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April 28, 2011

Apr. 27: Register for workers comp-erence

Apr. 26: GOP ignores public will on Medicare

Apr. 25: Worker Memorial Day events

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Business' final push for workers' comp buyouts

Business lobbying groups in Washington state have launched their final desperate push to pressure state lawmakers to approve "compromise-and-release" lump-sum buyouts of injured workers (ESB 5566). As state workers' compensation funds recover on their own from recession-caused instability, these business groups know rates will stabilize and their "window of opportunity" to cut $1.2 billion in injured workers' benefits will be lost. Since the special session began on Tuesday, a phone campaign by business owners has been under way generating calls to House Speaker Frank Chopp, who has been a steadfast opponent of ESB 5566, which died during the regular session. They are pressuring him to help revive the bill and pass it during this overtime session that was called to negotiate the final state budget. (See The TRUTH About Compromise-and-Release Lump-Sum Buyouts for more info.)

TAKE ACTION!  Call Speaker Frank Chopp at 360-786-7920 or leave a message for him on the Legislative Hotline 1-800-562-6000 thanking him for standing up for injured workers and urging him once again to protect our injured worker safety net. No compromise-and-release in any form! No slashing benefits!


More State Legislature news:

Legislators: Reject job-killing cut in debt limit

WSLC President Jeff Johnson and WSBCTC Executive Secretary Dave Johnson have urged state lawmakers to reject SSJR 8215, a constitutional amendment to lower the state's debt limit. "Over the next 20 years, SSB 8215 will cut $10 billion in capital projects. That translates to the loss of at least 150,000 jobs," the Johnsons wrote to all state legislators. "The recession is deep and recovery is slow. Our families, neighbors and friends are struggling to survive and desperate to get back to work. We urge you to protect our state's ability to create jobs by rejecting SSJR 8215." Read more.

►  From AP -- State House gets amendment to limit state's debt -- The Senate has quickly passed a constitutional amendment that would limit the state's debt, a measure that has delayed passage of the $3 billion construction budget. House lawmakers gathered for meetings, but most will head home while negotiators try to hammer out agreements with the Senate.

►  In today's Olympian -- "No" to more furloughs -- state employees are doing their share (editorial) -- The State Senate should back off its ill-conceived plan to force high-wage state employees to take additional furlough days. The plan may violate the labor agreement signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire and approved by a vote of union members. State employees are shouldering their share of pain, through higher insurance premiums, wage reductions through unpaid furloughs, and tackling increased workload with fewer state employees.

►  In today's Olympian -- Two budgets will take some work -- House and Senate budget writers are at loggerheads on several items, and a bipartisan Senate proposal to cut public-school teachers' pay by 3% is among the thorniest problems.

►  In The Stranger -- Did Olympia just throw Metro under the bus? -- Their two-thirds requirement made allegedly-moderate Republican Jane Hague the decisive swing vote, and now Hague has swung, leaving an expensive and iffy ballot referendum as the last remaining chance to avert a Metro disaster.

►  In the (Everett) Herald -- Public pensions: A system that works for all (John Burbank column) -- There are more than 300,000 public employees -- including teachers, firefighters, police, social workers and natural resource and parks employees -- contributing to pension plans and 130,000 retirees. All told, one out of every 14 state residents are in our public pension systems. The typical benefit is $18,182 a year. Our public pension system works. Opponents of public services portray these pensions as too "robust." What these pensions provide is a modest middle-class bulwark for retirees, and a quiet but crucial stimulus for jobs in our economy. That's not robust, that is simply the way it should be.

►  In today's Wenatchee World -- State's longest-serving employee loved his job -- Tony Eldred, 77, stepped out of public service with Department of Fish and Wildlife in January, just shy of 60 years after he landed his first summer job with the state. He was honored as the longest-serving state employee of all time -- serving 53 years, not including summer jobs and a two-year stint in the Navy.


Local news:

Worker Memorial Day commemorations TODAY

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.  Commemorations are scheduled today (Thursday, April 28) in Bellingham, Tacoma/Lakewood and Tumwater. Get the details.

►  In today's Spokesman-Review -- Verner seeks rule change to overlook lowest bidder on contracts -- Spokane Mayor Mary Verner has shifted her position on new rules allowing the city to overlook the lowest bidder for city contracts when companies have poor records following the law. She opted not to sign the ordinance, which was approved on a 5-2 vote. Instead, she is pushing for an amendment that would reduce the number of contracts affected. Some labor leaders say they are open to her request, but point to recent prevailing-wage violations by a firm working on city projects.

►  In today's Spokesman-Review -- District class sizes will get bigger -- The Spokane school board voted 4-1 Wednesday to temporarily raise class sizes by up to three students. The move will result in the elimination of about 90 full-time teaching positions and a savings of $5 million.

►  In today's Wenatchee World -- Wenatchee schools see $1.7M loss -- Cuts include reducing classified staff -- employees who donít have teaching credentials and are not administrators. The district is working with the staff and union reps on whether those cuts mean fewer hours, layoffs or job attrition.


Boeing news:

►  At -- Boeing Machinists: Labor complaint good for Charleston workers -- Leaders for the local Machinists union say the NLRB complaint against Boeing is a good thing for the company's workers in Charleston. Says IAM District 751 President Tom Wroblewski: "Should they ever decide to form a union again, the Charleston workers could do it knowing that Boeing couldn't retaliate against them for seeking better pay, benefits and working conditions."

►  From AP -- Boeing CEO points to "workmanship," not design, on Southwest jet mishap -- Jim McNerney says that signs did not point to a problem affecting large numbers of 737s. Federal investigators found problems with riveting work done when the plane was built 15 years ago.

►  In today's Seattle Times -- 2011 delivery target for 787 can be met, McNerney says -- Boeing's senior leadership shrugged off the serious buildup of rework on the 787 Dreamliners already built as "nothing new" and already accounted for in the company's latest delivery plan.


The Republicans have a plan for YOU!

►  From the Center for Economic Policy & Research -- Cost of Medicare equivalent soars under GOP plan -- A new report shows that the House Republicans' Medicare proposal (supported by Washington state's entire GOP congressional delegation) will increase health care costs for seniors by more than seven dollars for every dollar it saves the government. The report documents the potential effects of replacing Medicare with a system of vouchers or premium supports and raising the age of eligibility from 65 to 67 as suggested in the Republican plan, shifting $4.9 trillion in health care costs from the government to Medicare beneficiaries, this number is dwarfed by a $34 trillion increase in overall costs to beneficiaries that is projected based on the Congressional Budget Office's analysis.

►  In The Hill -- Reid will hold Senate vote on House Republican budget -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will hold a vote on the House-approved budget by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) in an effort to divide the Senate GOP conference. "Republicans seem to be in love with the Ryan budget. And so they are going to have an opportunity here in the Senate to vote on the Ryan budget and see [how many] Republican senators like the Ryan budget as much as their House colleagues did," he said.


Good news: The economy's fixed!

Slate photo -- click to enlarge►  From AP -- Exxon earns nearly $11 billion in 1Q, best since 2008 -- The quarter was Exxon's best since earning a record-setting $14.83 billion in 2008's third quarter. It comes at a time when some drivers are paying $4 or more for gas and President Obama is threatening the oil industry's multibillion-dollar tax subsidies.

►  At Politico -- Exxon: Don't hate our profits -- A company vice president asks people to look past the "inevitable headlines and sound bites about high gasoline prices," think about world oil market disruptions and the falling dollar and remember Exxon's investments in renewable energy.

►  At Politico -- Ben Bernanke punts on jobs, gas -- As the U.S. economy continues a "moderate" recovery, there isnít much the Federal Reserve can do to cut unemployment or gas prices, Ben Bernanke said Wednesday at the first press conference for a central bank chairman.


National news:

►  In today's Washington Post -- Corporations lobbying for tax holiday on overseas money -- As Washington politicians grapple with how to lower the federal deficit, a coalition of major companies and business groups -- including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and technology giants Apple, Google and Microsoft -- are pushing for a one-time tax holiday on overseas profits. The idea is to encourage U.S.-based corporations to bring back, or "repatriate," up to $1 trillion now stashed in overseas tax havens by sharply reducing corporate income tax rates on that money from 35% to perhaps 5%. Backers argue that the move would create thousands of jobs and other investments; the lure for politicians is additional tax revenue that the government wonít collect if the money remains abroad. Opponents, including many unions, say the effort is a de facto giveaway for multinational corporations that rewards tax-dodging while having little positive economic impact. They say the same tax-holiday idea was tried in 2004 with little apparent benefit to regular Americans.

►  In today's NY Times -- Most states seen raising unemployment taxes on businesses -- As persistently high unemployment has drained the funds that are used to pay benefits, more than two-thirds of the states expect to raise taxes on businesses this year to replenish them. Unemployment taxes remain low by historical standards: states have effectively cut the unemployment tax rate on businesses by 64% since the unemployment program began collecting taxes from employers in 1938.

►  At Huffington Post -- Unemployment benefits: As other states cut back, Oregon gives more -- People laid off through no fault of their own are eligible for up to 99 weeks of aid in 25 states. But last month, Oregon lawmakers gave the long-term unemployed an additional six weeks of benefits. That means that in Oregon, where the unemployment rate stands tall at 10%, so-called "99ers" -- people who've burned through all 99 weeks without finding work -- can now theoretically become "105ers."

►  In today's Tri-City Herald -- Locke in South Korea to get OK for trade pact -- In what's likely to be one of his final acts as the U.S. commerce secretary, Gary Locke opened a three-day visit to Seoul on Wednesday, part of his campaign to win approval for a long-stalled trade pact with South Korea

►  At Huffington Post -- Judge denies NFL owners' request to put her ruling on hold -- The judge who lifted the lockout dealt another blow to owners, denying their request to suspend her ruling pending appeal.

►  Today in The Onion -- Trump unable to produce certificate proving he's not a festering pile of s---


Legislators urged to reject job-killing cut in debt limit

Jeff Johnson, President of the Washington State Labor Council, and David Johnson, Executive Secretary of the Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council, sent this letter to all Washington state legislators on April 15 urging their opposition to SSJR 8215, a proposed constitutional amendment to lower the state's debt limit:

Times are desperate. Our unemployment rate remains over 9%, but in many sectors, like the construction trades, between 30% and 60% of people are out of work. We face record foreclosure rates, poverty is rising, food banks and homeless shelters are stretched to the max and our social safety nets are being slashed. As we struggle together to climb out of this recession, we know that the way to turn things around in Washington is by stimulating the economy and creating jobs.

That's why we are dismayed and alarmed by SSJR 8215's devastating impact on Washington's public infrastructure jobs. Stabilizing our bond capacity using 10-year averaging instead of 3-year averaging makes sense. But reducing the debt limit from 9% to 7% means cutting one-third of public infrastructure jobs in 2013-2015. And it doesn't get better. Over the next 20 years, SSB 8215 will cut $10 billion in capital projects. That translates to the loss of at least 150,000 jobs.

We understand that this change will generate a small savings for the general fund but these savings do not begin until 2016, and the 20-year positive impact on the operating budget ($3.3 billion) is outweighed by the devastating $10 billion cut to infrastructure jobs.

The recession is deep and recovery is slow. Our families, neighbors and friends are struggling to survive and desperate to get back to work. We urge you to protect our state's ability to create jobs by rejecting SSJR 8215.

TAKE ACTION: Call the Legislative Hotline and leave a message for your state legislators urging them to OPPOSE SSJR 8215.


Copyright © 2011 --  Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO