Supporters brave rain, rally to Machinists’ cause
Several hundred union workers and others rallied Monday in Seattle to support Machinists union members who voted last week to reject Boeing’s proposed contract that would have meant the 777X is built in Washington (at the expense of their secure pensions and cost-of-living raises). Union leaders, Mayor Mike McGinn, Council member-elect Kshama Sawant, and other elected officials declared the Machinists were standing up for middle-class jobs, as union chants erupted through the crowd at Westlake Park. No specific ideas for salvaging the Machinists’ relationship with Boeing were offered, but Jeff Johnson, president of the Washington State Labor Council, told the crowd he hopes Boeing will come back to the table for further negotiations. Seattle Times, 11-18-13.
Machinists will be remembered as heroes of middle class
In the midst of all the blather from politicians and pundits of all persuasions about jobs, more jobs, and jobs at all costs, the people who actually do those jobs, the brothers and sisters who could actually lose those jobs, responded with a simple and eloquent NO. With the plutocracy and all of their minions holding guns to their heads, the Machinists who have created record profits for Boeing said No. They said No to Boeing’s attempt to eviscerate their collective bargaining rights. They said No to the governor, who tried to hold them responsible for the long-term future of Washington’s economy. They said No to a legislature that spent a romantic bipartisan weekend creating for Boeing the biggest state taxpayer subsidy in American history. They even said No to their own leadership, who probably never should have called a vote on Boeing’s extortionate “offer” in the first place. Bill Lyne, United Faculty of Washington State Blog, 11-15-13.
The brewing City Council-startup feud
A key priority of Seattle’s tech industry, and one of outgoing Mayor Mike McGinn’s signature achievements, may be quietly killed or delayed indefinitely by the Seattle City Council this week. Whether or not that happens, the fight has already strained relations between Council members and leaders in the local startup community, which consists of over 700 companies. At a November 8th City Council Budget Committee meeting, an anonymous amendment to the 2014 budget was proposed that would have effectively killed Startup Seattle—eliminating the $151,000 designated to OED to hire a staffer, manage the project and website, and create marketing materials. While the proposal’s sponsors were not named in official budgeting documentation, Council members Nick Licata and Jean Godden were the only ones to voice support for it at the meeting. Crosscut, 11-18-13.
Funds from Seattle, King County to keep youth shelter open
YouthCare’s James W. Ray Orion Center for homeless youth will stay open five nights a week, thanks to funding from Seattle and King County. The Seattle City Council Monday allocated $130,000 in next year’s budget for the center, adding to the King County Council’s pledge of $120,000 for the center earlier this month. The city council will take a final vote on the budget next week. With a multiyear grant set to run out, YouthCare feared it would have to close the 20-bed shelter in January. But funding from the city and the county will be sufficient to keep it open, the nonprofit agency said Monday. The Orion Shelter, which serves 18- to 24-year-olds, is the only facility for homeless youth in downtown Seattle. KPLU, 11-18-13.
Squeaker in Bellevue: How big will change be?
Almost two weeks after election night, Bellevue City Council candidate Steve Kasner and incumbent Kevin Wallace found themselves again pounding the pavement. But this time it was to resolve questions about some ballots in a race so close that every vote counts. But incumbent Wallace has led throughout the ongoing vote count, signaling that change on the Bellevue council will likely be less dramatic than thought after the primary eliminated a longtime member of the council’s conservative bloc. Lynne Robinson’s landslide win, and the close race between developer Wallace and neighborhood leader Kasner, indicate that the old guard will continue to be challenged. The message from voters seems to be for less championing of growth, and more discussions with neighborhoods about their concerns, instead of the sometimes headstrong crusades of councils past. Crosscut, 11-18-13.
Cities say a wider I-5 near JBLM is a top priority
If something isn’t done to fix the Interstate 5 bottleneck from Joint Base Lewis-McChord south to Lacey, the ability of the cities on the I-5 corridor to grow economically might be significantly impaired. That’s according to leaders in Lakewood, DuPont, Steilacoom, and Lacey who hope to see $820 million worth of road improvements approved by the Legislature – far more than what state lawmakers seem ready to pledge. If the cities get their way, that stretch of freeway could see new lanes added for the first time in almost 40 years. The Lakewood City Council has listed the widening of I-5 as a top legislative priority for 2014. It has joined with the cities of DuPont and Lacey, the town of Steilacoom, and Lewis-McChord leaders to work with the Washington State Department of Transportation to find a solution. The municipalities are trying to keep pressure on the Legislature to make sure funding for the proposed widening isn’t passed over for road projects to the north in King County. Tacoma News Tribune, 11-18-13.
State record: 163,000 comments for Millennium project
Regulators have received 163,000 comments on the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminals coal dock west of Longview — likely the biggest public response to a project in state history. The latest Friday count surpasses the 124,000 comments received by the state Department of Ecology early this year for a proposed coal dock in Whatcom County. Ecology, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Cowlitz County officials are determining the scope of environmental study for the $643 million Millennium project. The deadline to submit comments was Monday. Millennium officials hope to export 44 million tons of coal annually from the proposed dock at the former Reynolds Metals Co. site. Regulators say they plan to announce the scope of review next year, which they will then use as a guideline to write an environmental impact statement. Longview Daily News, 11-1-13.
Hanford cleanup effort called a dysfunctional mess
The government’s multibillion-dollar effort to clean up Hanford, the nation’s largest former nuclear weapons site, has become its own dysfunctional mess, critics say. For more than two decades, the government has planned and worked to dispose of 56 million gallons of nuclear and chemical waste in underground, leak-prone tanks at the Hanford nuclear reservation. But progress has been slow, the budget is rising by billions of dollars, and a long-running technical dispute has sown ill will between some of the project’s senior engineering staff, the Energy Department, and its lead contractors on the vitrification plant, where waste will be treated for disposal. Center for Public Integrity (Tri-City Herald), 11-17-13.
Valley cities using SWAT teams more, but with caution
Yakima County Sheriff’s officials recently asked two local police department SWAT teams to surround a suspect holding a family of four at gunpoint inside a Granger farmhouse. In a separate incident, a SWAT team in Sunnyside cleared a suspected gang house in order to serve a warrant in a case of a stolen laptop. From an actively violent criminal situation to one that appeared considerably less serious, SWAT teams are now an integral part of three police departments in the Yakima Valley, including Sunnyside and Grandview, where such a show of force might have been unthinkable 20 years ago. The growth of SWAT in the Valley reflects a nationwide trend. While police say the ultimate goal is to save lives and reduce violence, critics — many of them worried about civil liberties — call SWAT deployment a militarization of police forces. Yakima Herald-Republic, 11-18-13.
Elizabeth Warren: Don’t cut Social Security. Expand it!
If Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is emerging as a kind of spokeswoman for the new economic populism that many Democratic activists want the party to embrace heading into 2014 and 2016, this speech that Warren delivered Monday on the floor of the Senate suggests that the push to expand Social Security could become a key issue in the argument over the Democratic Party of the future. In Warren’s remarks, she strongly endorsed the push to boost Social Security benefits — in keeping with Senator Tom Harkin’s proposal to do the same — and condemned the “Chained CPI” that liberals fear Dems will embrace in strong terms. many of the issues that Warren has been championing for years now — Wall Street accountability and oversight of the big banks; stagnating middle class wages; the need for financial reforms designed to address the ways the economy is rigged in favor of the financial sector and against working Americans — are emerging as central to a larger argument over what the Democratic Party should stand for and who it really represents. Washington Post, 11-18-13.
NLRB: Walmart broke law; retaliated against workers
The National Labor Relations Board said Monday it will pursue charges against Walmart for threatening and punishing workers who planned to go on strike last year. According to NLRB officials, the agency’s general counsel investigated and “found merit” in workers’ claims that Walmart “unlawfully threatened” employees for taking part in walkouts surrounding last year’s Black Friday shopping season. The agency said Walmart intimidated, surveilled, or punished workers in 14 different states, violating U.S. labor law. The agency also said that Walmart illegally threatened workers in statements made in two news broadcasts. That charge appears to refer in part to an interview that Walmart spokesman David Tovar gave to CBS Evening News last year, saying “there could be consequences” for workers who are expected to show up for work and don’t. Huffington Post, 11-18-13.
Walmart asks low-paid employees to donate food for Thanksgiving dinners—to its own needy employees!
The storage containers are attractively displayed at the Walmart on Atlantic Boulevard in Canton OH. The bins are lined up in alternating colors of purple and orange. Some sit on tables covered with golden yellow tablecloths. Others peer out from under the tables. This isn’t a merchandise display. It’s a food drive—not for the community, but for needy workers. “Please Donate Food Items Here, so Associates in Need Can Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner,” read signs affixed to the tablecloths. The food drive tables are tucked away in an employees-only area. They are another element in the backdrop of the public debate about salaries for cashiers, stock clerks and other low-wage positions at Walmart, as workers in Cincinnati and Dayton are scheduled to go on strike Monday. Is the food drive proof the retailer pays so little that many employees can’t afford Thanksgiving dinner? Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11-18-13.
To Think About
For Democrats, a tax-the-rich road to victory
As we enter into yet another round of budget discussions, the Democratic Party is confronted with an opportunity—and a challenge. There’s an opportunity to shift the budget debate to an area where they hold the high ground. But it will be a challenge for some Democrats to take the initiative on a subject they seem reluctant to discuss. The subject is taxes. It seems that the conventional wisdom says tax increases are best left unmentioned. But the conventional wisdom is wrong. New polling by Hart Research Associates, conducted for Americans for Tax Fairness, confirms and amplifies findings from earlier studies showing that Americans strongly support higher taxes for the wealthy and corporations. And when we say “strongly,” we mean VERY strongly. The conclusion is inescapable: if Democrats make this budget battle a fight over who has the smartest spending cuts, they’re fighting on the Republicans’ turf. That will weaken them as they enter the 2014 campaigns. But if they make this a fight over taxes and jobs, that’s a fight they can win. R. J. Eskow, Campaign for America’s Future, 11-17-13.