As the New Year Approaches, Working America Members Resolve to Make their Voices Heard

With Congress continuing to struggle in federal budget negotiations – the notorious “fiscal cliff” with its automatic cuts to federal spending along with an end to all the Bush era income tax cuts – Working American members have more than their personal New Year’s resolutions on their minds. Throughout the last several weeks of the “lame duck” session in Congress, as they have been paying close attention to developments taking place on Capitol Hill, they have been moving forward with a campaign to make their strength in numbers felt in the debate.

Here in southwest Ohio, the target of their efforts has been Senator Sherrod Brown. They want him to clearly understand what members are demanding: an end to Bush era tax cuts for the richest 2%, along with no cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Members have been writing letters as part of a campaign to gather hundreds of hand-written messages to the Senator from throughout the state. First of all, there was a desire to thank the Senator for being a reliable and long-time advocate for working families. Now, middle class Ohioans are asking him to be a champion for us on the issues that we all care about. In doing so, many in the greater Cincinnati area have also told their personal stories of how they or loved ones depend on these essential programs for their livelihoods, and even their very lives.

One such member is Julia Rothwell. A single mother with a full-time job, a new small business, and a daughter soon heading off to college, she worries about the future of Social Security:

“I will be hopefully retiring in about 25 years, and wonder whether I will have the Social Security benefits that I have been contributing to for the last 25 years. Please make sure to protect what I have worked for, and many Americans have worked for, so we may have peace of mind when we grow old.”

Karen Dollinger is another. A visiting assistant professor from Oxford in southwest Ohio, she holds these concerns for her parents, who also reside in the state:

“My parents are in their 60s, and my mother, who is a cancer survivor, and my father, who has Parkinson’s Disease, are on Medicare. Should my father need to go to a nursing home, my parents would need Medicaid to pay for it. They are not wealthy, and need a fair amount of medical care. If Medicare and Medicaid are cut, I worry about their survival, as they are already struggling to pay bills. I am certain that many other Americans find themselves in the same situation.”

And finally, there is Tammy Friedman.  A nurse by training, she is currently a stay at home mom, and has a young son with special needs.  In her letter to the Senator, she discusses the importance of preserving programs and institutions that are vital to the well-being of the “98%” and crucial to affording opportunity to people like her:

“We need to end the Bush tax cuts for the disproportionately richest Americans and restore them to the levels they were previously.  This only makes sense and helps the nation as a whole.  The burden of taxes on the middle class is already oppressive enough, and restoring the previous tax percentage on the 1-2% of wealthiest Americans would not burden or oppress anybody.”

Tammy gives voice to a view held by so many.  What she recognizes – along with Julia, Karen, and millions of Working America members across the country – is that when they raise their voices together, they are more powerful.  This strength can have a significant impact on what is taking place in Congress right now and into the New Year.  You can raise your voice as well!  Make contacting your members of Congress about these important issues your resolution.  You can take action here.

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A Storm in Any Port: Clocking Out

“If they don’t want deficit reduction enough to propose deficit-reduction policies, then they should just shut up about deficit reduction.”

Republicans are looking to raise taxes on more people than Obama and Congressional Democrats.

Chained CPI is not some “technical fix.” It’s just another way to do a benefit cut.

Mitch McConnell says extended unemployment insurance has to be offset. Funny he doesn’t say that about tax cuts for the wealthy.

The fiscal standoff in cartoon form.

Aloha to Brian Schatz, the newest U.S. Senator.

N.Y. state Attorney General announces a $2.25 million fine for two companies that engaged in wage theft.

How dark money helped Republicans hold the U.S. House.

A consequential year: 2012 in health care policy.

The filibuster is too easy and too commonplace today.

Employee turnover has high costs for businesses.

As management tries to remove a long-standing contract provision, a major strike looms at ports across the east coast.

Hold the Whipped Cream and the Political Messaging: Punching In

Congressional leaders and the President come back to DC but a fiscal deal still seems unlikely.

Starbucks makes its employees wade into the fiscal fight on the side of austerity. (Pro tip: Tell your server that your name is “Nocutstosocialsecurity.”)

These issues are way too complicated to be hashed out on the side of a coffee cup.

What about the payroll tax cut?

Around the world, they call it the “abismo fiscal” or the “belastingkloof.”

The misguided economic theories that hurt us in 2012.

McDonalds’ CEO makes $8.75 million as his employees are getting about $8 an hour.

Happy Holidays!

From us to you, a very happy holiday season. We wish you and your family health, safety and happiness. Thanks from everybody here at Working America for your support this year.

Photo by Flickr user Arripay. Via Creative Commons.

What Working America Members Want for Christmas

Here’s a holiday wish list that represents what working people want this holiday season:

  • Medicare and Social Security to be protected for Santa
  • Medicaid and Education to be protected for Tiny Tim
  • A good job to be available for Bob Cratchit
  • And NO MORE Bush Tax Cuts for Scrooge!

Working America Pittsburgh members delivered that message loud and clear to Sen. Bob Casey this week. With negotiations underway in Washington, we’re in the final stretch now. What better gift for our seniors is there than protecting their retirement security? What better gift is there for our children than protecting their health and educations? And what better gift is there for working people than protecting decent jobs that help the community?

Three Working America Pittsburgh members presented their personal stories about why they value and need Social Security, education, and other essential programs and services that are on the chopping block. Another member, Lisa Caffo—who participated in yesterday’s event along with her daughter—wrote about what some of these programs mean to her from a health and workers’ rights standpoint:

I wanted to share what cuts to Medicare and Medicaid could do within a nursing home.

The staff who took care of my mother while she was in a nursing home were excellent, but from working in nursing homes for 36 years, I know that nursing assistants receive little pay for their demanding and invaluable work. Nursing assistants care for 8 to 15 people per shift, feeding them, bathing them, walking them, repositioning them, toileting them, and helping them with daily activities they cannot do alone. Nursing assistants also are often the only people who are consistently in the lives of patients in nursing homes. A nursing assistant will become like family to his or her patients. I’ve seen patients withdraw, complain, or flat-out holler if they’re separated from the aide they’ve grown to know and love.

But if nursing homes have to slash already-low wages because of reduced funding for Medicare or Medicaid, caretakers may find such physically and mentally demanding work that offers little pay to be an unsustainable way to live. And so some caretakers may end up leaving the field.

Nursing assistants can’t afford lower wages. And patients shouldn’t have to suffer through emotional and health-related fall-out from high staff turn-over.

Fortunately, we can prevent such problems. We can protect programs like Medicare and Medicaid in a fiscally responsible way by allowing the Bush Tax Cuts to expire on the highest-earning 2% of Americans.

The Deal Is Off: Clocking Out

AFL-CIO to Obama: Boehner’s not negotiating with you in good faith, so it’s time to withdraw your offer.

We need serious public pressure to prevent Social Security benefit cuts.

The whimsical, ever-shifting rules of the House Republican caucus.

Boehner’s “Plan B” bill guts Wall Street reform.

The other tax provisions expiring at the end of the year.

Choose Your Own Fiscal Adventure: the interactive budget gadget you’ve been waiting for.

Washington Post columnist George Will wrote a truly stupid, dishonest column on voting rights–watch it get dismembered here.

“We’re doing it for other generations, too”: The great Walmart walkout and what it means.

Pennsylvania Republicans still pushing to try and rig the electoral college.

Finally: the Capitol paid its respects today to the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, a decorated veteran of World War II, who represented Hawaii for 50 years.

If You’re Reading This, Boehner’s “Plan B” is Very Bad for You

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As a member of the Americans for Tax Fairness Coalition, and as an organization that fights for a working family agenda, we want to be crystal clear about Speaker Boehner’s proposed “Plan B.”

It’s bad. But let’s expand on that.

It’s bad for all workers who need jobs, families that are trying to pay for college, parents who are living paycheck to paycheck to raise children, and low-income Americans who already dangling off the cliff of poverty.

But it is good for some people, and you won’t be surprised who they are: the top 2% of wage-earners who have enjoyed tax breaks they don’t need, families with enormous estates who want to avoid inheritance taxes, and Tea Party conservatives who blindly oppose taxes, regardless of their country’s needs.

“Working families – including our 500,000 members in Pennsylvania –want Speaker Boehner to ask the richest 2 percent of Americans to pay their fair share of taxes. Boehner’s proposal does not raise taxes on the richest 2 percent, does not raise enough revenue to reduce the deficit and rebuild the economy, and it would raise taxes by an average of $1,000 on 25 million working families with children and students,” said Kim McMurray, Pennsylvania State Director of Working America.

Here is what Boehner’s Plan B would do and would not do:

  • Raise taxes on the richest three tenths of one percent (0.3%), rather than raise taxes on the richest 2 percent – the latter is what the American people voted for in the last election and support by overwhelming numbers in public opinion polls.
  • Raise $1 trillion less from wealthy Americans than Obama’s last tax plan offer. This additional revenue is essential to prevent a gutting of critical programs that benefit working families and to make new investments to rebuild the economy. Boehner’s plan would raise $300 billion, according to White House estimates, whereas Obama’s last offer was to raise $1.3 trillion from the richest 2 percent.
  • Raise taxes on 25 million low- and middle-income Americans by an average of $1,000 each. According to White House estimates, Plan B does this by ending improvements made in tax credits and incentives passed in 2010 to the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which helps pay for college; the Child Tax Credit, which helps working families offset the costs of raising children; and the Earned Income Tax Credit, which encourages low-income working families.
  • Continue an estate tax giveaway that loses $120 billion over 10 years, compared with the Obama plan, and affects just 2 out of every 1,000 estates. Obama’s estate tax plan would affect just 3 out of every 1,000 estates.

Use our call tool or text NOCUTS to 30644.

Working America Members Say It Loud and Clear: No Bad Deals

As negotiations in Washington continue over tax rates and spending levels, Working America members aren’t sitting out. In the past few days, our members have written and called their legislators and held events around the country to tell their Senators and members of Congress to oppose bad deals and look out for working people.

Yesterday, two groups of Working America members visited the offices of Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Kay Hagan of North Carolina to make their voices heard. A protest was also held Tuesday in Washington.

There are two principles these members say are critical to any deal:

  • The end of the Bush tax cuts on income over $250,000, which would
    only affect the top 2 percent
  • No cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits

That we’re even talking about cuts to Social Security or Medicare is silly, since the actual problem the negotiations should be solving is the expiration of current tax rates and credits for middle-class families, the expiration of extended unemployment benefits and a set of spending cuts that resulted from the (manufactured) 2011 debt-ceiling crisis.

In Pittsburgh, members presented Casey’s staff with a Christmas wish list, asking that Casey be a leader in protecting benefits.

Florence Price-Harrell, a Working America member from North Carolina, spoke about the importance of fighting against benefit cuts at an event outside of Sen. Hagan’s office:

If Medicare was cut, it would be devastating to many seniors. They would have to pay out-of pocket for doctor’s visit and medications, which would be catastrophic. Many seniors would have to decide between getting gas and food or their medication…If anything, we should expand Medicare rather than discuss cutting it.

Want to tell your members of Congress how you feel? Click here.

We’ll be watching closely to see where legislators stand—whether they call for cuts and carry out stunts like Speaker Boehner’s “Plan B,” or whether they get serious about listening to their constituents.

Dear David: A Moldy Situation

I work in a laboratory, and the working conditions are deplorable. The roof leaks when it rains. Water falls on my head while I’m working, and there is discernible mold throughout the building. We have contacted OSHA, and they have decided there is active hazardous mold in the building. I keep being told the laboratory is taking bids on a new roof. There is a lawsuit from other buildings in this organization for this same problem. It seems that my coworkers are reluctant to file a grievance about this issue, fearing retaliation in this terrible economy. I am in my fifties and have only had this job for about a year. What is your advice?

— Marsha, Kentucky


Sounds like your employer is all wet! Since your boss seems to have trouble understanding your situation, how about staging a little theater of the absurd? Show a united front by all dressing alike the next time it rains—try bright yellow rain slickers, and add galoshes and umbrellas for the full effect.

Good news: You have rights, and you probably don’t need to resort to dramatic effects—particularly when it comes to protecting your health, but also when it comes to expressing concerns about workplace safety.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) is your best resource for help in getting the conditions you describe corrected.  OSHA enforces both the general duty of employers to maintain a safe workplace and specific standards relating to certain industries or conditions. Mold is a hazard for which OSHA has a specific standard.

OSHA also enforces whistleblower protections for employees who complain to their employer, to OSHA, or to other governmental agencies about unsafe working conditions. Since you have already made initial contact with OSHA, you should now continue to press them and let them know that your employer is not following through promptly on its promise to build a new roof.  And don’t worry: OSHA allows for confidential reporting of unsafe conditions.

Got a workplace question for David? Submit it here.

And I Feel Fine: Punching In

Tomorrow is December 21, 2012 – the end of the world as we know it? Here’s your top news to go with your coffee:

5 signs 2013 might be a great year for labor organizing.

The AFL-CIO is all out against Social Security cuts.

Related: the Congressional Progressive Caucus rebels against chained CPI.

Worker victory: Fracking test workers getting $187,000 in back pay after being denied overtime.

Chained CPI doesn’t only harm seniors. Kids and low-income workers get a raw deal too.

Related: Robert Reich smart take on why we shouldn’t accept chained CPI.

Ohio Gov. Kasich has “got plans” for the 2013, but will they help Ohio workers?

Related: Kasich refuses to say that Ohio Republicans won’t put anti-worker issues on the 2013 ballot.

“We’re fired up!” An interview with Michigan Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer.

Related: Gretchen Whitmer is a name you should know – watch:

Finally: Give the gift of a stronger, fairer economy.