December 15, 2014
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'Agonizing slog' continues at ports as economy feels the pain of work slowdown



Christmas is looking bleak for many employers and their workers as Washington-grown crops and American-made products are mired in a work slowdown at West Coast ports.

Calaway Trading, a hay and grain exporter, can’t get its product off the docks, so has had to cut employee pay and hours by half due to the work slowdown that began in October. The state’s apple growers, despite a record harvest, are losing $19 million a week because of the problems at the docks.

AWB and hundreds of others have called for intervention by the Obama administration, but the president has said he won’t step in while talks continue and the ports operate. The Puget Sound Business Journal reports that in 2003 the George W. Bush administration invoked the Taft-Hartley Act to force work to resume after a 10-day lockout that cost the U.S. economy $1 billion a day. However, unless work stops completely due to a full strike or a lockout, the federal government can’t invoke the powers of the Taft-Hartley Act – and with work slowed to a crawl, but not fully stopped, some observers would welcome a strike rather than the continued “agonizing slog,” the newspaper reports.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association, which operates the ports, continue to negotiate on issues believed to involve health care and increased automation at the ports. Harm has already been done, however, to exporters, truckers, manufacturers and the communities they support.

And as American exports move like molasses through West Coast ports, many companies are looking north to the fast-growing ports of British Columbia, The Wall Street Journal reports. Total volume at British Columbia ports has jumped 46 percent since 2006, compared with growth of 3.8 percent at West Coast ports.

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CAN WE AFFORD IT?

Budget 101: State employee pay raises 'financially feasible'?

By Rob McKenna, Smarter Government Washington

Under state law, any collectively bargained pay raises and benefit increases for state employees must be declared "financially feasible for the state" by the Office of Financial Management (OFM). While this review sounds like a good idea, it isn't useful if OFM chooses to willfully ignore reality so that it can give its stamp of approval.

That's the situation the state currently finds itself in. The Governor's Office negotiated pay and benefit hikes with state employee unions, and OFM has declared the new costs to be financially feasible "considering the state's obligations...in combination with the current and forecasted economic and revenue conditions for Washington.

Apparently OFM considers the McCleary education funding case to be mere detail...

READ MORE: Click here for the full commentary at Smarter Government Washington
WHAT WORKS

State can move forward on transportation -- by looking back

By Sen. Curtis King

Amid all the finger-pointing and half-truths regarding the Legislature's alleged failure to pass and fund a transportation plan, a glance back at the 2003 "nickel package" provides the best tutorial on how to successfully get a transportation-revenue package through the Legislature and to the governor's desk. The themes from over a decade ago run startlingly parallel to today.

READ MORE: Click here for the full commentary in Crosscut
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