Recount confirms: SeaTac voters pass $15 minimum wage
Airport worker Josh Vina, left, thanks union organizers Abraham Taylor and Memo Rivera as supporters of SeaTac’s Proposition 1 gather to declare victory November 26, the date that the election was certified.
A hand recount in SeaTac has confirmed the narrow, nationally watched win for Proposition 1, providing for a $15-an-hour minimum wage for workers at and around Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The measure received 3,040 votes in favor to 2,963 opposed—meaning that the certified vote count did not change at all. It is slated to take effect on January 1, 2014, but first faces a court challenge. The Alaska Air Group, corporate parent of Alaska Airlines, has sued to invalidate the initiative on grounds that Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is owned and operated under auspices of the Port of Seattle. King County Superior Court Judge Andrea Darvas will hold a hearing Friday on the lawsuit. Seattle P-I, 12-9-13.
Seattle U. tells adjuncts it opposes their unionization
The administration of Seattle University, a Roman Catholic institution, has moved to head off the unionization of its contingent faculty members by announcing its opposition to any such organizing effort. In staking out such a position, the university is almost certain to be pulled into a broader debate over whether Catholic colleges’ opposition to unionization is necessary to preserve their religious liberty, or contradicts the Roman Catholic Church’s own teachings that workers have a moral right to so organize. In an email sent to adjunct instructors and other contingent faculty members last Thursday, Isiaah Crawford, Seattle University’s provost, said that he had gotten wind of contact by SEIU Local 925, and that the institution would oppose their formation of a new collective-bargaining unit. He argued that unionization would disrupt relations between the university and its faculty, and that a union election would threaten the Jesuit institution’s First Amendment religious freedom by bringing the oversight of the National Labor Relations Board, a federal agency. Chronicle of Higher Education, 12-9-13.
City to pay $235K to settle lawsuits in SPD alley confrontation
Sargent, shown leaning on his grandpa’s truck in the infamous West Seattle alley.
The city of Seattle has agreed to pay $235,000 to settle public-records and civil-rights lawsuits brought by a man who alleged the Seattle Police Department illegally withheld documents from him. The sum, which includes attorney fees and costs, will be paid to Evan Sargent, who sought the documents as part of his assertion that he was assaulted by an off-duty Seattle police officer in 2009. As part of the settlement, the city made no admission of liability. A King County judge imposed a $70,000 fine on the Police Department for violations of the state’s Public Records Act, prompting the city to appeal. The state Court of Appeals found the department had failed to adequately explain all of the reasons for withholding some information from Sargent’s attorneys, but said the violations were unintentional and that fine was “completely disproportionate.” The court ordered the case sent back to the King County court to refigure the fines. The case was then appealed to the state Supreme Court, where it was pending when the settlement was reached Friday. Seattle Times, 12-9-13. Background on the incident is at Seattle Weekly, 9-4-12.
State blames I-5 bridge delay on Puyallup Tribe
Road construction on Puyallup tribal land next to Interstate 5 stands idle Friday. A Puyallup tribal spokesman said a resolution to the impasse could come soon.
If things had gone the way the state Department of Transportation wanted, construction of the first of two new Interstate 5 bridges over the Puyallup River would have begun last summer. Instead, the bridge projects are stalled out, Transportation Department officials say—delayed for at least two years with no definite start date in sight. Frustrated state officials are blaming the holdup on the Puyallup Tribe of Indians’ Tribal Council, which they say inexplicably went into silent mode on the construction project 20 months ago. The tribe owns land within the footprint of the new bridges, which are to be built just slightly upstream of the current I-5 crossing. John Weymer, a spokesman for the Puyallup Tribe, said the Tribal Council is not intentionally delaying the project. While the council might not be moving as quickly as the state would like, he said, it has not been wasting time. “We’re all in favor of this project,” Weymer said. “We’re just trying to do our due diligence about what the effects will be.” The new freeway bridges will cut through the heart of the tribe’s most historically significant area, Weymer said, and therefore they are of high importance to all tribal members. Tacoma News Tribune, 12-9-13.
Coal, oil shipping could benefit from passenger rail improvements in Washington
A coal train waits south of Blaine, Friday morning, Oct. 11, 2013, to cross the border and unload in Canada. The engine is at the end of the mile long train.
President Obama’s high-speed rail program was supposed to deliver faster and more frequent passenger trains to communities across the country. But some of the $10.1 billion in funding for that program also could benefit one of the nation’s largest freight railroads. Washington received $781 million from the Obama administration’s 2009 economic stimulus to improve passenger rail service in the 300-mile corridor that stretches from Portland north to Vancouver BC. The effort will result in two additional round trips on the popular Amtrak Cascade route between Portland and Seattle by 2017, bringing the total to six daily. It will add new locomotives, overhaul passenger cars, and renovate stations. Amtrak may not be the only winner, however. BNSF Railway, the owner of the tracks over which Amtrak operates, is a leading hauler of coal from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin and crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken region, and it seeks to increase its shipments of both commodities in the Pacific Northwest. The federal funds are paying for extended sidings to allow passenger and freight trains to pass each other, and other tracks to park slower freight trains so they don’t interfere with Amtrak. Bellingham Herald, 12-9-13.
Herrera Buetler gets a Democratic challenger in 3rd District
U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-3) faces another challenger in 2014. Democrat Bob Dingethal, 57, of Ridgefield said Monday afternoon that he’s running for the 3rd District U.S. House seat because many Southwest Washington residents are unhappy with the recklessness of federal lawmakers. He also said Southwest Washington needs to position itself for growth as the economy improves. That means investments in education and job training, he said. Dingethal is executive director of the Gifford Pinchot Task Force, which aims to protect natural habitats in the Cascade Mountain range, and he previously served as the Southwest Washington regional director for U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell(D-WA). His résumé includes stints as president of a public affairs consulting business, a business owner, and an executive in the telecommunications industry. Columbian, 12-9-13.
Party to narrow search for 38th District vacancy
Democrats in the 38th Legislative District are expected tonight to decide three candidates to fill former Rep. John McCoy’s seat now that he’s serving in the Senate. Seven people are vying for the post and the Democratic precinct committee officers gathering at 7 p.m. at the Everett Labor Temple will nominate three of them for the job. The Snohomish County Council will interview those nominees and make the appointment next Monday afternoon. The appointee will represent the district, which includes Everett, Tulalip, and part of Marysville. To keep the $42,106-a-year job, the person will need to win a full two-year term in next fall’s election. June Robinson, Jennifer Smolen, Deborah Parker, Ed Triezenberg, Kelly Wright, Ray Miller, and David Simpson are the candidates. Everett Herald, 12-10-13.
Ecology, power concerns voiced in Columbia River Treaty hearing
A U.S. House Committee led by Rep. Doc Hastings is hearing Monday from a diverse group of officials with interests in saving salmon, keeping electricity costs low and adequate water for irrigation in Pasco. The House Natural Resources Committee is holding the Tri-City hearing to gather regional input for the upcoming renegotiation of the Columbia River Treaty with Canada and the United States.
Competing visions of the Columbia River and its future were on display Monday in the council chambers at Pasco City Hall. The topic was the Columbia River Treaty between the United States and Canada, which could be terminated in 2024 if either side gives notice by next year. No one at Monday’s hearing of the Natural Resources Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives said they want the treaty canceled. But several expressed a desire to see it improved and modernized. U.S. officials expect to submit their treaty recommendations to the State Department by Friday, BPA acting administrator Elliot Mainzer said. Kathy Eichenberger of the British Columbia Ministry of Energy and Mines said British Columbia expects to make its draft recommendation this month. Tri-City Herald, 12-9-13.
Washington drops funding for Life Skills training program
Life Skills class instructor Vicki Brandt works on Microsoft Office basics Wednesday with four students. The program will end later this month because it has lost state funding.
Betty Kellum dropped out of high school her senior year because she was pregnant and never went back. She worked fast-food jobs and spent four years as the in-home caregiver for her mother. After her mother died, she couldn’t find a job and applied for welfare. Along with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the state gave Kellum two options while she got her General Educational Development diploma: Look for part-time work or enroll in WorkFirst Life Skills, a state-sponsored 12-week program at Spokane Community Colleges designed to help people improve their chances of getting a job by learning some basics of adult working life. Kellum is working on an associate degree at Spokane Falls Community College. But Life Skills, which over the last three years had an average of 690 people each month in classes around Washington, is on life support. The state is pulling the plug on the program at the end of this month. Spokesman-Review, 12-9-13.
Tougher tactics emerge on immigration reform
Backers of immigration reform aren’t apologizing for their tactics.
Immigration reform advocates have tried being polite. They’ve staged acts of civil disobedience and warned Republicans the party will pay at the ballot box if they drag their feet on an overhaul. But none of that has worked—so now, immigration activists are in all-out harassment mode. In recent weeks, advocates have taken a decidedly sharper, more aggressive turn in their efforts to pressure lawmakers—primarily Republicans—on an immigration overhaul that would create a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants in the country. They stormed House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) condo in Arlington. They delivered reams of letters to House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and dozens of other House Republicans from children of immigrant families. They’ve confronted Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) during breakfast at his favorite Capitol Hill diner and prayed on the doorsteps of his suburban Cincinnati home. But, so far, the in-your-face strategy isn’t working. After the Senate passed the most comprehensive immigration overhaul in a generation in June, the effort has stalled. And the tough tactics are turning off key House GOP lawmakers whose support will be vital if legislation is to clear Congress. Politico, 12-9-13.
Americans find they’re trapped in GOP’s Medicaid expansion gap
Governors Mike Pence (R-IN) and Rick Scott (R-FL) have opted out of Medicaid expansion.
With HealthCare.gov working better and the first deadline to sign up for health coverage that starts in January approaching, Obamacare’s so-called navigators—the people and organizations receiving federal funds to help people enroll—are seeing more and more people come through the doors and out to their events. But in 25 states, that robust interest has a downside: Navigators are forced to tell more and more people that they probably won’t be able to get covered because their states, all of which had a GOP-controlled legislative chamber or governor, have refused to expand Medicaid. Lynne Thorp, who is overseeing the University of South Florida’s navigator program in that state, told TPM that about one in four people who contact her team fall into that Medicaid gap. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 38 percent of the U.S. uninsured have an income that’s below the poverty line—the population that won’t qualify for either Medicaid expansion or any financial help to purchase private coverage through the law in non-expanding states. About 5 million people fall in that gap in those states. But these people probably don’t know that when they walk into a navigator’s office or attend an outreach event. They just want to find out what options are available to them—though it turns out the answer is not many. Talking Points Memo, 12-9-13.
Why Elizabeth Warren baffles pundits: “Economic populism” isn’t just a campaign slogan
Most pundits writing about “Warren versus Clinton” are answering the wrong question, because of the political media’s fixation on national elections and presidents. But the “economic populism” fight isn’t about Hillary Clinton and 2016. It’s about the entire Democratic Party, and every policy fight and campaign it will be involved in in the foreseeable future. It’s certainly easier to discuss intraparty disagreements about policy and strategy in terms of big clashing personalities, but the people and organizations championing left-wing economic policy and strict financial regulation, from Demos to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, aren’t part of a shadow Warren campaign, they’re part of a campaign to drag Democrats away from the pro-rich Washington consensus. The point of “economic populism” is to fix the Democratic Party at every level. That’s what explains the backlash, which has been growing. Alex Pareene, Salon, 12-9-13.
To Think About
Progressives must oppose the right wing war on public employees
For many years the American Right—and many of the most powerful elements of the corporate and Wall Street elite—have conducted a war on public employees. Their campaign has taken many forms. They have tried to slash the number of public sector jobs, cut the pay and benefits of public sector workers, and do away with public employee rights to collective bargaining. They have discredited the value of the work performed by public employees—like teachers, police, and firefighters—going so far as to argue that “real jobs” are created only by the private sector. All of these attacks on public employees—and cuts in public sector expenditures in general—are premised on two myths that are simply untrue. Robert Creamer, Huffington Post, 12-9-13.