Governor says it is time for kids to go back to class — but there’s still no deal with teachers in Seattle

As the city’s teachers union remains locked in a stalemate battle with the Seattle Public Schools district over an agreement on a return to in-classroom learning, Gov. Jay Inslee ordered the state’s school districts Friday to begin offering at least hybrid options to students by mid-April citing a “mental health crisis” among students and the push to fully reopen Washington after more than a year of COVID-19 lockdowns.

“There is unfortunately and undeniably a mental health care crisis in this state regarding our youth,” Inslee said Friday.

Inslee said his proclamation prohibits districts from refusing to provide an “on-site option” to families. Continue reading

11 things CHS heard at Seattle Community Police Commission forum on police contract

The Seattle Police Officers Guild union contract expired at the end of 2020 and negotiations have been delayed by nearly a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the mass protests following the killing of George Floyd.

SPOG and its contract have been put under a microscope in the past year as some activists argue that officers have avoided accountability and the Seattle Police Department lacks transparency. Advocates were frustrated with the previous contract, which took years to negotiate, saying that it turned its back on accountability measures the city passed in 2017.

With negotiations set to begin this spring, the Community Police Commission hosted a public forum Thursday discussing the nitty-gritty of police contracts and the upcoming negotiations.

Here are 11 things CHS heard during the CPC forum:

  1. The general chain of events before negotiations begin, as laid out by a city labor rep, are for the city to get feedback from various related agencies, including the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) and the CPC, then the Labor Relations Policy Committee (LRPC) finalizes bargaining priorities before the city and SPOG identify their bargaining teams. The LRPC includes several city council members and other city officials. It is chaired by Council President Lorena González, who is now running for mayor.
  2. What if once they get to the negotiating table, the city and SPOG can’t come to an agreement? Then the two sides enter mediation and, if that isn’t successful, followed by arbitration. In that case, a neutral third party comes in to resolve and decide on contract disputes. Some participants at the Thursday conversation noted they want to see changes to this “interest arbitration” process. Continue reading

City Council strengthens police accountability subpoena powers — and, they hope, Seattle’s leverage in contract fight with police union

The City of Seattle has new leverage in its upcoming contract fight with the city’s police union. The City Council voted Monday to strengthen the subpoena powers of the Office of Police Accountability and Office of Inspector General.

The legislation passed Monday will empower the offices to subpoena witnesses and officers involved in incidents of reported police misconduct, clarifying the powers that had been weakened in recent SPD union contracts.

“For our civilian-led police accountability system to work, investigators must have access to key information in pursuing misconduct complaints,” said Councilmember Lisa Herbold representing West Seattle and chair of the Public Safety and Human Services Committee. “The City will negotiate aspects of this legislation in the next police union contract to keep us on the path toward realizing true accountability and transparency.” Continue reading

Love and labor rights in the time of COVID-19: The Book Workers Union forms at Capitol Hill’s Elliott Bay Book Company

A constantly shifting set of rules and regulations for small businesses in the midst of a global pandemic and an important step forward for its workers’ labor rights has made a very unique situation for one Capitol Hill business.

Elliott Bay Book Company, the most prominent shop in Capitol Hill’s independent retail scene, is closed to the public and moving its sales to phone and online only through March 31st to do its part to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. But it is also the center of what could be a big change for labor rights for Capitol Hill retail workers.

Friday, a small group of current and former Elliott Bay employees announced the formation of the Book Workers Union. And, unlike many other small, local efforts around unionization, they announced they were moving forward already recognized by management.

“Many of our customers treasure Elliott Bay because it represents an alternative to Amazon, a company that has posed an existential threat to our bookstore and bookstores across the country,” two-year employee Jacob Schear said. “But by recognizing our union, Elliott Bay has set itself up to be a true alternative to Amazon.”

Joined by Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant, Schear also made it clear the independent book retailer was ready to work with the newly formed effort.

“The management and owner, Peter Aaron, has formally recognized our union,” he said. “We are a union shop! We worked very closely with managers at Elliott Bay and we’re excited that they recognize what a thoughtful and talented staff they have who keep every aspect of the store running.”

Now the sides will need to set about bargaining “for a fair contract on behalf of the employees of the Elliott Bay Book Company,” the union said in a press release.

In its announcement, the Book Workers Union set out its objectives. “The union’s members believe a bookstore is much more than a retail space, and they will work to make sure Elliott Bay’s role in the community reflects the values and character of its staff,” it reads — Continue reading

This District 3 candidate just won big-time Seattle labor support

(Image: MLK Labor)

One District 3 candidate just won big-time Seattle business support. And these candidates — all of them — just failed to get the backing of the influential 43rd District Democrats. Now this D3 candidate just struck a major blow in the fight thanks to support from the county’s labor council.

MLK Labor announced Wednesday night it has given its support in the D3 primary to school board member Zachary DeWolf. Continue reading

Will workers bring Little Big Burger’s Little Big Union to Capitol Hill? — UPDATE: Now open

(Image: Little Big Union)

Portland’s Little Big Burger is coming to Capitol Hill soon. iIs workers could bring a fast food labor movement here, too.

In mid-March, Little Big Burger workers in Portland, led by staff at one location, went public with their decision to unionize, a rarity for fast food personnel, following issues of safety, scheduling, and what it says are inadequate pay raises. After talking to workers at other locations of the chain, workers realized that their concerns were widespread across restaurants.

“Conditions, you know, needed to change,” said Cameron Crowell, a union member who has worked at Little Big Burger in Portland for two years.

The union’s demands include $5 raises, two weeks of both paid sick leave and vacation time, fair and consistent scheduling ahead of time, and time and a half for all federal holidays, according to its website. Continue reading