U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, has launched a Central Washington task force to address the fentanyl crisis.

The task force will include law enforcement, addiction treatment and other medical professionals, drug court officials, school resource officers, tribal leaders, elected officials and community leaders.

Their aim is to quantify the crisis in Central Washington by looking at state, local and federal data; assess current resources available and figure out where gaps exist; talk about potential state, local and federal legislation that will help address the crisis; and help educate the public.

“We cannot stand idly by while this deadly drug ravages our communities, claiming lives and tearing families apart,” Newhouse said in a news release.

Opioid overdoses and deaths have increased statewide, according to data from the Washington Department of Health.

Yakima County Commissioner Amanda McKinney, a member of the task force, said the fentanyl crisis strikes constant fear in the hearts of parents who worry about their children’s safety.

“As a mother to young children, I share in the frustration over the lack of action to eliminate this deadly outbreak from crossing our borders and entering into our communities,” she said in the news release from Newhouse’s office. “I am passionately committed to finding new ways to educate all ages about the extreme risk of fentanyl and to proactively craft legislation and policies that will prevent fentanyl from plaguing our communities." 

This morning, the Seattle City Council took an early step toward limiting the circumstances under which gig companies can deactivate workers’ accounts on their platforms.

During the Public Safety and Human Services Committee meeting, Council staff gave a presentation on draft legislation that would set parameters for when and why workers could have their accounts deactivated and create an appeals process, among other things. 

The bill states that companies’ deactivation policies must be “reasonable and be reasonably related to the network company’s safe and efficient operations.” Unreasonable policies include deactivations related to number of hours worked, acceptance or rejection of work offers, and low ratings by customers, among others.

The policy would require companies to give 14 days of notice before deactivation; provide documentation substantiating the deactivation; and allow workers to appeal their deactivation to a person with authority to reverse the decision.

In instances where companies suspect workers of engaging in “egregious misconduct,” the companies will be able to deactivate accounts immediately rather than waiting until the end of the 14-day investigation period. Egregious misconduct includes assault, sexual assault, unlawful harassment, theft, fraud, DUI and a number of other criminal actions.

Councilmembers Lisa Herbold and Andrew Lewis are leading the Council’s work on a suite of policies, called the PayUp Legislation, meant to improve working conditions for independent contractors on gig apps. Last year Seattle passed a minimum wage for gig workers. Earlier this year they created a gig-worker paid sick and safe time law.

According to Council staff, gig workers have raised deactivation as a key concern during the city’s stakeholder meetings with gig workers and app-company representatives. Workers expressed frustration with a lack of transparency around why they’re being deactivated and a lack of recourse.

At this morning’s Council meeting, speaking through a translator, food delivery worker Georgina Rojas said she was deactivated from DoorDash last year without explanation and the company did not respond to her appeals. Without her source of income, she started to fall behind on bills, and after three weeks she decided she had no choice but to switch to working for a different app company.

Representatives from Instacart and DoorDash also testified at the meeting, expressing concern with the policy, especially around limits to their ability to quickly deactivate workers and the disclosure of certain private information. 

As draft legislation, the policy is in its earliest stages. The next step is for Councilmember Herbold to officially introduce the bill for consideration and potential amendment by the rest of the Public Safety and Human Services Committee.