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Issue #125

King County

Workers sue Amazon over off-the-clock security checks

Warehouse workers at Amazon.com facilities claim they are forced to wait in long lines for security checks during lunch breaks and after their shifts, and they are seeking to be paid for that time.
Warehouse workers at Amazon.com facilities claim they are forced to wait in long lines for security checks during lunch breaks and after their shifts, and they are seeking to be paid for that time.

Seven Amazon.com warehouse workers filed a federal lawsuit against the company in U.S. District Court in Seattle  Friday, claiming they are owed back pay for security checks they are forced to undergo during lunch breaks and after their shifts. The suit, which represents workers in multiple states, seeks class-action status, claiming the number of potential plaintiffs could total several thousand. In addition to Amazon, staffing company Integrity Staffing Solutions, based in Delaware, is named as a defendant. “Workers leaving the warehouses are required to clock out before standing in line at security check points, resulting in an average approximate 25-minute wait because of the large number of employees in the huge facilities,” plaintiffs’ lawyers said in a statement. “The workers are not allowed to have personal items such as phones, personal electronic devices, or books in the facility, and have no way to use the time waiting in line for their own purposes.” Puget Sound Business Journal, 9-6-13.

State’s top court gets emergency motion on SeaTac’s $15/hour wage initiative

Workers demonstrate in favor of the SeaTac Good Jobs initiative.
Workers demonstrate in favor of the SeaTac Good Jobs initiative.

Alaska Airlines, Filo Foods, BF Foods, and the Washington Restaurant Association have filed a motion asking the state Supreme Court for an emergency review of last week’s Court of Appeals ruling that made it possible for a proposition to increase the minimum wage in SeaTac to be placed on the November ballot. The companies filed the motion Monday after the Court of Appeals found a King County Superior Court judge had erred when she eliminated signatures supporting Proposition 1, the so-called Good Jobs Initiative, which would increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour at many businesses in SeaTac. Seattle Times, 9-9-13.

Seattle City Council votes to back Initiative 522

The Seattle City Council voted 8-1 to support Initiative 522, which would  require labels on food products that have been genetically modified or contain genetically modified ingredients. The council’s decision comes ahead of the general election when voters will decide whether to approve the initiative. Council member Richard Conlin introduced the resolution, saying the proposed labeling is similar to standards already in effect in the European Union and many other countries. Council member Jean Godden voted no. “This issue is coming before the voters in November. It is not a matter that will be decided by the city council. And for this reason, I will vote no today, because I believe this should see a full economically based discussion,” Godden said. KPLU, 9-9-13.

Murray-McGinn: The nasty begins

Challenger State Sen. Ed Murray tried to bring the ceiling down on incumbent Mike McGinn Monday, as the general election campaign’s one-on-one faceoffs began at a rooftop restaurant session of the Ballard Chamber of Commerce. “I don’t believe our city has moved forward the last three years: Our economy has,” Murray said.  He charged that the city has engaged in “divisive politics’ under McGinn, the result being:  “We are way behind on police reform.  We are way behind on the issue of crime in this city.” McGinn was an incumbent bearing promises in this initial debate. “We’re working on a new North Precinct (for the Seattle police),” he said. McGinn has been promoting a new pedestrian-bicycle-transit bridge over the Ship Canal. He spoke of partnering with community colleges on job training. Seattle P-I, 9-9-13.

Court of Appeals rules in favor of Sodo arena

The proposed site for a new NBA arena in Seattle.
The proposed site for a new NBA arena in Seattle.

The State Court of Appeals Monday rejected a challenge to the Sodo arena brought by Longshore workers. The court upheld a trial court decision from February that found that the agreement between the city of Seattle, King County, and Chris Hansen to build a new $490 million arena did not violate state environmental laws. “The memorandum does not predetermine where an arena will be built or even that an arena will be built at all,” the Division One Appeals Court three-justice panel wrote in its opinion. “Whether the city and county will agree to Hansen’s proposal is a decision expressly reserved until after environmental review is complete. Because there has not yet been a government ‘action’ as that term is defined by SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act), the courts are not a forum for the union’s opposition to Hansen’s proposal.” Seattle Times, 9-9-13.

Hansen, others fined $50,000 over Sacramento arena ballot effort

Hedge fund manager Chris Hansen is interviewed after his meeting with the NBA regarding the possible relocation of the Sacramento Kings basketball team to Seattle, in New York, Wednesday, April 3, 2013.

Chris Hansen, the hedge fund manager who attempted to buy the Kings and move them to Seattle, and two members of a political committee have agreed to pay a $50,000 fine for failing to report the source of money for an effort in Sacramento to collect signatures for a ballot measure seeking a vote on the city’s arena subsidy. Hansen, along with political consultant Brandon Powers and treasurer Lysa Ray of Citizens for a Voice in Government, agreed to pay the penalty, according to Fair Political Practices Commission records released Monday. Sacramento Bee, 9-9-13.

Darigold, Teamsters in mediation as contract negotiations heat up

Darigold's creamery in Issaquah
Darigold’s creamery in Issaquah

Washington state’s biggest private company is heading to mediation today with workers in Seattle, Issaquah and Tukwila. The negotiations between Darigold and Teamsters Local 117 have gotten tense, and some staged an informational picket last week. The Teamsters say workers are frustrated by what Darigold is proposing. The contract covers about 200 workers who voted last month to authorize a strike. And the union says its members are upset that the company won’t guarantee job security and wants workers to pay more for their health care. Ten years ago, Darigold locked out about 200 workers in a dispute that lasted nine months. KPLU, 9-9-13.

The State

Cowlitz Tribe announces opposition to coal terminals

Artist's rendering of the proposed Millennium coal port.
Artist’s rendering of the proposed Millennium coal port.

Cowlitz Indian tribal officials said Monday they are opposing proposed Pacific Northwest coal docks, specifically the Millennium Bulk Terminals project west of Longview. In a written statement, tribal officials said they worried that increased coal transport on trains and ships could threaten air and water quality along the Columbia River and harm salmon and smelt populations. “We don’t see anything good for us or for our future generations with the proposed coal terminals,” William Iyall, chairman of Longview-based Cowlitz Tribe, said in a written statement. Millennium is seeking to build a $643 million coal terminal at the former Reynolds Metals Co. site. Longview Daily News, 9-9-13.

Roach promises to reintroduce bill to guarantee valid voter signatures will count

Sen. Pam Roach (R-31)

State Sen. Pam Roach (R-31) says Friday’s appellate-court ruling in favor of allowing a minimum wage measure to go before SeaTac voters in November points up the importance of a change in state law she proposed earlier this year. “Whether a voter has signed a liberal initiative or a conservative initiative should not matter – a valid voter signature is a valid voter signature and it deserves to count,” Roach said. “What happened in SeaTac also happened in Vancouver with a local initiative, when local officials threw out perfectly valid voter signatures and it took a costly, time-consuming court case to find justice.” In both instances, Roach said, the voters’ signatures were rejected not because the signers were not registered or because they lived outside the voting district – it was because they inadvertently signed the petition more than once and had all their signatures thrown out. Auburn Reporter, 9-9-13.

Pierce County Council members support jail layoffs

Pierce County Council member Joyce McDonald (R-Puyallup)

Members of a key Pierce County Council committee Monday supported laying off 16 corrections deputies to help fill a $5 million shortfall in  county jail operations. Council Chairwoman Joyce McDonald said the jail’s system of contracting out beds to offset costs has failed because cities find cheaper rates at other jails. She said the jail needs a new business model. “The old one doesn’t work anymore,” said McDonald (R-Puyallup). “As much as we want it to work, we’re in a new day and a new time.” But Sheriff Paul Pastor said his department needs to seek new contracts with jurisdictions to send their inmates to the jail, even though the loss of Tacoma’s contract in January led to the budget crisis. Tacoma News Tribune, 9-9-13.

Op-Ed: Strictly Business: Decline of unions has steep price

Vancouver Columbian reporter and columnist Aaron Corvin

If you’re part of the working poor or a member of the fading American middle class, you’re well aware that your income — the lifeblood of building a life in this world — has either stalled or flat out taken a nosedive. There are many reasons for this shameful body of evidence, including a U.S. tax policy that has effectively redistributed income upwards for decades. But new ground-breaking research by Bruce Western of Harvard University and Jake Rosenfeld, a professor at the University of Washington and co-director of Scholars Strategy Network Northwest, shows the decline of unions — once assigned a modest role in explaining wage inequality — has actually played a significant role in this troubling trend. Aaron Corvin, Vancouver Columbian, 9-8-13.

The Nation

Judge rules Indiana’s right to work law unconstitutional

Lake Superior Court Judge John M. Sedia

A Lake County judge Monday ruled Indiana’s right to work law unconstitutional., in a lawsuit filed by the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150. The union claimed the law violated Article 1, Section 21 of the state’s Constitution, which says “no person’s particular services shall be demanded without just compensation.” Local 150 argued the right to work law is unconstitutional because it makes it illegal for unions to collect fees for services they are required to provide by federal law. In the decision. Judge John M. Sedia of Lake Superior Court said the law makes it “a criminal offense for a union to receive just compensation for particular services federal law demands it provide to employees.” Sedia concluded that, “the Court therefore has no choice but to find that [the laws] violate Article 1, Section 21 of the Indiana Constitution.” Fox59.com, 9-9-13.

A possible answer for California’s prison overcrowding woes

Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, California.
Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, California.

California officials Monday announced a tentative deal to resolve the state’s years-long prison overcrowding crisis. At the same time, Stanford University researchers released a report suggesting that an important part of the solution may reside in Proposition 36, the 2012 ballot initiative which allowed for the release of some of the state’s “Three Strikes” prisoners. The Three Strikes law, passed in 1994, mandated a life sentence for anyone who committed a felony, no matter how minor, after committing two “serious” felonies, which could be anything from purse-snatching to murder. More than 9,000 inmates have been incarcerated under the law. But Californians slowly lost their appetite for harsh sentencing, and last year voted overwhelmingly in favor of Prop 36, which permits an inmate whose third strike was a non-serious, nonviolent offense to petition for early release. The new law does not cover anyone convicted of murder, rape or child molestation, nor does it reach the state’s more than 30,000 “Two Strikers,” who have committed a felony of any kind after committing one serious felony. New York Times, 9-9-13.

TSA taking some of the hassle out of airport security lines

A passenger's identification and travel documents are verified at the Transportation Security Agency passenger screening area at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the nation’s busiest.
A passenger’s identification and travel documents are verified at the Transportation Security Agency passenger screening area at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the nation’s busiest.

More than a quarter of U.S. fliers can expect speedier passage through airport checkpoints — shoes and coats on, laptop computers untouched — by year’s end under a program announced Monday by the Transportation Security Administration. About 450,000 passengers a day will be eligible for the special treatment as existing programs are expanded to include a random selection of people deemed low security risks by the TSA. The passengers chosen for the expedited service will not be required to submit personal information beyond that provided when they book their flights. Washington Post, 9-9-13.

‘Pink slime’ returns to school lunches in four more states

As of Sept. 3, seven states put in orders for 2 million pounds of the controversial beef.
As of Sept. 3, seven states put in orders for 2 million pounds of the controversial beef.

Kids are going back to school and so is the ground beef filler dubbed “pink slime.” Thousands of schools across the U.S. rushed last year to stop feeding their students meat that contained the ammonia-treated beef, known by industry as lean finely textured beef. Their action followed a massive media uproar, which included a prime time show featuring British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and a series of critical reports by ABC World News. But new government data show schools in four more states, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Texas, have since put aside concerns and resumed buying the controversial product. Politico, 9-9-13.

To Think About

What happened to the anti-war movement? The short answer: partisanship.

Anti-war protesters march in San Francisco in 2008.
Anti-war protesters march in San Francisco in 2008.

A mere 72 hours after President Obama delivered an encomium honoring the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, he announced his intention to pound yet another country with bombs. The oxymoron last week was noteworthy for how little attention it received. Yes—a president memorialized an anti-war activist who derided the U.S. government as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” Then then that same president quickly proposed yet more violence—this time in Syria. Among a political press corps that rarely challenges the Washington principle of “kill foreigners first, ask questions later,” almost nobody mentioned the contradiction. Even worse, as Congress now debates whether to launch yet another military campaign in the Middle East, the anti-war movement that Dr. King represented and that so vigorously opposed the last war is largely silent. So what happened to that movement? The shorter answer is: it was a victim of partisanship. David Sirota, In These Times, 9-6-13.

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