Posts by Paul Constant

Gun Responsibility Bill Coming to Washington Ballots This November

Gun Responsibility Bill Coming to Washington Ballots This November

“We’re going back to the ballot,” announced Renee Hopkins, executive director of the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility at Town Hall this afternoon. Hopkins, addressing a large, enthusiastic room full of supporters, said the Alliance was emboldened by their successful background check ballot initiative, which easily won the support of Washington voters despite NRA opposition. Thanks to that law, Hopkins said, the last year has seen “more than 6300 private sale background checks” in the state, and “118 ineligible sales have been blocked,” keeping guns out of the hands of people with criminal records. Unfortunately, Hopkins said, Washington’s legislative body is not following the will of the people: “Despite overwhelming public support, some of our lawmakers caved to the gun lobby and created an overwhelming obstacle to sensible gun laws. The legislature in Olympia failed us this session.” Which means that the Alliance has to take the choice back to the people in November. “We’re going back to the ballot for Extreme Risk Protection Orders,” Hopkins said, “to give families and law enforcement the tools they need to stop tragedies before they happen and keep guns away from people who are likely to hurt themselves and others.” Modeled on pre-existing laws for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Protection Orders, Hopkins explained, Extreme Risk Protection Orders “allow family members and law enforcement officers…to ask a judge to temporarily suspend a person’s access to firearms if there is documented evidence of dangerous mental illness or a high risk of violent behavior.” She said that two of the worst mass shootings in Washington state history—the 2013 Cafe Racer shootings and the 2006 Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle shootings—could have been prevented had Extreme Risk Protection Orders been law. California already has a version of this law on the books, which passed after the 2014 Santa Barbara shootings. Currently, Washingtonians can only be restricted from buying
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Mayor Ed Murray Makes the Case for Secure Scheduling in Seattle

Mayor Ed Murray Makes the Case for Secure Scheduling in Seattle

Readers of this blog know that I care deeply about secure scheduling laws , which ensure that employees will be able to predict their schedules in advance and be fairly compensated for their time. We’ve seen that Seattle City Councilmembers Lisa Herbold, Lorena González, and Debora Juarez have vowed to advance the cause of secure scheduling in Seattle. Civic Ventures founder Nick Hanauer has made the case for a “scheduling Golden Rule.” And yesterday in his State of the City Address, Mayor Ed Murray demonstrated his support for secure scheduling in a big way. Here’s the relevant passage from the transcript (PDF) : Part of our affordability agenda is ensuring all people get paid fairly. As a first step, we committed to increasing our minimum wage, which in particular will help woman and people of color who are disproportionately represented among low-wage workers. Also, we know that having a secure schedule of hours helps workers plan their budget, plan for childcare, enroll in school or take a second job – and we know schedule predictability will most help low-wage hourly workers. This year, we will work with labor, our community of progressive employers, and this Council, especially Councilmembers González and Herbold, to provide new guidelines for secure scheduling for larger employers. This show of support from Mayor Murray has arrived at just the right time. He’s clearly made the case for a scheduling Golden Rule. Secure schedules help employees plan their time so they can be better involved as citizens and neighbors and workers, and it will give them the tools they need to improve their own futures, so they can go back to school and start their own businesses and become the employers of tomorrow. Mayor Murray’s support indicates that Seattle’s leaders are coming together to work on this proposal. We’ll be hearing a lot about secure scheduling in the days and weeks to come.

Wage Growth, Employment Climb in Washington State

Wage Growth, Employment Climb in Washington State

There’s so much good news in this Seattle Times story by Blanca Torres that I encourage you to go read the whole thing . Some highlights: “An ADP index that combines both factors shows the Evergreen State far outpacing any other state in growth during the fourth quarter of 2015 compared with the year-earlier period. Washington earned an index score of 117.9 — topping the national average of 106.8 and other states such as California, 108.7; Texas, 108.8; and New York, 105.4.” “In Washington…employment climbed by 3.7 percent. Much of that came from hiring in construction, information technology, professional services, and leisure and hospitality industries.” “For current full-time employees, wages in Washington were up 5 percent year-over-year during the fourth quarter, compared with 4.1 percent nationally.” This is all great news. And it’s an interesting pattern, for sure. Funny, isn’t it, how when workers have more money to spend, more money is spent? It’s almost as though growth and wages are connected, somehow.

One Hundred and Six Congressional Republicans Come Out Against Overtime

One Hundred and Six Congressional Republicans Come Out Against Overtime

One hundred and six congressional Republicans and two Democrats have sent an open letter ( PDF ) to Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez protesting the Department of Labor’s new proposed overtime rules. (You can read more about overtime rules in this post by Nick Hanauer , but in brief the new regulations would increase the salary threshold from $23,600 a year to $50,440, benefitting at least 13.5 million American workers .) Their letter is about as ominous as it gets. Currently, employers are required to pay overtime for all employees who make $23,660 or less per year. The new rule, proposed by DOL’s Wage and Hour Division, would raise the salary threshold and require employers to pay overtime for all employees who make $50,440 or less per year. With the implementation of the rule, nearly 5 million employees would suddenly become eligible for overtime pay. This 113 percent increase in the salary threshold would place a large burden on business owners and their workers, and is a major departure from previous DOL policy. To be clear, they’re arguing that American business owners can’t afford to pay their employees for their time—that if businesses had to pay their employees for the true number of hours that they work, the whole system would collapse. This is not American exceptionalism. It’s fear-mongering, and it’s just not true. And the last suggestion in that quote, that raising the threshold is “a major departure from previous DOL policy,” is simply not true. Fifty years ago, more than sixty percent of all American workers qualified for overtime pay. But because the threshold has stayed stagnant for all that time, only eight percent of all Americans qualify today. And we’re working harder than ever: Americans work 47 hours a week on average. The new overtime rule wouldn’t bring anything new to the business paradigm in America; it would simply unrig the game. The threats in this letter are purposefully
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Marco Rubio Is Apparently a Robot Sent from the Past to Destroy the Future

Marco Rubio Is Apparently a Robot Sent from the Past to Destroy the Future

Yesterday, Marco Rubio made another flub that left him appearing more robotic than human. Just as he did in his interaction with Chris Christie in the last debate, Rubio repeated a mess of talking points in a dizzying rhetorical meltdown. Here’s video: And here’s the transcript: We are taking our message to families that are struggling to raise their children in the 21st century because as you saw Jeanette and I are raising our four children in the 21st century and we know how hard it’s become to instill our values in our kids, instead of the values they try to ram down our throats. In the 21st century, it’s become harder than ever to instill in your children the values they teach in our homes and in our church, instead of the values that they try to ram down our throats in the movies, in music, and in popular culture. Fascinating stuff, here. I’m most struck by that awkward repetition of “the values that they try to ram down our throats,” which even seems to give Rubio pause on the second instance, and the ill-fitting talk about the 21st century, which has been a recurring theme in Rubio’s campaign. Ever since he announced his candidacy, Rubio has pivoted off his youth and inexperience by talking endlessly about the 21st century, which frankly feels, in 2016, like a quaint callback to 1999. Here, Rubio overindulges in the 21st century talk, which makes it sound hollow. The thing that truly gifted orators understand about claiming the future is that it’s showing, not telling, that matters. Steve Jobs didn’t bore us with talk about what the iPhone could become. He showed us what it did and let us imagine the rest. John F. Kennedy didn’t confuse the American public with scientific jargon; he promised to take us
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A Reminder: Good Policy Saves Lives

A Reminder: Good Policy Saves Lives

While the City Slept, the new book from Seattle journalist Eli Sanders, is a harrowing story of a terrible crime and its aftermath. In case you haven’t read Sanders’s Pulitzer Prizewinning story that made the basis for the book, it’s about an assault and murder committed by a mentally damaged man who slipped through the social safety net. In While the City Slept, Sanders accounts for how much money the assailant, Isaiah Kalebu, is costing the state of Washington now against how much money preventative care might have cost the state. For the Seattle Review of Books , I interviewed Sanders about the entirety of While the City Slept, but I thought this passage, about the way policy might have prevented this tragedy from happening, would be of interest for readers of this blog. Here’s the passage in its entirety: I think one of the great parts of this book is that you do the full portrait of America’s failing mental health system that I feel like you’ve been nosing around for a long time and haven’t had the time and resources to go into. I think readers are going to want to come away wanting to do something to fix the broken system. You talk a little bit about this in the book, but are there any signs of change or of hope with this subject? Are there any politicians making a difference? If a reader reads your book and wants to do something, where should they direct their resources? First of all, the challenges here in Washington state are just a microcosm of the challenges that exist all over the country. We’re probably talking mostly to people who live here in Washington or here in Seattle, so I’ll talk about what’s going on in Washington. As I try to show in the book, this state —
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Lorena González and Lisa Herbold Begin the Push for Secure Scheduling in Seattle

Lorena González and Lisa Herbold Begin the Push for Secure Scheduling in Seattle

This morning, Working Washington hosted a forum with service workers and Seattle city councilmembers in their downtown offices to discuss the need for secure scheduling laws in Seattle. (I wrote about the importance of secure scheduling yesterday .) The personal testimonials from the employees of restaurant and coffee shop chains would be alarming for anyone who hasn’t worked in the service industry. They talked of “clopening” shifts, requiring workers to close the store and then turn around and come back to open the store at 6 am, and irregular schedules that leave very little time for employees to do anything else in their lives. Some of the more shocking testimonials: Grant, a Starbucks employee who left the business last year to work at a car dealership because “what I used to call a love/hate relationship with the service industry, I later realized was an abusive one,” says his schedule was beyond erratic, sometimes veering from 40 hours one week to 8 hours the next. “There wasn’t any way of predicting it,” he explained. “No matter how hard I worked, no matter how much pride I took in my work,” none of his efforts were rewarded with a consistent schedule. Crystal, a mother of a newborn and nine year-old, works at Domino’s Pizza. “Our workweek begins Monday and we usually don’t see our schedules until Sunday night, so it’s really hard to plan and find childcare,” she says. Her work schedule vacillates between 20 and 40 hours a week, with no advance notice to how many hours she’ll be working. The workers were joined by new city councilmembers Lorena González and Lisa Herbold, who vowed to take action on secure scheduling. “I think it’s good for workers and particularly good for women,” González said. “I see this as a gender equity issue. It’s about empowering women financially.” She said
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The March to Secure Scheduling in Seattle Starts Tomorrow

The March to Secure Scheduling in Seattle Starts Tomorrow

Here at Civic Skunk Works, we’re very concerned with scheduling. One of the first posts I wrote here was titled “ Seattle Needs to Join the Fight Against Clopening Shifts .” We praised REI for giving its employees the day after Thanksgiving off. We talk about paid family leave and other scheduling issues. This is important to us. Why does scheduling matter? A lot of businesses monopolize the time of their employees simply because they can; they schedule on-call shifts so the employees might get called in or they might not, depending on how busy things get. They send their employees home if business gets slow. They ask for clopening shifts that require employees to work late, go home, get very little sleep, and then come back around again for an early morning shift. Employees who do not enjoy secure scheduling can’t plan their lives. They can’t take on additional jobs because of the uncertainty of their schedules. They can’t live as citizens — helping with their kids’ education, contributing to neighborhood organizations, taking part in all manner of activities that have great civic value. These workers do not enjoy the protections that people in higher-paying jobs do; the worst jobs in terms of scheduling tend to be in fast food and other service industries, which are rarely unionized. Thankfully, Working Washington is on the case: tomorrow, the organization is hosting a forum on secure scheduling starting at 10 am. Workers will discuss the toll that bad scheduling practices take on their lives. You can sign up to attend the forum virtually on this page . This is the opening salvo in a campaign to bring secure scheduling laws to Seattle. As Working Washington so aptly puts it: Just like Seattle workers led the way forward in the fight for $15, we’re going to lead the way to win one of the nation’s first secure scheduling laws. Tomorrow is a day that a lot
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Now that Presidential Primary Season Has Finally Arrived, Here’s an Inclusive Voting Checklist

Now that Presidential Primary Season Has Finally Arrived, Here’s an Inclusive Voting Checklist

As Iowa prepares to kick off the national presidential race tonight, it occurs to me that most people have at least one vote in their history that they wish they could retract. That often happens when you vote for a personality, or are swayed by one single issue. Maybe if there were some sort of a checklist for voters to examine before they head out to the polls or the primaries or the caucuses, those tragic voting mistakes wouldn’t happen? In an effort to encourage voters to keep the big picture in mind, I thought it might be useful to present a checklist that you can consult when considering the candidates. The rules are simple: if the candidate doesn’t align with the checklist, you should find another candidate that does. This is a first draft, but it gets to the basic idea that if you don’t vote with an inclusive agenda at heart, you’re voting against your own interests. A Brief Inclusive Voting Checklist Does the candidate support an economic agenda that includes everyone, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexuality? Does the candidate support raising the minimum wage to livable levels? Does the candidate support raising the taxes on the top one percent to pay for sensible investments like infrastructure, education, and clean energy? Does the candidate support gun responsibility laws? Does the candidate recognize the fact that punishing poor people for being poor is a race to the bottom? If the answer to all five of those questions is “yes,” you’re voting for the right person. If the answer is “no,” you’re probably going to regret your vote. Let’s go through the reasoning, step by step. 1. If a candidate opposes a particular group of people—refugees, say, or immigrants, or a certain religion or race—then that candidate is encouraging
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Here’s Every Mention of the Economy in Last Night’s Republican Debate (It’s a Short List)

Here’s Every Mention of the Economy in Last Night’s Republican Debate (It’s a Short List)

This morning, you could find any number of think-pieces about the Republican presidential debate online. As expected, most of the pieces are about Donald Trump. But I have to say, I’ve also encountered a disturbing trend in today’s recaps; they suggest that without Trump, last night’s debate was all about “issues.” This isn’t really true. Instead, what we got was a lot of meta-talk about issues—who hates immigrants more, who has hated immigrants for the longest, who’s going to launch the most brutal assault on ISIS—and more Trump-like bluster. I suppose after so many months of Donald Trump overload, the media assigned to cover the Republican side of the presidential primary can’t quite remember what an actual policy discussion sounds like. Here’s what we didn’t hear last night: any talk about the middle class. Or raising the minimum wage. Neither of those phrases was mentioned even once. Gun responsibility was mentioned by a moderator and then promptly ignored by Marco Rubio. In fact, the economy was largely ignored. Here, I made a list of all the times the candidates mentioned the American economy, in chronological order: Ted Cruz, incredibly, suggested that tax cuts and deregulation could help stop ISIS. Marco Rubio warned that switching to clean energy would “destroy our economy.” It’s a patently absurd suggestion that indicates Rubio does not have even a basic understanding of how the economy works. Clean energy is getting cheaper , clean energy jobs are on the rise , and when you support industries like gas and coal through subsidies, all you’re really doing is socializing the high costs of environmental impact. You’re putting taxpayers on the hook for trillions of dollars of damage and letting Big Oil off free. John Kasich said that “the conservative message is economic growth and along with economic growth goes opportunity for everybody in America.” The first part
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