Raising wages statewide is a job for We The People

Over the next couple weeks, young people across the region will be graduating with new degrees and high hopes for the future. They are competing for jobs in an economy where the contrast between the the haves and have nots is stark.

i1433

The occupations projected to have the most job openings in King County and statewide over the next five years include computer-related and business jobs that usually come with high pay and full benefit packages. But the top ten list also includes positions in fast food, restaurants, retail sales, and office administration, where current wages are barely enough to support a single person, let alone a family, even outside the greater Seattle area.

Not everyone can or should end up a software engineer. We need people working in restaurants, groceries, childcare, health care, and social work, too. And those jobs should not trap tens of thousands of workers and their children in poverty and constant struggle.

By enacting paid sick days and a higher minimum wage, Seattle has started on the right path toward ensuring every job provides a pathway to opportunity and supports a thriving economy. But not every job is in Seattle. Statewide progress on these same policies hasstalled year after year in our divided State Legislature.

The Raise Up Washington campaign is now collecting signatures to qualify Initiative 1433 for the November ballot. I-1433 will raise Washington’s minimum wage from the current $9.47 to $11.00 starting in January 2017, then raise it in three further steps to $13.50 in 2020, with cost of living increases after that. Importantly, it also sets a minimum standard for paid sick leave, assuring that all workers across the state are able to earn at least an hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked.

For people now working at or near minimum wage in Renton, Southcenter Mall, or Yakima, that means an immediate pay increase of $250 a month, and an increase of $650 in monthly income by 2020. That money will get spent right in local communities. The initiative also means that a million people who don’t have sick leave now – many of them working in restaurants, retail, and other direct service occupations – will have the ability to stay home when sick or with a sick child without losing their paycheck.

We know from studying dozens of minimum wage increases and sick leave laws across the country that these policies succeed in boosting incomes for low wage workers, decreasing employee turnover, and allowing businesses of all sizes to continue to prosper.

Over the past few decades across the U.S., wealth has piled up for the top 1%. The top 10% has also done pretty well, but incomes for most working people have stagnated or even fallen. Here in Washington between 2010 and 2014, during the so-called economic recovery, the annual wages for full-time workers in the middle of the earnings spectrum actually fell by 3% after inflation, according to the Census Bureau. Meanwhile, costs for childcare, college tuition, healthcare, and housing continue to escalate.

Growing economic inequality compounds racial and gender inequities and deepens divisions in our society and democracy. We all lose – with less innovation, economic vibrancy, and cultural richness – when so many are denied the opportunity to reach their full potential and pursue their dreams.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We the people make the rules for our economy. Usually it’s through our votes for President, Congress, Governor, and state Legislature. With the contrasts in ideology and policy positions up and down the ticket so stark, those votes will matter more than ever this fall.

The initiative process also lets us act directly. I-1433 won’t reverse decades of economic policies that have driven growing income inequality, but it’s a step toward making our state economy work better for everyone.

We don’t have to wait until November to act. The Raise Up Washington campaign needs to collect 246,000 valid signatures from registered Washington voters by the beginning of July to qualify for the November ballot.

You can help right now by signing yourself, registering to vote if you haven’t already, and volunteering for the campaign.

Originally published in the South Seattle Emerald.

Quickie: How Long Can Big Money Keep Democrats In The Charter School Camp?

From http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/how-long-can-big-money-keep-democrats-in-the-charter-school-camp/:

For decades, the petroleum industry has stuffed the coffers of candidates in both parties to ensure legislation continues to favor oil consumption, stall alternative energy sources, and ensure lax environmental regulations.

The other source of corporate cash in Democratic politics is much newer: charter schools. …

…the combo of big oil and education reform mustered at least $24 million in donations to back candidates who opposed “Gov. Jerry Brown’s effort to halve motorists’ use of fossil fuels by 2030” and who supported “expanding charter schools.”

Meyerson spotlights a number of races around the state where candidates who benefitted from the big oil-education reform combo defeated more progressive Democrats.

Across the Golden State, reports LA School Report, “Education reformers spent big ahead of California’s primary … The millions paid off with all of the candidates they supported advancing to November’s general election.”

A similar influx of corporate cash is infecting Democratic Party politics in Washington State, with the money coming from astroturf groups such as League of Education Voters, funded by Microsoft, Boeing and other rich people enjoying tax breaks.

The Divided Left revisited

The Divided Left in America is a major problem, and it’s come to fore in the discussions on social media about whether Bernie should run as an independent and about whether Bernie supporters should work within the Democratic Party.

Progressive Democrats are desperately trying to reform the Democratic Party but lack numbers. As a result the corporate Dems win. Greens,Socialists and others further to the left flee the Democratic Party and support candidates like Ralph Nader, Jill Stein, and Rocky Anderson. Nationally, these third party candidates win maybe a few percent of the votes and fail to organize effective political organizations. For example, they don’t typically have statewide candidates.

In short, angry Dems flee the Democratic Party, allowing the corporatists and hawks to win. In contrast, angry conservatives take over the GOP and push it further to the right.

In local races, candidates like Kshama Sawant can win a city like Seattle. But statewide (e.g., in the suburbs) they are perceived as too radical by most people. (Bernie Sanders is more of a social democrat than a democratic socialist; he harmed his chances by calling himself a socialist. Noam Chomsky and others agree with this view.)

I understand that working within the Democratic Party is difficult, dirty, unpleasant work. Whoever said the Revolution would be pleasant?

Still, I’m not condemning those people who flee the Democratic Party. I understand why they do it. The leadership is corrupted. This is clear nationally. Statewide, Inslee voted to give $8.7 billion to Boeing, and he allowed the charter schools bill to become law. In my LD (41st) there are many good Dems but the LD allows our legislators to betray us: Tana Senn and Judy Clibborn both voted for Steve Litzow’s (R, 41 LD) charter schools bill, despite the fact that the state Supreme Court ruled charter schools are unconstitutional; despite the fact that McCleary isn’t yet funded; and despite the fact the the state party platform says “We oppose charter schools.” Many (most?) of the 41st LD Dem PCOs are pissed, but the LD leadership treats me like a dangerous outsider. They also disliked my criticisms of Hillary’s hawkishness.

The PDA pursues an inside-outside strategy that allows people to work but within and outside of the Democratic Party. That’s perhaps necessary but it’s not ideal.

Anyway, any ideas for uniting the left? For years I have been promoting the idea of a shared media platform where people post articles and discuss things. Progressives and socialists are supposed to believe in cooperation for the common good. Fact is: people don’t work together too well.

What Washington got for Boeing’s $305 million tax break

Last week Boeing reported that it had skipped out on $305 million in taxes in 2015. Back in 2013, the Legislature enacted a special Boeing exemption from business taxes.

The legislative intent was to keep jobs in Washington. But that was not written into the tax exemption bill. So in spite of, or maybe because of, the tax exemption, Boeing has shed over 10 percent of its workforce since 2012, shifting more than 10,000 jobs out of Washington state.

State Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett, has proposed a solution. She introduced legislation to make this tax exemption dependent on actual jobs. Any loss of jobs since December 2013 would decrease the allowable exemption. So Boeing’s tax exemption would have been cut in half now, because in the past three years, more than 5,000 Boeing jobs have been disappeared. It is a small commonsense step forward. But the Legislature refused to take it up.

Perhaps that is because some legislators believe that the tax incentives have proved justified. One legislative leader stated, “We all feel frustration with short-term layoffs,” he said. But taking a “long view,” landing the 777X and the carbon-fiber industry here “is the future of aviation” and “makes that package worthwhile.”

But these are permanent, not short-term, layoffs with Boeing investing in “centers of excellence” around the world. Was it this $305 million tax avoidance that made Boeing decide to build the 777X here? That $305 million was three-tenths of a percent of Boeing’s revenue in 2015, which exceeded $96.1 billion. Boeing spent $6.8 billion just buying back Boeing shares. The tax exemption amounted to 4 percent of this buyback program, which had nothing to do with positioning Boeing in Washington state.

Boeing’s business decision to place the 777X here was based on the factors of production, mainly that the Puget Sound area is host to the world’s best and most concentrated grouping of mechanical, technical and engineering human capital for aerospace production. In other words, we have the educated, trained and skilled workforce and the state is funding a pipeline of trained workers for future aerospace work. That is what interests Boeing.

If they can position work outside of Washington, they will. They have no commitment to our state. That ended when McDonnell Douglas took over Boeing twenty years ago. No longer was Boeing a northwest company with social commitments and production facilities dedicated to Washington state. Instead, it could be a rogue multinational company, and use Washington’s workers and intellectual capital to seed other production in other states and countries.

You might note that other states are giving Boeing tax exemptions as well. South Carolina, for example, gave Boeing $120 million in 2013 to offset Boeing’s expansion costs there. The South Carolina deal was dependent on the creation of 2,000 jobs. The $305 million Boeing saved in 2015 in our state was part of a $8.7 billion 16-year tax exemption deal. And in contrast to South Carolina, the Washington state deal appears to be dependent on job destruction!

How does this $305 million compared to the cost overruns of the 787? Those overruns amounted to $25 billion, or 84 times Boeing’s 2015 tax break. They were the result of Boeing shifting 787 production to other states and other countries. But the workers and managers in those places couldn’t meet the exact specifications needed to create and fly the 787. So production and repair was shipped back to Washington state, where highly trained and skilled workers put the pieces back together again. What was Boeing’s next move? Accelerate production in South Carolina, having the Puget Sound workforce train the South Carolina workforce to build the 787 correctly, and on time. This means that Boeing will slowly drain jobs out of our state, while also receiving a multi-billion dollar tax break over the next eight years.

Legislative consideration is usually a slow and deliberative process, for good reason. Legislators want to be able to consider all the intended and unintended consequences of their law-making. But the Boeing package was pushed through in a special two-day session, called for just that reason and paid for by the taxpayers of our state. All just to give Boeing a gift. What could that $305 million have paid for? Compensation for 4,000 teachers. Or community college tuition for 80,000 students. But instead it went to bulk up the stock buyback for Boeing shareholders. That is a disservice to the citizens of this state.

Originally published at at the Everett Herald

Senator Murray nearly accosted at King County Dem caucus

Marvin Rosete reported on facebook about the King County Democrats’ caucus held at Hazen High School Sunday, May 1:

I am glad Senator Patty Murray left the building safely, until an idiot decided to attempt to bum rush the Senator’s group as she was leaving.

The man in question said he was attacked by Hillary volunteers.

I will say NO.

As one of the people who was in the altercation, I will say that this guy was out of line.

I will say, he was physically blocked by event volunteers as he tried to accost the Senator as she was exiting the building. To us as volunteers, his intentions were unknown as he rushed towards the Senator with no intent of respecting any physical boundaries.

It took myself and two other people to stop the man.

I’m 5’7″ and took minor injury restraining the guy who is close to 6′ and 200+ lbs from chasing down the Senator. The claims himself to be an Army veteran.

I had grab his phone and get it out of his hands to keep from being swatted by it.

If not for the other volunteers pulling the man away, he would’ve gotten to Patty and I would be a pancake on the floor, or worse.

The phone was still recording. And this guy had the nerve to post it.
We now have his name. I hope they find this guy and report him to US Secret Service and Washington State Patrol.

I’m fine with a small scratch and a pulled back muscle.
Thank you to my friend, Caesar Robinson Noel Renggli getting me patched up and making sure I was okay. Thanks to Sharon Mast for getting me the painkiller afterwards.

Although, this person was obviously in Bernie tee-shirt, he is NOT representative of the Bernie Campaign. Just because you have a first amendment right, it doesn’t give you the right to accost a person. For that matter, take a hint. The door is blocked for a reason.

This was a scary day.
It shows that this type of aggressive behavior towards incumbants will only get worse.

Richard Erwin, Chair of the King County Dems said

It was an odd event also because when I barged in behind him to grab him and said “What are you doing?” loudly to distract him, he yelled back “Somebody stole my vote!” Then he decided his phone had been stolen, Marvin gave it back, and the next thing you know, he’s loping away from all of us and out of the opposite end of the gym.

I’m afraid we will have to budget for security next time.

Chad Lupkes (a leader of the Washington State Bernie Sanders supporters) wrote, “I’ve talked to him online in a comment thread. He has apologized. But I will say that I’m very glad I was nowhere near what happened. Because I would not have been as nice as Marvin was”

Gov. Brownback is trying to turn Kansas into Washington State

From Tax cuts for the rich made Kansas broke — so now Republicans move to raise taxes on the poor:

Let’s say you’re the Governor of Kansas. The tax cuts for the rich you pushed through a couple years ago mean you’re in a world of budgetary hurt, and you’re not sure how you’re going to pay for basic expenses like roads and schools this year. What do you do? Repeal tax cuts? Absolutely not. You’re Sam Brownback. You balance your books on the backs of the poor, and cite fiscal prudence as a moral justification.

The Washington Post reports that Republican officials in Kansas are pursuing increases in sales and excise taxes – which have the ultimate effect of making it more expensive to be poor. People who have less money can’t afford to invest money like rich people; poor people have to spend their paychecks just to make it through the week. Consequently, sales taxes – as a matter of policy – proportionally punish people at the lower end of income spectrum.

Resolution to censure these Democrats for undermining public education, contravening the Constitution, and aiding Republicans

WHEREAS Republicans have been trying for years to undermine public education by under-funding it and then blaming teachers and public schools for (poverty-related) low performance by students;

WHEREAS the State Constitution says that public education is the “paramount duty” of state government; that there should be a “general and uniform system of public schools”; and that “the entire revenue … shall be exclusively applied to the support of common schools”;

WHEREAS the state Supreme Court ruled in the McCleary decision that public schools are under-funded and later held the legislature in contempt for refusing to fund education;

WHEREAS the state Supreme Court ruled that charter schools are unconstitutional;

WHEREAS Democrats Judy Clibborn, Steve Hobbs,  Christopher Hurst, Ruth Kagi, Kristine Lytton, Jeff Morris, Mark Mullet, Eric Pettigrew, David Sawyer, Tana Senn, Larry Springer, Pat Sullivan, and Tim Sheldon voted for SB 6194, the charter school bill;

WHEREAS Governor Inslee allowed SB 6194 to become law;

WHEREAS  SB 6194 funds the existing charter schools and authorizes the creation of additional charter schools, even though McCleary is not yet funded; and

WHEREAS, regardless of whether the state Supreme Court rules SB 6194 to be unconstitutional, support by Democrats for SB 6194 legitimizes the notion of charter schools, empowers Republicans to argue that the current Supreme Court justices are too liberal, and moves the needle to the right on the issue of government funding for education;

WHEREAS the state Democratic Party Platform explicitly opposes charter schools;

WHEREAS handing a major bipartisan victory on this issue to Republicans in an election year strengthens their stature, gives them bragging rights, and increases the chances of their receiving funding from pro-charter school forces;

WHEREAS the narrow passage of I-1240 (the charter schools initiative) in 2012 was due to massive funding by the Walton family, Bill Gates, and other wealthy people opposed to public education;

WHEREAS the narrow support by the public for I-1240 is no justification for supporting charter schools, any more than past support by the public for Tim Eyman initiatives is any justification for supporting tax breaks for billionaires;

WHEREAS the charter school vote was contrary to the wishes of major Democratic constituencies, including Labor, teachers, and progressives;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that we Democrats censure the behavior of these lawmakers.

by Donald A. Smith, PhD, PCO (41st LD, Bellevue)

Washington State caucus disasters

One of the Washington State Democratic Legislative District caucuses ran to 12:45 AM. It started at 12 noon.   Several other caucuses took six to eight hours.

On facebook the vast majority of people commenting want to do away with the caucus system and use a primary. For many people, the caucus experience was a nightmare. At mine, the police were ticketing and towing vehicles at one point.

Caucuses are an excellent way to discourage people from participating in the Democratic Party

Someone pointed out, though, that caucuses enable outside (nonorthodox) candidates like Sanders to win — at least in states with open caucses, like Washington. Open caucuses mean that anyone can declare themselves a Democrat and vote in the caucus.  This year it’s clear that thousands of Independents — many young people, in particular — caucused for Bernie Sanders.   In states which have closed caucuses or, like New York, which have a closed primary, it’s harder for outside candidates to win.

Also, with primaries, the less informed, more easily misled general public gets to vote, so it’s harder for a committed minority to take over.

On facebook Raechel Morera‎ wrote:

Did anyone else encounter issues with the state Democratic Party rule change about alternates moving to other precincts where delegates didn’t show up, as long as they pledged as an alternate for the same candidate?

We had 4 HRC supporters who pledged as Bernie alternates at their last caucus, move to other precincts still claiming to be Sanders alternates, then becoming Sanders delegates, and then change their final votes to Hillary. We all caught on because, we were running so behind, we decided to ask anyone changing their final vote to stand, instead of having to tally all the votes again, assuming no one was going to flip candidates at this point. These 4 people stood up and changed their votes, all from Bernie, to Hillary (which, come on, doesn’t happen). They had put on Hillary stickers and everything.

It was obvious this was something that was planned to try to throw the delegate count. Being there was only 4 of them, it didn’t make a difference, but it seemed obvious this change from the state party was in HRC’s favor and these people knew what they were doing.

Thought I should share. I was in the 44th District.