One of the largest non-nurse health care strikes in Pacific Northwest history began at 6:30 a.m. this morning, shedding light on skilled workers who often get overlooked. We’re demanding that PeaceHealth, a Jesuit-run health system, raise wages and fix critically short staffing—two issues that are closely related. The strikers are 1,300 workers at two hospitals in southwest Washington: PeaceHealth Southwest in Vancouver, and PeaceHealth St. John in nearby Longview. The strike will last five days; workers will return to work October 28. PeaceHealth had announced that it would cut off health insurance if the strike continued into November.
Seattle, WA - A delegation from Workers World Party branches in Seattle, Portland and New York City attended the People’s Summit Against APEC on July 29 and 30, put on by Pacific Northwest-People Over Profit. The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is a neoliberal, free-trade conference where “government and big business collude to prioritize corporate profits at the expense of the global working class and poor”. The People’s Summit had over 350 people in attendance and was sponsored by nearly two dozen groups. Organizers included Anakbayan USA, Bayan Seattle, Oregon People Organizing for Philippines Solidarity, International Women’s Alliance and more.
Seattle, WA - On June 7, postdoctorates and research scientists and engineers (RSEs) at the University of Washington Seattle, members of the UAW 4121 went on strike. Over 700 workers, students and community members turned out to picket lines in support. While postdoctorates and RSEs have separate bargaining committees, they are united in their fight for a strong contract. In December 2021, RSEs submitted a union certification petition, and they are still fighting to achieve a strong agreement. The certification process faced a significant delay of over six months when the University of Washington administration contested the inclusion of more than 300 individuals in the bargaining unit.
Deming, Washington – Despite calls from the United Nations and two United States agencies for an eviction halt at Nooksack, tribal politicians are proceeding to eject nine households from their homes this winter. Nearly thirty Nooksack family members are slated to be ejected from federally subsidized, state regulated homes in northern Washington state this month. One family has already been ordered to vacate their home of 11 years by January 3, 2023. The eviction imbroglio unfolds as the human battle raging at Nooksack reaches its tenth year today. Three other households await tribal court rulings. Having been denied any right to legal counsel by Nooksack authorities, the families are representing themselves pro se.
We, the undersigned, are former staff members and leaders of Forterra who are writing to express our solidarity and support for the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe, which has made public very serious allegations of misconduct by Forterra. It is clear from publicly available information that Forterra has, at minimum, behaved in an inappropriate, disrespectful, and misleading manner inconsistent with the organization’s stated value: We show respect for people, place, culture and each other. It appears that Forterra has mistreated a sovereign Tribal Nation on its own ancestral lands while claiming to act in its best interest. Beyond that, instead of approaching this embarrassing mistake with “accountability, humility and care”, it appears Forterra’s executive team has engaged in victim blaming, pointing to the Tribe’s “bad faith”.
Home in Tacoma aims to overhaul Tacoma’s housing rules to allow greater flexibility in building practices. It will allow denser housing to be built to house our city’s ever growing population. The initial framework passed in December 2021 bringing Tacoma are one step closer to that goal. Though forward thinking, the plan also falls short of its potential. As I’ve pointed out in previous articles, the reach of the plan is not exactly equitable or far reaching. In short, poorer communities of color are being disproportionately rezoned in comparison to their wealthier, whiter counterparts. Communities of color will be transformed while privileged communities get to maintain the status quo. Segregation with some window dressing, if you will.
Washington State - Over 50 people were present on May 7, at the demonstration against Trident nuclear weapons at the Bangor submarine base. Nine demonstrators blocked the main highway entrance into the base for about 10 minutes and were cited by the Washington State Patrol. At around 2:15 pm on Saturday, the nine demonstrators entered the highway carrying a large banner stating, “THE EARTH IS OUR MOTHER—TREAT HER WITH RESPECT” and blocked all incoming traffic at the Main Gate at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor. They were removed from the highway by the Washington State Patrol. All nine demonstrators were cited for violating RCW 46.61.250, Pedestrians on roadways, and released at the scene.
Olympia, WA - The Washington State Building Code Council voted 11-3 today to adopt a new statewide commercial and multifamily building energy code that will be the strongest, most climate-friendly in the country by driving the transition to clean electricity for space and water heating. This major win for clean energy coincides with President Joe Biden’s Earth Day Seattle visit where he discussed the infrastructure bill and clean energy. The Department of Energy has made heat pumps and energy efficiency measures a key part of its efforts to reduce emissions and dependence on fossil fuels. Under Washington’s updated energy code that will take effect in July 2023, new commercial buildings – including multifamily residential buildings four stories and taller – will be built with high-efficiency electric heat pumps for water and space heating.
The Snoqualmie Indian Tribe, a federally recognized Tribe headquartered in King County, has acquired roughly 12,000 acres of its ancestral forestlands in the Tolt River Watershed. The forest has significant cultural, historic, environmental, and economic value to the Tribe and is near the lands originally promised to the Tribe as its reservation by the federal government in the 1930s – a promise the United States did not keep. The lands acquired by the Tribe were managed for industrial timber purposes for over a century. By acquiring these lands, the Tribe is concluding a decades-long effort to reclaim ownership in an area that is enormously important to the Tribe.
Olympia, Washington - Today, the Washington State Senate passed Senate Bill 5919, a bill that expands law enforcement’s ability to use physical force. Enoka Herat, police practices and immigration counsel at the ACLU of Washington, had the following statement: “It’s disappointing to see the Senate rush through a bill that will harm communities, particularly the communities of color and people with disabilities this Legislature made a commitment to protect when it passed more than a dozen bills last year aimed at reform and accountability in policing. The effectiveness of those bills is indicated by data showing a 62% decrease in police killings since their enactment last year.
Salmon—the fish—are suing the City of Seattle in Sauk-Suiattle tribal court, seeking recognition of their legal rights to exist, flourish and regenerate. The Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe filed the complaint earlier this month on behalf of the fish following the city’s construction and operation of off-reservation hydroelectric dams on the Skagit River. The tribe, also asserting claims based on rights the tribe holds, alleges that the city constructed the dams, beginning in the first half of the 20th century, without the tribe’s consultation or consent. The case is the latest in a series of rights of nature lawsuits emerging in U.S. communities and throughout the world. Rights of Nature laws have also been passed in some places.
Going into the vote on a controversial fifth tentative agreement, the mood among Washington carpenters who had organized for a “no” vote was uncertain. “It was so close last time, it’s hard to say what will happen,” said Tom Nolan hours before the vote tally was announced. “A toss-up,” said Nina Wurz. “It’s going to be a ‘no.’ But, unfortunately, I could be surprised. Being out of work has hurt a lot of people,” said Alejandro Lucero. If one thing is clear about the first Northwest Carpenters strike since 2007, it’s that nothing was clear from the moment it started. That includes the number of people on strike, since many job sites were excluded under Project Labor Agreements and other similar agreements. Estimates by the union ranged from thousands to hundreds back to thousands again.
Construction work on several major tech company expansion projects, including those by Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Facebook, slowed to a crawl today as the region largest carpenters’ union halted work over a wage dispute. At 6 a.m. Thursday, 2,000 Northwest Carpenter Union members walked off the job and began picketing at four major job sites, including Microsoft expansions in Redmond and Sammamish; Google and Amazon projects in Bellevue Plaza, and Facebook’s Building X in Redmond. Evelyn Shapiro, the union’s executive secretary-treasurer, said the affected sites were not randomly chosen. In the push for better wages and benefits, the union looked at companies “that are making billions,” she said. Specifically, the union is striking against the contractor consortium, the Associated General Contractors, and not the tech companies themselves.
An estimated 2,000 carpenters in Seattle and across the state of Washington began their first strike in nearly two decades Thursday after rejecting the fourth proposed contract agreed to by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBC). Rank-and-file carpenters are seeking to expand their strike to other construction sites, where the union has signed no-strike pledges, and bring out the other 10,000 unionized carpenters who are currently being kept on the job. Over the weekend, carpenters voted by 56-44 percent to reject a four-year contract proposal that included below-inflation rate raises and a further erosion of pension benefits. Because of the skyrocketing cost of living in the Seattle area, construction workers are forced to live long distances from their worksites, sometimes spending three hours to travel back and forth and hundreds of dollars each week on gas and parking costs.
After narrowly rejecting a contract offer, the union representing 11,600 working carpenters in Washington state is set to start a strike tomorrow. It’s the fourth offer that members have nixed. A scrappy band of rank and filers known as the Peter J. McGuire Group organized the no vote over inadequate raises—despite pressure from union leaders, who were promoting the deal. They are also seeking reimbursements for high parking costs, increased employer contributions to health care and pension funds, and stronger sexual harassment protections. Northwest Carpenters members voted down the latest tentative area master agreement with the Associated General Contractors (AGC) on September 11 by 56 percent (2,907 no, 2,282 yes).