Watch: Lawmakers rally in support of paid sick days

This week, lawmakers in the state House stood with Washington’s working families and passed the legislature’s first paid sick days bill. The bill’s prime sponsor, Representative Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma), along with her colleagues shared rousing testimony in support of paid sick and safe days. Check out video of their floor speeches below.

Representative Laurie Jinkins

“The Centers for Disease Control have told us that upwards of 80 percent of norovirus that’s transmitted across the nation is from sick food service workers. Now a lot of people don’t know what norovirus is Mr. Speaker but just let me tell you, it’s a gift you don’t want to be given. The thing about it is, it doesn’t have to be this way. We can do something about it.”

Representative Tana Senn

“I rise in support of sick and safe leave. Sometimes we get so focused on the nuts and bolts of the legislation that we forget about the real people that it’s impacting so let’s put a face to the people that’ were talking about right now. I want to tell you about a woman named Jennifer, a restaurant worker in east King County, who went home one night and was almost beaten to death.”

Representative Roger Freeman

“I rise in support of this bill, this very personal bill to me. When I got my diagnosis last February, one of the first things that ran through my mind was with cancer how many days I was going to have to be off of work. My wife is a homemaker and if I don’t work no one gets paid, the family has no income.”

Representative Cyrus Habib

“This bill reminds me less of those other bills whether it’s minimum wage or other things then it does a bill that’s very near and dear to my heart, that’s now the law of the land, and…went into effect 20 years ago and that’s the Americans with Disabilities Act. You know when the ADA was being debated in Congress over 20 some years ago you heard a lot of the same arguments from business. You may have even heard a line like a job with no wheelchair ramp is better than no job at all. But we know that’s not true.”


Originally published at EOI Online

High tech corporations export jobs and profits, import workers
Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg import foreign workers

Progressives unknowingly allied themselves with rich corporations on immigration reform.

High tech companies like Microsoft, google, Apple, and hire thousands of foreign engineers but generally refuse to pay taxes that would support educating local workers.

Tax-break Boeing needs to get to work

So how about that $8.7 billion tax give-away Boeing just received to build the 777X? We have been here before. In 2003, the Legislature excused Boeing from $4 billion in taxes, in order to build the 787 in our state. What happened to that $4 billion? Over $1 billion was used to construct a copycat 787 facility in South Carolina. The other $3 billion? Some went into outsourcing construction of 787 parts all over the world, which were then shipped back to Everett, there to be snapped together. Only the pieces did not snap together and the Everett machinists and engineers had to re-jigger the pieces in order to make the 787 fly right. The result of this brilliant outsourcing strategy is that the 787 is about $14 billion over budget. And several years late. And how about those batteries?

Is Boeing management inept enough to do this again with the 777X? Its own customers would not appreciate that. “All we said to (Boeing) was, ‘Please don’t do to 777X what you did to the (787)… Don’t do that to us.” Those are the words of Emirates CEO Tim Clark, the 777X biggest customer. Or how about Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al Akbar, the second largest 777X purchaser: “Frankly, we would rather everything was built in one place, and I think Boeing from the 787 experience have learnt a lesson.”

Boeing has given itself three months to decide on a 777X assembly location. When you put all the pieces on the table, there shouldn’t even be a competition. Everett machinists and engineers produce 100 jets per year. No other state has this experienced and dedicated workforce. No other state can match our aerospace training and transportation infrastructure. No other state has our network of aerospace contractors. And no other state has offered such a plum in tax giveaways, for better or worse!

The Legislature stated that “the people of Washington have benefited enormously from the presence of the aerospace industry in Washington state…” The Legislature could have also stated that Boeing has benefitted enormously thanks to thousands of engineers and mechanics in the aerospace industry, the transportation infrastructure, the state’s investment in engineering schools at the University of Washington and other universities and community colleges and our focus on workforce development specifically for Boeing.

But is Boeing profitable? Is the pope Catholic? $1 billion in 2003, $3 billion in 2006, $4 billion in 2010, $5.6 billion last year. So Boeing has the profits, they have the infrastructure, they have the intellectual and engineering know-how, they have the machinists’ expertise. And they just got a huge tax giveaway. So it is a green light for Washington state … except for those pesky machinists. Should the machinists just bow down to Boeing? Should they agree to break up their own labor force into two or three tiers? Should they agree to a 30 percent increase in health care costs? Should they abandon their pensions, which deliver decent, not extravagant, but dependable checks, in retirement?

Here is the thing: The machinists don’t need to approve a new contract. They already have one that runs for another three years. It is a legally binding agreement between the Boeing Co. and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers IAM. It was the machinists, after all, who proposed a 10-year contract a few years ago. It was Boeing that ran away from that proposal for labor peace and productivity. It was the machinists who exposed Boeing’s breaking of federal labor law, when the company actually wrote that it was moving production to South Carolina to undercut the union. And it was the machinists who agreed to drop this unfair labor practice charge in exchange for the current contract.

What Boeing needs to do is focus on building the best airplanes in the world, instead of taking away hard-won benefits, defunding the Boeing pension, and seeking out a “union-free” environment. We have helped Boeing enough. Now it is time for Boeing to get to work on the 777X, right here in Washington. That would be a productive partnership.

Putting an ENDA to workplace discrimination

You would think that any employee who performs well in the workplace would be rewarded with a raise or promotion. Such an exemplary employee would never have to labor under the shadow of termination. You would assume that’s just common sense and sound business practice, right?

You might be wrong. Over half the states in America—a country which allegedly takes pride in equality of economic opportunity—do not protect workers from discrimination due to their sexual orientation.

In other words, even the best employees can be fired simply for being gay. Or lesbian. Or transgender.

Passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would remedy that situation on a national scale. The Senate will likely vote in support of ENDA this week.

But, like most common-sense legislation that finds favor with a majority of Americans, ENDA might just wither on the vine and die in the obstructionist, do-nothing House of Representatives controlled by a tiny minority of Tea Party Republicans.

At least one local activist from the State of Washington is doing his darndest to see that doesn’t happen.
Seattleite Brad Delaney started a pro-ENDA petition on urging folks to apply pressure on their members of Congress to see that ENDA comes to a vote and is successfully passed.

Why is Delaney so passionate about this cause? “I am gay and I can’t fathom the thought that in over 29 states LGBT people can be fired just because of who the are or who they love,” he wrote in a recent email interview. “I believe that your work performance should dictate whether or not you have a job, not who you go home to at night.”
Delaney claims to know of several instances in which employees were discriminated against, including one example where someone was fired outright simply because she told her boss that she’d soon be transitioning.

“I would like to see LGBT workers treated as equals to their straight counterparts in the workplace,” says Delaney, who assisted with last year’s successful effort to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington.

So how can others help promote workers’ rights regardless of sexual orientation?
Call your legislators, particularly those of a more conservative bent, immediately and often. Remind them that equal economic opportunity is a basic American principle, while bigotry is not.
Write letters to the editor and speak out on social media. Share your thoughts and experiences.
Patronize those businesses that promote workplace equality and avoid those that don’t. Here’s an excellent guide from the Human Rights Campaign:
Tea Party Republicans don’t like it when courageous citizens like Brad Delaney stand up for causes “We the People” proudly support, like workplace equality.

For Tea Party Republicans, it seems that “liberty” is a word reserved for rich, white, straight folks.

Maybe those Tea Party Republicans in Congress deserve to be fired for poor job performance.

Originally published at

Voters to Grand Obstruction Party: Where are the jobs?

Why the Grand Obstruction Party hopes obstructionism will lead to feudalism. (Thom Hartmann)

August 6, 2013

Folks here in Washington State, across America, likely throughout the civilized world, and quite possibly in neighboring galaxies have a new name for Republicans: the G.O.P.

Nope, not the Grand Old Party of upstanding statesmen from Lincoln to Eisenhower, but the current corporate-backed incarnation, the Grand Obstruction Party.

The sole purpose of today’s GOP is to bring economic and social progress to a screeching halt. And they’re damn good at it.

  • Jobs? Republicans have put a halt creating family-wage jobs. They’d rather you work for minimum wage, or preferably less, without benefits of course. Hence the Republican attack on unions. Instead of encouraging workers’ rights, championing higher pay and basic benefit packages, the Grand Obstruction Party wants that all to simply disappear so that their “free market” (in other words, unobstructed by any kind of regulations—or ethics, for that matter) corporate backers can continue to increase their already grotesque profits exponentially.
  • Made in America? Forget it. Republicans prefer outsourcing. Easier and cheaper to deal with third-world factory collapses than to be beholden to good old American labor. What’s a few dead Asians compared to a soaring stock market?
  • Equal pay? Republicans know where women belong. Minorities, too. The kitchen would be a great place for both, according to the GOP. Or maybe manicuring a CEO’s lawn.

What to do? Well, friends and neighbors, your members of Congress are about to return home for a series of off-year, off-session (as if the GOP ever accomplished anything on-session) town hall meetings.

Attend those meetings. Exercise your democratic right to ask your elected officials a few questions. Such as:

  • Where are the jobs? We need roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and all manner of other infrastructure built and re-built. How come we’re not doing that?
  • Continued outsourcing…are you kidding me? Americans work harder, smarter, and produce goods we’re proud of. Why does the Grand Obstruction Party actively support sending jobs overseas?
  • Why can’t we earn a decent living? CEOs are raking in mega-bucks; profits are at an all-time high. What about the working people who actually make it all happen?

Go to your local town hall gatherings. This is America. Let no right-wing corporatist obstruct you from standing up and speaking your mind!

Town hall meetings: a perfect time to question your member of congress.

Originally published at

Time to Fight for Working Women and the Middle Class

President Obama and Nancy Pelosi have shifted the economic debate in our nation’s capital back onto the right track with a renewed focus on working women and the middle class. The 30-year experiment with supply side economics – including deregulation, cutting taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations, and slashing public investments –  has been great for the super rich, but not so good for all the rest of us. Rebuilding a growing middle class, starting with policies that finally break the barriers to women achieving full equality, is the best strategy for getting our economy humming and creating a better future for our children.

Pelosi Obama

Image from Wikimedia Commons

When Obama first came into office four and half years ago, he set up a high-profile task force that promised bold action to restore middle-class vitality and the American Dream. But the grim toll of recession, partisan bickering, and the Tea Party backlash – combined with high political costs of passing health care reform – quickly derailed that early momentum. Since 2010, Congress has forced through an austerity agenda, cutting aid to state and local governments that kept teachers in classrooms and cops on the beat, refusing to rebuild our crumbling roads and bridges, cutting services to the most vulnerable, and most recently even slashing food stamps.

Now, five years after financial speculators tanked the world economy, long-term unemployment remains stubbornly high and homeowners are still underwater. Young people are struggling to afford college, graduating with crushing loans, and moving back in with their parents while seeking work in a still-bleak market. 165 years after the first women’s rights convention at Seneca Falls, a woman  working full time in the United States earns only 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man – with the biggest wage gap right here in the Seattle metro area. Meanwhile, the income and and share of wealth of the top 1% is soaring once again.

The good news is that private sector jobs are finally growing, with some of the strongest growth in the country in King County. Some jobs are in high paying fields like computers and aerospace, but many are in restaurants, retail, and home care, with low pay, part-time hours, and few benefits. No matter how well we educate individuals or promote high wage sectors, our economy will continue to have this diversity. Therefore, what we need to make sure that everyone who works hard can achieve a dignified level of economic security are a combination of policies that build individual opportunity and that provide a platform of basic standards and infrastructure to support thriving communities.

The 6 cornerstones of a strong and growing middle class that Obama laid out in his speech last week are important steps toward individual opportunity and a stronger economy:

  • Good jobs, with emphases on manufacturing, new technologies, and infrastructure
  • Education, including preschool for 4-year olds and addressing soaring costs for
    higher ed
  • Home ownership
  • Secure retirement
  • Health care – following through on implementing Obamacare
  • Ladders of opportunity, including raising the national minimum wage

Obama’s speech was short on specifics, but at least begins to move away from the morass of austerity economics that seems to have trapped DC policymakers and needlessly prolonged the recession for working families. It also falls short in certain key areas that he earlier embraced. Fortunately, Pelosi and other House members are promoting an economic agenda for women and families that fills in some of the gaps with proposals for fair pay, paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave, and affordable, quality childcare.

Will these efforts go the way of the Middle Class Task Force? Not if we keep the pressure on and hold our representatives in Congress accountable for following through.

And a big chunk of this agenda should be front and center for our state policymakers, too. Next year, the Washington legislature can adopt paid sick days, family and medical leave insurance, enhanced funding for childcare and preschool, innovative college financing, and a route to retirement savings for all. And well before then, the Governor can call the legislature back into special session to adopt that transportation package they never should have left Olympia without funding.

It’s good to hear the President speaking out for the middle class again. The middle class needs to speak up for itself, too.

Originally published at Economic Opportunity Institute

Shift Change: a film about employee owned cooperative businesses

This evening I attended a viewing of the film Shift Change.  “It tells the little known stories of employee owned businesses that compete successfully in today’s economy while providing secure, dignified jobs in democratic workplaces.”

SHIFT CHANGE Premieres in NYC on June 10!

The filmmakers, Mark Dworkin and Melissa Young, were present to answer questions.  They live in the Renton area, I believe.

The film concerned work-owned cooperatives, mostly in Spain and California. Some of the companies are hugely successful, including one high tech company and a company will $25 billion in yearly sales. The companies obey the rule one person, one vote, rather than the typical rule one dollar, one vote.

The cooperatives in Spain were in the Basque area, where the economy is healthy. The filmmakers reported seeing no homeless people on the streets during their five week stay.

The companies make money, but that’s not their only raison d’etre.

To become an owning member of a cooperative, you generally have to invest some of your money, from $500 for small firm (e.g.,  a bakery), to $15,000 for a large firm.  Most cooperatives have a probation period, from one to three years, during which workers are ineligible to become owners.  After the probation period, the owning members vote on whether to allow you to join.  If they don’t like the quality of your work, or if you’re not a team player, they may vote you out.

Some workers don’t want the hassle of being an owning member — lots of meetings and responsibilities — so they can stay on as non-owning employees.

Some cooperative companies work by consensus (usually the smaller ones). Others work by majority vote.

You are allowed to leave a cooperative company, but there may be waiting periods, to discourage people from gaming the system.

Since the workers are owners and managers, there are generally a lot of meetings, including trainings on conflict resolution.  Not everyone wants the responsibility.

Thirty-five years ago a steel company closed and the workers wanted to take it over.  Jimmy Carter was president and he supported the workers and promised loans. But the United Steel Workers felt it was a threat and squashed the deal. But nowadays labor is more interested.

Consumer cooperatives are different from worker cooperatives, though some groceries have both. In some cases, the interests conflict: the workers want higher prices to support higher salaries.

Jobs Assistance Bill Passes! Next: Legalize Tent Encampments!

Real Change

We banned the box!

On June 10th, Seattle City Council voted unanimously to pass the Jobs Assistance Ordinance. With it’s passage, employers in Seattle can no longer ask about criminal history on a job application or reference criminal history in advertising. This law will give thousands of people with a criminal record a second chance at building a new life.

Real Change supported this ordinance through a campaign led by Columbia Legal Services. Over 47 vendors signed or wrote letters of support and others provided personal testimony during a council hearing. One vendor, Nick Maxwell, was even quoted in The Seattle Times. He explained, “When I got out of prison, and put in a job application, I was honest about my incarceration, but I found all doors closed…If a person has paid his debt to society, he should have an opportunity for a job and to feed his family. People shouldn’t have to serve a life sentence for their past.” Another vendor, Sharon Jones, was featured on KUOW: “I’ve always answered that question correctly…now I can’t get back to work. I just graduated from medical school and I’m trying to be a phlebotomist technician, and I sure would like to get a job.”

Thanks to all who emailed, provided testimony and called councilmembers!

Help Close the Survival Gap: Legalize Tent Encampments!

Real Change supports a proposal before the city council’s housing and human services committee that would legalize homeless encampments on public and privately owned property and help expand the number of faith-based sites. With 2,736 unsheltered people counted outside during the January One Night Count, tent cities save lives and they need to be supported by the City. Read about Council Bill 117792 and learn more in Tim’s Director’s Corner.

What you can do:

  • Email or call councilmembers TODAY and ask them to support Council Bill 117792. 206-684-CITY.
  • Join us June 25th at City Hall to show your support! We need to pack the hearing to demonstrate our support for this bill.

State Advocacy: Reject SB 5895, Enact Revenue!

Senate Bill 5895 imposes an arbitrary spending limit to non-education investments and would force deep cuts to child services, mental health, veteran’s benefits, and senior services. As Washington Low Income Housing Alliance explains: “At a time when record numbers of people are living in poverty and are struggling to keep a roof over their heads, we should be looking to increasing our state’s investment in the safety net, not demanding on the passage of bills that seek to destroy it.”

Take Action with WLIHA to reject SB 5895 and support a budget that protects the safety net and invests in the Housing Trust Fund. While you’re at it, support Governor Inslee’s plan to close tax loopholes through AFSCME.