SeaTac minimum wage proposal scores key endorsements
A proposed $15-an-hour minimum wage for hospitality and transportation workers in SeaTac scored endorsements Tuesday from 20 elected Democrats, including U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-9), King County Executive Dow Constantine, and state House Speaker Frank Chopp (D-43). The endorsements were announced by Yes! For SeaTac, a union-backed political committee supporting the Nov. 5 ballot initiative (Smith had endorsed this initiative months ago). Other Democratic supporters include King County Council member Julia Patterson, a lifelong SeaTac resident; state Sen. Karen Keiser (D-33), of Kent; and state Reps. Dave Upthegrove and Tina Orwall, both (D-33) from Des Moines. SeaTac Proposition 1 calls for a $15-an-hour “living wage” for hospitality and transportation workers in and around Sea-Tac International Airport. Seattle Times, 9-17-13.
Crime going down? McGinn promises 15 new police
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn has rolled out statistics to insist that crime is going down in Seattle. Tuesday, however, McGinn announced that he has found money in his 2014 budget to hire 15 new police officers. While his political allies have scorned “anecdotal evidence” of increasing crime in parts of downtown Seattle, McGinn indicated that he has caught the public mood — after recent shooting, stabbing, and other incidents downtown — and is responding to the public’s concern. Up for reelection, and an underdog to challenger State Sen. Ed Murray, McGinn has been using daily news conferences to tout provisions, or “goodies” to use the political expression, in his proposed 2014 budget. An “improving budget situation” has made it possible to hire the new officers, McGinn said. Seattle P-I, 9-17-13.
Inslee: Highway 99 tunnel drilling to resume in days
Union longshoremen took down their picket line Tuesday morning, and digging should resume in a few days at the Highway 99 tunnel project, Gov. Jay Inslee said. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) agreed to end picketing while talks continue about who will load the excavated muck onto barges as the giant tunnel machine churns through the dirt. For now, the four jobs per shift will be done by building-trades union members, Inslee said. The ILWU says those jobs fall under their jurisdiction. The governor, at a news conference Tuesday morning, acknowledged that the ILWU could picket again if a solution isn’t found, but Inslee said talks will resume in a few days and he is determined to help the sides find agreement. Seattle Times, 9-17-13.
Group Health finds a way to provide abortion access
Almost three weeks after Group Health was publicly criticized for omitting abortion from its health exchange programs, the cooperative is rolling out a program to ensure that women will continue to have access to the procedure. Group Health Cooperative officials said they always intended to ensure that patients had access to abortion, although it was excluded in plans it will offer through the state health exchange starting Oct. 1. The solution officials came up with has the cooperative paying for the cost of abortions for any women who newly enroll through the state’s health exchange, an online marketplace called Healthplanfinder. Group Health plans will be available in 19 counties, including King, Pierce and Snohomish. Puget Sound Business Journal, 9-17-13.
Space Needle management faces NLRB anti-union case
A hearing began Monday in Seattle to consider a complaint by the National Labor Relations Board’s regional office that Space Needle LLC, manager of the Seattle landmark, engaged in unfair labor practices. The NLRB is acting on a complaint by Unite Here Local 8, which accuses the Space Needle of unlawfully encouraging employees to resign from the union or not pay dues. The hearing before an administrative law judge is expected to continue through Friday, with a decision to follow at least several weeks later, said Unite Here Local 8 spokeswoman Jasmine Marwaha. The privately owned Space Needle employs between 180 and 230 people, depending on the time of year, Marwaha said. The food and banquet workers have been unionized since its opening in 1962. Seattle Times, 9-16-13.
Seattle sick leave law: So healthy that others want to follow suit
As noted recently on Crosscut and elsewhere, Seattle’s Paid Sick and Safe Leave law turns one year old this month. September also marks the new school year and a new flu season. Each is a good reminder that our public health is improved when employees don’t have to choose between coming to work sick or losing a day’s wage. Detractors have marked this anniversary by pointing to what they call the “unintended consequences” of the law as reported by the Employment Policies Institute (EPI). I was curious about this organization and found that it is one of two dozen groups run by Richard Berman, the former director of labor law for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to oppose legislation proposed by labor, consumer safety and environmental groups. Under the guise of studying “the impact of new labor costs on job creation,” Berman has opposed not only paid sick leave but also increasing the minimum wage. Nick Licata, Crosscut, 9-18-13.
Tribes say fish protection must be part of river treaty; PUDs disagree
The Columbia Basin’s 15 tribal groups are urging Northwest utilities and big power users to back a federal recommendation to add fish-restoration and conservation mandates to a landmark U.S.-Canada treaty conceived 50 years ago only for flood control and hydropower generation. “We tried the experiment of hydropower being optimized without regard for ecology, and it failed,” said Paul Lumley, a member of the Yakama Nation and executive director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. The Portland-based group lobbies to restore and conserve Columbia Basin fish. A group of 70 electricity utilities, including the Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan County PUDs, and big power users and industry organizations have flatly opposed adding “ecosystem function” as the treaty’s third pillar. Wenatchee World, 9-17-13.
Vancouver schools pays $4K to install supe’s private shower
The superintendent of Vancouver Public Schools had a shower installed in his office restroom over the summer at a cost of about $4,000 for labor and materials. Steve Webb will use the shower to freshen up after a long day and before he heads to an evening meeting. The shower was paid for by the district’s general fund/facilities construction budget. With the installation of the shower, Webb is the only head of a public educational entity in Clark County with private shower facilities just outside his private office. If Webb were to charge to the district the mileage to return home and shower before an evening meeting, rounded off to an 18-mile round trip at the IRS business standard mileage rate at $.565 cents per mile, he would have to make about 393 round trips from the district office to his Felida residence to equal the $4,000 cost of the shower. Vancouver Columbian, 9-16-13.
Court ruling might open door for making personal info public
When handing over public records, government agencies routinely censor Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers,and sometimes even dates of birth. A state court ruling this month suggests that often there may be no legal basis for keeping such nuggets of personal information secret. The court actually made its decision in response to a more narrow question: whether the city of Lakewood properly explained its redaction of driver’s license numbers in documents given to public-records activist David Koenig. The Court of Appeals Division II ruled against the city — a decision that, if it stands, could force Lakewood to pay Koenig tens of thousands of dollars. But a footnote in the ruling could have more far-reaching implications. Tacoma News Tribune, 9-17-13.
Right-wing activist calls for coup against Obama
With Congress unlikely to impeach President Barack Obama and the veracity of his birth certificate defintively confirmed, what’s a right-wing zealot to do? As conservative attorney and outspoken birther Larry Klayman sees it, the only recourse is for “people of faith and all true patriots” to take matters into their own hands and “cleanse the nation of the half-Muslim, anti-white, socialist fraud in the White House before the nation goes under for the final count.” A piece by Klayman published Monday in Renew America serves as a gold mine of conservative fringe fantasies. Citing “Benghazi-gate” and “Fast and Furious-gate,” Klayman lamented that Congress is unlikely to “to remove the mullah-in-chief from office.” And with the courts taking a pass on Obama’s “phony birth certificate,” that leaves only one option, according to Klayman. Talking Points Memo, 9-17-13.
Wall Street Journal warns GOP that government shutdown could return Democrats to control of the House
In a editorial that reeks of panic and desperation, the Wall Street Journal is warning House Republicans that a government shutdown could enrage voters to the point where they give Democrats back control of the House. The majority of Americans have long blamed congressional Republicans for the dysfunction in Washington. A Republican-led government shutdown would push that blame over the edge. Fifty seven percent of the American people don’t support the Republican plan to defund Obamacare. If Republicans shutdown the government, they will lose and lose badly. The best path to a Democratic House takeover in 2014 is for Republicans to keep doing exactly what they are currently doing. Jason Easley, Politics USA, 9-17-13.
Democrat Paul Davis to run vs. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback
Kansas Democrat Paul Davis Tuesday announced his bid for governor, and will campaign with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius later this week. Davis, the deep-red state’s House Minority Leader, said Tuesday that he will seek the Democratic nod for governor next year, and will likely run against Republican Gov. Sam Brownback. Sebelius, the Democratic former governor of the Sunflower State, will campaign with Davis in a Kansas City suburb Thursday. Davis hails from Lawrence, one of the few liberal pockets in Kansas. Still, some Democrats — like Sebelius and former Rep. Dennis Moore — have been successful despite the state’s deeply conservative political landscape. Politico, 9-17-13.
Volkswagen and the UAW in Tennessee: Will Republicans still ‘get government out of the way’?
It’s a common refrain among conservative economists and politicians: If only government would end its interference in the affairs of private enterprise, the efficiencies of the free market would buoy the economy, lead to high profits, and in turn result in higher wages for everyone. This argument is used to defend corporate-friendly policies of all stripes, including deregulation, opposition to living wages, and worker safety protections. While conservative governments have strong objections to imposing rules and regulations on employers, however, they have no problem setting stringent rules and regulations on the labor unions that seek to represent the interests of workers. But what happens when Republican ideology has to confront a new paradigm: one of intentional cooperation between employers and workers that seeks to improve efficiencies and ensure that everyone enjoys the profits of productivity? Hint: Intellectual consistency shouldn’t be a first, second or even a third choice. AFL-CIO Now, 9-16-13.
To Think About
Thinking out loud: Why even the worst bloggers are making us smarter
Before the Internet, most people rarely wrote for pleasure or intellectual satisfaction after graduating from high school or college. Today, we write the equivalent of some 36 million books every day on social media and e-mail. Is any of this writing any good? Certainly, measured against the prose of an Austen, Orwell, or Tolstoy, the majority of online publishing pales. This isn’t surprising. The science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon famously said something like, “Ninety percent of everything is crap,” a formulation that geeks now refer to as Sturgeon’s Law. Anyone who has spent time slogging through the swamp of books, journalism, TV, and movies knows that this holds pretty well even for edited and curated culture. So a global eruption of unedited, everyday self-expression is even more likely to produce this 90-10 split — an ocean of dreck, dotted sporadically by islands of genius. Yet studies have found that the effort of communicating to someone else forces you to pay more attention and learn more. Clive Thompson, Wired, 9-16-13.