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Labor Neighbor Radio

 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

 

Hello Again

 

After a patient died last month at the Providence Health and Services Rehabilitation facility in Lacey,  The union representing staff  said it had repeatedly raised concerns about staffing levels before that happened.   The Service Employees union, SEIU 1199 quoted a doctor who complained that, on average ,there were only two staff employees to look out for 40 patients and they were being run ragged.

Meantime another SEIU Unit figures prominently in tens of thousands of home care workers who will be splitting 57 million dollars in back pay from the state.   This, after a court decision that the Department of Social and Health Services improperly cut the pay of workers who lived with their clients.  Said SEU 775 Executive board member T.J. Janssen:

(sot) "There's a lot of caregivers that had to leave a job," he explains. "It's only fair that they get paid to do that, because that job they were working before was paying their bills."

Janssen says Home Care workers provide services that save the state money in the long run, so cutbacks don't make sense.

(sot) "Start restoring the hours," he says. "We don't expect them to restore all of them at one time - at least I don't - but to get caregivers out of poverty, because all of the cuts during the recession has put a lot of caregivers in poverty."

 

Under this court ruling workers will get about 3500 dollars each.  

 

Hope you got your tax return mailed on time.  Associated Press reports your chances of being audited are pretty low this year.    Has to do with budget cuts at the IRS.  You will recall the IRS got in trouble with Congress for singling out conservative groups....and as a result, got its budget cut.

On the subject of the federal budget,  National Parks folks are hoping to get more money this year to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Parks Service....The President has proposed a 55 million dollar increase, according to the bdget director, John Garder.

Sot) "It's a modest increase over last year. But it doesn't get parks back to where they were just a few years ago, before damaging cuts, to ensure that people can have a really inspiring and a safe experience out in our parks,"

Garder says the government has put off about 12 billion dollars in park maintenance...so there's a lot of fixing to be done.

If Boeing is moving Engineers to California to recruit or develop younger engineers down there.....The Boeing Engineers represented by SPEEA say they will sue for age discrimination.   This is reported in the Puget Sound Business Journal this week.   Course it's usually difficult to prove age discrimination in the absence of a smoking gun.

Every year about this time the State sponsors Construction safety day.  This will happen April 23rd in Puyallup.  I have attended this event and it's a pretty good effort aimed at teaching and spreading the safety message among people who build things.  Falls, for instance are one of the leading causes of injury and death.

Little History note:  The unsinkable Titanic sank during this week in 1912.  Did you know that there were six passengers from Washington State that went down with the ship? 

 

 

Labor Neigbor Radio is funded, in part by the Letter Carriers of Branch 79

 

 I'm John Sandifer


Labor Neighbor Radio

 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

 

Hello Again

So now,   while the OSO landslide recovery effort is still under way,  people are trying to assign blame for the tragedy.....on mother nature and record setting rainfall....on logging practices on the hillside.....on zoning laws and more.

Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark appeared on TVW,  the state supported Television Service, to say its too early to know exactly what happened and why,  but where people are allowed to build needs more attention.

(sot)   The weather is certainly a factor....but we all need to look at slide prone areas and determine the risk in terms of where people live.

Geologists say that whole valley between Arlington and Darrington has been the scene of multiple mudslides over the years.  They question why building permits were allowed in those areas.

A couple of labor activities in the news

Today employees at Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton are picketing outside the facility.  They say it doesn't make much sense that a health care facility would be taking away health care benefits in negotiations.   But the UFCW Local  union says that's whats happening and they are gearing up for a fight over it.

 

Tomorrow,  Postal Workers and others will be demonstrating at a Staples store in Burien.  They are protesting a deal between Staples and the U.S. Postal Service that, they say,  will cost jobs and mail service.    The Postal Service has begin replacing full-service Post Offices with what they call "Knock-Off" post offices inside Staple stores...staffed by low pay, low-benefit, non union workers,   costing USPS workers their jobs.

 

Look for the orange.   And slow down.    That's the big message from the Department of Transportation during this....National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week.   You wouldn't believe the number of highway workers who have been killed or maimed by drivers who blew through the orange cones in road construction areas.   If nothing worse happens.....fines for speeding in a work zone are double and may include jail time.

And another big killer.....driving while talking on a cell phone.   It surfaced again this week when a Seattle driver was charged with vehicular homicide.  Evidence, including cell phone records,  indicates  he was talking on the phone when his car hit a cyclist and killed him.      What a tragic waste.  How important could that fone call have been?  

Labor Neigbor Radio is funded, in part by the Martin Luther King Labor Council

 

 I'm John Sandifer

Labor Neighbor Radio

 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

 

Hello Again

With family and friends desperate to find loved ones who may have perished in the OSO landslide, searchers continue to wade through the mud, cut trees and dig through debris that is sometimes 70 feet deep.   The confirmed death toll continues to climb:   12, 17, 24.  Financial losses will go above 10 million dollars.

Meantime, police and rescue agencies have released some of the 911 calls that came in on the day of the mudslide....some on the point of hysteria.

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And some from people who remained quite calm.

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The Governor has asked the Federal Government to declare the area a major disaster and to provide funding for many things;  housing, food, rebuilding, counseling.

John Burbank, from the Employment Opportunities Institute writes that disasters like this point out to the right wing no government groupies....that it is government that rides to the rescue.  He says, "In the end, it is government that organizes the search for the living and dead, funds the trauma center at Harborview where the rescued are treated, clears the mudslide and rebuilds the highway. That is what we pay our taxes for.

National Weather Service.  This was the wettest March on record in Western Washington.  That had to contribute to the OSO mudslide.   9.4  inches, breaking a record set in 1950.

Five workers injured in the huge explosion at a natural gas processing plant on the Washington Oregon border this week,  apparently do not have life threatening injuries.  Don't  know the cause yet, but it put up a mushroom cloud that could be seen a mile away and forced evacuation of 400 residents of Plymouth.

Attorney General Consumer Alert:   A big phone scam is underway with con-men posing as IRS agents demanding tax payments or else.   They may threaten you on the phone.  Be advised the IRS usually doesn't phone taxpayers...they send mail.  

More from the AG's office.   One of the areas largest foreclosure companies, QLS....that stands for Quality Loan Service Corp....was sued for unfair and deceptive business practices.  Many customers are going to get their money back.

The ballots you are getting in the mail, in King County are for taxes to pay for Metro Transit service, which is threatened with cut-backs and road projects.  It'll cost you about  $11 a month.

I'm a big union supporter, but I'm not sure about this  decision by the NLRB to let college football players unionize.  I have visions of Cougars scoring a touchdown in the Apple Cup, only to have the Huskies file a grievance.

Labor Neigbor Radio is funded, in part by the Letter Carriers of Branch 79

 

 I'm John Sandifer

Labor Neighbor Radio

 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

 

Hello Again

On satellite pictures, you can see where the hillside north of Steelhead Drive in Oso had slumped toward the Stillaguamish river in years past.  And now experts are saying it has a 60 year history of doing so.  Some said homes should have never been built in the area.   Now, with 14 dead and more than 150 reported missing, the search goes on for more.

In expressing his condolences, Governor Inslee also said anyone along the flood plain between Oso and Stanwood should leave the area due to the risk of catastrophic flooding if the natural dam breaks.  Engineers now say that is not a current threat.

In these situations, the Attorney General warns...there are always scam artists that surface with well-meaning and sounding charities.  So look out if you are asked for money to help victims or families.   legitimate relief agencies, include the Red Cross and the Snohomish Department of Emergency Management.

That hunger strike at the Northwest Federal Immigration Detention Center has been getting  more attention.  This week labor leader Lynn Dodson is calling on members to join a march and demonstration next Monday...at the detention center,  aimed at Immigration reform.  She says 177 people an hour are being held in detention centers like the one in Tacoma, then deported.  She says the political will is lacking to fix it.

 

Seattle immigration attorney Evan Oshan agrees

(sot) "I think now is the time for people to stand up and to ask for change. The more things that are done - whether it's a hunger strike, whether it's writing to your congressman or woman - it's going to help, it's not going to hurt. They should voice their concerns, and not lose hope," Oshan said.

Meantime negotiators said they made some headway for hunger-strikers over a number of issues ranging from bad food to general living conditions.   And Congressman Adam Smith visited officials and detainees to bring the power of his office to bear.  We understand there are only two people still on hunger strike.

It wasn't a protest over working conditions that molded Seattle Community College administrative employees into a new union.   Will Brucher from the organizing committee said his people just liked what they saw among other unionized workers.

 

(sot)  "I think any time workers are able to come together and have a voice to represent their interests and also the interests of the wider community, the wider middle class, I think that's a very positive thing,"

 

They'll be a part of AFT, Washington.  The bargaining unit will include 150 people.

 

Phil Schilro writes for Politico....saying the Affordable Care Act is working.   He says I've never seen a law get so little recognition for doing so much good so quickly.   That is in achieving its five fundamental goals...expanding health insurance coverage,  lowering costs, promoting fiscal responsibility,  increasing quality and protecting seniors.

Seattle P.I.   Median Annual wages in King County are nearly $10,000 higher than the national average of $30,376.  That's about $15 an hour for  full time worker.

Major construction delays are coming to Snoqualmie Pass this spring.  Starting April 12, you'll find single lane traffic in each direction for at least two weeks.  Department of Transportation suggests you plan ahead or be pre3pared to sit in traffic.

Labor Neigbor Radio is funded, in part by the Letter Carriers of Branch 79

 

 I'm John Sandifer

Labor Neighbor Radio

 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

 

Hello Again

In my long career as a Television Journalist, I spent a lot of time inside News Helicopters at KOMO and King TV.   So it comes as a personal blow to hear that two people, the pilot and a veteran cameraman died when a chopper from KOMO crashed this week on takeoff from the stations roof.   My heart goes out to the families and indeed, to the whole staff.  Similarly Seattle Mayor Ed Murray was among the first to respond.

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When the legislature quit for the season, a lot was left undone and Governor Inslee said so in his news conference.

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The budget did not allow for all the money required to meet a court mandate to fund schools and there was no transportation package to build or fix roads and bridges.  Lead budgeter Representative Ross Hunter said,

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While the budget sent 58 million more dollars to schools, it did not provide any cost of living increase for teachers.

In Washington State, an employer cannot deny health care benefits to same-sex couples.  The Attorney General suspects that O'reilly autoparts stores are doing so,  but the company refuses to turn over documents for the investigation.   The state is attempting to force O'reilly to comply through the courts.

Based out of Missouri, O'Reilly has 147 stores in this state with more than 2,000 employees.

Many people I know have type 2 diabetes.   I do.  The Department of veterans Affairs says almost 20 percent of vets in their health care system are affected.

It's the leading cause of blindness, kidney disease and amputation...and 80 percent will face a heart attack or stroke.  So says Dr. Tim O'Leary in their office of research and development.

(sot)  "While diabetes is silent as it initially presents, and needs a blood test or a urine test, its consequences are not silent at all,"

Most research shows successful management of the disease isn't something people do alone.

 
Jon Talton in the Seattle Times reports the Seattle Construction Industry is still trying to get past the recession.  He says Overall construction employment statewide and in the Puget Sound region is at levels comparable to those of the 1990s.

 

George Bush took overtime pay away from millions of workers.  Now Barack Obama is giving it back and Republicans and Business groups are yelling at the top of their lungs.  Democrats say it will put more cash in the pockets of workers, Republicans say it will damage the economy.

 

The U.S. Senate is in favor of restoring unemployment benefits to more than a million Americans who have been out of work for 6 months or more.  Getting it through the House is another matter.

As a Cougar, it pains me to admit that the University of Washington is among the world's top 30 universities.  But there it is...in the Times 2014 survey of leading schools.   Go Huskies.

 

Labor Neigbor Radio is funded, in part by the Washingnton Building and Construction Trades Council

 

 I'm John Sandifer

Labor Neighbor Radio

 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

 

Hello Again

The Aerospace Machinists have a new  President.   Remember that Tom Wroblewski stepped down after the agonizing vote by machinists to give up some of their retirement benefits in order to secure Boeings promise to build a new jetliner in Everett.   The Machinists were badly split on that vote and Wroblewski was sick and tired of playing both ends against the middle.   So, the new man is Jon Holden.    41 years old and hopefully with the energy and patience to patch 32,000 Machinists back together again into a compatible bargaining unit.   He has stated he will start by listening to the membership and stay in regular touch with them.

 

Governor Jay Inslee has told the State Employment Security department to put long term unemployed people back to work......and to use 4 million dollars in federal funds to do it.

 

The governor said "Many of these workers contributed to the strength of our economy before the recession, but they've been shut out of the recovery and we need to turn that around."

 

But how?    That's not clear.   They are going to ask for new strategies.  Maybe somebody will come up with something that works.   At the end of February we had more than 195,000 people in Washington who were out of unemployment benefits and most of them still unemployed.

 

AARP has been getting involved in the increasing number of online scams, particularly against elderly people.   It says they keep warning people not to open up strange e-mails or sign up for free trial offers,  but State Director Doug Shadel says they do it anyway.

 

(sot)  "I liken it to the idea of catching a cold," he says. "Germs are everywhere, right? Well, it's the same with scams. Scams are all over the Internet. Some people fall for them, some people don't. We think that these negative life experiences can weaken your immune system, in effect, and that's what makes you vulnerable."

And people....especially if they feel isolated or under financial stress....don't seem to take routine precautions.

(sot) "We found that something like one-third of the people we surveyed had never changed their password on their online banking accounts or their personal emails," he explains. "And so, there are some just commonsense things people need to do to stay safe online."

 Probably the old adage is appropriate....If it sounds too good to be true....it probably is.
 

How many workers know their rights?   I bet not very many.  Some boss tells you you don't get overtime,   that you are not an employee, but an independent contractor,  that you don't get a lunch break.   How do you know?    That's why  The Washington State Labor Education and Research Center printed the new Washington State Workers Rights Manual.  It talks about these things and lets workers know their rights under local, state and federal law.  Copies are available through the Labor Center at South Seattle Community College Georgetown campus.

 

Grays Harbor County.   At last word,  Union employees with the main provider of mental health and addiction services, Behavioral Health Resources, were ready to strike over issues like mismanagement,  wage demands,  cuts to medical benefits and a so-called "shame and blame" atmosphere.    Short of an agreement, this could come to a head this Friday.

 

Speaking of Grays Harbor County....it is one of the areas where new sales and use tax rates climb in April....to pay for public transportation....The new sales and use tax will be 8.5 percent.   Thurston County also gets a new 2 dollar per room per night tax at hotels designed to finance tourist promotion. It sounds counter intuitive.....come visit us...we have a new tax so you can pay more for your room. 

Understand that the merger of Safeway and Albertsons will create a chain with more than 2400 stores and a workforce of 250,000 people.  My question is...what happens when they get a monopoly on qeewie fruit?

Labor Neigbor Radio is funded, in part by the Martin Luther King Labor Council

 

 I'm John Sandifer

Labor Neighbor Radio

 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

 

Hello Again

ThiTThis is National Consumer Protection Week.   It's supposed to heighten our awareness that there are bunches of scams out there.....like the guy with the Pakistani accent that keeps calling my phone claiming he's with the Microsoft Windows technical department and wants access to my computer.   He always hangs up when I tell him he has reached the FBI field office.

            The state Attorney General has jumped on this national observance to say you should contact his office if you think you are being scammed.

            Similarly, this week, the Insurance Commissioner  said he has an entire unit devoted to helping consumers experiencing trouble with their policies or companies.  Said he had more than 5,000 inquiries from consumers last year and recovered more than 8 million dollars for people.

In Olympia maybe a dozen ex smokers who tried to quit with pills and patches and gum came to the legislature to testify for E-cigarettes and against the 95% tax some lawmakers propose.   Electronic cigarettes are generally tobacco-free and produce harmless vapor instead of smoke, so users consider them less harmful.

(sot)   Its called a cigarette, but its not....its a healthy alternative.

            Career smokers say E-cigarettes have really helped them.

(sot)   I feel like it saved my life.

            We don't know whether the tax would be intended to raise money, or discourage use of E cigarettes,  but two witnesses said such a tax would be counter productive

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            At somewhere around 9 bucks.... a 95% tax would increase the cost of one e-cigarette to 17 dollars.......the cost of two and a half packs of real cigarettes.

Experts say things are going better with Washingtons Obamacare insurarance exchange, but 15,000 applications are stuck in the system and those people aren't getting their insurance.  The hangup seems to be in coordinating all the information required for eligibility.

Unions are celebrating in Oregon.   The hated campaign to make that a Right to Work state  ....that is, one in which workers represented by unions are not required to share the cost of collective bargaining....is over.  It was a trade off.  Unions agreed to drop several initiatives to raise taxes on rich people and big corporations and the Right to Workers agreed to drop their ballot initiative.    Right to work laws are designed less to give people worker rights, than to weaken unions.  Where they are in effect,  take Arizona and New Mexico as examplesn they result in lower wages, and benefits ,lower safety standards and less involvement by employees in their own working conditions.

 

Here, during tax time theres been publicity about all the corporations who don't pay any taxes because of all the tax breaks available.  Boeing is a prime example. 

One of the people that keeps track of this is Marilyn Watkins from the Economic Opportunity Institute in Seattle.

(sot) "Many of them are doing the same thing at the state level, too, moving assets around from state to state and exploiting the variations in state laws around corporate taxation, in order to minimize what they pay to state governments," Watkins said. "And that means all of us are having to make up the difference."

Her new report says 288 major corporations are not paying any federal tax...and haven't since 2008.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a workers compensation case against Amazon.com.  Workers claim they should be paid for standing in line waiting for security screening...apparently to prove they didn't steal anything from the warehouse.  Amazon says that's not work time.  The attorney for the workers say they are owed $300 million dollars.

 

An anti TV consolidation editorial in the Seattle Times says the take over of KOMO by Sinclair Broadcasting and King TV by Gannett is not good for the community...it results in homogenized news content that helps the bottom line, but hurts public service.

 

Labor Neigbor Radio is funded, in part by the Martin Luther King Labor Council

 

 I'm John Sandifer

Labor Neighbor Radio

 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

 

Hello Again

More than one in four American workers show up at work when they are sick....even though they could sicken their colleagues.   This is in a new survey published by the Huffington Post.   Most said their boss required them to....a third said they needed the money.

Not coincidentally, the Washington State Senate Commerce and Labor Committee is holding a public hearing today on House Bill 1313....which would require businesses with at least five employees to have paid sick days off.   This is strongly supported by the Labor Council which has been urging its membership to put pressure on lawmakers to get it approved.  Thing is...many of the people going to work sick work in restaurants, grocery stores, medical centers and the like.....and we wonder where our cold or flu came from.  Opposition comes from Republicans and business owners.

 

Republicans are also promoting a bill to let business owners off the hook if they fail to pay minimum wages or overtime.  It's the "Oh...I didn't know" defense.  Senator Doug Erickson argued that the Feds do it.

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Democrat John McCoy said it won't help workers.

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Senator Karen Keiser says we've been there...done that.

To show it does happen,  just this week a drywall contractor in Issaquah agreed to pay $550,000 in a Department of Labor Lawsuit.   He allegedly failed to pay 400 workers overtime....over three years.   If state Republican senators had their way...he would have just said   OH,  I didn't know."

And you know the state Senate proposed a budget this week, but the Governor said it's short on money for public schools.  He proposes closing more tax breaks to raise more money for schools.

 

Does Washington need a voting rights act?  Some say not all communities have a fair chance to vote.   Greaceila Villanueva, for instance, in Yakima, who ran for the school board...and lost against an opponent who did not campaign and eventually pulled out of the race.

(sot) "All people have the same needs," she says. "We want to have safe neighborhoods, we want to have good schools, access to good quality health care. And I think all groups, really, want to have an opportunity to be at the table, to have their thoughts and decisions be part of the process."

Villanueva claims voting is a difficult process for Hispanics in Yakima county.

Teamster union school bus drivers are not happy with First Student....the private contractor that provides busing for Seattle Public Schools.    They were reported preparing for a strike, over sick leave and health issues.

 

 

Lawn scam

Economic Forecast:   Marijuana will bring nearly $190 million dollars into the state bank account in the four years after the legal market gets rolling.

 

 

Labor Neigbor Radio is funded, in part by Longshoremen 51

 

 I'm John Sandifer

Labor Neighbor Radio

 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

 

Hello Again

It's good news that Boeing has picked Everett for building the composite wings for the 777x.

 

This is a new industry and the plant will be huge.  The wings are made from advanced composite materials and represent the future of flight.   Putting it in place here means decades of work for locals.

 

You'll recall that the battle with Boeing in locating the triple-7X building program....was over whether the Machinists would give up their defined pension program in order to get the work.

Now a similar demand is emerging in the state legislature, as it deals with state government employees.  A Republican bill seeks to remove their pensions and replace them with 401K plans....something that is happening all over corporate America.

The President of the Retired Public Employees Council of Washington, Gwen Rench says that would be a bad deal.

(sot) "The reason you stay as a public employee is because one of the benefits is being able to have a defined pension at the end of your service," she points out. "To take that away, you'd probably have more turnover in employees, which isn't exactly saving the state any money."

Her group says Washington's pension system is in the top four best funded in the nation, and doesn't need to be changed.

We generally let you know about various scams aimed at you and your friends.   One of the latest regards USA Payday Loans.  The State Department of Financial Institutions warns about this outfit which telephones people with offers of easy loans....provided you pay a fee up front.   One guy paid over one-thousand dollars in fees....and never got his loan.  Duh.   Turns out the Seattle address of USA Payday Loans doesn't exist, the license number is not listed by the state and the call was traced to India.

Lawmakers are putting additional restrictions of drinking boaters.  Senator Pam Roach.

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New legislation would slap fines on boaters who refuse a breathalyzer test.

In the house, four new bills go after the so-called underground economy:   businesses that avoid taxes and benefits by hiring employees and calling them independent contractors.  In general the law assumes that a worker is an employee unless he has pretty good proof that he s not.  One of these bills further defines what an employee is.

Labor Neighbor radio got a nice mention by the State Labor Council website this week in an article that asserts that Labor oriented Radio is going the way of the Do Do bird...the few remaining labor programs and stations are fighting to stay on the air..

Associated press reports that older Americans are doing better under the health law.  Those who have lost jobs, or are self employed  and don't yet qualify for medicare...folks in their 50's and 60's, ... are now able to get basic and affordable health insurance plans.  They make up 31 percent of new enrollees...the largest segment by age group.

If you were living here in 1990, you will remember that it was this week thirty five years ago that the Hood Canal Bridge went into the water during 80 to 120 mile an hour wind gusts.   Of course since then we've seen the Lake Washington Floating Bridge and the Skagit River bridge go down too.  But the most famous failure of all remains Galloping Gertie....over the Tacoma Narrows.  We someties don't have a lot of luck with bridges.

 

 

Labor Neigbor Radio is funded, in part by Machinists Local 309

 

 I'm John Sandifer

Got labor news?  Contact us:  John@laborneighborradio.com