Dual bills protecting workers pass the state legislature
Over 100,000 workers work in agriculture every year, producing enormous value in their communities and also $7 billion in revenue for captains of industry. Immigrants feed Washington. Since 2007, the H2-A program has grown over 1000% in Washington state and immigrants’ rights organizations have worked hard this session to uphold worker rights in the legislature.
HB 1398 / SB 5438, which has yet to reach the Governor’s desk, would set aside $3.5 million to enforcing workplace standards in protection of guest workers. That translates to roughly 14 full-time employees. It’s a massive counter to the Federal Government’s lax labor protections and current anti-immigrant policies, which bosses have leveraged against workers.
Bosses that don’t consent to field checks and visits are denied the ability to hire H2-A workers. Period.
The Committee overseeing the program would consist of half Labor representation and at least one farmworker. It’s a step: an important one and one that workers demanded.
In HB 1299 / SB 5297, the Assistant Attorney General’s bargaining rights were extended. The Assistant Attorneys General are exempted from civil service and currently had no mechanism to collectively bargain. For staff, this could mean long hours with no overtime pay or say in benefits. Without labor protections, they’ve faced turnover. Despite the problematic nature of the AG’s office, labor protections for junior staff (especially ones preparing interpretations to protect workers and marginalized populations from exploitation) are essential.
Dow Constantine announces he’s running — away from the public!
King County Executive Dow Constantine’s State of the County last night was hosted in Preston, according to reports in The Stranger. While 305 residents strong, the former mill town is not accessible via county transit. Constantine has sought to limit community members from confronting him over the new $210 million budget for the youth jail, as we’ve reported on previously. As the No New Youth Jail movement noted:
Feel free to let County “Jailer’ Constantine know how you feel about his commitment to democracy, transparency, and our youth.
De La S.O.L. – Save Our librarians!
With teacher raises won last fall, school administrators have taken to cutting staff elsewhere to avoid taxing the rich or cutting executive compensation. Now that teachers have gone on strike with paraeducators and nurses, superintendents are setting their intentions on gutting librarians hours and positions in Spokane, Seattle, and beyond. While librarians rallied in Olympia, it seems administrators are ahead, if only because of how quietly they’ve kept the cuts.
Libraries, whether embedded in schools or the commons, serve as more than just a book depot. Libraries are frequently the only internet access point, free at the point of use, for job seekers, students, low-income families and youths to access. Printing is also free at use in many libraries, albeit page limits are capped. Librarians help provision public goods and services to the masses. Without librarians, swathes of society may go without news, without books, without public internet, without printing homework, etc.
The Pacific Northwest is no stranger to racist militias from “big tent” fascists in the Sound to prepper reactionaries in the Inland Northwest. However, the scale at which militias are recruiting from across the country and assembling terror cells along the border is alarming. Violence, as well as the number of jackbooted enforcers, are escalating:
The fevered militias are grasping at straws with crackpot and racist theories about invaders, but families of native descent have lived and continue to live fluidly on borders. There’s no place in our society for virulent vigilantism; it’s a bad tiding that must be overcome with solidarity.
Pitching In to Help A Solid Comrade
Folks may remember Gene Bruskin from the time Seattle DSA helped bring him to town for a screening of the film Union Time. Gene was the campaign director for the truly inspiring Justice at Smithfield campaign and Union Time documented the struggle for safety, respect on the job, and union rights at the world’s largest pork-processing plant.
Gene is now working on a musical for the 99% and is crowdfunding to get it produced. The story, focuses on the impassioned search for unity among the dynamic leaders of progressive movements, at a fictional meeting called by Frederick Douglass at a crossroads of Reconstruction in 1869.
So check it out, and kick in to help out our comrade Gene. Solidarity.