Tues. June 28: Highlights from the 2022 Labor Notes Conference

OWLS Meeting: Tuesday, June 28, 6:30pm

Featured reports:

Highlights from the 2022 Labor Notes Conference, Chicago
This year’s national labor gathering was held against a backdrop of historic wins for workers in anti-union goliaths such as Starbucks. Joel Vancil, who represented OWLS at the conference, gives highlights and take-aways from four action-packed days of strategizing on what workers are doing to build power from the ground up.

Update on MLK Labor’s Root Out Racism Organizing Committee
Black and other workers of color employed by King County (and beyond) are organizing to build labor support to address racism and other forms of discrimination at their workplaces. OWLS is proud to have helped initiate this campaign and urge rank-and-file members to get involved.*

Roundup of Labor Battles and Events
– In celebration of Pride Month, a look at the latest struggles and victories for queer workers around the world
– Highlights from this year’s Juneteenth March and Rally, led by A. Philip Randolph Institute and ILWU Locals 19 and 52
– Share what fightback is happening at your own workplace!

The OWLS meeting is via zoom at

Labor’s Stake in Mobilizing for Reproductive Justice!

OWLS Meeting – Tuesday, May 24, 6:30pm

Tens of thousands of protesters are hitting the street to defend abortion in the wake of Samuel Alito’s leaked opinion overturning Roe v. Wade. OWLS features a speaker from the National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice about how the labor movement can help save abortion, repeal the Hyde Amendment , stop forced sterilization, defend LGBTQ+ and immigrant families, and more. Join the discussion!
Also included are updates on the MLK Labor’s Root Out Racism Organizing Committee and plans for a labor-led Juneteenth commemoration.

Register to attend the OWLS meeting via zoom at bit.ly/Register4OWLSMeeting


How to Earn a Living Wage While Healing the Earth

OWLS Meeting: Celebrating Earth Day!
April 26, 6:30pm

Featured reports:

How To Earn A Living Wage While Healing The Earth
Hear from workers at Garden Cycles about negotiations for their first contract as brand-new members of Laborers Local 242. We’ll also discuss the broader implications of increased unionization among ecological restoration workers. What a great way to celebrate Earth Day!

Update on MLK Labor’s Root Out Racism Organizing Committee
Black and other workers of color employed by King County (and beyond) are organizing to build labor support to address racism and other forms of discrimination at their workplaces. OWLS is proud to have helped initiate this campaign and urge rank-and-file members to get involved.*

Roundup of Labor Battles Around the Northwest

  • Retaliatory firings haven’t slowed down Starbucks workers, with 16 stores unionized and 175 that have filed for elections across 25 states.
    • Washington Bulb tulip workers won improvements to wages and working conditions in their strike last month!
    • Verizon workers in Lynnwood and Everett won their election this month to join Communication Workers of America!
    • Share what fightback is happening at your own workplace!

The OWLS meeting is via zoom at

*Martin Luther King Labor, the county labor council, has formed a Root Out Racism Organizing Committee to tackle discrimination, harassment, and inequity on the job. OWLS will also post the date and zoom link for the next meeting on our website and Facebook as soon as they are available. Please bring your passion and ideas to make this organizing committee a success.

March 22 OWLS Meeting: Celebrate Women’s History!

Tuesday, March 22nd, 6:30pm

Celebrate Women’s History Month
Hear a brief tribute to early female labor leaders and a report from an OWLS representative who attended a national planning meeting to initiate a coordinated defense of  reproductive rights.

Pacific NW Regional Council of Carpenters In Trusteeship
In November the Pacific Northwest Council of Carpenters was taken into trusteeship. With a hearing on the issue scheduled for March 26th, find out from a rank-and-file Carpenter why the trusteeship was imposed and the dangers it poses to union democracy.

Update on MLK Labor’s Root Out Racism Organizing Committee
Participants of MLK Labor’s Root Out Racism Organizing Committee voted to meet the third Thursday of every month at 5:30pm. The next meeting is April 21st. Help spread the word to workers of color facing discrimination at County or other worksites — and bring your ideas and experiences!

Roundup of Labor Battles Around the Northwest

  • Latest news on the Teamsters 174 concrete strike, which is shaping up into a battle over union-busting in the construction industry.
  • Verizon retail workers in Everett and Lynnwood are organizing to join Communication Workers of America.
  • Six Starbucks stores have now unionized and 147 more are on their way. 
  • Share what fightback is happening at your own workplace. 
Everyone is welcome.

Join the meeting via zoom at bit.ly/Register4OWLSMeeting.

OWLS Meeting: Solidarity with Striking Concrete Drivers

OWLS Meeting – Tuesday, January 25th, 6:30pm

Featured Reports:
Solidarity with Striking Concrete Drivers!

Puget Sound’s construction boom is grinding to a halt as a strike by more than 300 Teamsters 174 members widens. The strike started on December 3 due to bad faith bargaining by Gary Merlino Construction, which wants drivers and plant employees to take concessions that mean losing ground against inflation. OWLS takes a close look at this latest labor battle in the construction industry — and what community and labor can do to help.

Update: MLK Labor and Rooting Out Racism
In November MLK Labor council delegates voted overwhelmingly to create an organizing committee to Root Out Racism at King County! At the committee’s first meeting on Jan. 10, workers of color told powerful stories of discrimination and retaliation at the County and discussed possible first steps to address the epidemic of injustice at its worksites. Bring your ideas on making the committee a force for change and find out how you can participate.

Labor Battles Around the Northwest
Bring news of your shopfloor fights and workplace organizing to the OWLS Meeting. And learn the latest on what other rank-and-file unionists are doing on the job to strengthen their rights and power on the job!

Join the meeting via zoom at bit.ly/Register4OWLSMeeting.

Celebrate Martin Luther King Day!

January 17 is Martin Luther King Jr. Day and everywhere we look, from our workplaces, to voting rights, to the streets, we see the need to continue the struggle that Rev. Dr. King dedicated his life to. Please join OWLS and scores of community and labor activists at Garfield High School in Seattle to do just that!
In Solidarity,

Look for the OWLS banner at the annual…
Martin Luther King Jr. Day Rally & March
Monday, January 17
Rally 11:00am – March 12:30pm
Garfield High, 23rd and Jefferson

This year’s theme is “Truth In Education Now!” Join the OWLS contingent and bring your union colors!

For details please visit seattlemlkcoalition.org or the event’s Facebook page.
After the march, please tune in for…
Moving the Dream Forward: It Starts With Us
Monday, January 17, 5:30pm

Workers United Against Racism at Lumen (WUARL) was formed a year ago by members of Communication Workers of America in response to their employer Lumen (formerly known as CenturyLink) making MLK Day a paid holiday, but only for non-union workers! Tune in to hear how WUARL is fighting back against union-busting and racism!

Please click here to register to attend this webinar.

Solidarity with Striking Teamsters 174!

From the T174 Facebook Page:
After a brief break over the holidays, picket lines are back up as 330 Teamsters 174 members continue to withhold labor as part of an Unfair Labor Practice strike at Seattle-area construction and concrete companies. The strike began on November 19 with 34 workers at Gary Merlino Construction, but has since expanded into a general strike targeting Gary Merlino, Stoneway Concrete, Cadman, CalPortland/Glacier, Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel, and Lehigh Cement. The workers are all members of Teamsters Local 174, and are on strike in protest of the six Companies’ refusal to bargain in good faith. The contracts have been expired since July 31, 2021.
Stay strong, brothers and sisters!✊✊✊

teamsters on strike

MLK Labor Council votes to establish an Organizing Committee to confront racism on county jobs

On Oct. 20th MLK Labor, representing 150 unions in the Seattle area, overwhelmingly passed a resolution establishing an Organizing Committee to pressure Martin Luther King Jr. County to develop a cohesive system to respond to racism on the job. It also aims to establish an independent office within the county to provide response and restitution to employees who have filed complaints of racism without satisfactory resolution.

The resolution was a vindication for county workers who spearheaded a campaign by Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity (OWLS) to “Root Out Racism at King County and Beyond.” OWLS is a multi-racial, cross-union organization whose organizing for protections for frontline workers in the face of COVID galvanized workers of color to action. Blatant acts of racism and other forms of bigotry at transit, solid waste, jail and other county worksites fueled this current campaign.

After a black figurine was placed next to what looked like a noose at King County Metro’s South Base in June of 2020, OWLS called a protest in front of the base. Black, Latino and LGBTQ bus drivers and mechanics spoke out about their experiences with racism and bigotry at their worksites, as well as in promotions and disciplinary actions. A recurrent theme was retaliation faced by those who raised complaints.  “Black Workers Lives Matter” picket signs caught media attention, but workers felt that their demands were being ignored, so they demanded a meeting with King County Executive Dow Constantine.

After Constantine refused to meet with these county workers, despite two rallies in front of his office and numerous phone calls and letters, OWLS turned to local unions for support. Ten unions, several community organizations and BIPOC labor leaders responded to the call for support and endorsed the Root Out Racism campaign, which led to the resolution adopted by MLK Labor.

“Next,” says Metro mechanic and OWLS Steeering Committee member Adam Arriaga, “we really  hope that county workers who have faced or witnessed discrimination will participate in the Organizng Committee and make it a real force for change.”

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COVID and Worker Protections in Washington State


Below is a report given at the October OWLS Meeting by ATU 587 member and shop steward Adam Arriaga. It offers invaluable information for workers on some of the rights and protections they have under the ongoing Covid pandemic.

On Feb. 29, 2020, Gov Jay Inslee issues a State of Emergency because the first case of COVID-19 in the US was here in WA. On May 11, 2021, Gov Inslee signed into law Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill(s) 5115 and 5190. Both bills were effective immediately and supersedes or replaces most of the original State of Emergency declaration having to do with workers comp benefits.

What is ESSB 5115? (AKA Health Emergency Labor Standards Act)

  • Amends state law and adds sections in regard to workers comp benefits during a public health emergency
  • Defines what frontline workers are.
  • Establishes that COVID-19 is an occupational disease during a public health emergency.
  • Establishes presumptive coverage for workers who contract COVID. That means if a frontline worker contracts covid, it is presumed the worker caught it on the job. A “preponderance of evidence” is needed to prove the frontline worker did not catch it at work.

What is ESSB 5190?

  • Amends several state laws to provide better protection and L&I benefits specific to health care workers during a public health emergency
  • Defines health care workers and health care facilities
  • Presumptive coverage using slightly different definition of contagious disease from 5115 during a public health emergency.
  • The presumption may be rebutted with “clear and convincing evidence” as opposed to “a preponderance of evidence”
  • Public health emergency declared by POTUS or Gov of WA

Who are frontline workers?

  • First responders
  • Hospital, health care facility, nursing home, and assisted living facility workers
  • Workers performing food processing, manufacturing, distribution, or meat packing
  • Farmworkers
  • Maintenance, janitorial, and food service workers at any facility treating patients
  • Public transit drivers and operators
  • Employees of licensed child care facilities
  • Employees of retail stores, which remain open to the public during the emergency
  • Employees of hotels, motels, or other transient accommodation
  • Restaurant employees who have contact with the public or co-workers
  • Certified home care aides who work primarily in the home of individuals receiving care
  • Corrections officers and support employees working at a correctional institution
  • Certain school district and higher education employees
  • Public library employees

Claims and Coverage for COVID-19

  • Once a claim is allowed, workers are eligible for medical and disability benefits
  • The insurer (L&I or a self-insured business) will pay for treatment of COVID-19.
  • Appropriate, medically required testing/surveillance would also be covered. This is a time-limited benefit, and no benefits would be paid after the worker tests negative for COVID-19 or the quarantine period has ended, unless the worker develops the disease.

Scenarios where a frontline worker’s claim can be accepted (not all inclusive but those below are verified)

  • Positive test for covid
  • Quarantined by a health professional or health department due to an exposure or having symptoms. Time loss will be paid even if the worker tests negative when the quarantine ends.
  • Being sent home by your employer because of symptoms or an exposure (not 100% verified)
  • Adverse reactions to the vaccine when its required to be fully vaccinated by the employer

Non-frontline workers
Claims that meet certain criteria for exposure will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

When to file a claim
When work-related activity has resulted in probable exposure to the virus and certain criteria are met. In these cases, the worker’s occupation must have a greater likelihood of contracting the disease because of the job. There must also be a documented or probable work-related exposure, and an employee/employer relationship.

Questions for the provider treating the non-frontline worker

  • Was there an increased risk or greater likelihood of contracting the condition due to the worker’s occupation (such as a first responder or health care worker)?
  • If not for their job, would the worker have been exposed to the virus or contracted the condition?
  • Can the worker identify a specific source or event during the performance of his or her employment that resulted in exposure to the new coronavirus (examples include a first responder or health care worker who has actually treated a patient with the virus)?
  • If the above criteria are not met, it is not necessary to file a workers’ compensation claim; however, a claim may still be filed if requested by the worker or if the provider is uncertain if the case meets the criteria.

When will a claim likely be denied?
When the contraction of COVID-19 is incidental to the workplace or common to all employment (such as an office worker who contracts the condition from a fellow worker), a claim for exposure to and contraction of the disease will be denied.

*The above is a summary based on info available from WA State L&I website as of 10/26/2021. For the most accurate info, check out the links below.

Common Questions About Presumptive Coverage for Health Care and Frontline Workers

Questions and Answers: New Reporting, Notification, and PPE Requirements for Public Health Emergencies Involving Infectious or Contagious Diseases (F417-295-000)

Questions and Answers: Protecting High-Risk Employees from Discrimination During Public Health Emergencies (F417-291-000)

Self-Insurance and Coronavirus (COVID-19) Common Questions

Workers’ Compensation Coverage and Coronavirus (COVID-19) Common Questions


MLK Labor Backs Root Out Racism campaign!

OWLS Meeting — Tuesday, Oct. 26, 6:30pm

Featured reports:
MLK Labor backs Root Out Racism campaign!
On Oct. 20th MLK Labor overwhelmingly passed a resolution establishing an Organizing Committee to push King County to develop a cohesive system to respond to racism on the job and to establish an independent office to provide response and restitution to employees who have filed complaints of racism without satisfactory resolution.
Thank you to all the unions and other endorsers who have backed OWLS’ campaign to “Root Out Racism at King County and Beyond” and the workers who have stepped forward to expose bigotry at county worksites.
OWLS will debrief and brainstorm plans for how to make the Organizing Committee a real force for change.

Know your rights under new state COVID law
What happens if you are exposed to COVID-19 on the job? Are employers required to inform you of possible contamination? Come learn your rights under our state’s new law, which was passed last Spring in response to thee pandemic. Shop steward and transit mechanic Adam Arriaga reports on his research into this piece of legislation that offers protections that many workers are unaware of.

Carpenter picket lines that OWLS members joined in solidarity over the last month are part of a strike wave sweeping the country in what has been dubbed #Striketober. Share your experiences from the carpenter’s strike and learn more about work stoppages across the nation.

The meeting is via zoom at bit.ly/Register4OWLSMeeting.