|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!
Look for the OWLS banner at the annual…
This year’s theme is “Truth In Education Now!” Join the OWLS contingent and bring your union colors!
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.
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.
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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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
- 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
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.
OWLS Meeting — Tuesday, Oct. 26, 6:30pm
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.
At last month’s meeting of Martin Luther King Labor, parliamentary maneuvers by some Council leaders led to the undemocratic suppression of a resolution to Root Out Racism at King County and Beyond, brought by two affiliate unions, Washington Federation of State Employees Locals 304 and 1488. The resolution called for MLK Labor to endorse the OWLS campaign “and champion the efforts of King County and Seattle workers facing discrimination to get a hearing at County and Seattle council meetings on the need to implement these demands.”
Despite efforts to squash debate in the meeting, campaign supporters made their voices heard loud and clear! Powerful letters of support and personal testimony explained why MLK Labor e-board officers should support the demands raised in the campaign. And during the meeting signs to Root Out Racism blared silent support in the zoom room as numerous delegates fought for the floor to demand the resolution be given a hearing and vote. It was a powerful illustration of what grassroots pressure can do!
Indeed, along with the numerous unions, community groups, and individual endorsers, the campaign’s backing has convinced MLK Labor leaders to create an alternative resolution to the one brought by WFSE 304 and 1488. But will it hold County officials accountable? Or demand immediate action? Will it include the concrete demands that County workers and OWLS developed over 19 months of protest?
Keeping the heat on is what will win the strongest possible resolution. In October, the delegate body of MLK Labor will meet again. Let’s urge them to truly support County workers by endorsing the campaign to Root Out Racism at King County and Beyond!
The meeting is on Zoom on Wednesday, October 20th at 6:00 PM. Please click here to register to attend as a guest.
Since guests are not usually permitted to speak, please click the “Let’s Root Out Racism NOW!” sign above to download a printable copy to hold up at the meeting to show support. Let’s help County workers marshal the full force of MLK Labor behind them in demanding justice and action from elected officials to Root Out Racism at King County and Beyond!
The next step in the Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity campaign to Root Out Racism At King County and Beyond! is taking it to the Martin Luther King, Jr. County Labor Council (MLK Labor) tomorrow, 9/15/21 and we need help from each of YOU to get there!
Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) Local 1488 and Local 304 have both submitted versions of the resolution below to the Executive Board of MLK Labor. The resolution asks MLK Labor to endorse the campaign. Even apart from the exciting prospect of the resolution passing, a frank discussion of this campaign’s demands on the Council floor would be a huge step toward mobilizing labor to fight systemic racism in ways that are concrete and effective. Some union officials are prioritizing keeping a cozy relationship with politicians like Dow Constantine over taking a public stand against the very serious racism and bigotry that County workers are facing on the job. Let’s show that labor is serious about taking action to root out racism!
The E-Board will decide at its meeting on Wednesday, September 15th whether or not to put the resolution on the agenda for the delegate meeting at 6:00 PM that same evening. Your voice will be vital in helping E-Board members and delegates make the right decision! Here are several ways you can help and participate:
1) Please click this link to email the E-Board to let them know that on September 15th you want MLK Labor to discuss, endorse, and support the OWLS campaign to Root Out Racism At King County and Beyond! — If you are in a union and/or constituency group please mention that in your email to them.
2) Please also contact your union’s MLK Labor delegates and let them know you fully support the OWLS campaign to Root Out Racism At King County and Beyond!
3) If you haven’t already, please also talk to other union members about this campaign and ask them to reach out to their delegates and E-Board members, too.
4) If you’d like to attend the delegate meeting on 9/15 at 6:00 PM or if you have questions, please email OrganizedWorkersLS@
Resolution to support the “Root Out Racism at King County and Beyond” campaign
WHEREAS, workers of color in King County worksites and beyond are facing daily discrimination on the job and retaliation when they raise complaints about discrimination; and
WHEREAS, MLK Labor and the Washington State Labor Council have both passed resolutions committing our labor organizations to confronting racism on the job and within the labor movement; and
WHEREAS, the demands raised by the “Root Our Racism at King County and Beyond” campaign, launched by Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity (OWLS) in 2020, offer concrete solutions to the grievances raised by workers at Metro, Solid Waste, the King County Jail and more; and
WHEREAS, there is indisputable evidence that racism is epidemic in King County and Seattle workplaces as evidenced by: testimony given by Black, Latino and queer Metro and Solid Waste employees at three rallies held between July and October 2020 at Metro South Base and the King County Administration Building; a September 2020 KUOW in-depth report on extreme racism facing Black King County Corrections officers, which led to the suicide of Black officer Anthony Eigner; the June 24, 2021 federal jury award of $900,252 to Black senior Metro transit operator Claude Brown for the retaliation he suffered at Metro for bringing complaints of racial discrimination; and most recently, the lawsuit filed by seven Black women union employees at Seattle Parks Department who faced decades of discrimination; and
WHEREAS, after one year of organizing to demand that racism be addressed in King County employment, affected workers have been stonewalled and the King County Executive has refused to meet with them; now, therefore be it
RESOLVED, that MLK Labor will endorse the “Root Out Racism at King County and Beyond” campaign and its demands:
• Immediate action to stop racist threats, harassment, discrimination, and all forms of bigotry and retaliation at worksites.
• Make management accountable and transparent.
• Establish an independent Office of Equal Rights for complaints; Restitution for all who have filed complaints on racism without satisfactory resolution.
• Affirmative Action in County hiring, training, promotion. End nepotism.
• Stop lay-offs, privatization, and service cuts by taxing King County’s super wealth. Create public works and jobs for housing, healthcare, environmental clean-up, and other human services.
• Stop union-busting, honor workers’ rights.
• No safety, no work! Healthy worksites for all workers.
AND BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that MLK Labor will support and champion the efforts for King County and Seattle workers facing discrimination to get a hearing at County and Seattle council meetings on the need to implement these demands.
Tuesday, August 24, 6:30pm
Union Democracy — In Action
Union Carpenters in Puget Sound have rejected three proposed labor contracts, bucking leadership to demand better wages and conditions. Despite the region’s building boom and extreme wealth, carpenters say they can’t afford to live in the cities where they work – or even park! Come hear rank-and-filers discuss next steps in their determination to fight for their demands.
Also, join OWLS for an update on recent developments around the campaign to Root Out Racism at King County and Beyond!
The meeting is on zoom. Go to bit.ly/Register4OWLSMeeting
OWLS Meeting — Tuesday, July 27, 6:30pm
Compassion Seattle is pushing a Charter Amendment to “fix” Seattle’s homeless crisis — but it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. If passed in November, their scheme would make encampment sweeps the norm but provide no new funding for housing. Come hear from House Our Neighbors, a grassroots coalition working to expose that scheme and win real solutions to Seattle’s epidemic of homelessness, like expanding low-cost housing. Join the discussion on this working class issue!
Join the meeting via zoom at bit.ly/Register4OWLSMeeting