KING5: Costco Drops Trucking Company Accused of Labor Violations

Reported by KING5:

Costco, the Issaquah-based company and one of the world’s largest retailers, has stopped doing business with a California trucking company accused of trapping drivers in debt and then using it to force them to work overtime.

The action comes as brands across the U.S. face increased scrutiny for ignoring labor abuses in their supply lines, a widespread problem first revealed in a USA TODAY Network investigation in June.

Earlier this month, four prominent Democratic Senators, led by Sherrod Brown of Ohio, sent letters to 16 retailers, calling on them to root out “shameful” labor abuses first outlined by the USA TODAY Network.

Soon after, Costco Wholesale dropped Pacific 9 Transportation, one of the biggest port trucking companies in Southern California.

Hewlett-Packard also sent an auditor to investigate the company’s labor practices.

Both retailers declined to comment on their actions. Alan Ta, chief operating officer for Pacific 9, said that even before Costco withdrew, his company had stopped leasing trucks to drivers and launched a series of reforms to improve their pay.

A wave of pressure from retailers and manufacturers has hit port trucking operations across the industry, according to drivers who say their employers have been fielding calls from clients. 

Those clients include Walmart, which pledged in a letter responding to the senators that it would cancel contracts with any trucking company that did not provide “assurances” it was following fair labor practices.

“The stories profiled in that article are deeply concerning,” Executive Vice President Jay Jorgensen wrote of the USA TODAY Network investigation, “Rigged.”

“Any motor carrier that fails to comply with law, such as those alleged in the article, would be in violation of our contract and would therefore be subject to cancellation,” he wrote.

The series revealed how port trucking companies in southern California have spent the past decade forcing drivers to finance their own trucks through company-sponsored lease-to-own programs they could not afford.

The longer drivers worked, the more trapped they felt. After just a few months, drivers typically had paid thousands of dollars towards a truck.

If drivers quit or got fired for any reason, most of them lost the truck and everything they had paid in. Many worked 20 hours a day to keep up with their truck payment and feed their family.

Read the rest of the report…

Photo credit: Pavel P. via / CC BY

West Coast Longshore Workers Vote to 3-Year Extension of Labor Contract

The ILWU’s Coast Balloting Committee confirmed that West Coast longshore workers at 29 ports in California, Oregon and Washington have officially ratified a three-year contract extension with the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA). The Committee carefully reviewed balloting results from all longshore local unions and confirmed a tally showing that 67% of members voted in favor of the extension. The current agreement was set to expire on July 1, 2019; the newly approved three-year pact will extend the expiration to July 1, 2022.

The contract extension will raise wages, maintain health benefits, and increase pensions from 2019-2022. 

The results followed a year-long debate and democratic decision-making process which allowed every registered longshore worker from Bellingham, Washington, to San Diego, California, to express their views and cast a ballot.

“The rank-and-file membership has made their decision and expressed a clear choice,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath. “During the past year we saw a healthy debate and heard different points of view, with concerns raised by all sides. The democratic process allowed us to make a difficult decision and arrive at the best choice under the circumstances.”

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s Coast Longshore Division represents approximately 20,000 longshore workers on the West Coast of the United States.

The Northwest Seaport Alliance recently applauded the International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s ratification of the three-year extension to its contract with the Pacific Maritime Association. 

“In this incredibly competitive shipping market, a longer contract helps give certainty to importers and exporters that depend on our region to move goods and create family-wage jobs,” said Tom Albro, Port of Seattle commission president and co-chair of The Northwest Seaport Alliance. “This certainty helps us focus on attracting more cargo and growing our market share.” 

“We appreciate the cooperative efforts of our labor partners and shipping lines and terminal operators in ensuring that retailers, farmers and manufacturers can rely on our supply chain to move their goods efficiently,” said Dick Marzano, Port of Tacoma commission president and co-chair of the NWSA. “Our region depends on us pulling together.”

Taken together, marine cargo operations in the NWSA’s Tacoma and Seattle harbors support more than 48,000 jobs across the region and provide a critical gateway for the export of Washington state products to Asia.

Photo info: San Pedro, CA port scene – by Kit Case

Seattle Art Museum Presents: INDUSTRIAL STRENGTH


See the hidden beauty of the factories, ships, boxcars, bridges, and vintage signage of the industrial landscape at SAM Gallery during Industrial Strength.

Featured Artists

Join the artists for the free opening reception!


THU SEP 146–7:30PM

Image credit: Iskra Fine Art, “South Holgate Gantry”

CBC: B.C. Wildfire Smoke Partly to Blame for Washington State Farmworker’s Death

By Cory Correia, CBC News
 Posted: Aug 10, 2017

A temporary farm worker has died in Washington state and advocacy groups have blamed poor working conditions, in part due to smoke from B.C. wildfires.

Honesto Silva Ibarra, 28, of Mexico, died in a Seattle hospital Sunday after he became ill last week at the blueberry farm where he worked near Sumas, Wash., just south of the Canadian border. 

An advocacy group, Community to Community Development, said Silva became sick from dehydration, and died after going into cardiac arrest. (Silva used his second name as a surname)

The group’s executive director, Rosalinda Guillen said poor working conditions at the blueberry farm have been aggravated by wildfire smoke that has blown across the border.  

“The workers have been overworked, underfed, have not been hydrated enough, and this has been going on for weeks, and that is what led to the death of Honesto,” said Guillen.

Silva had been working as a berry picker for Sarbanand Farms since the spring. He was married with three children, all of whom are in Mexico.

Guillen said Silva fell ill last week while at work. He went to a local hospital, where Guillen said he suffered cardiac arrest. He was transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he died, the hospital said.

But a spokesman for Sarbanand Farms said Silva’s death was caused by complications from his diabetes. In a statement sent to local media, chief administrative officer Cliff Woolley said one of Silva’s relatives told the company that Silva ran out of medicine but did not tell anyone else.

When Silva fell ill last week at work, the company said it called for an ambulance and he was taken to hospital.

Silva’s illness sparked protests among his co-workers who complained that working conditions at the blueberry farm were unsafe. Nearly 70 workers were fired Saturday after the demonstrations.

Protests continued Tuesday after workers heard news of Silva’s death. 

Meanwhile, Guilllen said other workers have also fallen ill.

“The smoke coming in over our area has aggravated those situations already and caused the workers to say ‘We’re going to die if we don’t do something about this,’ because they were collapsing,” said Guillen.

On Monday, five people were taken to clinics, suffering from advanced dehydration, she said.

Washington state’s department of Labour and Industries is investigating the case, looking into workplace safety factors. It has not decided whether to proceed with a formal investigation. 

Read the rest of the CBC report here…

Photo credit: CBC News

Suspension of OALJ Proceedings Impacted by Hurricane Harvey

Due to Hurricane Harvey, the Chief Administrative Law Judge has issued an Administrative Order, 2017-MIS-00004 (Aug. 30, 2017), postponing OALJ proceedings, and tolling hearing releated deadlines, for cases scheduled to be heard within 150 miles of Houston, Texas during the months of September and October 2017. The Administrative Order also postpones hearings and tolls deadlines for proceedings scheduled for the months of September and October 2017 in any part of the country where a party, attorney or law firm is located within 150 miles of Houston.

Icebreaker leaves jagged, beautiful Arctic icescapes

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Lovely photos of icy waters for a hot summer’s day.

Icebreaker leaves jagged, beautiful Arctic icescapes
Icebreaker leaves jagged, beautiful Arctic icescapes

There’s ice, and then there’s ice.

We encountered the first floes around Point Barrow, the northernmost tip of Alaska. Much of it was already rotten, as our ice navigator David “Duke” Snider explained. The ice was fraying at the edges. Some of it was covered in sand and dirt from crashing against the coast, while larger floes had pools of turquoise meltwater on top.

A trained eye can tell how old the ice is and where it is likely to have come from.

So-called first-year ice formed during the last winter. It is typically between 30 centimeters (1 foot) and 150 centimeters (5 feet) thick. First-year ice can pose a threat to regular ships but heavy vessels with hardened hulls, such as the MSV Nordica, can slice right through it with only a dull thud and a rumble as debris rolls along the underside of the hull.

Once it survives a summer melt — typically the cut-off date is Oct. 1 — it becomes second-year ice. As ice grows older, the sea salt leeches out and it becomes denser. Being able to spot such ice is key as it is harder and more of a hazard than younger ice.

The toughest sea ice is called multi-year ice and it can grow several meters thick, with the consistency of concrete. As a general rule, the older ice gets the more it turns blue and acquires mounds — so-called hummocks — on top from years of crashing into other floes.

Icebergs aren’t sea ice, despite being best…

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Opioid Litigation and Workers’ Compensation

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The newly initiated litigation by public entities against Big Pharma may prove to be a huge boost to the workers’ compensation system. The lawsuits have the potential curtailing a massive drain of benefit dollars and may provide for subrogation as a result of the nations’ opioid epidemic.

At a recent NJ State Bar Association meeting in May 2017 Atlantic City, Mark B. Zurulnik, an attorney who specializes in workers’ compensation law, referred to the potential of a such a lawsuit.

NPR reported today that, "A wave of litigation by state attorneys general against the biggest opioid manufacturers and distributors feels reminiscent of lawsuits brought by states in the 1990s against the tobacco industry." Click here to read the entire NPR report.

Third party litigation can impact workers’ compensation programs in multiple ways. Historically, both the tobacco and asbestos litigation curtailed the use of the hazardous products going forward. Subrogation is yet another situation though. It requires the ability of the parties to establish specific liens. While this was easily done in asbestos occupational exposure litigation, it was much more difficult to seek individual reimbursement or set-off in claims caused by or complicated by tobacco use in the workplace.

Notwithstanding the public entity, opioid litigation is yet another social cause that may, in fact, improve the lives of injured workers and in the long run provide tremendous benefits to both employers and their…

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Port of Seattle Offers Community Adult Education Series

The Port U series is free and open to adults, 18 years and older. Advance reservations are required. Priority will be given to first-time Port U registrants.

Get the inside scoop on the many functions of the Port of Seattle by taking a free tour! Each tour is guided by Port partners and provides detailed knowledge of the history, current usage and future plans for the Port’s holdings.  Causey Wright has had several staff attend these tours to better understand the workplaces our clients go to every day.  I’ve included a link to our blog posts describing the tours.  

DUWAMISH RIVER 101Read Kit Case’s article about this tour!

Date: Thursday, Sept. 7
Check In: 3:45 p.m.
Program: 4:00–6:30 p.m.
Location: Bell Harbor Marina, Pier 66

The 5-mile-long Duwamish Waterway is important for commerce and jobs, fish and wildlife habitat, and public shoreline use areas. Learn about marine industrial commerce, the legacy of past industrial activities, fish and wildlife habitat restoration, and Superfund cleanup plans.

Partners: Alaska Marine Lines, Boeing, Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, and the Environmental Protection Agency

AIRPORT 101Read Kristen Wolf’s article about this tour!

Date: Wednesday, Sept. 13
Check In: 3:45 p.m.
Program: 4:00–6:30 p.m.
Location: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

Sea-Tac Airport is the 9th busiest U.S. airport. Learn about upcoming projects including the new International Arrivals Facility, the modernization of the North Satellite and Sea-Tac’s master planning effort that will define redevelopment over the next 20 years.

SHIP CANAL 101Read Michael Leach’s article about this tour!

Date: Wednesday, Sept. 27
Check In: 3:45 p.m.
Program: 4:00–6:30 p.m.
Location: Fishermen’s Terminal

Learn about the wide range of maritime industry businesses and support services that play a key role in making Seattle a focal point for commercial fishing, boat yards, and transportation between Alaska and the Lower 48 states. The Lake Washington Ship Canal is a bustling center of maritime activity.

Partners: Ballard Oil, Pacific Fishermen Shipyard, Washington Maritime Federation, NOAA Fisheries, American Waterways Operators, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Seattle Maritime Academy.

CARGO 101Read Kristen Wolf’s article about this tour!

Date: Thursday, Oct. 5
Check In: 3:45 p.m.
Program: 4:00–6:30 p.m.
Location: Port Headquarters, Pier 69

Tour Terminal 18 and learn about the movement of cargo from ship to truck to train. Hear longshore workers, and stevedores describe their roles in the supply chain and visit the BNSF intermodal rail yard to learn how shipping containers move between the port and the interior of the country.

Partners: SSA Terminals, BNSF Railway, International Longshore and Warehouse Union SHIP


Space is limited, so reserve your spot early!
Questions? Email:, or call 206.787.3009

Photo credit: Port of Seattle image by Don Wilson

They Got Hurt at Work. Then They Got Deported.

Today’s post was shared by Jon L Gelman and comes from

After Yuliana Rocha Zamarripa hurt her knee at work, an investigator working for her employer’s insurance carrier reported her for using a false Social Security number. (Scott McIntyre for ProPublica)

At age 31, Nixon Arias cut a profile similar to many unauthorized immigrants in the United States. A native of Honduras, he’d been in the country for more than a decade and had worked off and on for a landscaping company for nine years. The money he earned went to building a future for his family in Pensacola, Florida. His Facebook page was filled with photos of fishing and other moments with his three boys, ages 3, 7 and 8.

But in November 2013, that life began to unravel.

The previous year, Arias had been mowing the median of Highway 59 just over the Alabama line when his riding lawnmower hit a hole, throwing him into the air. He slammed back in his seat, landing hard on his lower back.

Arias received pain medication, physical therapy and steroid injections through his employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. But the pain in his back made even walking or sitting a struggle. So his doctor recommended an expensive surgery to implant a device that sends electrical pulses to the spinal cord to relieve chronic pain. Six days after that appointment, the insurance company suddenly discovered that Arias had been using a deceased man’s Social Security number and rejected not only the surgery, but all of his past and future care.

Desperate, Arias…

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Mexico City floating farms, chefs team up to save tradition

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Mexico City floating farms, chefs team up to save tradition
Mexico City floating farms, chefs team up to save tradition

At dawn in Xochimilco, home to Mexico City’s famed floating gardens, farmers in muddied rain boots squat among rows of beets as a group of chefs arrive to sample sweet fennel and the pungent herb known as epazote.

By dinnertime some of those greens will be on plates at an elegant bistro 12 miles (20 kilometers) to the north, stewed with black beans in a $60 prix-fixe menu for well-heeled diners.

Call it floating-farm-to-table: A growing number of the capital’s most in-demand restaurants are incorporating produce grown at the gardens, or chinampas, using ancient cultivation techniques pioneered hundreds of years ago in the pre-Columbian era.

While sourcing local ingredients has become fashionable for many top chefs around the globe, it takes on additional significance in Xochimilco (so-chee-MIL-co), where a project linking chinampa farmers with high-end eateries aims to breathe life and a bit of modernity into a fading and threatened tradition.

“People sometimes think (farm-to-table) is a trend,” said Eduardo Garcia, owner and head chef of Maximo Bistrot in the stylish Roma Norte district. “It’s not a trend. It’s something that we humans have always done and we need to keep doing it, we need to return to it.”

Xochimilco, on the far southern edge of Mexico City, is best-known as the “Mexican Venice” for its canals and brightly colored boats where locals and…

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Published by Causey Wright