Monthly Archives: April 2015

The High Cost of Fighting for $15

by Leo Gerard, USW International President, published April 14, 2015

Fight-for-15-graphicThis is no plea for pity for corporate kingpins like Walmart and McDonald’s inundated by workers’ demands for living wages.

Raises would, of course, cost these billion-dollar corporations something. More costly, though, is the price paid by minimum-wage workers who have not received a raise in six years.  Even more dear is what these workers have paid for their campaign to get raises. Managers have harassed, threatened and fired them.

Despite all that, low-wage workers will return to picket lines and demonstrations Wednesday in a National Day of Action in the fight for $15 an hour. The date is 4 – 15. These are workers who live paycheck to paycheck, barely able to pay their bills, and certainly unable to cope with an emergency. They know the risk they’re taking by participating in strikes for pay hikes. They’ve seen bosses punish co-workers for demonstrating for raises. To lose a job, even one that pays poverty wages, during a time of high unemployment is terrifying. Still, thousands will participate Wednesday. That is valor.

Kip Hedges exhibited that courage. He’s a 61-year-old with 26 years of service as a baggage handler for Delta at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. He wanted better wages for young workers and a union. He said so in a video, noting that “probably close to half make under $15 an hour.”

Delta fired him. The airline said he’d disparaged the company. Apparently Delta believes it has been disparaged if the flying public learns the truth about the way Delta treats workers.

Clearly, Delta planned to shut Hedges up and intimidate other workers. The message to his co-workers was clear: “You wanna talk about the paltry wages you get? Well, let’s talk about this pink slip.”

But when Delta messed with Hedges, it messed up big time. The firing failed to silence him. He continued to protest low wages. His co-workers rallied round him. The media covered his firing and his appeal. He looked like a low-wage worker hero. Delta looked like a vindictive heel.

Continue reading The High Cost of Fighting for $15

Steelworkers’ Gerard Rules Out GOP Presidential Hopefuls

by Mark Gruenberg, Editor, Press Associates Union News

leoRRAs far as his union is concerned, every single one of the raft of Republican presidential hopefuls for next year’s election are out of the running, Steelworkers President Leo Gerard says.  The Democrats are another matter.

“I don’t see a Republican that’s worth talking to,” Gerard told a press conference on April 13 during the Good Jobs Green Jobs meeting in D.C.  “But I’m just talking about the presidential candidates.”

Gerard and other leaders – representing unions and environmentalists in their joint Blue Green Alliance, which sponsors Good Jobs Green Jobs – called the press conference to react to Vice President Joseph Biden’s speech to the meeting minutes before (see separate story).

Gerard said the Steelworkers, who are known for their political savvy and impressive organizing around political and economic issues, will take announced presidential candidates through their normal evaluation process, he said.

Continue reading Steelworkers’ Gerard Rules Out GOP Presidential Hopefuls

Studies show, Congress Favors the Rich

by Bud Meyers, published April 17, 2015

When Hillary Clinton recently borrowed Elizabeth Warren’s talking points and claimed “the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top” (in our economic and political system) against regular working people, did she mention reforming the tax code — and then offer any solutions? The simple answer is “no”; and unless she is ever pressed by the mainstream “liberal” media, she will probably dodge this question the same way GE dodges taxes.

A new Pew Research study reports some 61 percent of Americans feel bothered “a lot” that “wealthy people don’t pay their fair tax share”. Besides just campaign finance reform, poll, after poll, after poll, after poll, after poll, after poll, shows most Americans also favor raising taxes on the very wealthy. So if Congress is supposed to represent the majority of the people in a democracy, why haven’t they raised taxes on the wealthy — or reformed campaign finance laws? It’s because members of Congress usually do the bidding of their biggest campaign contributors (the wealthy), those who would see their taxes increased. Not to mention, wealthy members of Congress (meaning most) would also see their own taxes increased.

As Jack Lessenberry at the Metro Times writes: “Most lawmakers don’t give a damn about what the voters need or want, and are only fixated on pleasing the superrich in order that they can get jobs from them when their terms are up.”

So is Congress primarily representing themselves? And is it because most Americans realize this, that’s why Congress’s approvals ratings have been at all-time lows? Probably. But even though Congress knows we know, most of our elected leaders still refuse to do what’s in the best interest of the American people and this nation — such as raising taxes on the rich to help pay for infrastructure. It’s so sad to witness this moral decay in our government leaders. But thankfully, there are some exceptions.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) sounds more like Elizabeth Warren than Hillary Clinton: “At a time when we have massive wealth and income inequality, and when corporate profits are soaring, it is an outrage that many large, profitable corporations not only paid nothing in federal income taxes last year, but actually received a rebate from the IRS. Instead of balancing the budget on the backs of the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor, as the Republicans in Congress have proposed, we need a tax system that demands that large, profitable corporations and the wealthy start paying their fair share in taxes.”

Sanders was commenting on a new report by Citizens for Tax Justice, which detailed how many of the biggest and best-known corporations in America pay little or no federal income taxes, and said the report underscores the need to close corporate tax loopholes. (Will we ever hear how Hillary Clinton stands on this issue, and what her proposals might be?)

As examples, Citizens for Tax Justice has found that:

  • Media giant Time Warner paid nothing in federal income taxes last year when it received a rebate of $26 million from the IRS, even though it made $4.3 billion in U.S. profits.
  • CBS made $1.8 billion in U.S. profits last year, but instead of paying federal income taxes, it received a rebate from the IRS of $235 million.
  • Xerox made $629 million in U.S. profits in 2014, but received a tax rebate of $16 million from the IRS.
  • Prudential Financial made $3.5 billion in U.S. profits last year, but instead of paying federal income taxes, it received a tax rebate of $106 million from the IRS.
  • The toy maker Mattel made $268 million in profits last year, but received a tax rebate of $46 million from the IRS.
  • not only paid nothing in federal income taxes last year, it received a tax rebate of $9 million, even though it made $73 million in profits last year.
  • Pacific Gas and Electric not only paid nothing in federal income taxes last year, it received a tax rebate of $84 million from the IRS, even though it made $1.8 billion last year.
  • Wireless technology maker Qualcomm made $3.2 billion in U.S. profits last year, but instead of paying federal income taxes, it received a refund from the IRS of $98 million.
  • General Electric made over $5.8 billion in profits in the U.S. last year, but paid just 0.9 percent of that amount (less than 1 percent) in federal income taxes.
  • Jetblue Airways made $615 million in U.S. profits last year, but paid just 0.4 percent of that amount (less than half of 1 percent) in federal income taxes.

So when we hear people like Stephen Moore at the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation claiming the U.S. has the highest corporate tax rate in the world, the actual “statutory” tax rate has little bearing on the actual “effective” tax rate corporations are actually obligated to pay, because of all the loopholes that members of Congress have allowed them on behalf of their campaign donors and corporate lobbyists. People such as Senator Bernie Sanders would like to change this “pay for play” in Washington (More on this further below in this post).

Continue reading Studies show, Congress Favors the Rich

Undocumented Immigrants’ State and Local Tax Contributions for 2012: $11.84 Billion

by the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP)
Released April 16, 2015

A new 50-state study, Undocumented Immigrants’ State and Local Tax Contributions, by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy finds that undocumented immigrants’ tax contributions would increase significantly under the Obama Administration’s executive actions and even more substantially under comprehensive immigration reform granting  all undocumented immigrants lawful permanent residence.

The 11.4 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States collectively paid $11.84 billion in state and local taxes in 2012.  ITEP’s analysis finds their combined nationwide state and local tax contributions would increase by $845 million under full implementation of the administration’s 2012 and 2014 executive actions and by $2.2 billion under comprehensive immigration reform.

Read the Report

Read Report as a PDF
(Includes Full Appendices of Data)

Reality Check Infographic

Immigrants Pay Infographic

The Report

lick here for interactive tool to see how much undocumented immigrants already contribute in state and local taxes and how much they will contribute post-reform

In the public debates over federal immigration reform, sufficient and accurate information about the tax contributions of undocumented immigrants is often lacking. The reality is the 11.4 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States pay billions of dollars in local, state and federal taxes, and their tax contributions would increase under immigration policy reform.1 To date, however, Congress has not passed comprehensive immigration reform legislation which would grant a pathway to lawful permanent residence for all undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States.

Continue reading Undocumented Immigrants’ State and Local Tax Contributions for 2012: $11.84 Billion

The greatest trick the rich ever pulled was making us believe they pay all the taxes

by Dylan Matthews, published April 15, 2015

Blue-collar workers pay taxes, too.

Typically when politicians fight about taxes, they fight about the income tax. That is to say, they fight about the tax that rich people hate — not the taxes poor people hate.

This leads to a really perverse dynamic, wherein the taxes the privileged pay are worthy of attention and the ones the poor pay are ignored. It paints a picture where the government is being supported on the backs of the wealthy, and the poor and middle class are free-riding. It leads to plans for various kinds of tax cuts and tax reforms that matter massively for the rich and very little for the poor.

The issue here is the ceaseless focus on the federal income tax. A report from the Joint Committee on Taxation found that most Americans (65.4 percent of filers) pay more in payroll taxes than income taxes. It’s only once you start looking at folks making over $200,000 a year that most people are paying more in income taxes.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 3.06.22 PM
Joint Committee on Taxation

The numbers here are surprising if you think about tax systems as something people only pay into, rather than get anything out of. But because so much of US social policy is structured as tax credits, a lot of people get more money back from income taxes than they put in. The JCT finds that people making under $40,000 get $81.1 billion more back from the income tax system than they put in — largely because of refundable credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit.

Continue reading The greatest trick the rich ever pulled was making us believe they pay all the taxes

Democrats Show Their True Colors: Sending a message to Shumlin (D-VT)

published April 16, 2015 in Socialist Worker

Steve Ramey and Paul Fleckenstein report from Vermont on a march against the governor’s budget cuts plans–and look at the next steps in the fight against austerity.

Vermont state workers protest Gov. Shumlin’s proposed budget cuts (VSEA)

HUNDREDS OF members of the Vermont State Employees Association (VSEA) marched on the Vermont State House along with activists and members of a dozen other unions to protest Gov. Peter Shumlin’s proposed budget cuts.

VSEA called the rally and march because its members are facing the brunt of Shumlin’s attacks, which would broadly cut services and force VSEA to reopen its contract and agree to wage cuts, under the threat of hundreds of layoffs.

The cuts are drawing harsh criticism, especially since they are combined with Shumlin’s betrayal of promises to implement universal health care and his support for banning teachers’ strikes.

“Our unions are under attack, just like in Wisconsin,” said VSEA member and rally emcee Michelle Salvador, echoing the feeling of many protesters who felt Shumlin’s campaign rhetoric was out of sync with his actual policies–which increasingly resemble those of Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

In addition to attacking state workers, Shumlin’s budget calls for cuts to programs for the state’s neediest families and individuals, while rejecting proposals for modest tax increase on the wealthiest taxpayers.

“We’ve heard the governor say over and over that he will not tax hardworking Vermonters,” said Salvador. “Excuse me, governor, but what are we? VSEA’s own revenue plan proposes to increase taxes on the wealthiest Vermonters who have seen some pretty good economic growth while ours had declined.”

Continue reading Democrats Show Their True Colors: Sending a message to Shumlin (D-VT)

Obama, Clinton: Healthcare is a Privilege, not a Right

by Eric Zuesse,  published April 15, 2015

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales has blamed U.S. President Barack Obama for the failure of the recent OAS (Organization of American States) Summit of the Americas to issue a final declaration, and he says that a major sticking point for Mr. Obama was Obama’s opposition to a provision in the proposed declaration that would have said that health care is “a human right.”

Mr. Obama insisted that it’s instead a privilege, access to which must be based primarily upon an individual’s ability-to-pay, as is the case in the United States.

Said Mr. Morales: “One point (in the drafted declaration) was important: health as a human right, and the U.S. government did not accept that health should be considered a human right … President Obama did not accept” that concept.

The 8-point draft had resulted from four months of negotiations between the participating countries prior to the Summit in Panama, which was held on April 10-11. There was such strong sentiment for declaring health care to be a right, so that this provision was included in the draft despite Obama’s opposition to it.

report from the Latin American television network Telesur (majority-owned by the Venezuelan government, which Obama unsuccessfully tried to overthrow via an aborted February 2015 coup, announced at the start of the conference, that, “The Seventh Summit of the Americas begins Friday in Panama without a final declaration because the US Government has expressed its disagreement with some of the clauses, which blocked agreement.” Furthermore, this was personally done by U.S. President Obama: “This information was confirmed by Foreign Minister of Argentina, Hector Timerman, who described the event as ‘a debate among presidents.’” That’s how personal, and top-level, the ideological disagreement here was.

On April 15th, German Economic News reported that Morales said in his speech at the conference:

“The United States has regarded Latin America and the Caribbean as their backyard, and the peoples of this region as their slaves. That is the reason for the extreme poverty in the region. I ask the United States: what we have done, to justify treating us as U.S.’s slaves? I tell you, President Obama, Latin America has changed forever. We are no longer submissive. It is no longer possible to carry out in our countries coups. We are determined to shape our own futures. We are no longer in the shadow of US imperialism. For we say what we think. And we do what we say. We urge you to respect our democracy and our sovereignty. Latin America has been kidnapped by the United States. We do not want this to continue. We do not want any longer decrees by the US President, in which we are declared as a threat to your country. [He was condemning Obama’s having declared Venezuela to be a threat to U.S. national security.] We do not want to be spied upon. We want to live in peace. We urge the United States to end the destruction of entire civilizations.”

Continue reading Obama, Clinton: Healthcare is a Privilege, not a Right

Unions Rail Against Obama Proposal to Privatize “New Deal” Success Story

by Jon Queally, published March 11, 2014, mirrored from Common Dreams (h/t to Facing South)

Created by Congress as part of FDR’s ‘New Deal’ push in the 1930’s, unions simply don’t understand why the Obama administration proposes to privatize the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Tucked away in President Obama’s 2014 budget proposal released early last week, say union critics, is a renewed proposal by the administration to destroy one of the last remaining success stories that resulted from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “New Deal” more than 80 years ago.

According to reporting by The Hill on Tuesday, Obama’s inclusion of a previously floated plan to privatize the Tennessee Valley Authority—created by FDR and Congress in 1933—have put unionized workers employed by the TVA on the “attack” against an idea they say will cost them their jobs and destroy a federal entity that has fulfilled its mission in every way.

Continue reading Unions Rail Against Obama Proposal to Privatize “New Deal” Success Story

Money can’t buy Class

by Bud Meyers, published April 14, 2015

But a lot of extra cash would sure help, especially if someone wants to be considered a part of the “upper class” of our society; but that is only when measured by one’s personal wealth and/or income (and not by their moral fortitude). A lot of us still wonder — besides just plain luck, how did so many rich people get to be soooo rich in the first place?

As in other countries around the world, most of us in the U.S. (as defined economically) probably wonder where we really exist in the class structure of our society. How well are we doing when compared to most other people? If someone doesn’t spend an adequate amount of time doing research on the internet (or going to a library), and/or reading the newspapers and news magazines — and they only catch short sound bites from the radio or from the headline news on TV — they would probably get more accurate reporting from Stephen Colbert or Jon Stewart. Otherwise, they may have a limited capacity for truly understanding where they actually exist on the wage scale ladder.

And if they only watched reality TV shows, they wouldn’t have any clue at all — and so, they should take 6 minutes out their very busy lives to watch this YouTube video (currently with over 16 million views so far).

If most people in the suburbs just look around at their neighbors, and at other people in the town they lived in, and if they perceived most people lived in three bedroom homes with attached garages, are married and have spouses that earn similar wages, they may think that, if they do too, then they also are part of the so-called “middle-class” — because most people that they know or associate with might live in similar circumstances.

But people living in urban public housing projects, as compared to those living in trailer parks in rural areas, might also have vastly different perceptions of what the “middle-class” might really be. Just as if someone were earning $28,000 a year (the national “median wage”) in a small town in the South, they most likely will be doing a lot better economically than someone else earning $28,000 in New York City — just because of the local cost-of-living.

Continue reading Money can’t buy Class

One Company’s New Minimum Wage: $70,000 a Year

by Patricia Cohen, published April 13, 2015 (h/t to Neatorama)

Dan Price, C.E.O. of Gravity Payments, announcing the new base salary. “Is anyone else freaking out right now?” he said. “I’m kind of freaking out.” Credit Matthew Ryan Williams for The New York Times

The idea began percolating, said Dan Price, the founder of Gravity Payments, after he read an article on happiness. It showed that, for people who earn less than about $70,000, extra money makes a big difference in their lives.

His idea bubbled into reality on Monday afternoon, when Mr. Price surprised his 120-person staff by announcing that he planned over the next three years to raise the salary of even the lowest-paid clerk, customer service representative and salesman to a minimum of $70,000.

“Is anyone else freaking out right now?” Mr. Price asked after the clapping and whooping died down into a few moments of stunned silence. “I’m kind of freaking out.”

Movement to Increase McDonald’s Minimum Wage Broadens Its TacticsMARCH 30, 2015
If it’s a publicity stunt, it’s a costly one. Mr. Price, who started the Seattle-based credit-card payment processing firm in 2004 at the age of 19, said he would pay for the wage increases by cutting his own salary from nearly $1 million to $70,000 and using 75 to 80 percent of the company’s anticipated $2.2 million in profit this year.

Employees reacting to the news. The average salary at Gravity Payments had been $48,000 year. Credit Matthew Ryan Williams for The New York Times

The paychecks of about 70 employees will grow, with 30 ultimately doubling their salaries, according to Ryan Pirkle, a company spokesman. The average salary at Gravity is $48,000 year.

Continue reading One Company’s New Minimum Wage: $70,000 a Year