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Issue #135

(Daily Clips will resume publication Tuesday, October 1.)

King County

Local grocery workers vote to authorize strike

United Food and Commercial Workers leaders said Thursday that 30,000 local grocery workers had voted to authorize a strike. That could begin by Sunday. The union rejected a “final” offer from Allied Employers, which represents QFC, Safeway, Albertson’s, and Fred Meyer stores. The vote was 98 percent in favor of authoriziation. The union says it will now go back to the stores to negotiate one more time. If those talks fail, picketing could begin 72 hours later. Employee health care is one of the biggest sticking points in the negotiations. The union has not had a work stoppage since 1989. KING, 9-26-13.

Council committee doesn’t shut down ride-shares, but does move toward regulation

Despite some fear to the contrary, the Seattle City Council’s Committee on Taxi, For-Hire, and Limousine Regulations was not going to shut down upstart ride-share outfits like Lyft, UberX, and SideCar. From the very start of Thursday’s scheduled committee meeting—during which regulatory options for taxis, for-hires, and ride-shares were discussed in-depth—Committee Chair and Council President Sally Clark made that abundantly clear. There would be no formal vote. There was, however, a robust discussion on what the regulatory landscape of Seattle’s taxi industry—including what Council Central Staff’s Ben Noble likes to call “taxi-like services,” which is another way of referring to the Lyfts, UberXs, and SideCars of the world—will look like in the future. From there, directives on how to proceed were forwarded to council staff, with the goal of creating both long-term and short-term answers. Seattle Weekly, 9-26-13.

Flushed out: Clash between weekend warriors and rural residents could end up penalizing homeless people

King County Council member Kathy Lambert (R)

On a weekend in June, 2,500 bicyclists from a Cascade Bicycle Club event called Flying Wheels Summer Century converged on the Fall City area just as the Survivor Mud Run at Remlinger Farms brought in 4,500 dirt-splattered weekend warriors. The result was a bad scene. The  club received complaints about the event from King County and the cities of Carnation and Duvall, claiming that cyclists swore at people, urinated on private property, and flashed middle fingers at drivers. That led county Council member Kathy Lambert to propose a ban on public urination and defecation that would allow the King County Sheriff’s office to issue tickets up to $125. The King County Council will discuss the issue Sept. 30 at 1:30 p.m. on the 10th floor of the King County Courthouse. Lambert sees the proposed law as a common-sense response to rude and unsanitary behavior. But critics say what started as a conflict between residents of rural King County and the people drawn there for recreation could have unintended consequences for poor and homeless people. Real Change, 9-26-13.

The State

Farmworkers win round in court; Sakuma Bros. must end surveillance

Immigrant advocates and workers on strike from Sakuma Brothers Farms boycott a store in Ballard in August.
Immigrant advocates and workers on strike from Sakuma Brothers Farms boycott a store in Ballard in August.

Familias Unidas por la Justicia and individual plaintiff Felimon Piñeda won a significant court victory Wednesday when Skagit County Superior Court Judge John M. Meyer ordered Sakuma Brothers Berry Farms to remove security guards from their housing. After an emergency hearing, Judge Meyer issued a restraining order prohibiting Sakuma Brothers from engaging in further violations of Washington’s primary labor law, the Little Norris LaGuardia Act. (RCW 49.32.020) The Act prohibits employers from interfering with workers who are organizing themselves to improve their wages and working conditions. The judge ordered Sakuma to remove security personnel immediately from areas where they could observe or eavesdrop on the workers. They may not follow workers or community supporters of the workers on public roads and highways. The Stand, 9-26-13.

Longview coal port skeptics want thorough study

Anti-coal export activists gather outside the Spokane Convention Center on Wednesday. If the Port of Longview proposal is approved, 44 million tons of Powder River Basin coal would be exported from Washington to Asia every year.
Anti-coal export activists gather outside the Spokane Convention Center on Wednesday. If the Port of Longview proposal is approved, 44 million tons of Powder River Basin coal would be exported from Washington to Asia every year.

Inland Northwest residents turned out in force in Spokane Wednesday evening to persuade officials that a proposed West Side shipping terminal’s potential environmental impacts reach far beyond its site on the lower Columbia River. “The environmental impact statement should include environmental impacts in Spokane,” Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart told representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Washington state, and Cowlitz County at a hearing at the Spokane Convention Center. “Spokane deserves to know how these terminals would affect our quality of life.” Millennium Bulk Terminals wants to build a $600 million facility in Longview, Wash., to ship coal from Montana and Wyoming to China and other Asian countries, where it will be used mainly to generate electricity. Officials are taking public comment on what should be included in an environmental impact statement required before the project goes forward. Spokesman-Review, 9-26-13.

Donation letter from local GOP office ‘raises a flag,’ but doesn’t cross line

Rep. Jan Angel (R-26)

Some of state Senate candidate Jan Angel’s biggest campaign contributors recently received a letter from a local Republican offering them “a way for you to give more than the state maximum” donation. While the wording of the appeal raised eyebrows at the state’s elections watchdog, it doesn’t appear to violate any law on its own. “They shouldn’t be sending out some solicitation saying, this is the way you can get around contribution limits. That kind of raises a flag for me,” said Lori Anderson, spokeswoman for the Public Disclosure Commission. “But it doesn’t say what they’re going to do with the money.” Anderson said no election law was broken unless money later changed hands with an understanding that it would go to GOP Rep. Angel (R-26) of Port Orchard. The PDC will look into a complaint filed by a Port Orchard Democrat, Johanna Baxter, against the 26th Legislative District Republican Committee and its board member who wrote the letter, Patrick Pettyjohn. A resolution is unlikely to come before the Nov. 5 special election pitting Angel against Democratic Sen. Nathan Schlicher (D-26) of Gig Harbor. Tacoma News Tribune, 9-26-13.

Faculty strike continues at BTC; students frustrated

Bellingham Technical College professors picket in hopes of getting pay raises .
Bellingham Technical College professors picket in hopes of getting pay raises .

As a faculty strike at Bellingham Technical College entered its third day Thursday with no end in sight, some of the nearly 2,500 affected students are voicing their frustrations. By law, the college can’t release financial aid to students until classes start — and college officials canceled classes for Friday. That has left some unable to pay rent or buy food, they say. Others are frustrated they had quit their jobs to start school, only to realize they could have earned more while classes have been canceled. The students are caught in the middle of back-and-forth negotiations between Bellingham Education Association, the faculty union, and BTC’s administration. Both sides have accused the other of walking out of negotiations. “We didn’t want this,” said Steve Mudd, a BEA spokesman and BTC faculty member. “(The strike) is our only power.” Bellingham Herald, 9-26-13.

The Nation

FBI has been using drones since 2006, watchdog agency says

A drone patrols the U.S.-Canadian border.
A drone patrols the U.S.-Canadian border.

Operating with almost no public notice, the FBI has spent more than $3 million to operate a fleet of small drone aircraft in domestic investigations, according to a report released Thursday by a federal watchdog agency. The unmanned surveillance planes have helped FBI agents storm barricaded buildings, track criminal suspects and examine crime scenes since 2006, longer than previously known, according to the 35-page inspector general’s audit of drones used by the Justice Department. The FBI unmanned planes weigh less than 55 pounds each and are unarmed, the report said. The FBI declined requests to discuss its drone operations Thursday. In June, Robert S. Mueller III, then director of the FBI, acknowledged the existence of the drone program for the first time during congressional testimony. Mueller, who retired Sept. 4, said the bureau was in the “initial stages” of writing privacy policies so agencies flying the unmanned aircraft would avoid improper surveillance of Americans. “We’re exploring not only the use but also the necessary guidelines for that use,” he said. But the auditors determined that the FBI had not addressed the danger of violating privacy rights, and recommended that the deputy attorney general’s office consider writing new guidelines to curb improper surveillance by law enforcement drones. Los Angeles Times, 9-26-13.

Texas Governor’s race: Wendy’s in!

State Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth)

The word is out that it’s about to become official: State Sen. Wendy Davis will run for governor next year. Several influential Democrats have said that Davis and her team have told supporters that she’s in the race, but wanted to publicly announce the news to grassroots supporters during an afternoon event Oct. 3 somewhere near her home base in Fort Worth. They requested anonymity because they were not authorized by the campaign to speak. Davis staffers said only that the senator has made up her mind about her political plans — and they would not confirm Politico reports that she’s begun to notify party leaders of her decision. Republicans say Davis doesn’t have a chance of winning the gubernatorial race; Democrats admit it’s an unlikely uphill battle. But Democrats have long maintained that Davis — who gained nationwide fame from a June filibuster that temporarily prevented a comprehensive abortion bill from passing, although the GOP-led Senate passed the measure a few weeks later — has star-power, can help spur other Democrats to run for statewide offices, and can motivate voters to turn out in the next election. Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 9-26-13.

Federal employee Mike Marsh’s mission: Getting himself fired, and his agency closed

Mike Marsh is a federal employee who wrote to Congress this summer with an unusual proposal to save the government money. Fire me, Marsh told lawmakers. And everyone I work with. “I have concluded that [my agency] is a congressional experiment that hasn’t worked out in practice,” wrote Marsh, who is the inspector general for the Denali Commission, an economic-development agency based in Alaska. “I recommend that Congress put its money elsewhere.” This has been tried before. But not often. Old Washington hands could remember only two other federal workers who had lobbied publicly to have themselves defunded. One was a high-level Ronald Reagan appointee. One was a lowly weather observer. Both failed. Meaning they weren’t fired. Marsh seems likely to fail, too — even though his requests arrived in Washington in the middle of a battle to cut the budget. Washington Post, 9-26-13.

Domestic workers to be paid for working overtime in California

California Governor Jerry Brown (D)

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Thursday giving some domestic workers, including in-home nannies and health care workers, overtime pay for working more than nine hours a day or 45 hours in a week. Assembly Bill 241, a diluted version of San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano’s so-called “Domestic Worker Bill of Rights,” was amended before passage to exclude meal and rest break provisions, to exempt occasional babysitters from overtime requirements, and to include a three-year sunset provision. Brown vetoed a broader version of the bill last year. Sacramento Bee, 9-26-13.

Tribes lose bid to block consumer agency’s probe into payday lending practices

Great Plains Lending, one of the tribal companies cited, will loan you $100 for 448% yearly interest.
Great Plains Lending, one of the tribal companies cited, will loan you $100 for 448% yearly interest.

Three Indian tribes that run online lending businesses have lost a bid to block a federal regulator from probing their operations. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, in a decision published Thursday, ordered the lenders to comply with civil subpoenas issued last year seeking information on their businesses. The subpoenas were issued as part of a CFPB probe into whether the lenders are violating federal laws while making or advertising loans. The lenders, acting together, filed a formal petition last to set aside the probe, which the CFPB denied. The regulator has turned down four such requests over the past year. The CFPB sent the subpoenas in June 2012 to Great Plains Lending LLC, MobiLoans LLC, and Plain Green LLC, which are owned by tribes in Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Montana. Wall Street Journal, 9-26-13.

Nez Perce vow to continue opposition to transport of “megaloads” through their lands

A megaload carrying an evaporator for a Canadian oil rig sits idle on U.S. Highway 12 outside of Lewiston, Idaho, in August.
A megaload carrying an evaporator for a Canadian oil rig sits idle on U.S. Highway 12 outside of Lewiston, Idaho, in August.

The Nez Perce Indians, who have called the empty spaces and rushing rivers of North Central Idaho home for thousands of years, were drawn into the national brawl over the future of energy last month when they tried to stop a giant load of oil-processing equipment from coming through their lands. The setting was U.S. Highway 12, a winding, mostly two-lane ribbon of blacktop that bisects the tribal homeland. Tribal leaders, in defending their actions, linked their protest of the shipments, known as megaload transports, to the fate of indigenous people everywhere, to climate change and — in terms that echo an Occupy Wall Street manifesto — to questions of economic power and powerlessness. The dispute spilled into Federal District Court in Boise, where the Nez Perce and an environmental group, Idaho Rivers United, carried the day. Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill, in a decision this month, halted further transports until the tribe, working in consultation with the United States Forest Service, could study their potential effect on the environment and the tribe’s culture. The pattern, energy and lands experts said, is clear even if the final outcome here is not: What happens in oil country no longer stays in oil country. New York Times, 9-25-13.

To Think About

Exposed: Enron billionaire’s diabolical plot to loot worker pensions

In the lead-up to his anti-pension partnership with Pew, Arnold’s most relevant connection to pensions and retirement security came from working at Enron – a company whose collapse destroyed its own workers’ pensions and helped to damage the financial stability of public pension funds across America.

In May 2013, the Pew Charitable Trusts released a report that sounded a frightening alarm. Titled “Retirement Security Across Generations” and widely cited throughout the national media, the study found that a lack of retirement savings, less guaranteed pension income, and the economic downturn have collectively exposed the next generation of Americans “to the real possibility of downward mobility in retirement.” Summing up the study’s implicit push to stabilize Americans’ retirement future, a Pew official declared that lawmakers must focus on creating policies that help workers “make up for these losses and prepare for the future.” Pew’s analysis, though eye-opening, was not particularly controversial. But at the same time one branch of Pew was rightly sounding this moderate non-ideological alarm to shore up retirement security, and Pew’s Economic Development Tax Incentives Project was warning of states’ wasteful tax subsidies, a more political branch of the organization was working in tandem with controversial Enron billionaire John Arnold to begin championing an ideologically driven plan to make the retirement problem far worse. David Sirota, Salon, 9-26-13.

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