It’s Friday — time to talk over the week’s news. The Department of Justice signals a long-awaited green light on new pot laws in Washington and Colorado. Fast-food workers in Seattle and across the country hold a one-day strike to push for an increase in minimum wage pay. The Obama Administration makes the case for American military involvement in Syria.
Plus, state Republicans choose a new leader, Seattle schools face a possible teacher strike, and same-sex couples get a break from the IRS.
Losia Nyankale, 29, didn't mean to make a career in the restaurant business. But after Nyankale was in college for two years, her mom lost her job as a schoolteacher and could no longer pay tuition. Then, Nyankale's temp jobs in bookkeeping dried up in the recession. So she went back to her standby — restaurant work.
"I did some kitchen work. The pantries or the salad station," she says. "I've also managed, supervised, wash[ed] dishes."
Disgruntled berry pickers at a major farm in Skagit Valley have brought their fight to grocery stores in Seattle, Mount Vernon and Bellingham. On Tuesday, about a dozen farm workers and advocates waved handmade signs outside of the upscale Ballard Market in Seattle, calling for a boycott.
“Don’t buy Sakuma berries,” shouted Anna Lopez, who’s picked berries at Sakuma Brothers Farms for about 10 years. Just inside the store, the produce section features deals on fresh-picked Sakuma blueberries and strawberries.
A recent study found that even though the French work 16 percent fewer hours than the rest of the world, they can still afford a high standard of living. So what pays for all that bread, cheese and wine? Increased productivity in the workplace.
Ross Reynolds talks to economist Dean Baker about what makes France one of the most productive countries in the world.
Fast food workers around the country are agitating for higher wages and better working conditions. Here in Seattle, workers are trying to get fast food restaurant managers arrested for the crime of wage theft. Ross Reynolds hears from New York Times labor reporter Steven Greenhouse about what these protests say about the state of labor in America. Greenhouse recently reported on the fast food strikes in the New York Times.
People in the City of SeaTac could vote this November on an initiative that would create a $15 an hour hour minimum wage for thousands of workers at Sea-Tac airport and other places. The so-called “Good Jobs Initiative” would apply to about 6,500 workers in transportation and hospitality jobs in the City of SeaTac. Tuesday night, the SeaTac City Council decided to allow the measure to go before voters.
For the second time in 10 days, workers at Sakuma Brothers Farms have gone on strike. More than 200 berry pickers have walked off the job at the farm near Burlington, saying they want the farm to pay more for each box of blueberries and strawberries they harvest.
Last night workers at dozens of Seattle fast food locations began a one-day strike over low wages. It’s the first in Seattle, but walkouts by fast food employees have been happening over the past several months in cities including New York and St. Louis. Alfonso Arellano, who works at the University District Taco Del Mar, tells KUOW’s Ross Reynolds his story.
In the past decade, blue collar jobs have diminished. But in the coming decade, that tide is expected to change. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an additional 2.7 million new blue collar jobs such as home health care aides and rebar and iron maintenance workers by 2020. Ross Reynolds talks with Tim Sweeney and Dan Jacoby about the future of blue collar work and education.
In her green minivan, Angelica Villa navigates the farm roads north of Bellingham like a seasoned tour guide. She points out a cannery, a potato plant and miles of berry fields. Villa previously worked at many of these places and she rattles off story after story about harassment on the job.
Washington State’s Developmental Disabilities Administration helps people with disabilities like autism, cerebral palsy and down syndrome find work. The DDA serves nearly 9,000 adults over the age of 21.
Ross Reynolds interviews Dr. Pat Brown, director of the University of Washington’s employment program. Ross also talks with Doug Wilson, a sales manager at Copiers Northwest, who employs people with developmental disabilities and Shawn Christensen, a man with cerebral palsy who works at Regal Cinemas in Renton.
Nationwide, the percentage of workers who are in unions has dropped to around 11 percent according to January report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s lowest rate in nearly a century. But the Service Employees International Union has been bucking the trend in recent decades – it’s the fastest growing union in the United States.
Since 1996, 1.2 million workers have joined SEIU nationally. Today, SEIU national represents 2.1 million. Here in Washington state the SEUI has six locals with more than 100,000 members, up from about 40,000 in 2001.
The union represents nurses, child care workers, public school employees and janitors. Plus, Local 775 is the biggest, with around 43,000 members who are long-term care workers, home health aides, and nursing home aides.
Ross Reynolds talks with David Rolf, president of the Seattle-based Local 775 of the Service Employees International Union for health-care workers.
In Washington state, it’s perfectly legal for employers to refuse to hire people who smoke. In 2006, state lawmakers tried but failed to join 29 other US states that made it illegal for employers to discriminate against smokers.
According to the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, it’s legal for companies to ban smokers from their workforce because smokers are not protected by any wrongful termination laws.