6 Reasons Union Member Mike Michaud is a Candidate Who Cares About Working Families

6 Reasons Union Member Mike Michaud is a Candidate Who Cares About Working Families

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 Mike Michaud, who is running for governor in Maine. Here are six reasons why Michaud would be good for working people:

1. Michaud has never forgotten what it means to be a worker having to put in long shifts and struggling to pay the bills. Born and raised in Maine, he started working in high school, pumping gas at night and washing dishes at a truck stop off Interstate 95. After high school, Michaud went right to work at the Great Northern Paper Co., the same mill where his father and grandfather worked, and joined the United Steelworkers (USW). He kept working at the mill even while serving in the Legislature and remains a card-carrying member of USW today. [Congressional website, accessed 5/16/14; Portland Press Herald, 7/6/14]

2. As a state legislator and a member of Congress, Michaud has a lifetime AFL‐CIO voting record of 96% and has a long history of supporting American workers. He opposed the radical Ryan budget that would end Medicare as we know it, and he led the fight against unfair trade agreements that would outsource good American jobs. [AFLCIO Scorecard]

3. In Congress, Michaud sponsored “Buy American” legislation promoting the use of American goods in federal projects. He also led the charge to require the U.S. military to purchase American-made shoes, including those made by Maine-based New Balance. [Bangor Daily News, 6/27/13; 4/25/14]

4. He wants to rebuild the state’s infrastructure and restore Maine’s manufacturing advantage. One way he plans to do this is by creating a comprehensive workforce training and retraining program.

5. Michaud favors a fairer tax system that helps middle-class families get ahead and requires corporations and the wealthy to pay their fair share.

6. He wants to invest in pre-kindergarten and vocational education, and make college affordable for any Maine child who wants to attend.

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Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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New Rules: Punching In

An interesting choice

Forgoing more liberal candidates, the Working Families Party has decided to endorse Gov. Cuomo.

A win for Mother Nature

The Environmental Protection Agency released a new set of laws to protect the environment and temper global warming by regulating carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, owners aren’t happy.

Bad news for offshore accounts

77,000 foreign banks will now share tax information with the IRS, as part of a law targeting Americans who hide assets overseas.

Official like a referee with a whistle…

Seattle’s $15 minimum wage went through a final vote yesterday, approving the wage hike and making it the city with the highest minimum wage.

Income inequality akin to civil rights movement

Former secretary of labor Robert Reich makes some bold statements on inequality in America.

Key Quote: “The current struggle of low-wage workers across America echoes the civil rights struggle of the 1960s.”

Besties?

An unlikely paring, Senators Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell will come together to testify before the Judiciary Committee on freedom of speech and political donations.

Finally…

It’s primary season. Today, primaries will be held in Mississippi, Iowa, Alabama, California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota.

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On Thursday, Let’s Talk About Taxpayers Subsidizing Walmart

On Thursday, Let's Talk About Taxpayers Subsidizing Walmart

As part of the ongoing Upworthy series, Workonomics, there will be an UpChat this Thursday to discuss how Walmart’s low wages mean that taxpayers end up subsidizing those workers to the tune of $6,000 per employee each year. Wages and benefits are so low for the country’s largest employer that many of the company’s workers are forced to take part in Medicaid, housing assistance, child care subsidies, food stamps and other government lifelines. Meanwhile, the Walton family, who owns the company, has more wealth than the bottom 40% of the country combined.

All you need to participate this Thursday, June 5, at 2 p.m. EDT is a Twitter account. Learn more details on how to participate in the UpChat and find the conversation on Twitter by looking up the hashtags #UpChat and #WalmartEconomy.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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9 Reasons Why We’re Giving a ‘Thumbs Down’ to the Ryan Budget

Liz Lemon, 30 Rock

House Republican leaders passed Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget this week by a vote of 219 to 205, with no Democrats voting in favor. The Ryan budget is chock full of so many terrible ideas that it’s hard to single out the biggest stinkers, but here goes.

1. Raising the Medicare Eligibility Age from 65 to 67.  Not only would raising the eligibility age shift costs to 65- and 66-year-olds and to seniors who still qualify for Medicare benefits, but it would actually *increase* overall costs throughout the health care system. Worst. Idea. Ever.

2. Giving Corporations More Tax Breaks for Outsourcing Jobs. The Ryan budget calls for a “territorial tax system,” which would eliminate U.S. taxes on the offshore profits of companies that send jobs overseas. Second worst idea ever.

3. Costing 4 Million Jobs. And that’s only in two years! According to the Economic Policy Institute, the Ryan budget would cost 1.1 million jobs in 2015 and 3 million jobs in 2016. Millions more jobs would be lost in subsequent years.

4. Giving Millionaires a $200,000 Tax Cut. The Ryan budget would cut the top marginal income tax rate from 39.6% to 25%, giving people who make more than $1 million per year tax cuts averaging between $200,000 and $330,000.

5. Turning Medicare into a Voucher Program. The Ryan budget once again proposes to end the Medicare guarantee, which would raise premiums for seniors who choose traditional Medicare and leave traditional Medicare to “wither on the vine” as private plans capture the healthiest seniors.

6. Gutting Education. The Ryan budget would slash funding for kindergarten to 12th grade education by$89 billion and higher education by $260 billion over 10 years, making college less affordable and increasingstudent indebtedness by $47 billion.

7. Gutting Investment in Transportation. The Ryan budget would slash transportation investments by$52 billion in 2015, costing jobs and making America less competitive.

8. Gutting Medicaid. The Ryan budget would cut Medicaid funding by $732 billion over 10 years by turning Medicaid into a block grant program. It would further cut Medicaid funding by repealing the Affordable Care Act, for a total cut to Medicaid of some $1.5 trillion.

9. Slashing Tax Rates for Profitable Corporations. The Ryan budget would slash the corporate tax rate from 35% to 25%, squandering $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion in tax revenue over 10 years.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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The Latest Republican Plan to Outsource Jobs

House Republicans are proposing another enormous tax break for corporations to outsource jobs. The latest Republican outsourcing plan is very similar to the one promoted by former Gov. Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential campaign, which President Barack Obama said would cost 800,000 jobs.

The outsourcing plan was included in a “tax reform” proposal unveiled recently by the chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.).

Poll after poll shows America’s working families strongly oppose tax breaks for outsourcing that already exist under current law. This is hardly surprising, since between 1999 and 2010, U.S. corporations eliminated 1 million jobs in the United States while creating 3 million jobs overseas.

Here’s how the House Republican plan would promote even more outsourcing: it would allow outsourcers to pay almost no U.S. taxes on their overseas profits when they send jobs overseas. To be precise, outsourcers would be taxed at a rate of 1.25% on most offshore profits. Obviously, if outsourcers can pay taxes at a lower rate when they send jobs overseas, they’re going to have more of an incentive to outsource.

Here’s how Obama described this terrible idea during the 2012 campaign:

“There’s a new study out by nonpartisan economists that says Gov. Romney’s economic plan would in fact create 800,000 jobs. There’s only one problem: The jobs wouldn’t be in America. They’d be in other countries. By eliminating taxes on corporations’ foreign income, Gov. Romney’s plan would actually encourage companies to shift more of their operations to foreign tax havens, creating 800,000 jobs in those other countries.”

The technical name for this idea is a “territorial tax system.” Why is it called “territorial”? Because the United States would only tax American corporations on their profits within the “territory” of the United States, not on their profits overseas.

A “territorial tax system” is a terrible idea for lots of reasons. As Obama explained during the 2012 campaign, it would encourage job creation abroad instead of at home, lowering U.S. wages in the process and opening up opportunities for multinational corporations to avoid paying their taxes by playing accounting games to pretend their domestic profits are earned in foreign tax havens.

Camp claims several features of his plan would keep multinational corporations from avoiding their taxes.  However, as Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ) explains, “[I]t is impossible to believe they would work since his overall proposal would dramatically increase rewards for any American corporation that can make its U.S. profits appear to be earned in offshore tax havens.”

Unfortunately, the Republican outsourcing plan has not gotten all the bad press it deserves. Why not? Partly because it has been competing for attention with all the other problems with the House Republican “tax reform” proposal. For example, the proposal would increase the deficit over the long term.

In February 2014, the AFL-CIO took a strong position against a “territorial tax system,” arguing that it would increase the tax incentive for shifting jobs and profits overseas. Instead, the AFL-CIO called for the elimination of all—not just some—of the existing tax incentives for outsourcing. What does this mean in practical terms? It means taxing offshore profits no differently than domestic profits—that is, taxing both kinds of profits at the same rate and at the same time.  Legislation that eliminates all tax incentives for outsourcing would generate $583 billion over 10 years, and this is the benchmark by which any international tax reform proposal should be measured.

Although prospects for the House Republican “tax reform” proposal are uncertain, the idea of a “territorial tax system” has wide support among Republicans in Congress, was recently endorsed by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and has attracted interest from some Democrats as well. It would be very dangerous to allow this terrible idea to pick up steam.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Sen. Ayotte Pits Unemployed Workers Against Poor Children

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Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) has a plan. She says that to pay for extending unemployment insurance (UI), we should cut off the Child Tax Credit for 2 million families (5 million children), most of them Latino.

Let’s repeat that because it sounds kind of important.

To help the families of the 1.3 million workers who have been out of work for six months or more and lost their UI payments just before Christmas, Ayotte’s solution is to take money away from poor Latino children whose families are taxpayers.

That may be a valid solution to the extremists who run the Republican Party these days, but it comes across as a vindictive and mean-spirited move to most people, including a coalition of organizations that condemned the proposal in a Monday press conference.

“Senator Kelly Ayotte says she understands families, but her proposal to deny a child tax credit to a taxpaying immigrant family is an attack on innocent children. Pitting children against the long-term unemployed is nothing more than an ugly attempt to derail legislation to extend emergency unemployment for struggling families,” said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice group that is part of the coalition. “Her proposed amendment should be soundly defeated as antithetical to the Gospel call to care for children and those at the margins of society, and to long-held values in our nation.”

The AFL-CIO is also part of the coalition and Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre also condemned Ayotte’s plan:  “This cynical proposal doesn’t reflect the America I have come to know and love as an immigrant. My America doesn’t need to pit the jobless against the children of immigrants. We are better than that.”

The proposal targets not only aspiring citizens, but any individual not eligible for a Social Security Number, something that isn’t limited to undocumented immigrants. Ayotte’s proposal would deny Child Tax Credit eligibility to families using the alternate option for those who can’t obtain a Social Security Number, the Individual Tax Identification Number, and who are legally eligible for the Child Tax Credit.  This would deny the credit to approximately 5 million children in low-wage families, making it harder for those families to feed and provide housing for these children.

A recent poll on the topic found the obvious that voters oppose cuts to the Child Tax Credit, with 68% of those surveyed in opposition.

Photo by Gage Skidmore on Flickr

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Warren Buffett and Bill Gates Find This Unfair (It Might Surprise You)

The wealthiest 1% contributes too little in taxes. Although tax rates have risen on dividends and the top rate on ordinary income increased this year, this point still rings true.

Watch the video to see what Bill Gates and Warren Buffett say in 2005 about their tax rates.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Why Taxpayers Subsidize Fast-Food Companies to the Tune of Nearly $7 Billion a Year

vialowpayisnotok

In addition to short-changing employees and customers, the cheapness of the fast-food industry, which nationally pays its core workers an average of $8.69, leaves taxpayers paying nearly $7 billion annually. That’s the major conclusion of a new report, Fast Food, Poverty Wages: The Public Cost of Low-Wage Jobs in the Fast-Food Industry, from researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. The majority of employees at fast-food restaurants are paid so poorly that they are forced to enroll in public assistance programs, despite the industry making $200 billion a year.

“The taxpayer costs we discovered were staggering,” says Ken Jacobs, chair of UC Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education and co-author of the report. “People who work in fast-food jobs are paid so little that having to rely on public assistance is the rule, rather than the exception, even for those working 40 hours or more a week.”

Only 28% of core fast-food workers work 40 or more hours per week, compared to 75% of the overall workforce. Unlike the common stereotype of fast-food workers, the report shows more than two-thirds of the industry’s core workers are older than 20, 68% are the primary wage earners in their families and more than 25% of them are parents.

“This report shows in stark numbers the larger economic consequences that result from low wages and how it affects all of us, says Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. “In a nation as wealthy as the United States, no one who works hard for a living should live in poverty. Underpaying workers affects us all. These highly profitable companies paying poverty wages should raise wages and listen to their workers’ demands to form a union. We should also increase the minimum wage, as I have proposed. These steps are not only the right thing to do for low-wage workers, but also the smart thing to do for the economy and for taxpayers.”

Fast-food workers receive money from numerous federal programs—receiving benefits at twice the overall rate of the workforce—and the $7 billion total doesn’t include state and local programs. The top federal expenditures on fast-food workers are:

  • Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, $3.9 billion per year;
  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, $1.04 billion per year; and
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, $82 million per year.

“It just doesn’t make sense that we prepare and cook food for people every day, but instead of being paid enough to feed our own families, many of us can’t afford three meals every day,” says Devonte Yates, a McDonald’s worker in Milwaukee who earns $7.25 an hour. “I don’t want to be on food stamps. I’d rather stand on my own two feet. McDonald’s should raise wages so we can afford decent food for ourselves.”

The report was funded by Fast Food Forward, a New York City-based coalition of workers and labor, religious and community groups. Read the full report from UC Berkeley.

separate report from the National Employment Law Project looks more closely at the top 10 biggest fast-food companies and finds that they alone are responsible for 60% of the nearly $7 billion in public costs associated with their low wages, despite having more than $7.4 billion in profits last year. McDonald’s workers alone account for $1.2 billion of public assistance spending each year.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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5 Signs of Hope for Working Families In Yesterday’s New York City Elections


City Council candidate Carlos Menchaca

Local and municipal elections matter.

Just ask a service worker in Philadelphia who can’t afford to take a sick day because the city council was one vote short of overriding Mayor Michael Nutter’s veto of a paid sick days ordinance.

Or ask a retail worker in Washington, D.C., where the City Council is currently one vote short of a veto-proof majority in favor the Large Retail Accountability Act (LRAA), which would establish a living wage for big box retail workers.

You can also ask anyone who sends their child to public school in Chicago, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration has closed dozens of public schools, and where the city’s students are being moved around like chess pieces to make room for a pro-corporate education “reform” agenda.

Yes, city leaders of both parties have been too willing lately to kowtow to corporate interests over the needs of their constituents. But in last night’s New York City primary, there were some signs of hope for working families.

 

1.) Voters approved of plan to raise taxes on super-rich to pay for schools. To succeed Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the richest people on the planet and a staunch defender of rich people’s interests, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio ran on a plan to raise taxes on New Yorkers making $500,000 or more and using the revenue to establish universal Pre-K. The plan was derided by Bloomberg and much of the the city’s wealthy elite.

But yesterday, de Blasio took 40 percent in a crowded primary, a sign that some of the folks in NYC making less than $500,000 a year (roughly, shall we say, 99 percent?) favor balancing out our tax system to bolster basic services.

 

2.) Opposition to earned paid sick days was a liability. The longtime expected frontrunner, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, saw her support recede and then evaporate over the summer. Partly, because she was seen as the main obstacle to a paid sick days ordinance for New York City. The ordinance was introduced in 2010 but Quinn refused to bring it to a vote, saying that it would put “undue burden” on NYC businesses, according to the New York Times.

It took three years of pushing from a broad coalition, including the Working Families Party and well-known activist Gloria Steinem, to finally get Quinn to compromise on a sick days ordinance, which sailed through with overwhelming support. Yet her long-held intransigence, which she never truly explained, hurt her in the race, particularly with woman voters.

“We were pleased the bill finally passed,” says Donna Dolan, Executive Director of the New York Paid Leave Coalition, “But all I could think about when I was at the press conference was the number of people I met who had been fired in the past three-and-a-half years.” Voters apparently agreed, giving the once-frontrunner Quinn a third place finish.

 

3.) The real estate lobby spent big money to beat a local labor leader, but he won anyway. In a crowded primary for the Queens-based 27th council district, I. Daneek Miller came out on top last night. Miller is president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1056 and a supporter of affordable housing, so naturally the city’s powerful real-estate lobby was determined to stop him. A real-estate backed PAC spent $261,533 backing up one of Miller’s opponents, but Miller prevailed: the current count gives him a lead of 396 votes.

“There have been tough times for labor and working families,” Miller said last night, “The consensus is: we need a voice. Now we have that voice we set out to represent.”

 

4.) This 32 year-old won a huge upset in Brooklyn to become council’s first Mexican-American. Sara Gonzalez sat in Brooklyn’s 38th council district for decade, and regularly was a no-show at council meetings and public events. She may have expected a smooth reelection this time around. But Carlos Menchaca, a 32 year-old openly gay Latino community activist, unseated her last night by a 16-point margin. (“Men-shocka!” was the headline in The Brooklyn Paper.)

Menchaca will be the first openly gay elected official to represent Brooklyn and the first Mexican-American on the New York City Council. He was active with the Office of Emergency Management after Hurricane Sandy, especially in badly-damaged Red Hook.

“I’m going to be present. I’m going to be visible and vocal,” Menchaca told supporters last night, “I’m going to be someone that’s on the streets talking directly to the people of Sunset Park about your needs.”

 

5.) Pro-worker candidates won across the board. The New York Central Labor Council endorsed 43 candidates for City Council in run up to yesterday’s election. 39 of those candidates won outright last night, with two races (Kirsten John Foy in District 36 and Austin Shafran in District 5) still too close to call.

After 12 years of a Bloomberg Administration that was cold to outright hostile to New York’s labor community, it’s heartening to see advocates of working families have such a good night at the local level.

 
Bonus.) Dante de Blasio’s hair wins mayor’s race, observers say.

Check out this actual headline from USA Today. And this Twitter account. And this cartoon. We can’t remember the last time one person’s haircut played such a decisive role in an election.

What did you think of last night’s election? Let us know in the comments.

Photo of Carlos Menchaca by @lingene_1 on Twitter

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North Carolina Unemployment Rises As Attacks on Workers and Voters Continue

The radical policies of North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and his legislative allies is having the opposite effect they said it would.

North Carolina’s unemployment rate rose to 8.9 percent in July, higher than the national average of 7.4 percent. That makes it the fifth highest in the nation.

Moreover, the sectors that grew are those that have the lowest wages:

Over the past 12 months, the leisure and hospitality sector has added 21,500 jobs, more than any other sector.

[N.C. Justice Center public policy analyst Allan] Freyer said that U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that those jobs pay an average of $8.30 an hour.

“That says the state’s growth opportunities are in ultra-low-wage jobs,” Freyer said. “That’s not the direction we want to be going.”

In recent months, Gov. McCrory and his allies enacted enormous cuts to unemployment insurance, which Bill Rowe of the N.C. Justice Center called “one of the most radical, is not the most radical proposals in the country.” They also passed a tax plan that lowers income tax and corporate while slicing the earned income tax credit for struggling families.

Gov. McCrory claimed both measures would help “job creation.” The same refrain was used by Gov. Scott Walker for his actions in Wisconsin to strip collective bargaining rights from public workers and his own tax plan that ended the state earned income tax credit. Wisconsin is also experiencing economic woes, also falling behind the rest of the country on employment.

What both governors are ignoring is that we know the path to prosperity: higher wages, public investment in infrastructure and education, and a tax plan that asks the rich to pay their fair share. Not the exact opposite.

But as McCrory’s recent voter suppression law shows, he’s not really interested in what the people think. He’s more interested in following the Walker model of ALEC-inspired, pro-corporate, anti-worker governance. In both North Carolina and Wisconsin, hundreds have gone to jail in recent weeks for protesting the state’s leadership.

If you’re in North Carolina, join our fight for working families by emailing Catherine at cmedlock-walton@workingamerica.org.

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