2011 Local Labor News

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Published: Friday, December 16, 2011 in the Everett Herald

State Agency Sides with Everett Firefighters in Complaint Against City on Overtime

It could be costly: City failed to bargain with firefighters, state says

By Debra Smith, Herald Writer

EVERETT -- The state Public Employment Relations Commission has ruled against the city of Everett for refusing to bargain with the firefighters union over the past two years about issues surrounding workload and overtime.

If the Dec. 2 ruling stands, the city could end up paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost overtime plus interest to the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 46.

Since firefighters can't strike to protest reduced staffing, filing the grievance was the only way the union could get the city's attention, said union president Paul Gagnon. He said he doesn't even want any money.

"This whole decision has nothing to do with the money," he said. "This has always been about service to citizens."

The city is reviewing the decision, including the potential monetary impact, said Everett spokeswoman Kate Reardon.

"It appears that the decision contains major errors and is not consistent with the law or the city-union collective bargaining agreement," she said. Read entire article

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Published in the Everett Herald Thursday, December 8, 2011

Kimberly-Clark's Everett Mill to Close After Talks Fail

Negotiations break down over environmental issues; mill to be closed by March 2012

By Mike Benbow and Kurt Batdorf

Herald Writers


EVERETT -- The last big smokestack in the City of Smokestacks will be idled soon after talks to sell the Kimberly-Clark Corp. paper plant failed over environmental issues.

Most of the 700 or so employees will soon be out of a job after negotiations with Atlas Holdings Inc. broke down, officials announced Thursday.

The company’s pulp and tissue mills will be operated by a skeleton crew and closed in the first three months of 2012. Eventually, the waterfront site will be razed and sold for development, said Bob Brand, a Kimberly-Clark spokesman.

“For the folks on the sales team, this is disappointing news,” Brand said. “We’ve been trying to sell the plant for much of a year and this is not the outcome we had hoped for.”

Brand said he couldn’t discuss details of the negotiations with Atlas but added that a problem that could not be resolved involved environmental issues relating to Everett’s East Waterway.

The waterway is part of the governor’s Puget Sound Initiative to clean up pollutants. Scientists are studying the area’s pollution and who should be responsible to clean it up. The waterway has been identified to have dioxin, a cancer-causing toxin produced in chlorine-based pulp making.

The company Thursday informed union officials and was holding meetings to talk to employees.

Josh Estes, president of Local 183 of the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers, said Kimberly-Clark had said just last week that the deal was expected to go through, probably this week.

“At that time, Atlas began the process of handing out applications with the anticipation that a sale would be final sometime in January with a startup to follow shortly after,” he said. Read full article

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Machinists Vote for Jobs, OK New Contract with Boeing

Source: www.thestand.org

SEATTLE (Dec. 7) — Machinists Union members have approved a four-year contract extension with the Boeing Co. that ensures the 737 MAX will be built in Puget Sound.

The final vote was 74 percent to accept the extension, union officers said. More than 31,000 union members in Washington, Oregon, Kansas and California were eligible to vote.

“This agreement represents a historic moment in changing the relationship between this union and the Boeing Co.,” said Tom Wroblewski, the president of Machinists Union District Lodge 751 in Seattle. “For the first time, company executives are committing to you to keep work in Puget Sound.”

“This agreement shows the collective bargaining process is flexible enough to adjust with the times,” said Wroblewski. “The process allowed us to be creative and produce a win-win for everyone – our members, Boeing, airline customers, and the community. This is a vote of confidence for job security and a stronger future for this region.”

The agreement extends the current contract, which was set to expire in September 2012, another four years.

The biggest benefit to the contract was the commitment to job security, Wroblewski said.

“As a result of this vote, we have the strongest commitment to the future of aerospace jobs in Washington State that we’ve ever had,” he said. Read full article

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Published in the Everett Herald Friday, November 11, 2011

Customers, Workers Criticize Plan to Close Everett Mail Facility

By Debra Smith

Herald Writer


EVERETT -- People at the U.S. Postal Service headquarters: prepare to get an earful.

A lot of anger-laden comments are hurtling in that direction after a community meeting in Everett Thursday night about the potential closure of an Everett mail processing facility.

At stake is the loss of around 100 local jobs and next-day delivery of first-class mail sent in Western Washington.

The facility in Everett processes 1 million outgoing letters and parcels daily and serves everyone from Lynnwood north to the Canadian border. Businesses also drop off bulk mail.

The Postal Service is studying whether to consolidate operations at 252 locations around the country -- including Everett, Olympia and Tacoma -- to help stave off financial disaster. The preliminary results show that the Postal Service might save $11.6 million annually if operations in Everett were consolidated with a facility in Seattle.

Officials said the economies of scale would result in savings. However, customers sending mail to locations in Western Washington could no longer expect the next-day delivery they often get now. Instead, the standard for first-class mail would be two to three days.

For two hours, people vented, grilled and even heckled the suit-and-tie wearing Postal Service managers from Seattle who showed up.

People worried about getting their medical prescriptions by mail and their paychecks. Businesses complained about the added hassle of dropping off bulk mail in Seattle. A rural mail carrier in Marysville wondered if the mail sorted for her route would be done as well in Seattle. Read full article

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Published in the Everett Herald Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Everett Massacre's Lessons are Relevant Today

By Julie Muhlstein

Herald Columnist


The water was calm. Only sounds of traffic disturbed an ordinary afternoon. There was no mayhem. No gunshots rang out.

Writing about the 95th anniversary of the Everett Massacre, that was my experience looking out the window of The Herald newsroom Tuesday. I work near the site of where Everett's City Dock once stood at the end of Hewitt Avenue.

In the early 20th century, it was a lively place of business and travel. On Nov. 5, 1916, it became a notorious place.

That Sunday, the steamer Verona pulled alongside the City Dock. The vessel and another boat from Seattle, the Calista, carried about 300 members of the Industrial Workers of the World.

Already, members of the I.W.W. union -- called Wobblies -- had seen trouble in Everett. For weeks they had come to town to speak out in support of shingle weavers. Those local workers were on strike, pushing to regain a pay level they had in previous years.

Not long before the waterfront showdown, street-preaching Wobblies had been beaten in the Beverly Park area. When the Verona approached the dock that Sunday, tensions between Everett's ruling class and the Wobblies exploded into violence. Read full article

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Published in the Everett Herald, Monday, September 5, 2011

After the Sept. 13, 2011 vote on H.R. 2587, the "Protecting Jobs from Government Interference Act," Rep. Rick Larsen released the following statement:

National Labor Relations Board Case Should be Determined on Facts and the Law -- Not on Politics

Rick Larsen, U.S. Representative, Washington State's 2nd Cong. District

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2587, a bill that limits the National Labor Relations Board's (NLRB) enforcement powers.  The bill would curb the labor board's legal authority by prohibiting it from ordering a company to relocate its workers. 

Larsen voted against the bill and entered the following remarks into the Congressional Record:

"Mr. Speaker, I rise today in opposition to H.R. 2587, the "Protecting Jobs from Government Interference Act."

This bill is before us because of an ongoing dispute between the International Association of Machinists and the Boeing Company that stems from an issue involving my district in Washington State.

The case is proceeding through a well-established process where the facts of the case and the application of the law to those facts will be determined by an Administrative Law Judge, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and possibly the federal courts. Read full article

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Published in the Everett Herald, Monday, September 5, 2011

Help Those Hit Hardest

We must start with steps that improve the situation of poor and working people

By Jeff Johnson

Labor Day, for most workers, is an activity-packed, end-of-summer, three-day weekend. It is also a time to celebrate the work that we do, which has created the economic and social fabric of America.

When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. joined striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn., in 1968, workers who worked full time but lived in abject poverty, he proclaimed that "all labor has dignity" and should be afforded the means to achieve the "American Dream."

That "American Dream" has been rapidly unraveling during the current "Great Recession" and is under full-scale attack by a corporate America that won't invest, banks that won't lend, and politicians who would rather fight over fake political crises, like the debt ceiling, than create jobs.

As austerity budgets are imposed across our country under the mantra of shared sacrifice, the great irony is that workers, the elderly, students, immigrants, the poor and the vulnerable -- the ones who suffer most under these budget cuts -- are being blamed for deficits they did not create. Never have we seen such an attack on the middle class in our lifetimes. Read full article

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Published Saturday, June 11, 2011

SPEEA Executive Director Proposes a New Way to Negotiate Union Contracts with Boeing

SEATTLE – Recognizing the need to avoid disruption to airplane production, the union representing nearly 22,000 engineers and technical workers at The Boeing Company is proposing the two sides use binding binary interest arbitration to resolve fiscal differences during the next round of contract talks. Agreement to the proposal eliminates the possibility of a strike or lockout.

Existing SPEEA contracts with Boeing expire Dec. 2, 2011 for 600 engineers in Wichita and Oct. 6, 2012 for 21,000 engineers and technical workers across the western United States.

In binding binary interest arbitration, the union and company create negotiation rules that submit any fiscal disputes to an independent arbitrator who, like a judge, decides the issue. The dispute is reduced to fact-and-data-driven arguments. The arbitrator’s decision is final. Read full article

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Published Monday, March 28, 2011

Washington State Should Partner With Injured Workers, Not Pay Them Off

Paying off injured workers with a lump-sum buyout known as "compromise-and-release" does nothing to get people back to work, promote safer workplaces or address the problem of long-term disabilities.

The Seattle Times recently defended the use of "compromise-and-release" in an editorial regarding our state's workers' compensation system, but a couple of key points were overlooked ["House should approve workers' comp bill," Opinion, March 8].

As a result of bipartisan efforts, our state workers' compensation system has already seen good, solid reform this legislative session. Together, we have passed new efficiency and oversight measures that will add more flexibility for employers and injured workers, as well as stricter accident-prevention enforcement.

Gov. Chris Gregoire signed Senate Bill 5801, which will save Washington state $218 million over the next four years. This legislation, agreed to by both business and labor, will reduce the costs of disabling injuries by expanding access to the Centers for Occupational Health Education. It will also create a statewide provider network. These improvements are good for injured workers and for the state, not only because they save money, but because they get folks back to work faster.

Another piece of legislation moving through the Legislature, House Bill 2002, will further improve our workers' compensation system by helping employers — particularly small businesses — return injured workers to light-duty or transitional work.

It is estimated that these two measures alone will save $450 million between now and 2017, which benefits both workers and employers — a "One Washington" solution. Read full article

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Published Monday, March 21, 2011

HCAN Readies for Major Week of Events to Promote
Health Care Law's Benefits, Consumer Protections

More Than 75 HCAN-Sponsored Events Nationwide Part of Broad Effort by Groups to Mark Affordable Care Act’s First Birthday

Washington, DC – Health Care for America Now (HCAN), the nationwide coalition that led the successful fight for health reform, will host more than 75 educational events and activities in 27 states next week to promote the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on its first anniversary and to rally against Republican efforts to undermine the law. By the end of the week, thousands of people will have participated in HCAN gatherings nationwide, including town-hall meetings, news conferences and educational forums.

The HCAN program is part of a coordinated effort by more than a dozen advocacy groups producing nearly 200 events in 35 states. Many of the HCAN events focus on Republicans who have devoted themselves to defunding and repealing the ACA.

"One year later, Republicans still have no health care plan other than to take away prescription drug discounts for seniors, no-cost preventive care for everyone, small-business tax credits and consumer protections like the ban on denyingcare or charging more because of pre-existing medical conditions,” said HCAN Executive Director Ethan Rome. "The Affordable Care Act eliminates the worst health insurance company abuses and frees families, seniors and small businesses from crushing health care costs and devastating denials of care. The GOP's only health care plan is to put the health insurance companies back in charge so they can deny our care and jack up our rates. We must move forward and stop re-fighting the battles of the past." Read full article

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