Naval Facilities Engineering Command Northwest

Democratic Rep. Derek Kilmer says the way a new submarine wharf is being built on the Kitsap Peninsula should be a model for other federal projects. He says it was the first time the Department of Defense used a special labor agreement that’s supposed to ensure local workers get hired.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

The death of a dairy farm worker in February is prompting a push for tougher safety laws and labor groups are asking the milk cooperative, Darigold, to meet to talk about improvements that can be made to protect workers. 

AP Images

Labor groups, including ones in Washington state, have suffered a big defeat. The U.S. Senate has voted to move ahead with the so-called fast-track trade bill, paving the way for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which union leaders say ultimately could result in lost jobs.

For the Washington State Labor Council, blocking this fast-track bill has been high priority for the past 18 months, according to the group’s president, Jeff Johnson.

JSSWA Washington National Guard / Flickr

 (Updates to add that Rep. Adam Smith says he'll vote no.)

The U.S. House is expected to vote this week on a trade bill that’s drawn criticism from labor and environmental groups. It's known as the Trade Promotion Authority bill, and most of Washington state's Congressional delegation supports it. 

But now Democratic Reps. Denny Heck and Adam Smith say they'll join Democratic Rep. Jim McDermott in voting no. In doing so, they're standing up to President Barack Obama, who has urged passage of the bill.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Seattle minimum-wage workers at large businesses should now be earning $11 an hour, and workers at smaller businesses should earn at least $10 an hour, plus an extra dollar an hour in either tips or health benefits.

But the city is still searching for the right person to head the office in charge of enforcing that law. 

Bryan Corliss / District Lodge 751 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers

Washington state is facing an “enormous budget challenge,” according to Gov. Jay Inslee, who has proposed creating a tax on capital gains and another on carbon pollution.

But wait a minute, didn’t lawmakers pass what’s been called the biggest tax break in U.S. history just a year and a half ago? What are we getting in exchange for those tax dollars we’ve chosen not to collect from the aerospace industry?

Friends of the Earth International / Flickr

Sunday marks the 15th anniversary of the World Trade Organization meeting that brought tens of thousands of protesters to Seattle. Now labor groups are once again sounding the alarm that new trade deals being negotiated may leave workers behind. 

SEIU Healthcare 1199NW

About 1,100 hospital workers went on a 24-hour strike Tuesday at Saint Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma and Saint Clare Hospital in Lakewood, saying they’re frustrated they haven’t yet been able to work out new contracts with their employer, CHI Franciscan.

Loco Steve / Flickr

A union representing railroad conductors and switchmen has rejected a plan from BNSF Railway to operate some freight trains with a single employee. Many union members said the proposal raised serious safety concerns. 

BNSF runs important routes throughout the Pacific Northwest, from British Columbia to Portland and across the country.

The Service Employees International Union Healthcare 775 Northwest represents about 33,000 independent home care workers in Washington state. Their union dues are automatically deducted by the state of Washington, which pays the workers using public money, including Medicaid funds.

But a lawsuit is challenging that arrangement, drawing on the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision (Harris v. Quinn), and that potentially threatens the union's financial strength. 

David Cravioto

Even as the summer berry season gets underway, some of the workers who pick those berries have been battling with a Skagit County farm in court. They’ve challenged Sakuma Brothers Farms over its new policy to no longer provide housing for workers’ family members. 

Ashley Gross / KPLU

The union that represents home care workers across Washington state is calling for a new contract that phases in a $15-an-hour minimum wage. They’re hoping Seattle’s recent vote to gradually hike the wage floor will help bolster their argument. 

Bellamy Pailthorp

After a tumultuous year in which berry pickers at a Skagit County farm went on repeated strikes, a new group appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee is set to start tackling farm labor issues. 

Courtesy of Seth Holmes

Seth Holmes is a doctor and anthropologist at the University of California, Berkeley who did something that wouldn’t occur to most white, middle-class, highly-educated Americans.

About a decade ago, he spent a year and a half traveling, living with and working alongside migrant indigenous Mexican farmworkers from the state of Oaxaca. His stint included two seasons picking strawberries and blueberries on a large farm in Skagit County.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

After a rare contested election, the incumbents have retained their posts at the top of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

International President Tom Buffenbarger kept the position he’s held since 1997 by a margin of two-to-one, according to preliminary results. About 23,500 members voted for Buffenbarger, and about 11,200 voted for IAM Reform candidate, Jay Cronk.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Boeing Chief Executive Jim McNerney says he understands that shifting engineering work away from Washington state may be controversial, but he says these moves “strengthen our company, strengthen our engineering capability.”

Over the past year, the Chicago-based aerospace giant has announced several transfers of engineering jobs that affect thousands of Puget Sound-area employees. Most recently, the company said earlier this month that it will move 1,000 engineering positions to southern California as it makes that region the center of customer support for airplanes currently in service.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

The owners of Seattle’s most famous landmark, the Space Needle, violated federal labor law, according to an administrative law judge with the National Labor Relations Board. 

The landmark that dominates Seattle's skyline is owned by Space Needle LLC, a private company owned by the descendants of the construction entrepreneur Howard S. Wright. The company he founded later built the Space Needle for the 1962 World's Fair. A spokesman says the company plans to appeal the judge's decision.

Bruce Smith / AP Photo

The vote by Volkswagen workers in Tennessee to reject the United Auto Workers union has sent shock waves throughout the world of organized labor. And that setback is an example of why the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers faces an uphill battle organizing Boeing workers in South Carolina. 

Ashley Gross / KPLU

The contentious Boeing contract extension offer that machinists narrowly passed earlier this month left many workers unhappy with their union leaders. This Saturday, they’ll have a chance to nominate new candidates for top positions in the union’s national headquarters. 

But the reform candidates face an uphill battle in their effort to dislodge the top leaders. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers hasn’t had a contested election for its highest jobs in more than half a century.

Frank Kovalchek

Alaska Air Group is trying to quash a ballot initiative in the city of SeaTac that would hike wages for airport ground crew and other workers. 

The initiative would set a $15 per-hour minimum wage for hospitality and transportation workers in SeaTac—people at the airport like baggage handlers and folks who push wheelchairs, as well as hotel workers and employees at rental car companies.

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

Workers at Sea-Tac Airport are trying to get a big pay raise by way of a ballot initiative. If approved, the increase would put them 60 percent over the state’s minimum wage of $9.19 per hour.

Jessie Hodge

Labor disputes have shut down performances across the country, but Seattle Symphony and Seattle Opera fans don’t have to worry about cancelations anytime soon. The musicians have agreed to a new contract. 

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Boeing is facing the specter of a possible engineers’ strike even as the company races to get the 787 Dreamliner back in the air. Tonight, the engineers’ union will tally votes to see whether members have rejected the contract and authorized a strike.

dierken / Flickr

Seattle-based Theo Chocolate is known for its focus on sustainability and fair trade. But a new report says the company doesn’t deserve its "Fair for Life" certification because it tried to prevent workers from unionizing a couple of years ago.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

About 21,000 Boeing engineers and technicians will vote on whether to authorize a strike. The threat of a walkout comes at a bad time for Boeing as the company tries to fix its 787 Dreamliner.

Boeing has raised its salary offer to its engineers and technicians, but the union is still complaining that it doesn’t adequately compensate its members.

Federal mediators have been brokering talks this week between the company and the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, or SPEEA.


When Boeing engineers and technicians walked off the job 13 years ago, they said it wasn’t just for more money. They wanted to improve the culture of the company and chart a new course for organized labor. Did they succeed?

At first blush, it looked like a resounding success. The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, or SPEEA, had won a contract with everything they had asked for. Executive Director Charlie Bofferding was triumphant in an interview with KING 5.

“We’re interacting now based on power and respect, and that’s where we want to be,” Bofferding said.

The Associated Press

After months of unsuccessful contract negotiations, Boeing says it wants a federal mediator to help resolve its contract dispute with SPEEA, the union that represents about 23,000 engineers and technicians in the Puget Sound region.

PRESCOTT, Wash. -- Washington state apple farmers have the second largest crop in history but too few pickers to get it all in this harvest. A worker shortage means there won’t be enough people to get the fruit off the trees quickly enough.

Broetje Orchards in southeast Washington is one of the largest fruit growers in the world. Owners there put a plea out for more workers -- they're short 800 people.