Thumbs up to HAMTC for job-saving proposal

The Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council is proposing a way to save some jobs by asking members of its 15 unions to volunteer for paid and unpaid leave.

Federal budget cuts brought on by sequestration left the big three Department of Energy contractors at Hanford planning to combine time off for nonunion workers and layoffs for union workers to cut spending.

Contracts between the unions and Hanford employers prevent contractors from furloughing HAMTC workers, leaving layoffs as the only option for reducing labor costs.

However, HAMTC's proposal would allow union workers to instead volunteer for time off, with the savings used to retain union jobs at Hanford.

A similar agreement more than eight years ago saved HAMTC jobs, HAMTC President Dave Molnaa told the Herald.

It's a great idea that not only would help keep more Tri-City families solvent but also help keep skilled workers needed for Hanford's environmental mission from moving elsewhere.

If it ain't broke

To Gov. Jay Inslee for changes in the state Department of Agriculture's head office.

No offense to Donald "Bud" Hover, who was named state agriculture director last week, but we don't believe a change was needed.

Hover, who operates a 2,300-acre hay and cattle ranch in Winthrop, likely will do a competent job. He has a reputation as a moderate Republican and no doubt developed some political skills as an Okanogan County commissioner.

Inslee cited Hover's efforts to resolve salmon issues in Okanogan, Chelan and Douglas counties. The experience likely will help him bridge the gap between environmental and farming interests.

But while Hover might be a good choice, retaining former director Dan Newhouse would have been a better one.

Newhouse's experience as a legislator is a better fit for a state Cabinet position. That knowledge base and his connections served farmers well during his four-year tenure.

Newhouse's Yakima Valley operation produces hops, fruit, grapes and alfalfa, meaning he has firsthand knowledge of the challenges facing Washington's farmers.

It's telling that the lone agriculture representative on Inslee's transition team said he had no hesitation in recommending Newhouse keep his job.

Mike Gempler, executive director of the Washington Growers League in Yakima, was the only representative on the 34-member transition committee with agricultural ties.

"I heard from executives and lobbyists, and there is tremendous support for Director Newhouse," Gempler told the Yakima Herald Republic.

Good luck to Hover. He'll likely excel in his new role, but we can't see how Inslee can justify this major shift and the inevitable loss of momentum it brings to the agency.

Give if you can

To hunger. John Neill, executive director of the Tri-Cities Food Bank, which has locations in Kennewick, Richland and Benton City, reports that giving is down and need is up this spring.

We realize it might seem like a constant plea from food banks, but that's the nature of food. We need it every day whether we can afford it or not.

Donations that came in during the holidays mostly are gone, and the food bank is seeing less from grocery stores, Neill said. The food bank recently has been serving about 75 families a day at its Kennewick and Richland locations and about 50 families a day in Benton City.

The other Mid-Columbia food banks are in similar straights.