Midday scan: Union job cuts, snarky Snohomish politics, WA schools' questionable mental health policy

Unions aren't complaining about mill job loss; Vancouver's image still smarting despite giving rioters their comeuppance; Snohomish County politics get snarky; school knife attack raises concerns about WA's mental health laws; and Occupy Twisp -- the Occupy movement goes micro.

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Riotous times in Vancouver.

Unions aren't complaining about mill job loss; Vancouver's image still smarting despite giving rioters their comeuppance; Snohomish County politics get snarky; school knife attack raises concerns about WA's mental health laws; and Occupy Twisp -- the Occupy movement goes micro.

What a difference ninety-five years makes. In the pantheon of Northwest labor history, there is the 1919 Seattle General Strike and, in November of that same year, the Centralia Massacre that left four men dead (three members of the American Legion and one Industrial Workers of the World "Wobbly," who was pulled from the local jail and lynched). The Fort Sumter of the labor wars? The 1916 Everett Massacre, the culmination of a bracing class divide and the zenith of labor militancy in the Northwest.  

This year in Everett, the Great Recession t-boned an industrial freighter, as the huge Kimberly-Clark mill was put up for sale. As the Everett Herald's Mike Benbow writes, "Union members at the Kimberly-Clark Corp. plant here have reached a five-year labor agreement with potential buyer Atlas Holdings LLC, that would secure jobs for about 300 people. The company now employs about 750 workers, so if a deal were to go through, many would lose their jobs. And nobody would be guaranteed work. The agreement would require employees to reapply through a process that has yet to be established." So at least 400 people will be out of work. Employees will no longer be able to qualify for a pension. No time-and-a-half for Sundays.

It is, nevertheless, a narrow light in a dull economy. How did the great-grandchildren of the Everett-Massacre generation respond to the proposed agreement? It was approved "by 80.8 percent of the membership," Benbow reports.   

Rioting Vancouverites were once as difficult to imagine as gun-toting Quakers. But cry "Stanley Cup" and let loose the dogs of the Great White North. The June 15 riots following Vancouver's Stanley Cup loss resulted in 15,000 criminal acts, according to police. The Vancouver Sun's Neal Hall reports that the scofflaws are now facing justice with "a total of 163 charges against 60 people, but [the police] expect to charge up to 700 with taking part in the riot." Hall quotes Vancouver police Chief Jim Chu who said, "the riot investigation, stemming from the events of June 15 after the Vancouver Canucks lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup to the Boston Bruins, is the largest in Vancouver police history, and investigators have taken the time to get it right."

Rioters will get their comeuppance, but what about a reckoning for a city that prides itself on civility? Images of window-smashing hooligans (Canadian hooligans, mind you) of overturned cars and of barrel fires, are now a permanent feature of Vancouver's civic memory.

There is an axiom in politics: Don't answer the question you were asked (especially if it makes you slightly uncomfortable), answer the question you wish you had been asked. It's a change-the-subject rule that also works when you've been accused of something that's, well, true. The Tacoma News Tribune's Peter Callaghan takes Joe Biden's 1988 deceit (Biden essentially co-opted the life narrative of British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock and recast it as his own) and uses the example as a lens to examine a blame-the-messenger MO. With Biden, Callaghan writes, "the story quickly turned from plagiarism to dirty politics. Who had leaked the tape of the two speeches to the news media? When it was revealed to be the campaign manager of rival candidate Mike Dukakis, that person had to be fired to end the controversy."  

One contemporary example involves the race for Snohomish County Executive. A decade ago Rep. Mike Hope, who is challenging incumbent Aaron Reardon, was disciplined by the Seattle Police Department for pleading with a Mill Creek cop not to arrest his girlfriend for DWI. Hope acknowledged his mistake and issued a mea culpa.

As Callaghan notes, however, Hope "then accused his opponent, incumbent Aaron Reardon, of being behind the revelation. As it turns out, a county employee was involved in obtaining and releasing the report. But the information was true and the records were public. Voters will decide whether it makes Hope a risk or not. Yet to say that making it public is dirty politics is a bizarre aspect of American politics."

In a provocative column in today's Seattle Times, Nicole Brodeur reviews the question of mental health notification in public schools after the terrifying October 24 knife attack at Snohomish High School. "State laws and school-district policies that protect kids who are mentally ill — be it depression or, in this case, homicidal thoughts — can't do anything to protect the kids who may get in their way," Brodeur writes. "Parents aren't required to let school officials know about their child's physical or mental health, or even criminal convictions (although, courts often do). And even if parents do share with the school, the school can't disclose that information to anyone else."  

Arguably there is a qualitative difference between garden-variety depression and homicidal thoughts. Couldn't we agree on notification for wanting to murder your peers, but confidentiality when it comes to depression, a treatable illness that Churchill called "the black dog?"

Lastly, we know about Occupy Seattle and even Occupy Everett. What about Occupy Stanwood or Occupy Twisp? As Ed Quillen writes in a short High Country News blog, the movement has spread to his small community in California. "Salida, population about 5,500, isn't the smallest place to hold an Occupy protest," Quillen writes. "That distinction may belong to Villa Grove, about 30 miles south of town; with a population of about 100, it's been hosting a weekly 'Occupy Villa Grove' rally." Maybe "Occupy Beaux Arts Village, WA" (population 299) is next.    


Link Summary

Everett Herald, "Unions at Kimberly-Clark reach deal with potential buyer, but face many lost jobs"

Vancouver Sun, "Vancouver police recommend first Stanley Cup riot charges against 60 people"

Tacoma News Tribune, "Voters want campaign facts but hate the messengers"

Seattle Times"After school knife attack, law seems crazy"

High Country News, "Occupation in the boondocks" 


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About the Authors & Contributors

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson is the former editorial-page editor of the Everett Herald. Follow him on Twitter @phardinjackson