -- Workers' comp initiative steps closer to ballot -- I-1082 supporters submit stacks of petitions, well above the number required to earn a spot on the fall ballot, pending certification from election officials. The I-1082 campaign is led by the BIAW, a trade group active in conservative politics. Insurers and other statewide business groups also are supporting the initiative.

►  May 18 at WSLC Reports Today -- I-1082: Don't sign it, don't vote for it -- Initiative 1082, financed by private insurance companies and the right-wing Building Industry Association of Washington, would privatize our public non-profit workers’ compensation system. Delegates representing the WSLC's affiliated unions from across the state voted unanimously to oppose this initiative, so the WSLC prepared a camera-ready flier for affiliated unions to distribute to their members, explaining why I-1082 would be bad for our state's working families -- and its employers. Download the flier.

►  June 8 at WSLC Reports Today -- A hostile takeover -- It should shock no one that giant international insurance companies like AIG couldn’t care less about saving jobs in this state. They want to make more money. They plan to do that by investing in I-1082 and saying whatever is necessary to convince voters to privatize Washington’s workers’ compensation system. Read this column listing five good reasons why you should vote against I-1082. 

(Feel free to reprint this column in your local union publications.)

 

More election news:

►  At Publicola -- Democrat Lillian Kaufer aims to take out her party's incumbent -- She’s running a small but potent campaign against Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-44, Lake Stevens), a leader in the Roadkill Caucus, which is supported by big business interests. Two of Hobbs's top donors are AT&T and Bank of America, among other large corporations. Unions are also calling Hobbs a traitor, claiming that he aligned himself with their interests in 2006 only to turn against them in the following years. “He has openly attacked working families on issues ranging from workers compensation to privatizing liquor stores and privatizing other things,” said David Groves, spokesman for Washington State Labor Council, which gave Kaufer’s campaign a boost by endorsing her over Hobbs. “He’s not only disagreed with us, he’s organized opposition to us.”

►  In today's Seattle Times -- Income tax battle expected to be costly, maybe nasty -- The campaign for Initiative 1098 has all the makings of an expensive, and potentially ugly, battle. Advocates for the high-earners income tax include William H. Gates Sr., the state Democratic Party, SEIU, WEA and the Washington State Labor Council. Opposing the measure are the AWB and the Washington Roundtable, an association of corporate executives. 

►  At SeattlePI.com -- Costco and liquor: Good or bad for Washington? -- Foes of Initiative 1100, the liquor privatization measure to which Costco has already given $735,000, aren't the only ones who decry the Issaquah-based corporation's proposal. Backers of the competing privatization bill supported by more than $1.4 million from two big beverage distributors -- Initiative 1105 -- have called the Costco measure "irresponsible" and say it will loosen restrictions to the point where there will be "more liquor stores than Starbucks stores."

 

Unemployment news:

►  At Huffington Post -- Senate Republicans again kill jobless aid -- For the fourth time, the Senate was unable to overcome a Republican filibuster of a bill that would have reauthorized extended benefits for the long-term unemployed. Democrats will not make another effort to break the Republican filibuster before adjourning for the July 4 recess. By the time lawmakers return to Washington, more than 2 million people who've been out of work for longer than six months will have missed checks they would have received if they'd been laid off closer to the beginning of the recession.

►  In today's Washington Post -- States seek help as fiscal year begins -- State governments desperately need money. Congress is in no mood to spend it. And the reckoning will begin Thursday, when the new fiscal year will start for most states. States say that if they do not find financial rescue they will have to cut services and workers. That would deliver a potentially crippling blow to the economy, which needs higher employment levels to fatten wallets, promote spending, bolster tax revenue and reduce dependence on expensive social services.

►  At TheOlympian -- Gregoire warns again on federal aid -- The Legislature wrote its budget assuming it would receive $480 million in the extra medical assistance starting in January. Gregoire has warned more than 6,000 state jobs could be cut without the cash, and more recently she's said budget cuts -- including possible 7% across-the- board cuts for prisons and other non-exempt spending -- is one option she might have to take.

►  In today's LA Times -- California budget deadline passes without a budget -- California begins a new budget year Thursday without a spending plan in place and with no agreement imminent on how to close a $19.1 billion deficit. Thousands of state workers took to the Capitol steps, protesting spending cuts and the governor's threat to slash their pay. Community colleges and vendors that do business with the state are on edge, their payments in jeopardy.

 

Boeing news:

AP photo -- click to enlarge►  In today's (Everett) Herald -- WTO: Subsidies gave Boeing’s rival unfair advantage -- European governments gave Boeing rival Airbus illegal subsidies that unfairly helped it as it rose to become the world’s No. 1 jetmaker, the WTO ruled Wednesday. Boeing hailed the ruling. “This is a landmark decision and sweeping legal victory over the launch aid subsidies that fueled the rise of Airbus and that continue to provide its products a major cost advantage,” said Boeing CEO Jim McNerney.

►  In today's Seattle Times -- WTO rules strongly against subsidies to Boeing rival Airbus -- Airbus indicated it will appeal the WTO ruling and said it expects the dispute "to continue for a few more years." Boeing backers in Congress will try to use the ruling to block Airbus' parent company, EADS, in its bid for the Air Force tanker program. 

►  In today's (Everett) Herald -- Boeing incentive program ends -- Time has run out on a long-term incentive program that gives employees a stock payout based on the company’s share price.

 

Local news:

►  In today's Seattle Times -- Vanessa Page Downing, 26, dies; she'd built a new life for herself -- Vanessa Page Downing, a member of International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302, was just weeks away from finishing her welding apprenticeship -- and completing her transformation from homeless "Ave Rat" to inspiring role model -- when she was killed in a workplace accident June 24. She was just 26 years old but had lived through a lot.

►  In today's Olympian -- WFSE's fight against furloughs is ill-advised (editorial) -- The state’s largest employee union should back off and let the state impose furloughs just like much of the private sector has done.

(The union is suing because state employees have a CONTRACT and pay cuts/furloughs are legally subject to collective bargaining. It would be just as illegal for a unionized private employer to unilaterally impose a pay cut or furlough without bargaining over the change.)

►  In the Seattle Times -- Difficult decisions, scarce resources in King County (letter) -- King County is in a difficult budgetary situation and has been working with its employees and their unions to make difficult decisions to preserve scarce resources. This is not a time for grandiose symbolic actions, but rather calculated and deliberate methods of providing services in a smarter manner.

►  In today's Spokesman-Review -- Workplace myth busted (letter) -- Most public employees are just as efficient as any private employees. As a cost to a government agency, a public employee costs approximately 60% of a private employee because sales costs and profits are not being paid. It is time for the right-wing conservatives in this country to stop making these outlandish claims because they want to privatize all public work in this country.

►  In today's Bellingham Herald -- Residents urge saving Sunday bus service -- Many say they can't afford to drive and depend on the bus, including to get to work and church on Sundays. "We need to foster our public transportation," says one resident. "It's not a luxury, it's a need."

►  In today's Kitsap Sun -- Central Kitsap school layoffs, other cuts moving ahead -- Anticipated cuts include layoffs, a one-day cut in pay for administrators and possible staff furloughs.

 

National news:

►  In today's LA Times -- Clerical workers strike at some L.A., Long Beach port terminals -- "We are now on strike," said John Fageaux Jr., president of ILWU Local 63's 900-member Office Clerical Unit. "We tried very hard to get the employers to the table; they refused to do so."

►  At Huffington Post -- House Republican leader: Raise retirement age to 70 -- Ensuring there's enough money to pay for the war will require reforming the country's entitlement system, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) says. He said he'd favor increasing the Social Security retirement age to 70 and limiting or means-testing payments to those who need them.

►  In today's NY Times -- SEC tightens rules on public pension funds -- The five-member commission voted unanimously to bar investment managers who make political contributions to officials with influence over public pension funds from managing those funds for two years.

 

THURSDAY, JULY 1, 2010
Broad coalition to oppose initiative that hurts small business, workers
I-1082 is insurance industry's attempt to
take over WA workers' comp system

A statewide group of small business owners, workers, and community leaders have formed to defeat Initiative 1082, the move by out-of-state insurance giants and the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) to scrap Washington's public non-profit workers' compensation system. I-1082 would allow largely unregulated, for-profit insurers to sell workers' compensation insurance.

“The current system isn’t perfect, but it's a level playing field for small businesses," said Don Orange, who runs a family-owned auto repair and tire business in Vancouver. "Hand it over to private insurance companies, and they’re sure to cherry pick and raise rates for small businesses. And I’d be dealing with someone from out of state who knows nothing about Washington."

I-1082 goes much farther than other states.

  • Eliminates the safety net of the Insurance Guaranty Act to protect workers and employers in the case of fraud or bankruptcy by an insurer. [Sec. 2 (2)]
     

  • Allows insurers to set their own rates without approval by the Insurance Commissioner, unlike every other line of insurance in Washington state. [Sec. 2(4)]
     

  • Unlike every other kind of insurer, workers’ compensation insurers would be exempt from all consumer protection laws, including the Insurance Fair Conduct Act. [Sec. 3]

I-1082 is bad for business. It would remove the current employee contribution to workers' compensation insurance, forcing this expense on employers. Rates for businesses would rise an average of 25%. For retailers, it’s more likely a whopping 40%. Because workers would no longer pay their portion in December 2010 but private insurers wouldn’t be allowed in the market until 2012, Washington businesses would be saddled with these extra costs.

Even I-1082’s biggest supporters admit there are problems. The Association of Washington Business notes: "This will increase costs for some employers."

"Small businesses create 80 percent of new jobs, the kind that’ll take us out of this recession. I-1082 hurts small business and tilts the playing field for the insurance giants," said Janine Vaughn, who owns Revival Lighting Company in Spokane. "This is bad for my company, bad for my workers, and bad for my state."

The BIAW is spending big bucks to pass I-1082 for its own selfish interest. Under I-1082, the BIAW would be able to take a cut of premium refunds that should rightly go to businesses. Again, this kickback is illegal for any other line of insurance, and is intended to replenish the BIAW’s coffers.

Supporters of the No on I-1082 campaign include labor and community leaders, the Washington State Association for Justice and lawmakers across the state. It has been endorsed by the Main Street Alliance of Washington, which represents small business owners in Washington.

More information:

I-1082: Don't sign it, don't vote for it (May 18) -- Initiative 1082, financed by private insurance companies and the right-wing Building Industry Association of Washington, would privatize our public non-profit workers’ compensation system. Delegates representing the Washington State Labor Council's affiliated unions from across the State of Washington voted unanimously Saturday to oppose this initiative, so the WSLC will immediately begin distributing information to unions and rank-and-file members explaining why I-1082 would be bad for our state's working families -- and its employers.

A hostile takeover (June 8) -- It should shock no one that giant international insurance companies like AIG couldn’t care less about saving jobs in this state or about whether Washington is "competitive" enough to attract and maintain businesses. They want to make more money. They plan to do that by investing in I-1082 and saying whatever is necessary to convince voters to privatize Washington’s workers’ compensation system. Read this column listing five good reasons why you should vote against I-1082. (Feel free to reprint this column in your local union publications.)

 

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