Mark Begich Is the Right Choice for Alaska’s Working Families

In the U.S. Senate race in Alaska, there is a stark contrast between Sen. Mark Begich and Dan Sullivan. Which candidate is better for working families? Take a look at this handy chart from Working America and you’ll see it’s Begich.

1. Begich wants to continue growing the Alaska economy and create more good jobs by investing in infrastructure. Begich said, “My top priority is growing Alaska’s economy by creating good jobs right now for Alaskans and investing in critical infrastructure such as roads, bridges, ports and harbors to help create jobs. I secured more than $1 billion to build and fix Alaska’s infrastructure, to create new jobs and expand our economy.”

2. He voted to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. [S. 2223, Vote 117, 4/30/14]

3. He also voted for the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill to ensure that working women receive equal pay for equal work. [S. 2199, Vote 103, 4/9/14]

4. He has consistently defended the rights of working families and earned a lifetime AFL-CIO voting record of 98% from his tenure in Congress.

5. He has worked to bring jobs back home from overseas and to penalize businesses that outsource America’s jobs. [S. 3816, Vote 242, 9/23/10]

6. While many in Congress have called for cuts to programs like Social Security, Begich supports increasing benefits. “When you tell seniors, ‘We want to make sure your dollars rise as your costs do,’ there is automatic excitement because they recognize we understand what they’re going through….Are we for or against helping seniors have a dignified life in their later years? I’m for that.” [The Washington Post, 3/24/14]

7. As a member of both the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee, he has pushed for increased funding for the Veterans Affairs (VA) and for innovative programs to provide better access to care and to attract more qualified individuals to work in VA health facilities across the nation. “There are few more important responsibilities we have as a nation than to give proper care to those who have sacrificed so much for us. Since day one in the Senate, I have been fighting to make sure Alaska’s veterans—especially those off the road system in rural villages—receive adequate health care. We have made incredible progress. But we are not done and we cannot ignore the devastating and unacceptable situation happening at VA centers in the rest of the country. Alaska’s first‐in‐the‐nation system is working and it should serve as a model for the rest of the country.” [Alaska Business Monthly, 5/29/14]

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Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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As Governor, Union Member Mark Schauer Will Stand Up for Michigan Working Families

Phorto from www.markschauer.com

It’s an election year, and we are quickly approaching the time when working families will have the opportunity to go to the polls and vote for candidates who support policies that protect or expand our rights, raise wages and work for an economy that benefits everyone, not just the wealthy few. We’re going to focus our spotlight on some of the key candidates who care about working families, and one of those candidates is Mark Schauer, who is running for governor in Michigan.

Mark Schauer, a member of Laborers (LIUNA) Local 3555, has never forgotten his working-class roots. The son of a teacher and a nurse, Schauer paid for his college education with a paper route, by flipping burgers and pumping gas. When Schauer was in Congress, he was fierce champion for working people. He stood by workers by:

  • Saving auto jobs: Protecting Michigan’s heritage and jobs by fighting for the auto industry rescue.
  • Supporting the Make It in America law: Creating tough, new Buy American laws to invest in Michigan workers. [H.R. 4213, Vote 424, 5/28/10]
  • Demanding tax breaks for working families: Cutting taxes for middle- and lower-income families, expanding child care, college and home buying tax credits. [H.R. 1, Vote 70, 2/13/09]  

That’s just some of what Schauer did for working families in Congress. Here are his priorities as governor for every family in Michigan, not just a handful at the top.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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11 Reasons Why Mitch McConnell Is One of the Worst Candidates for Working Families in the 2014 Elections

It’s an election year and we are quickly approaching the time when working families will have the opportunity to go to the polls and vote against a whole host of extreme candidates who support policies that limit rights, make it even harder to afford a middle-class life and pad the pockets of their corporate buddies. One of the “Worst Candidates for Working Families in the 2014 Elections” is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

1. He opposes wage increases, prevailing wage laws and black lung benefits. He also refuses to support legislation to secure pensions for mine workers and retirees. [Courier-Journal, 8/27/14; The Nation, 6/20/14; The Associated Press, 7/3/14; S. 468, introduced 3/6/13]

2. McConnell has voted against laws that would help stop outsourcing and has even voted for tax breaks that reward corporations for exporting America’s jobs overseas. [Senate Vote 181, 7/19/12; CNN, 7/19/12; The Wall Street Journal, 9/26/10; Senate Vote 63, 3/17/05; The Washington Post, 3/20/05]

3. He said that the government should cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid—programs the working class depend on. [The Wall Street Journal, 1/6/13]

4. McConnell is out of touch with Kentucky’s working families, who are seeing their incomes fall behind the cost of living. He’s worth more than $27 million but blocked and voted against legislation to raise the minimum wage. [The Washington Post, 4/30/14; Washington Post candidate wealth profile, 2010; S. 2223, Vote 117, 4/30/14]

5. He supported massive tax breaks for the wealthy while voting against funding to keep teachers in the classroom. He sponsored legislation to permanently reduce the estate tax for the wealthy and extend the Bush‐era tax breaks for the richest Americans and opposed legislation that would give aid to states facing financial trouble to keep teachers in the classroom. [The Washington Post, 9/13/10; Chicago Sun-Times, Editorial, 2/5/10; H.R. 1586, Vote 224, 8/4/10]

6. Instead of helping jobless workers get back on their feet, McConnell blocked legislation extending unemployment insurance benefits. [Politico, 2/6/14]

7. While 40 million Americans are being crushed by student loan debt, he blocked the “Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act” that would have enabled millions of Americans with expensive student loans to refinance into more manageable payments. [S. 2432, Vote 185, 6/11/14; The Huffington Post, 6/11/14]

8. McConnell has consistently voted against laws that would make it easier for Kentucky workers to get good pay, decent benefits and real job security. [Lexington Herald-Leader, 6/21/07; Senate Vote 227, 6/27/07; Senate Vote 243, 12/28/12; Congressional Record, 12/28/12; CQ, 12/28/12]

9. McConnell blocked and voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act, a Democratic bill aimed at narrowing the pay gap between men and women. [Politico, 4/9/14; S. 2199, Vote 103, 4/9/14]

10. Many Americans believe that Washington is broken and too many politicians are playing political games instead of coming together to solve problems for working people. McConnell called himself a “Proud Guardian of Gridlock.” [Political Transcript Wire, 2/2/06]

11. According to the Washington Post, “Mitch McConnell raised the art of obstructionism to new levels. When McConnell and his united GOP troops couldn’t stop things from getting through the Senate, they made sure the Democrats paid a heavy price for winning.” [The Washington Post, 1/30/11]

Text MYVOTE to 30644 for important updates on the election. 

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Bruce Rauner: of, by and for Illinois’ Richest 1%

It’s an election year and we are quickly approaching the time when working families will have the opportunity to go to the polls and vote against a whole host of extreme candidates who support policies that limit rights, make it even harder to afford a middle-class life and pad the pockets of their corporate buddies. Candidates like Bruce Rauner in Illinois.

Bruce Rauner has made it clear he wants to be governor for the richest 1% of people in Illinois. Rauner has made millions outsourcing America’s jobs and firing workers. He denied workers’ benefits while profiting off pensions. Here are the details.

  1. Outsourced American Jobs: Rauner co-founded a company that outsources America’s jobs and assists corporations with dismantling operations in the United States [Polymer Group, S-4A, 9/3/97, SEC filing 424B4, 5/10/96; Chicago magazine, 6/3/11; VeneFone Holdings, SEC 424B4, 9/20/05; H-Cube press releases, 4/4/06; AP, 6/6/14]
  2. Supports Stripping Collective Bargaining: Rauner believes union contracts are “corrupt” and wants to end collective bargaining for public employees. [Chicago Tribune, 11/1/12]
  3. Cutting Pensions and Jobs: Rauner wants to shut down the state government to cause massive layoffs of public employees. He is also on the record saying recent cuts to pensions for teachers and public employees didn’t “go far enough.” [International Business Times, 8/14/14; WJBC, 12/6/13.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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7 Reasons Mark Begich Is a Candidate Who Cares About Working Families

Photo courtesy Bernard Pollack on Flickr

It’s an election year, and we are quickly approaching the time when working families will have the opportunity to go to the polls and vote for candidates who support policies that protect or expand our rights, raise wages and work for an economy that benefits everyone, not just the wealthy few. We’re going to focus our spotlight on some of the key candidates who care about working families, and one of those candidates is Mark Begich, who is running for U.S. Senate in Alaska.

1. Begich wants to continue growing the Alaska economy and create more good jobs by investing in infrastructure. Begich said, “My top priority is growing Alaska’s economy by creating good jobs right now for Alaskans and investing in critical infrastructure such as roads, bridges, ports and harbors to help create jobs. I secured more than $1 billion to build and fix Alaska’s infrastructure, to create new jobs and expand our economy.”

2. He voted to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. [S. 2223, Vote 117, 4/30/14]

3. He also voted for the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill to ensure that working women receive equal pay for equal work. [S. 2199, Vote 103, 4/9/14]

4. He has consistently defended the rights of working families and earned a lifetime AFL-CIO voting record of 98% from his tenure in Congress.

5. He has worked to bring jobs back home from overseas and to penalize businesses that outsource America’s jobs. [S. 3816, Vote 242, 9/23/10]

6. While many in Congress have called for cuts to programs like Social Security, Begich supports increasing benefits. “When you tell seniors, ‘We want to make sure your dollars rise as your costs do,’ there is automatic excitement because they recognize we understand what they’re going through….Are we for or against helping seniors have a dignified life in their later years? I’m for that.” [The Washington Post, 3/24/14]

7. As a member of both the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee, he has pushed for increased funding for the Veterans Affairs (VA) and for innovative programs to provide better access to care and to attract more qualified individuals to work in VA health facilities across the nation. “There are few more important responsibilities we have as a nation than to give proper care to those who have sacrificed so much for us. Since day one in the Senate, I have been fighting to make sure Alaska’s veterans—especially those off the road system in rural villages—receive adequate health care. We have made incredible progress. But we are not done and we cannot ignore the devastating and unacceptable situation happening at VA centers in the rest of the country. Alaska’s first‐in‐the‐nation system is working and it should serve as a model for the rest of the country.” [Alaska Business Monthly, 5/29/14]

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Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Musicians Satirize Lionsgate’s Offshoring Practices in ‘Right Here at the Top’

Musicians Satirize Lionsgate's Offshoring Practices in 'Right Here at the Top'

Members of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) wrote a song satirizing the film company Lions Gate Entertainment (Lionsgate) for placing profits ahead of people by outsourcing jobs in the production of its movies. AFM is calling on Lionsgate to stop offshoring musicians’ jobs and live up to the standards maintained by other movie companies.

The song says: “We’re outsourcing workers, we don’t want to stop. We’re concentrating profits right here at the top!” CEO Jon Feltheimer is being paid $66.3 million in total compensation in 2014, 400% more than he was paid in 2013. The company has received $82 million this year while continuing to send musicians’ jobs overseas.

Listen to the song now:

The song was composed by Clifford J. Tasner and recorded by AFM members. Learn more at listenupnow.org.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Five Reasons Walmart’s New ‘Commitment’ to American Manufacturing is Nonsense

Walmart is hosting a manufacturing summit in Denver this week as part of its new program to supposedly invest in products made in America for its stores across the country. The retailer is claiming its new plan will invest $250 billion over the next decade and create 1 million jobs. We’re not buying it.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka addressed Walmart’s summit and announcement:

But workers will not benefit from a Walmart-ification of our manufacturing sector. Jobs in the Walmart model won’t restore America’s middle class or build shared prosperity given the company’s obsession with low labor costs and undermining American labor standards. And the company’s ‘commitment’ to American manufacturing is meaningless unless it actually increases the proportion of its products that are American-made.

Here are five reasons why Walmart’s plan is nonsense:

1. The whole thing is misleading. When you dig deeper, you find that all Walmart is doing is counting the company’s natural growth as “new” investment. If the company maintains its current percentages of U.S.-sourced goods and continues to grow at the same rate as it has the last three years, $262 billion will be spent on U.S.-made goods anyway without Walmart making any changes or doing anything new. Doing a little less than what you’ve been doing and calling it “progress” isn’t exactly admirable.

2. As Scott Paul of the Alliance for American Manufacturing notes, Walmart’s altruism doesn’t quite stand up to scrutiny:

…in some cases—the economics now favor “reshoring” of work back to the U.S., due to an emerging domestic energy cost advantage, rising wages in Asia, and wage stagnation in the U.S. (which Walmart might know something about). And don’t forget to consider the challenges that come from outsourcing: supply chain disruption, quality and inventory control issues, intellectual property theft, and high shipping costs.

3. Walmart is the biggest importer in the United States and it has been increasing how much it imports every year. The company now imports 2.5 times as much as it did in 2002. Walmart should make a solid commitment to cut back on its growth in  imports, after decades of massive increases, to create a real net gain for American workers.

4. Walmart is off to a rocky start helping create U.S. manufacturing jobs. In the first year of the new plan, Walmart created only 2,000 new jobs, putting it way behind schedule toward reaching that goal of 1 million new jobs.

5. As the largest private employer in the nation, Walmart should start with itself to create real change for America. At the rate Walmart workers are paid, they won’t be buying many U.S.-made products or imports. Walmart must invest more in its own workforce if it wants a “buy American” strategy to succeed.

Walmart cashiers make, on average, less than $25,000 a year. An April 2014 study by Americans for Tax Fairness estimated that subsidies and tax breaks for Walmart and the Walton family cost taxpayers approximately $7.8 billion per year, including about $6.2 billion in assistance to Walmart workers due to low wages and inadequate benefits.

Trumka concluded:

This initiative seems like an attempt to change the conversation from the need for Walmart to improve jobs for its 1.4 million retail workers in the United States. If Walmart is truly committed to rebuilding the American middle class, it can start with its own workers, most of whom make less than $25,000/year and struggle to make ends meet.

Walmart should use its two-day summit to prove the company is committed to real and substantive change and an end to corporate whitewashing.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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A Brief History of Why We Still Have Tax Breaks for Companies That Ship Jobs Overseas

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There was a lot going on in the news last week, so no one would blame most Americans for missing a key vote in the U.S. Senate.

On July 30, 42 Senators, 41 of them Republican, filibustered a bill called the Bring Jobs Home Act, which would have ended tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas and eased the tax burden for companies who wanted to bring jobs back to the United States.

Let’s be clear about this. They filibustered the bill, meaning they didn’t even allow it to go to a full debate. They didn’t allow it to reach an “up or down vote,” where it would’ve only needed a simple majority of 50 votes to pass.

The filibuster started as a last ditch, emergency maneuver where a Senator could stand up and talk for hours upon hours to keep a vote from happening. The only way to stop the speech was a vote of 60 present Senators. But since 2008, Senate Republicans–under the direction of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)–have used the filibuster to block everything from economic stimulus to reauthorizing longstanding funding. Basically nothing can move without reaching that 60 vote threshold.

These filibusters and “cloture votes” have become so common in the last 6 years, barely anyone in Washington acknowledges how wildly ridiculous they are. The media, eager not to blame any party or individual in particular, still publish headlines like “bill fails 59-41″ without mentioning that there were 59 YES votes, and that a 41 vote minority oddly had the power to stop the bill in its tracks.

Last November, Democrats lead by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) successfully ended the use of the filibuster only for certain votes; specifically, votes on presidential appointments like judges (but not Supreme Court judges) and key government officials. Sen. McConnell and his allies howled, as if this had come out of nowhere and they hadn’t abused the filibuster for 6 years. The media pushed this as a big event, leading many Americans to believe the filibuster had ended outright.

Oh no. It’s very much alive. And 2014 has seen its fair share: renewing unemployment insurance, raising the minimum wage, and much more.

So why fight so hard to preserve tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas? Steelworkers President Leo Gerard documents some of the reasons given:

Some Republican Senators stomped their feet and demanded continued subsidies for offshoring of jobs unless the entire tax code was overhauled, a feat that seems, well, somewhat unlikely from this record-breaking, do-nothing, Republican-thwarted Congress.

In other words: we don’t want to change the tax code until we change the whole tax code all at once. That’s not typically how things get done.

Other Republicans protested the cost. It’s true that over a decade, the change from tax breaks for offshorers to tax breaks for onshorers was projected by the Joint Committee on Taxation to cost $214 million. That’s million, not billion. And it’s over a decade, so $21.4 million a year.

Is that too high a price tag? Well…

That’s not chump change, but for comparison purposes, the state of Tennessee gave Volkswagen $165.8 millionthis year to expand its Chattanooga assembly plant. In 2008, Tennessee gave VW $577 million to build the factory in the state. That’s more than $742 million from one state to one company over six years, or, to put it another way, $123 million a year. That’s nearly six times the annual national cost of the Bring Jobs Home Act…there’s something deeply wrong with forcing Tennessee taxpayers to spend hundreds of millions to bring jobs to their state, and, at the same time, subsidize corporations moving jobs out of the state and the country.

Blocking the Bring Jobs Home Act and giving halfhearted excuses is bad enough. The other half of the injustice is how they blocked it, and how filibusters of much-needed legislation happen so often that it gets buried at the bottom of the weekly news.

Photo of Senator Mitch McConnell by Gage Skidmore

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Let’s Call ‘Corporate Inversion’ for What It Is: A Gaping, Unpatriotic Tax Loophole

This post originally appeared on Huffington Post

In 2004, Congress enacted a law to prevent “corporate inversions” in which corporations reincorporate in a foreign country to avoid paying U.S. taxes, but a gaping loophole allows corporations to get around this law by merging with a foreign company.

Simply put, it allows corporations to avoid paying taxes when they “renounce their U.S. citizenship” and change their corporate address to a foreign country.

In recent months, several large corporations have announced plans to exploit this loophole, with minimal change in their business operations, to avoid paying taxes. This wave of “corporate inversions” threatens to hollow out the U.S. corporate income tax base.

One striking example is Walgreens, the nation’s largest drugstore chain, which may use an upcoming acquisition to become a foreign company in order to dodge more than $4 billion in taxes over five years. Walgreens is talking about abandoning America despite its reliance on the U.S. government — and U.S. taxpayers — for a quarter of its revenue paid for by the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

It’s time for Congress to close the loophole and end this outrageous practice.

Last week, I was encouraged to see Congress finally begin to hold hearings and to hear President Barack Obama double down on his support. Under the president’s leadership, the administration is taking the right approach and has proposed solutions to the problem.

This week, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew in the Washington Post was right to suggest Congress make this legislation retroactive to May 2014, so corporations have notice that any transactions taking place after that date will not allow them to dodge taxes.

“This inversion loophole must be plugged,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) recently said, and Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) have both proposed legislation to plug it.

This is exactly the momentum we need to close the loophole once and for all.

The real problem is that many of these so-called “U.S.” corporations want to keep dictating our economic policies and dominating our politics, yet they have less and less loyalty to the people who actually live and work in America. They want to keep benefiting from all the things our government does for them so they can make profits — our legal system to protect their investments and patents, our education and training system to train their workers, our transportation system to get their products to market, our federally sponsored research, our military — but they want the rest of us to front their share of the bill.
Sixty years ago corporations paid one-third of federal revenues, but today they pay only one-tenth. Now they say even that’s too much. Corporate profits are at their highest ever and wage growth is near its lowest in half a century, but still these corporations are not satisfied. They want more. They want Congress to cut their income tax rate, even though many of the largest corporations get away with paying little or no taxes for years. They want Congress to eliminate taxes on the factories they ship overseas, even though an existing loophole already allows them to lower their tax bill when they outsource jobs. And if we don’t give these corporations what they want, they threaten to renounce their citizenship and stop paying U.S. taxes altogether.
We need to start demanding a little more patriotism from these corporations. If they want to keep benefiting from everything our great country has to offer, they need to start showing a little more loyalty to the people who live and work in America. And they need to stop threatening to desert the United States and stop paying their taxes altogether unless America gives in to their demands.

Follow Richard Trumka on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RichardTrumka

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You Know What Doesn’t Work So Well? Private Prisons

The myth put forth by private prison corporations like Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group that private prisons are cheaper than public prisons is shattered by a new report from In the Public Interest, thus undercutting the primary rationale for prison privatization efforts across the country. When pushing for contracts with the many states that use private prisons, these corporations claim they are the better option because they can run prisons more cheaply than the government can. But this report not only dispels that idea, it highlights some of the less-than-savory activities the corporations engage in because of the perverse incentives created by these contracts.

The report details several methods through which private prison companies mislead governments and the public about their supposed cost savings, particularly hiding costs of private prisons, inflating public prison costs, benefiting from mandated occupancy minimums and delaying cost increases until after contracts are signed.

Numerous studies have shown that private prisons are more expensive than their publicly run counterparts. The report details a series of meta-analyses of individual studies conducted on the comparative costs between public and private prisons, and all of them found that cost savings, at best, were minimal for private prisons—in many cases, private prisons were more expensive. One of the few studies that showed private prisons to be more cost-effective was funded by the prison companies and is currently the subject of an ethics inquiry at Temple University. A close examination of many of the states that have invested heavily in prison privatization has shown the failure of the “private prisons are cheaper” idea:

  • Arizona: The state found private prisons can cost up to $1,600 per prisoner per year, despite private prisons often only housing the healthiest prisoners.
  • Florida: Three separate multiyear studies found the majority of the private prisons in the state failed to meet the legally mandated 7% cost savings, while half of the private prisons failed to save any money at all.
  • Georgia: In 2011, private prisons cost the state $45.81 per prisoner per day, compared with $44.51 per prisoner per day in publicly run prisons.
  • Hawaii: The state found the projected savings of using private prison contractors were based on bed capacity rather than the actual number of people incarcerated and that indirect administration costs were not included.
  • New Mexico: Over a five-year period, the state saw its annual spending on private prisons increase by 57% while the prisoner population only increased 21%. A significant portion of the increase was because of automatic price increases included in contracts with the private prison corporations.
  • Ohio: The state expected the private operation of the Lake Erie Correctional Institution would save the state $2.4 million a year, but it has turned out to instead cost the state $380,000 to $700,000 a year.

As the report notes:

To maximize returns for their investors, for-profit prison companies have perverse incentives to cut costs in vital areas such as security personnel, medical care and programming, threatening the health and safety of prisoners and staff.

There are several different reasons that savings fail to materialize. CCA and other companies explicitly seek to increase their profits by changing the details of previously signed contracts. They do this by raising the per diem rates the state pays for each prisoner or by requiring occupancy rates of 90% or higher or the state pays for the empty cells in order to reach the required level. Private prison companies cherry pick their inmates and refuse to house more expensive prisoners. Many contracts exclude those higher-cost prisoners, such as those in maximum security, on death row, female prisoners or prisoners that have serious medical or mental health conditions. Companies also make their costs look lower by inflating the cost of public incarceration when making their sales pitch. They can do this by leaving out overhead costs in their prisons, not including costs the state has to pay in either public or private scenarios in the private prison cost but keeping them in the public prison cost calculation, and leaving out the additional costs of overseeing and monitoring private prisons that the state must engage in if it properly oversees its contractors.

At its national convention last year, the AFL-CIO came out in opposition to the privatization of prisons and the profit motive being used to increase incarceration.

Read the full report.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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