January 1, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 1

Community & Editorial

In the new year, corporations can take a hint from nature and offer the nation a little more light

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One week ago, the sun set at its earliest: 4:16 p.m. Every day since then means that the sun sets a little later. Our mornings continue to get darker, with sunrise at its latest at 7:59 a.m. But starting Jan. 2, the sun will begin to rise earlier. By the end of January the sun will rise at 7:38 a.m. and set after

5 p.m. That gives all of us some light and hope and joy.

That is in the natural world. In the human world, we can also celebrate and grab onto some new light and hope and joy. The idea that workers should be respected and compensated fairly got new traction last year. The voters of the city of SeaTac approved a $15-an-hour minimum wage for employees of the big businesses at Sea-Tac Airport. In California, that state’s legislature set the state minimum wage at $10-an-hour starting in 2016. In Washington, D.C., it will be $11.50-an-hour in 2016. In Seattle, the momentum is for a $15-an-hour minimum wage.

Indeed, even President Obama has begun to talk about inequality and growing gaps of income and opportunity.

In the corporate world, Boeing announced a stock buyback of $10 billion and a dividend increase amounting to $750 million a year. You could draw a flow chart showing the $9 billion in legislatively approved skipped taxes in Washington state going straight to Boeing shareholders. This tax package had nothing to do with saving jobs. It had everything to do with being greedy — a Scrooge-like maneuver by the Chicago overlords.

In the human world, the machinists at Boeing got sick of being disrespected and voted down proposed take-aways. The machinists’ vote was a vote for a middle-class quality of life. It was a vote to protect future employees as much as a vote for the current workers’ own income and security. The machinists rejected a two-tier wage system, stagnation of wage progression and a dismantling of pensions for future workers and retirees.

In the human world, we can celebrate new political leaders who have lived the values they proclaim — people like June Robinson, just appointed to the legislature from Everett, whose career has been one of service to people in public health and affordable housing. There’s also Mia Gregerson from SeaTac, a naturalized citizen who has served on the SeaTac City Council and supported the successful effort for a $15-an-hour minimum wage. And there’s Brady Walkinshaw, whose mom was an immigrant from Cuba and whose career has focused on creating sustainable agriculture for poor people around the globe and, in our state, conserving natural places for people to enjoy for generations to come; he’ll begin representing the 43rd District in the state House of Representatives this month.

In the human world, as of Jan. 1, well over 20,000 citizens in Snohomish County will have health coverage they didn’t before, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. That means they get health coverage they can afford, and the peace of mind that if something goes wrong, they are covered.

In the human world, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand from New York and Congresswoman Rep. Rosa DeLauro from Connecticut have teamed up to introduce the FAMILY Act, a national paid family and medical leave insurance program that would allow workers to take paid leave to care for a new baby, a seriously ill family member or their own medical needs. It is based on a law Washington state legislators passed (but have not funded) back in 2007. That effort grew out of a law that then-state Sen. Patty Murray (D-Shoreline) pushed through the legislature way back in 1989.

There doesn’t have to be a battle between the corporate world and the human world. Our economic well-being enhances local and state economies. When we have more family and economic security, we purchase more services and goods, we pay more in taxes, which fund the physical infrastructure. All of this helps the corporate world. So Boeing-Chicago: How about taking back that lump of coal and making a new commitment to the workers and families and leaders of our state? That would be a true New Year.

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