Dorothy was a longtime activist with the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and the Oklahoma State AFL-CIO. In the summer of 2012, she lost her only son and found that her home, which she bought for her retirement, was in serious need of repair. That’s when her church, Journey Church, in Norman, Okla., and the state federation stepped in and did what they could to change her life.
Letter carrier and union member Tom Sapienza was making his rounds Saturday when he came upon a burning building. Without hesitation, he and several others entered the building to look for trapped residents. No one was seriously injured in the blaze. Afterward, Sapienza went back to doing his job:
Tom, a member of the National Association of Letter Carriers, risked his own life to run into a burning building to look for residents. Not many people would think of the mailman as the first person to run into a burning building, but that is exactly what Tom did. Then when it was over he went right back to doing what he does every day, delivering the mail.
“Sapienza, after being treated, returned to his postal truck, saying he wasn’t allowed to talk to reporters but wasn’t planning on going right home.
“‘I have to get back on my route,’ Sapienza said.”
After risking his own life, he delivered all of the mail in his truck, albeit with a little delay.
Current laws in the United States allow corporations to use offshore havens to avoid paying their taxes and, if it’s up to many in Washington, the problem will only grow larger, particularly if the so-called “territorial” tax system is passed. The details of the use of such tax havens were discussed in a conference call with Campaign for America’s Future (CAF), Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) and Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ).
Current tax laws encourage the offshoring of America’s jobs, manufacturing and profit centers, which has led to the hollowing out of the middle class, manufacturing and much of the country, according to Dave Johnson of CAF. Changes in the tax code in recent decades have led to a series of dangerous statistics for America’s working families:
Corporate tax revenues as a share of GDP are at near historically low levels.
In 2009, the U.S. share of GDP made up of corporate tax revenues was only 1.7%.
The top corporate tax rate in 1970 was 52.8%, now it is 35% (although the effective rate is much lower).
The United States has the third-lowest effective corporate tax burden in the world.
Corporate taxation as a share of total tax revenue was 26.4% in 1950 and was down to 7.4% in 2010.
Personal income, Social Security and Medicare taxes were 51.4% of total tax revenue in 1950, now they are up to 83.4%.
Congress is now proposing lowering corporate taxes even more and even, possibly, eliminating taxes on earnings reported as having been earned outside the country.
ATF has been working to highlight the massive corporate tax loopholes big corporations exploit, says the organization’s campaign manager, Frank Clemente. Those loopholes allow some corporations, such as General Electric—who had an effective corporate tax rate of 12% in 2011—to pay less in taxes than individuals. There are currently $1.6 trillion in corporate revenues waiting offshore. The corporations who own those revenues want Congress to pass a new tax holiday (previous holidays taxed those profits at only 5%, instead of the standard corporate tax rate) or a territorial tax system, wherein U.S. corporations would pay no taxes on foreign profits. Clemente says that would create an incentive for corporations to ship more and more revenues overseas, as well as shipping manufacturing, patents and jobs to countries with no corporate taxes.
CTJ works to give ordinary people a greater voice in the development of tax laws. It focuses on exposing corporations that pay little or no taxes. CTJ argued that the tax code needs to be reformed, but in a way that ends incentives to shift profits and jobs offshore. Currently, corporations have heavy incentives to disguise U.S. profits as offshore profits to avoid paying taxes.
An example of this problem is a report from the Congressional Research Service that found in 2008 that American multinational corporations reported earning 43% of their $940 billion in foreign profits in five tiny tax-haven countries that house only 4% of their foreign workforce and 7% of their foreign investments.
The three organizations say they have three basic policies they favor to deal with tax havens and the offshoring of America’s profits and jobs.
Rejecting revenue-neutral tax plans that close loopholes and lower statutory tax rates. Instead they favor revenue-positive tax proposals that would increase government revenue.
Closing tax loopholes that encourage the offshoring of profits, and making sure foreign profits for U.S. corporations are taxed at the same rate as domestic profits. One example of legislation that would accomplish this is a bill by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt,), the Corporate Tax Fairness Act, that would require corporations to pay the same tax rate on domestic or foreign profits and would raise $590 billion over 10 years.
Rejecting the territorial tax system, which they call “tax havens on steroids.”
A new report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) shows that two Missouri paycheck deception bills are not necessary to protect workers and they would limit the free speech and political spending of unions and organized workers, while allowing unlimited corporate spending on political causes.
Both federal and state laws already protect the political rights of private- and public-sector employees who join or are represented by unions. Paycheck deception supporters say their new bills are necessary to stop workers from being forced to pay to support a political cause they oppose, but current law already does that. S.B. 29 and H.B. 64, the bills in question, are not designed to enhance individual rights but instead make it harder for employees to authorize payroll deductions for union use—even if the uses are not political. And, the bills are designed to foster conflicts between workers and unions. Not surprisingly, the bills, supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Federation of Independent Business and the American Legislative Exchange Council, would do nothing to change the current legal prerogatives of corporations and their lobbyists to freely spend on politics without complying with any particular process whatsoever.
From the EPI report:
“These ‘paycheck protection’ proposals reflect corporate lobbies’ unabashed attempts to enact a broad corporate economic agenda by crippling the ability of workers to participate in the political process,” said Gordon Lafer of the EPI. “Because the labor movement is the only vehicle through which millions of working Americans collectively pool sufficient resources—in the form of both financial contributions and organized volunteer efforts—to serve as an effective political counterweight to this agenda, eliminating union political activity promises to leave the corporate lobbies with an increasingly free hand to shape economic policy at the expense of workers.”
While most attention in the Boston tragedy is rightfully focused on the victims of last Monday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon, the damage done by the terrorist attacks didn’t end with the explosions or the subsequent shootout that led to additional deaths. Much of the city shut down during the manhunt for the terror suspects; and while most salaried employees could take the day off without losing pay, low-wage workers did not have that luxury. Other workers were forced to work long hours or brave dangerous conditions to get their jobs done.
Salon took a look at the various ways that the bombings affected workers in Boston, including a fear that many businesses will not compensate low-wage workers for the time off the city’s shutdown required:
“Most low wage workers can’t afford to lose a day’s pay, and there’s no doubt this lockdown will adversely impact the city’s working poor,” said Jessica Kutch, a labor activist who co-founded the organizing site coworker.org, in an email to Salon. “I’d really like to see employers state on the record that their hourly workers will be paid for the time they were scheduled to work today—but I suspect that most employers will place the burden of this shutdown squarely on the backs of people who can least afford it.”
Salon also reported that some businesses are requiring workers to use vacation time, although some relented in the face of internal pushback.
First responders, of course, have been working extended hours, with police and medical personnel working much longer than normal days:
Steven Tolman, the president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, told Salon, “They’re doing God’s work,” he said. “They’re exhausted, they’ve been working constantly. The heroism of the people who were there and saw things that they never thought they’d see in their life is just incredible.”
“It’s justification why public employees are entitled to a decent pension and the best health care because they put so much on the line in a time of need,” he said.
Workers in some industries have been necessary for supporting law enforcement engaged in the hunt for the suspects or stranded tourists while transportation has been limited:
Brian Lang, the president of UNITE HERE Local 26, told Salon that many of the hotel workers he represents have been working double shifts with little time off, as many of the guests have been unable to leave the city. Police from out of town have completely occupied some hotels, while authorities set up a command center at the Westin downtown, just blocks from the bombing.
“Those hotels were full of people all week, so our members in there were like the second responders,” Lang said. “There were the first responders who aided the people who were directly affected by the bombings, but many of the folks who were affected were from out of town and they were staying at these hotels. They were exhausted, they were traumatized, and it was the hotel workers who comforted them, fed them, who made sure they had clean, safe rooms to say in.”
Despite testimony overwhelmingly opposing the bill and universal opposition from the committee’s Democrats, the Missouri legislature’s House Workforce Development and Workplace Safety Committee passed S.B. 29, a paycheck deception bill, which is now headed to the House floor. Missouri working families went door to door last week to tell their neighbors about the problems with the bill, held numerous public rallies in opposition and flooded the Capitol with thousands of emails, letters and phone calls telling legislators to oppose the bill, which shut state workers out of the political conversation in Missouri.
We Are Missouri reports:
‘This bill is all politics,’ said Mike Louis, Missouri AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer. ‘Not one Missouri worker has testified in favor of S.B. 29, and that’s because this bill has nothing to do with helping working people. Public workers in this state have faced an uphill fight for collective bargaining rights and are 50th in the nation in pay. It is shameful that instead of correcting the very real problems faced by the workers who care for our veterans, teach and protect children at risk from abuse and neglect, and serve so many other critical roles—politicians chose to again reward special interests on the backs of our everyday heroes.’
Out-of-state interests have pushed hard for the bill to pass, which doesn’t sit right with autoworker Stan Stevenson:
We vote for legislators and expect them to work for us, not CEOs and special interest groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council and Americans for Prosperity. I know they can do better—yesterday, the House voted to pass a Bring Jobs Home bill that would reward companies for bringing good jobs back to Missouri. S.B. 29 does the opposite—it is payback for the same corporations that have been shipping our jobs overseas and dodging their taxes.
We Are Missouri is asking state residents to call their state representatives and tell them to reject the paycheck deception bill at 1-888-907-9711.
This weekend, Missouri working families went door to door to tell their friends and neighbors about a series of anti-worker bills Republicans are pushing in the state legislature. Across the state, Missourians described the right-wing push that is advancing paycheck deception, anti-prevailing wage and “right to work” for less bills.
“I’ve been knocking doors to hold my state senator accountable for siding with special interests and extremists over working people. Voters at home need to hear what’s really going on in Jefferson City,” said Bradley Harmon at Saturday’s canvass in Springfield. “It is time our elected officials start working for the voters, not special interests.”
A rally also was held in St. Charles on Monday. Attendee Laura Kelley said:
The response at the door has been overwhelmingly positive. A lot of voters don’t know what’s going on in Jefferson City, but when they hear what working people are facing and how wages will fall if these bills are passed, people are very concerned. Politicians should realize that constituents are paying attention.
Working people in Colorado have the shakes—actually, the Harlem Shake. The Colorado AFL-CIO created a “Harlem Shake” video in support of House Bill 1292, the “Keep Jobs in Colorado Act,” which is being heard Monday in the State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee. The bill is sponsored by Democrats Pete Lee (Colorado Springs) and Dan Pabon (Denver).
“The ‘Keep Jobs in Colorado Act’ creates opportunities for working families across the state,” said Mike Cerbo, executive director of the Colorado AFL-CIO. “Encouraging state bid preferences, limiting outsourcing and simplifying the 80 percent hiring rule enforcement will only serve to strengthen our state economy and keep jobs growing.”
The song “Harlem Shake,” by Baauer, is a popular online meme and is the subject of numerous videos.
A new study from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) shows states that cut tax rates do worse in terms of economic growth than other states. Numerous Republican governors have pushed for tax cuts under the premise that lower tax rates lead to greater economic growth, but the CBPP study concludes that this premise is wrong.
The five states that implemented deep tax cuts during the 1990s experienced slower job growth over the next economic cycle than states that did not, and none of those states experienced income growth that exceeded inflation, CBPP found.
The five states that cut taxes the most in the mid- and late-1990s saw job growth of less than 0.3% from 2000-2007, while the remaining states averaged 1.0% growth. Similarly, the states with the biggest tax cuts saw slower income growth than the other states, on average.
At least seven Republican-led states are currently pursuing massive tax cuts.
After a conditional veto of an increase in New Jersey’s minimum wage by Gov. Chris Christie (R), working families, the New Jersey State AFL-CIO and a coalition of 151 organizations are pushing for measure that would raise the state’s wage to $8.25 per hour and attach a cost-of-living adjustment to the wage for the future. Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D) also joined the “Raise the Wage” campaign. In November, voters will be able to decide on the ballot whether or not to increase the minimum wage.
“New Jersey’s growing poverty statistics are startling, and raising the minimum wage would be a strong first step toward addressing this problem,” says New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech. “The New Jersey State AFL-CIO and coalition partners consider raising the minimum wage and including a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to be a top priority for low-income workers in this difficult economic climate.”