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The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Nobel Peace Prize-winning campaigner for economic and social justice whose legacy we celebrate on Monday, Jan. 17 this year, died while supporting the right of public employees to organize labor unions and to fight for the preservation of public services. No one should miss the fact that AFSCME, the union that Memphis sanitation workers had joined and the union with which King worked so closely, is now under attack by right-wingers who would have us believe that public workers are to blame for the problems that occur when policymakers blow the budget on tax cuts for the rich, bailouts for big banks and military adventures abroad.
King was proud to rally with public workers, and proud to make the connection between their struggle and the broader struggle for a fair and equitable economy that served all workers -- public and private. The defense of public employees -- so essential to a functional society, and yet so frequently abused by the powerful players who would diminish the role of government in order to enhance their own wealth and authority -- is as vital a struggle today as it was in 1968. Read more.
► Check your local newspaper to find MLK Day events or click here for Day of Service projects.
Workers at the Red Lion Hotel Seattle Airport, members of UNITE HERE Local 8, continue to fight for a fair contract at their hotel after more than nine months of negotiation. The workers, many of whom have worked at the Red Lion for more than a decade, are fighting for contract language that would protect their jobs and their union if the hotel or restaurant (Gregory's) were to be sold or if a subcontractor took over the work. The company has maintained its strong opposition to such language. Read more.
Vigil for decency, respect TODAY at Harborview
A candlelight vigil to shed light on the unfair treatment of call center and other employees at Harborview Medical Center by the UW administration will be held at 5 p.m. today (Friday, Jan. 14) at 9th Avenue and James Street on Seattle's First Hill. The Washington Federation of State Employees reports that the UW administration has trampled workers' rights and has unfairly fired and disciplined employees. All WFSE members, families and community supporters are invited to participate.
► In today's Yakima H-R -- Business groups drop minimum wage challenge -- A group of farm and business interests is withdrawing a court challenge to the Jan. 1 increase in the state minimum wage, the highest in the nation. The challengers say they will instead try to change the law in the current legislative session. Their decision follows a ruling by a Kittitas County Superior Court judge who rejected the group's request to halt the 12-cent hourly increase from taking effect.
► In today's Daily News -- Brookfield Asset Management looking to sell Longview Fibre -- Toronto-based Brookfield said when it purchased Fibre in 2007 that it would sell off pulp and paper assets once it returned them to profitability. Reuters reports Fibre is up for sale, but the company won't confirm.
State Legislature news:
► From AP -- Labor leader urges suspension of tax breaks -- Washington voters should have a chance to preserve endangered state programs by suspending $3 billion or more in tax breaks, the state's largest labor organization says. The Washington State Labor Council's proposal provides a strong counterpoint to the budget-cutting message resonating from Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire as state lawmakers plow into a legislative session dominated by a $4.6 billion two-year budget deficit. President Jeff Johnson said the state's budget deficit also makes it clear that Washington can’t afford to continue offering the buffet of tax breaks that have built up over the years. "Whether they're good, bad or indifferent, we simply can't afford them right now," Johnson said.
► In today's Spokesman-Review -- Labor Council to push to close tax loopholes -- Eliminating a tax exemption by the Legislature is the same as raising a tax, which requires a two-thirds majority in both houses under the provisions of an initiative voters approved in November. Unions will ask instead for the Legislature to put the 3-year moratorium on this November's ballot and let the voters decide. That would only require a simple majority in each house, and a simple majority from voters.
► At Publicola -- State Labor Council wants a more balanced approach on Unemployment Insurance fix -- The WSLC agrees with Sells and Gregoire that rates shouldn’t rise so sharply, especially during a recession, but the coalition would prefer a more holistic approach that targets relief not only at businesses, but at struggling families as well. The group’s campaign includes a weekly $15 per child benefit (maximum $50 per week) in addition to lower UI tax rates on business over the next three years. Marshaling a coalition of labor and social groups, the WSLC hopes that the new tax package would target benefits at those who need them most.
► In today's Seattle Times -- Amid budget crisis, hard health-care decisions: Where to cut? -- People who are poor, mentally ill or disabled, and the community clinics that serve them all face serious hits as lawmakers looking to trim the state budget home in on a huge area of spending: health care.
► At WashingtonPolicy.org -- Another liquor privatization referendum introduced -- Despite state voters' rejection of two well-financed privatization initiatives last fall, Sens. Tim Sheldon ("D"-Potlatch), Phil Rockefeller (D-Bainbridge Island) and Curtis King (R-Yakima) want to put it on this fall's ballot again.
► At SeattlePI.com -- Gregoire "open" to idea of privatized liquor sales -- Gov. Gregoire says she she'd consider getting the state out of the liquor retail business, but first she wants a better sense of how people feel about it. "I'm not clear what the voters said in November about this," she said. "So I told the liquor board, I wanted them to do a poll for me and bring me the results." (Here's a poll -- one that we already paid for -- I-1100: 46.57% yes, 53.43% NO -- I-1105: 34.96% yes, 65.04% NO!)
► In today's Tri-City Herald -- Connell prison worker fights back after assault -- Corrections Officer John Poynor has been off active duty since Oct. 31, when an inmate hit him so hard it dislocated his shoulder. He and other prison and county jail employees are suing inmates who assault them and are seeking financial damages. Sen. Mike Hewitt (R-Walla Walla) is sponsoring a bill that would open the way for garnishment of inmate accounts when such damages are awarded.
► In today's Olympian -- Campaign-financing committee's under fire -- WSLC President Jeff Johnson said the council likely would support Sen. Craig Pridemore's disclosure reform bill and said secretly attacking a candidate over positions the council shares was a mistake and "will never happen again."
► In today's Kitsap Sun -- Gregoire's proposal for regional ferry authority dead -- It has apparently died with a fizzle. After a briefing by the governor's staff, House Transportation Committee Chairwoman Rep. Judy Clibborn did not see much -- if any -- support of it among the committee members.
► In today's (Everett) Herald -- Legislators tackle stricter campaign rules -- They take a first swing at clamping down on the kind of chicanery used to oust an Everett Democratic state senator last year.
► In today's Olympian -- Freshman legislators to bring changes -- There are 26 new lawmakers learning their way around this week. It's doubtful any of them think voters sent them to uphold the status quo.
► In today's (Everett) Herald -- Port of Everett tries to protect funding at Legislature -- It isn't asking for any money this year, but is asking lawmakers not to tap into earmarked funds that already exist.
► In today's Spokesman-Review -- Call for "flash mob" thwarts meeting on Senate seat -- As the number of contenders to replace longtime Sen. Bob McCaslin (R-Spokane Valley) grows, efforts to get the seat filled quickly were derailed. Saturday's meeting to nominate possible replacements was postponed after a group backing Rep. Matt Shea called for a demonstration outside the gathering.
► In The Hill -- Labor coalition worries Obama will cut deal on Social Security -- A broad coalition of labor unions and liberal groups has launched an intense lobbying campaign directed at the White House in advance of President Obama's State of the Union address. These groups are concerned about Obama’s taciturn response to the proposal by his fiscal commission to gradually increase the retirement age and use a different calculation for cost-of-living adjustments.
► Also see the Jan 11 WSLC Reports Today posting -- Urge White House against needless cuts in Social Security
► In today's Washington Post -- House GOP to launch health-care repeal effort -- House Republican leaders said Thursday that they will begin their effort to repeal the new health-care law next week, a return to normal legislative business after the shootings in Arizona suspended activity on Capitol Hill.
► Also see the Jan 4 WSLC Reports Today posting -- GOP vows repeal just as health benefits kick in
► In The Hill -- White House pushing South Korea free trade deal by July -- U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk says the administration's goal is to have the agreement voted on by Congress before July 1 -- the date a trade deal between South Korea and the European Union goes into effect.
► At AFL-CIO Now -- Banks foreclosed on 1 million homes last year -- Rather than helping working people to save their homes, banks foreclosed on more than 1 million properties last year, which will slow the economic recovery and obstruct job growth, especially in construction.
► At AFL-CIO Now -- Vote now to press China on currency manipulation -- Ahead of Obama's meeting next week with China's President Hu Jintao, the Washington Post is asking readers whether the White House should press Hu on China's currency manipulation. The answer is “Yes!” VOTE HERE.
Honor King's legacy by defending public workers
The following editorial was published in the Madison (Wis.) Capital Times:
Workers at the Red Lion Hotel Seattle Airport, members of UNITE HERE Local 8, continue to fight for a fair contract at their hotel after more than nine months of negotiations.
The workers, many of whom have worked at the Red Lion for more than a decade, are fighting for contract language that would protect their jobs and their union if the hotel or restaurant (Gregory's) were to be sold or if a subcontractor took over the work. The company has maintained its strong opposition to language that would protect these long-term employees from having the quality of their jobs eroded if the hotel were to contract out the restaurant to a separate company. In fact, the company is planning to do just that -- get rid of the restaurant without protecting their workers.
On December 16, 2010, community and labor allies joined the Red Lion workers on the sidewalk in front of the hotel to show that we are united in our fight for a fair contract that protects all of our members' jobs. We know that we got management's attention; however, the company continues to oppose these efforts to win strong job security language. The workers remain strong, united, and committed to win what they deserve.
Please utilize force majeure language in all contracts with the Red Lion Hotel Seattle Airport to protect your organization in the event of a labor dispute, including a possible boycott, and check with UNITE HERE Local 8 before booking new business.
Call Sarah Warren at (206) 470-2978 with questions or visit www.unitehere8.org for more information.
Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO