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January 7, 2011


Jan. 6: Jeff Johnson, Lynne Dodson sworn in as WSLC officers

Jan. 5: Labor Archives preserve our history

Jan. 4: GOP vows repeal just as benefits kick in

 
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Friday
, January 7, 2011

It's time for bold action 

WSLC announces legislative agenda for economic recovery

For workers in Washington State, the "Great Recession" is far from over. People are still afraid of losing their jobs in a persistently weak economy. Meanwhile, state and local government budget cuts and furloughs have shredded our social safety net, leaving our most vulnerable destitute, while targeting public employees as if they, and not Wall Street, had caused the recession. Not unlike the 1930s, it is time for the public sector to be creative and bold in its efforts to leverage economic recovery and help rebuild the middle class. The following 2011 Economic Recovery Agenda pursued by the Washington State Labor Council  -- download printable version -- puts us on the high road by investing in jobs, reducing the footprint of tax exemptions and avoidance, creating budget and revenue accountability, and strengthening our social and workplace safety nets. Read more.

 

Teresa Mosqueda joins WSLC's lobbying team

The Washington State Labor Council has announced the hiring of Teresa Mosqueda as its new Legislative and Policy Director. She joins the core WSLC lobbying team led by Government Affairs Director Rebecca Johnson and Field Mobilization Director Lori Province. "It is my great pleasure to welcome Teresa to our staff as Legislative and Policy Director," said WSLC President Jeff Johnson. "I have worked with Teresa for a number of years on health care and social justice issues. She brings great knowledge on health care policy and passion on issues important to working people. We are proud to have her join the labor movement." Read more.

 

Unemployment news:

►  At AFL-CIO Now -- Jobless rate falls, but job creation falls short of what nation needs -- Even with expected holiday season hires, only 103,000 net new jobs were created last month. Economists had predicted 150,000 to 175,000 new jobs for December. The economy needs to add about 150,000 new jobs each month to keep up with the growth in the labor force. But to lower the nation's unemployment rate to 6% by 2013 and make up for the more than 8 million jobs lost due to the Bush recession, the economy needs to add 350,000 jobs a month.

►  In today's LA Times -- Unemployment rate drops to 9.4%, but jobs show only modest gains -- Although the unemployment rate dropped dramatically to 9.4% in December, employers added only 103,000 jobs, below many analysts' expectations. The report on work hours also disappointed.

 

State government news:

►  In today's Columbian -- Vulnerable rally for Medicaid benefits -- Many of the roughly 50 people who turned out in Vancouver for a "Candlelight Vigil and Rally to Restore Medicaid Benefits" on Thursday evening say they feel state cuts in health services have put their lives are on the line.

►  In today's Seattle Times -- Gregoire: Create regional ferry district to manage system -- The governor proposes handing over the nation's largest ferry system to a new regional agency with taxing authority as a "bold" solution to the state budget mess, but her plan was met with deep skepticism.

►  In today's Seattle Times -- State legislators join debate on citizenship -- Rep. Matt Shea (R-Spokane Valley) and Rep. Jim McCune (R-Graham) are part of a coalition challenging birthright citizenship for children born in the U.S. to parents who are neither citizens nor legal permanent residents.

►  In today's (Everett) Herald -- Sen. Jim Kastama will try to block Nick Harper from being seated -- After weeks of uncertainty, it is clear that Everett Democrat Nick Harper will face a fight for his seat in the state Senate on Monday. And another Democrat is starting it. Sen. Jim Kastama (D-Puyallup) said he will try to bar Harper from being sworn into office because he's convinced Harper's triumph is a result of illegal actions by his political allies. Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown opposes the effort, but Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen (D-Camano Island) says she will support it

►  Previously in the (Everett) Herald -- Senate should seat Harper (editorial) -- Nick Harper and the citizens of the 38th Legislative District aren't to blame for the unethical and admittedly illegal acts of a political consultant during this year's primary campaign. They shouldn't be punished for it.

   

Boeing news:

►  In today's (Everett) Herald -- Boeing finishes 2010 with 530 orders -- Demand for the Boeing jets increased in 2010 as it landed 530 net orders, up from 142 in 2009. But it already had planned to scale back production last year and saw decline in deliveries to 462 in 2010, compared with 481 the previous year. The increase in orders and fewer deliveries have boosted Boeing's backlog to 3,443, sufficient to keep Boeing workers and suppliers in the region busy for years to come.

►  In today's (Everett) Herald -- Former Boeing worker wins lottery -- Jim McCullar of Ephrata, one of the winners of the $380 million Megamillions lottery jackpot, is a former Boeing worker.

 

Local news:

►  In today's Seattle Times -- $1.4 billion tunnel contract is signed -- After signing the $1.4 billion contract, the Spanish construction giant Dragados pledged to hire predominantly local workers to build the Highway 99 tunnel. The 5-year project still faces opposition, but a contract signing makes it that much harder to stop the state's political and legal momentum toward a possible construction start by August. The highway to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct is to be done by the end of 2015.

 

Negotiating with economic terrorists:

►  In today's Yakima H-R -- Growers welcome push to remove Mexican tariff -- Early in 2009, the U.S. ended a pilot NAFTA program that allowed Mexican trucks to make deliveries over the border. To retaliate, Mexico slapped 20% tariffs on cherries, pears and other American products and later extended it to fresh apples, costing growers millions of dollars. Industry and congressional representatives are applauding an Obama administration proposal to end the tariffs by allowing Mexican trucks to enter the U.S. is the first substantial movement in the stubborn trade dispute.

►  In today's NY Times -- Obama plans to ease Mexican trucking ban -- The Obama administration offered a proposal on Thursday to allow long-haul Mexican trucks to move cargo in the United States. It is the latest sign of a new willingness by the Obama administration to support free-trade measures backed by Republicans and by businesses despite objections from unions and other liberal constituencies. Teamsters President James Hoffa: "I am deeply disappointed in this proposal."

 

National news:

►  In today's Washington Post -- CBO: Health care repeal would deepen deficit -- Rescinding the federal law to overhaul the health-care system, the first objective of House Republicans who ascended to power this week, would ratchet up the federal deficit by about $230 billion over the next decade and leave 32 million more Americans uninsured, according to congressional budget analysts.

►  In today's NY Times -- Republicans reject cost estimate of health law repeal -- House Speaker John Boehner rejected the report, saying it was based largely on chicanery by Democrats. His remarks hold wide implications, effectively putting him on a war footing with the independent analysts whose calculations generally guide discussions about the projected cost or savings of any legislation.

►  In today's NY times -- Business background defines Obama's new Chief of Staff -- William Daley is a top exec at JPMorgan Chase, where he is paid up to $5 million a year and supervises lobbying efforts of the nation's 2nd largest bank. He also serves on the board of directors at Boeing and Abbott Laboratories, the global drug company, which has billions of dollars at stake in the overhaul of the health care system.

►  At Time.com -- Trumka sidesteps Daley criticism -- AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says the Obama administration "will ultimately be judged by results" and that he's "hopeful that the new chief of staff's priority is to achieve the strong economy that working people desperately need."

►  At AFL-CIO Now -- An open letter to Rep. Darrell Issa (by former WSLC intern and UFCW 21 staffer Mitch Seaman, now a California Labor Federation lobbyist) -- "You delivered letters to more than 150 corporations, trade associations and conservative think tanks, requesting a list of their least favorite 'existing and proposed regulations' that you could help eliminate. (This) amounts to nothing more than a partisan sideshow. In reality, the workplace safety regulations you demonize don't kill jobs; they keep jobs from killing people.

►  In today's Washington Post -- Let's kill GOP's "job-killing" canard (Steven Pearlstein column) -- Republicans these days can't get through a sentence without tossing in their new favorite adjective, "job-killing." What's so curious is that it's hard to find almost any Republican concern about employment homicide during 2008, when George W. Bush was president and the economy was shedding 4.4 million jobs. Given the lag with which economic policy works, the biggest net job loss that could credibly be assigned to Obama during his two years in office would be less than a million.

►  At Huffington Post -- Two House Republicans miss oath of office to attend fundraiser -- Incumbent Pete Sessions and freshman Mike Fitzpatrick missed the swearing in because they were at a fundraiser in the Capitol Visitors Center. Despite not being sworn in, the two cast votes as members of the 112th Congress, a violation of the Constitution that the GOP had read from the podium.
 

 

FRIDAY, JANUARY 7, 2011
It's time for bold action
WSLC announced legislative agenda for economic recovery

For workers in Washington State, the "Great Recession" is far from over. People are still afraid of losing their jobs in a persistently weak economy. No wonder; state unemployment rates remain staggeringly high, the poverty rate is rising, food banks are stretched to the limit, foreclosures and homelessness plague our communities, and employers are shifting health care costs to their employees. Meanwhile, state and local government budget cuts and furloughs have shredded our social safety net, leaving our most vulnerable destitute, while targeting public employees as if they, and not Wall Street, had caused the recession.

While there are no shortcuts to recovery, there are dead-ends. Austerity budgets and government downsizing further impedes economic recovery. Simply slashing budgets for education, health care, public safety, infrastructure, and other critical services -- or continuing to cut wages and benefits of the people who provide those services -- is the most short-sighted, destructive course to follow. The buzzwords among those who support this low-road agenda is to "reset government." In truth, they are asking the citizens of this state to reduce (not "reset") expectations for our children's educations, for the safety of our families, for access to affordable health care, and for a retirement with dignity. They are asking us to "reset" our quality of life -- and our values.

Not unlike the 1930s, it is time for the public sector to be creative and bold in its efforts to leverage economic recovery and help rebuild the middle class. The following 2011 Economic Recovery Agenda pursued by the Washington State Labor Council puts us on the high road through investing in jobs, reducing the footprint of tax exemptions and avoidance, creating budget and revenue accountability, and strengthening our social and workplace safety nets. (Download 4-page printable version.)

Investing in Jobs

Economic recovery has been slow and exacerbated by gridlock in Congress and a misguided focus on the budget deficit rather than the investment deficit. To make matters worse, the financial sector is sitting on over $1.8 trillion and is unwilling to make sufficient loans to businesses. This creates an opportunity for the state to invest in and leverage job creation in our manufacturing sector, growth industries, and infrastructure.

  • Expand existing revolving loan fund to create manufacturing jobs -- The credit market has tightened up for new and expanding firms. Without access to credit, job growth will be slow. Washington State has excellent universities, community and technical colleges, and an apprenticeship system that provide state-of-the-art training as well as the research and technological capacity to help rebuild our manufacturing sector and grow new clean-tech industries. This bill will expand our existing revolving loan fund to offer low interest industrial loans to manufacturers expanding their workforce. Preference would be given to high-road jobs supported by labor and business.

  • Create a State Infrastructure Fund -- Our state's infrastructure needs far outstrip the capacity of our capital budget. Many of our roads, bridges, schools, and stormwater clean-up projects are inadequate or in disrepair. At the same time, unemployment in the building and construction industry ranges from 25-50%. This bill would set up an infrastructure fund within the Public Works Trust Fund that would serve as a base from which local governments could sell bonds for infrastructure projects.

  • Bid Preference to Hire Washington Workers -- The State of Washington is a major purchaser of goods and services. It is time to think of these purchases as an investment in good jobs for Washingtonians. This bill would create a bid preference for in-state businesses when awarding contracts for goods and services and public work projects.

  • Create a Washington Investment Trust -- Currently the State of Washington uses large commercial banks for their consolidated accounts of tax receipts. More than $2 billion is kept in a relatively liquid form in these banks. North Dakota, the only state without a budget deficit, has had a state bank since 1919. Its state bank has been able to dividend money to the state's operating budget even during these tough economic times. This bill would set out the parameters for creating a capitalization plan for a Washington Investment Trust.

  • Investing in Apprenticeship -- The aerospace sector is a growth sector in Washington State. To maintain its competitive edge the aerospace sector needs to employ the highest skilled machinists and technicians. This bill would offer a tax incentive to aerospace suppliers who hire and retain aerospace apprentices who have been credentialed by a state approved apprenticeship program.

  • Ensuring access to quality education -- The future of our state depends on a strong, accessible education system that revitalizes our economy, prepares our children for their futures, and provides opportunities to lift families out of poverty. Our state must retain sufficient seats at community colleges, keep tuition affordable, and ensure that the people responsible for helping us develop our skills have a voice at work and the support they need to serve their students.

Revenue and Budget 
Adequacy & Accountability

Austerity budgets at the national and state levels slow economic recovery. In a recession, when social service needs are at their highest, we need to be increasing our public investments. Given plummeting tax income, it is essential to raise revenue, where appropriate, and make sure that we have an efficient, fair and transparent revenue system.

  • Eliminate Tax and Wage Theft -- Tax and wage theft has become epidemic in some industries, including construction, janitorial services, transportation and hospitality. Misclassifying workers as independent contractors reduces state revenues by an estimated $225 million and costs the workers' compensation and unemployment insurance systems $34.5 million and $14.8 million, respectively. This bill follows the Oregon definition of independent contractor.

  • Reducing the Footprint of Tax Exemptions -- There are 567 tax exemptions, totaling $53.5 billion not paid into the state budget during the 2007-09 biennium. The State Department of Revenue estimates that $14.8 billion of those tax exemptions is potentially recoverable. Given the current recession and the need for our state to help leverage job creation and our obligation to provide for those who have fallen through the safety net, it is time to reduce the footprint of tax exemptions. This bill will place a 3-year moratorium on a significant set of tax exemptions (in the $3-plus billion range) with a sunset review and a public referendum.

  • Tax Preference Transparency -- Tax exemptions are as much a part of Washington's biennial budget as operating and capital appropriations. But they do not appear in the budget, making it difficult to evaluate their cost. This bill will require tax exemptions to be budget line items and create a publicly accessible database of tax exemptions.

  • Tax Preference Accountability -- Tax exemptions are often created for industries with the intended purpose of creating or retaining jobs. These tax exemptions (existing or new) should be evaluated frequently to see if they are meeting the intended goals and the tax exemptions should sunset in five years. Effective tax exemptions should be affirmatively reauthorized by the Legislature. This bill will create clawback provisions, requiring companies to pay back tax exemptions with a penalty if they do not meet the goals of the exemption, and a provision that creates a sunset review for all tax exemptions five years after their enactment or passage of this bill.

Strengthening the Safety Net

The "Great Recession" combined with state budget cuts over the last several years has shredded our social safety net. Our general unemployment rate remains around 9% and is between 25% and 50% in the building and construction trades. Those rate of poverty is at a 51-year high, foreclosure rates are at epidemic levels, and the number of individuals and families without health care insurance has risen dramatically. Meanwhile, our community and technical colleges cannot keep up with enrollment demands as the unemployed seek a place to raise their skill levels. Providing a lifeline to our most vulnerable is the right thing to do and it is good for the economy.

  • Unemployment Insurance -- A recent survey found that unemployment insurance benefits represent all or most of their household income for 70.2% of claimant households. This fragility is made worse by the state's increasing poverty rate. The total poverty rate grew by nearly 1% to 12.3% of our population and the poverty rate for children grew by 1.4% to 15.8% over the last couple of years. This bill would provide the unemployed an additional $15 per week per dependent, up to a maximum of $50 per week.

  • Foreclosure Prevention -- Lenders, borrowers, home-owners and communities all benefit if foreclosures are avoided. Twenty three other jurisdictions -- states and municipalities -- have a mediation process to seek foreclosure alternatives. These programs have found that 60% of people participating in mediation avoid losing their homes. This bill would create a mandatory mediation process.

  • Health Care Reform -- Over 900,000 Washingtonians are now without health care coverage. As a state we need to be ready for full implementation of national health care reform. For example, we need to create a Health Benefit Exchange that embodies the principles of effective competition, real choice, local control, efficiency, affordability, accessibility, and a public option. We also have to protect the health care benefit packages of public and private employees that have come under both corporate and austerity budget attacks.

  • Modernizing Workplace Safety and Health -- Workplace health and safety standards have not changed much in 40 years, creating little incentive for corporations to remediate health and safety violations. The tragic explosion at the Tesoro refinery in April 2010 is a prime example. This bill will raise civil penalties for serious violations, require correction of hazards while an employer appeals serious violations, allow workers and family members the right to be heard in DOSH investigations, and enhance whistleblower protections for workers who raise safety concerns.

  • Workers' Compensation -- The best way to reduce long term disability and pension rates is a combination of return-to-work incentives, comprehensive vocational retraining, and effective medical care. Injured workers getting medical treatment at a Center on Occupational Health Excellence (COHE) return to work on average about a week sooner than workers who do not receive COHE treatment, saving employers about $500 per claim. Pension incidence is reduced by 55% for those workers who receive treatment at COHEs. This bill will expand the availability of COHEs.

In addition to the items listed in this agenda, the Washington State Labor Council will be supporting its affiliated unions' efforts to advance legislation of specific interest to their industries and trades.

 

FRIDAY, JANUARY 7, 2011
Teresa Mosqueda joins WSLC lobbying team

The Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO announced today the hiring of Teresa Mosqueda as its new Legislative and Policy Director. She joins the core WSLC lobbying team led by Government Affairs Director Rebecca Johnson and Field Mobilization Director Lori Province.

"It is my great pleasure to welcome Teresa to our staff as Legislative and Policy Director," said WSLC President Jeff Johnson. "I have worked with Teresa for a number of years on health care and social justice issues. She brings great knowledge on health care policy and passion on issues important to working people. We are proud to have her join the labor movement."

Prior to joining the WSLC, Mosqueda has served as Health Care Reform Specialist for the Community Health Network of Washington, Legislative Relations Director and Health Policy Coordinator for the Children's Alliance, and as Legislative and Policy Coordinator for the Community and Family Health Division of the Washington State Department of Health.

Among her priorities in the 2011 legislative session will be to push for implementation of federal health care reform regulations at the state level that promote access to quality, accessible and affordable health care coverage.

"I'm honored to join the Labor Council and have the opportunity to advocate for Washington's working families," Mosqueda said. "During this time of economic crisis and destructive cuts in state and local government services, it is a critical time to defend working families and fight to protect our quality of life in Washington state. I look forward to the challenge."

Mosqueda can be reached at the WSLC Olympia office at 360-943-0608.

(Printable version of this news release.)

 

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