Potential unions, vaccinations and city council recalls, this week
Bill Radke reviews the week's news with Stranger editor Chase Burns, Geekwire contributing editor Monica Nickelsburg, and Publicola police accountability reporter Paul Kiefer.
For people waiting to qualify for the Covid vaccine, the wait is almost over. Governor Inslee is opening up vaccine eligibility to all adults starting April 15th, two weeks sooner than directed by President Biden. Inslee had resisted expanding eligibility too fast, saying he wanted to make sure the people most at risk got vaccinated first. But with Covid cases once again on the rise, he changed his mind. He says we need to get vaccines in arms fast. But does moving so fast mean we're sacrificing equity for speed?
Plus, the recall petition for Seattle city councilmember Kshama Sawant can move forward. That's the decision announced Thursday by the Washington state Supreme Court. Backers will have 180 days to collect 10,000 signatures from voters in the 3rd district. What led to this recall decision, and how likely is it to succeed?
Speaking of city council - on Monday the council approved legislation that guarantees tenants facing eviction access to free legal counsel. It passed unanimously, but with one big change proposed by council president M. Lorena Gonzalez - anyone wishing to receive free counsel must be declared ‘indigent’. On a legal basis this doesn’t require the person to show any documentation, but they would have to sign a form saying they can’t afford a lawyer. Councilmember Sawant opposed the change, arguing that it was demeaning and would mean fewer people would apply for assistance. Currently, both Washington and Seattle have extended their eviction moratoriums to June 30th. How big a deal is this legislation? And is it demeaning to have to admit you can't afford a lawyer?
Also, the days of for-profit prisons in Washington are numbered. Because this week the Washington legislature passed a bill effectively ending contracts with private prison companies. We only have one for-profit prison here in Washington, the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma. The center holds undocumented immigrants on behalf of federal immigration officials. So what does this decision mean for those prisoners?
Finally, Amazon executives are looking to Alabama, where we're awaiting results of a warehouse vote on whether or not to unionize. This is hardly the first time Amazon workers have attempted to unionize. The first attempt was here in Seattle in 1999. But this time major figures, including President Biden, have stepped forward to support the vote. Will this finally be the day Amazon unionizes?