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AFL-CIO and Broad Coalition File Amicus Briefs in Janus v. AFSCME

(Washington, DC) — Today, the AFL-CIO joined unions, public and private employers, elected officials from both parties, religious organizations, academics and civil rights organizations filing amicus briefs in Janus v. AFSCME, defending working people’s right to effectively organize and negotiate.

“Working people have always had to fight for the freedom to work and retire in dignity. Corporate CEOs and special interests have spent millions in their attempts to strip that away,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Today, working people are taking this fight to the Supreme Court. We’re standing up for the freedom to sustain a family while still being able to take time off to care for a loved one, receive quality health care and enjoy a secure retirement.”

Working people’s freedom to join together in strong public-sector unions has been protected since a unanimous Supreme Court ruling more than 40 years ago. That ruling secured these unions’ ability to effectively advocate and negotiate on behalf of their members.

Now, a Koch-backed network of corporate interests is challenging those longstanding legal precedents. Their goal is to undermine working people’s right to organize—and they’ve said so themselves. These same right-wing special interests have previously attacked LGBTQ rights, voting rights and women’s health care.

The AFL-CIO was joined today by the State of California, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, several U.S. senators, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 20 state attorneys general, Republican elected officials, former presidents of the District of Columbia Bar Association, distinguished law professors and others. This action comes as organizers prepare to stand against the corporate interests behind this case during a Working People’s Day of Action on Feb. 24. This will mark the 50th anniversary of striking African American sanitation workers’ first march with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee.

Court Upholds New OSHA Rule On Silica Dust Exposure, Garnering Praise From Worker Safety Groups

Workers’ Right to Protection from Deadly Silica Dust Affirmed by DC Appeals Court

National COSH says this decisions is “A Huge Win For Millions of Workers”

Yesterday, the U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia released their decision on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) groundbreaking worker protection rule limiting exposure to Silica. OSHA instituted the new rule in 2016 sharply lowering the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for worker exposure to silica dust to 50 micrograms of silica per cubic meter, reducing dust levels two to five times lower than the current permissible exposure.

Silica is found in stone, rock, brick and other common building materials. Cutting, drilling, shaping, molding and other operations expose more than two million workers each year to the hazards of silica dust in construction, foundries, mining, shipbuilding and other industries.

Silica dust is a known human carcinogen. Exposure can also lead to silicosis, an incurable and potentially fatal disease that interferes with basic lung functions, making it difficult for an affected worker to breathe. Between 1999 and 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 2,000 workers died from silicosis, just one of the diseases linked to exposure to silica dust.

“This is a huge win for millions of workers in construction, foundries, mining, shipbuilding and many other industries. Low-wage workers and those in the informal sector can now be assured of safer working conditions,” said Jessica Martinez, co-executive director, National Council for Occupational Safety and Health. “The U.S Court of Appeals has upheld OSHA’s finding – based on extensive research and expert testimony – that silica dust is significant risk to workers’ health. The silica standard remains in effect, with feasible, affordable requirements to reduce dust in the workplace and protect workers from silicosis and other potentially life-threatening diseases.”

“Now that industry’s challenge to this sensible, life-saving rule has failed, OSHA must focus on rigorous enforcement. National COSH will continue our efforts to inform workers about how to exercise their right to a workplace free from harmful dust and other hazards,” Martinez added.

OSHA estimates the new rule will prevent nearly 700 deaths each year, saving the U.S. economy between $2.8 and $4.5 billion a year due to reduced costs for illness, injury and death of affected workers.

The new OSHA standard requires employers to use cost-effective measures to reduce silica dust, including wetting down affected areas, vacuuming up dust before workers can inhale it, and improved ventilation. Employers must also monitor workers’ exposure to silica, provide medical exams for those with high exposure, and train all potentially exposed workers about the hazards of silica dust and how to avoid them.

“Working people won a huge victory today with the court’s decision fully upholding OSHA’s 2016 final silica standard. This will protect millions of workers from disabling disease and save thousands of lives,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “The court rejected industries’ arguments and directed the agency to further consider additional union safety recommendations.

“The labor movement worked for decades to win these lifesaving measures, and we are proud to see these standards remain the law of the land. I want to thank all of those who contributed to this great victory, including the Obama administration and the career staff at the Department of Labor.”

“Now we must turn our efforts to making sure this standard is put into full effect, enforced and protected from further attacks so that workers are finally protected from deadly silica dust,” Trumka concluded.

Doug Jones’ Victory Is A Major Win For Labor And Could Be The Vote To Stop The GOP Tax Scam

“Doug Jones’ victory is not only an enormous win for working people in Alabama, but it’s also a victory for all Americans who are ready to stand up to the current Congressional leadership’s politics and policies,” wrote CWA in a brief statement.

Organized labor pushed hard in Alabama with what they called the “largest political program in state’s history.”

“The largest labor political program in the history of the state of Alabama has propelled Doug Jones to victory. Rarely considered an important union state by political analysts, Alabama has a higher union density than Florida and Virginia and nearly the same union density as Iowa, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin,” stated the AFL-CIO.

“This victory proves working people are a powerful political force, even in states where most people count us out,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Working people are tired of the status quo and Alabama proved that we have the power to change it and improve the lives of everyone. This is only the beginning of a potent movement to win back the freedoms of workers in America.”

“CWA members in Alabama know that Doug Jones has spent his career fighting for workers’ rights and civil rights,” said Richard Honeycutt, Vice President of CWA District 3 which includes Alabama. “I’m confident that Senator Jones will push for policies that protect working families and keep good jobs in Alabama.”

Overall the coordinated labor campaign sent out more than 116,000 mail contacts, nearly 40,000 worksite fliers and speaking with nearly 100,000 union members on the phone and at the door, Alabama working families were educated and mobilized in this historic election. African American women, who were a major factor in electing Doug Jones, make up 12% of union membership in Alabama and were nearly a quarter of all contacts by the labor program.

“Doug Jones’ victory, and the defeat of Roy Moore, should send a shockwave to those elected officials who have had a single-minded focus on advancing their agenda of destroying programs that help working families in order to finance tax breaks for corporations and the 1%. Just as we saw in the elections earlier this year in Virginia, the voters are demanding that political leaders be held accountable for their broken promises to working people,” conclude CWA.

“I am so proud of every person who volunteered and worked tirelessly to make this the biggest, most successful political program in the history of our great state,” said Alabama AFL-CIO President Bren Riley, a member of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 12L. “Together with the support of so many unions, we turned out union members and households to drive home an incredible win for Alabama’s working families.”

Seating Senator Jones

Today is was reported that the House and Senate have reached a compromise on the GOP Tax Plan and are pushing for a vote by the middle of next week.

“The GOP tax bill that passed the Senate by one vote is nothing but an attack on America’s workers,” said Trumka in a statement following the party line vote in the Senate earlier this month. “We will pay more, corporations and billionaires will pay less. It’s a job killer. It gives billions of tax giveaways to big corporations that outsource jobs and profits.

“President Trump said that he wanted to lower taxes for everyone as a Christmas gift to America, but this bill is simply a lump of coal to working families across the country. The only real gift is the major tax giveaways to Wall Street, big corporations and the super-rich, when what our country needs is investment in our schools and infrastructures that creates jobs,” Trumka concluded.

“The Republican tax plan is a handout to millionaires, billionaires, and big corporations that will raise taxes on working families and give corporations new incentives to send more U.S. jobs overseas,” said CWA President Chris Shelton after the tax plan passed the House in early November.

Now that Doug Jones has won the special election, people are calling on Senator Mitch McConnell to seat him before any more votes are taken, specifically the GOP Tax Plan.

Jason Kander a Democrat and the former Missouri Secretary of State said he certified the special election of Congressman Jason Smith, a Republican, so that he could be seated less than 18 hours later.

The advocacy group Social Security Works is encouraging people to sign the petition demanding that Sen. McConnell seat Jones before voting on what they call the “GOP Tax Scam.”

Social Security Works wrote, “Alabama voters didn’t just reject Roy Moore. They rejected the Republican Party’s disaster of a tax bill, which is a handout to billionaires and corporations―paid for by gutting Medicare, Medicaid, and other vital programs.”

“Doug Jones could be the vote that kills the Republican tax scam. But Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan are rushing to jam through the tax scam before he has his chance.”

The people of Alabama have spoken and they want Doug Jones to be their voice in the Senate and that includes his vote against the GOP Tax Plan.

If Corporations Get A Tax Cut, We Want A Raise

AFL-CIO Bolsters Innovative CWA Campaign
to Get $4,000 Raises for Working People 

(Washington, D.C.) The Trump administration repeatedly has claimed that its tax bill would result in a $4,000 wage increase for workers. Today the AFL-CIO has joined a campaign by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) to demand corporations guarantee this raise in writing. The labor federation is rallying the power of its 12.5 million members and the entire labor movement to support this campaign in every industry.

“CWA has inspired an innovative movement to demand working people get our fair share and expose the scam that is the Republican tax bill,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Working people have heard the same old lies about the benefits of economic policies written by and for greedy corporations for too long. This campaign is about holding corporations and politicians accountable to their claims and getting a much-needed raise for America’s workers.”

On Nov. 20, CWA sent a letter to its major employers, including AT&T, Verizon, General Electric, American Airlines and NBC Universal, calling on them to commit to that raise in writing. In joining the CWA’s efforts, the AFL-CIO is encouraging all unions from all sectors to join in by reaching out to their employers and encouraging all working people to sign a petition that puts employers on notice that they will be held accountable if the Republican tax bill becomes law.

“Working people know better than to believe the boss’ promises unless they are in writing,” said CWA President Chris Shelton. “That’s why my union has asked some of our biggest employers to sign an agreement that says if the tax plan passes, working people will get their $4,000.”

In a powerful op-ed, Shelton laid out how the Republican tax scam would hurt working people and increase the deficit by more than $1 trillion. “Despite the doubletalk from Republicans anxious to sell this plan, it’s not hard to figure out who Republicans really want to help,” Shelton said.

House Republicans Push Through Their Tax Hike On Middle Class Families

Last night, straight down party lines, Republicans voted to give millionaires and billionaires a massive tax cut and to raise taxes on millions of hard working Americans.

“Today’s vote is a missed opportunity to deliver the tax reform we need for middle class families and small businesses,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “I strongly support reform that starts with the goal of providing tax relief for those in the economy who need it most. This bill is little more than a giveaway to big corporate interests and wealthy individuals while creating losers among many middle class families who will see their taxes increase in the coming years.”

“The tax bill that House Republicans passed today seeks to steal from the vast majority of Americans to benefit the very few. This is an attack on our economic security and on the fabric of our nation,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. “House Republicans’ tax scam is loaded with provisions to help the wealthiest: it eliminates the estate tax, which will only be paid by an estimated 5,500 super-wealthy Americans this year, and slashes the corporate tax rate claimed by the biggest businesses. Meanwhile, it raises taxes on many middle-class families, and it sets small benefits for working families to expire in five years – while making cuts for corporations permanent. And make no mistake about it: these cuts will take money away from needed national security investments at this dangerous moment in time.”

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, confirmed Shea-Porter’s claim by stating, “12 percent of taxpayers would pay more in 2019 and 13 percent would pay more in 2027.” These increases unfairly hit middle class families.

This tax increase to the middle class comes primarily from the loss of “itemized deductions” that allow taxpayers to deduct things like mortgage interest, state and local taxes, student loan interest, qualifying work related expenses, and medical expenses.

“One reason for the variation across states is that taxpayers who live in places with higher state and local taxes may be more heavily impacted because those taxes would no longer be deductible on federal tax returns,” ITEP added.

“The bill the House approved today hurts older Americans now and in the future,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans. “Eliminating the medical expense deduction means it will be harder for families with high medical expenses, most of whom are seniors, to make ends meet. The House Republican tax bill axes deductions that help working people so it can give more to the wealthiest.”

“The wealthy and corporations do not need these tax breaks. The vast majority of Americans understand that trickle-down economics does not work, and they disapprove of this plan. Retirees and working Americans know who this plan helps and who it hurts. And they will remember this when they vote in 2018,” Fiesta concluded.

Shea-Porter added, “This bill eliminates the deduction for high medical expenses claimed by over 40,000 Granite Staters and the student loan interest deduction that helps people saddled with student debt. It even takes away the modest $250 above-the-line deduction I fought to make permanent for almost 20,000 New Hampshire teachers – while keeping the golf course tax loophole. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says the plan would explode the deficit by $1.7 trillion, triggering automatic cuts to Medicare. We all know our tax code desperately needs reform – but those reforms need to help the working people who are already losing out under our tax code, not give even more to the wealthiest 1% and the biggest corporations.”

The AFL-CIO says the bill is a “job killer” and rewards corporations for offshoring American jobs. Under the House proposal “U.S. tax rate on offshore profits from 35% to 0%,” creating a subsidy for outsourcing jobs that would cost taxpayers “$208 billion over 10 years.”

In their letter of opposition to the proposed tax plan, William Samuel, Director

Government Affairs Department at the AFL-CIO, called the proposal the “poster child for the failed ‘trickle-down’ economic theory that has never worked and has repeatedly stuck working people with the tab for tax giveaways for millionaires, big corporations, and Wall Street.”

Republicans are trying to pull the wool over our eyes in this massive tax scam. The plan would slash the corporate tax rate from 35% to 20% and repeals the Alternative Minimum Tax on “pass-through” businesses. A couple of examples of a “pass through” business are “small businesses” like hedge funds, law firms, realty investment companies, and some large corporations like Bechtel construction (the 9th largest single owned business in the US). Without the Alternative Minimum Tax these “pass through” businesses would not be required to pay any federal taxes at all.

NBC News is reporting “Trump and his heirs potentially could save more than $1 billion overall under the GOP tax proposal that the House of Representatives passed Thursday,” though he continues to say that the plan will not benefit him.

The progressive coalition, Not One Penny, supports tax reforms but not one penny in reductions to “millionaires, billionaires, and wealthy corporations.”

“The tax bill that passed the House today is an affront to the people that our leaders in Washington claim to represent. The GOP voted to cut taxes for millionaires, billionaires, and wealthy corporations, inevitably forcing cuts to programs working families depend on like Medicaid, Medicare, public education, and Social Security. While passing the largest middle-class tax hike in a generation, the GOP said ‘no thanks’ to helping working families this Thanksgiving,” said Not One Penny spokesman Tim Hogan. “The tax proposal that passed today is wildly unpopular with a majority of Americans, and voters won’t forget those who enabled this hypocrisy. Republicans’ vote today is one that will haunt them in the weeks and months ahead.”

Over the last month, in mobilizing against Republicans’ disastrous tax plan, the Not One Penny coalition has coordinated more than a hundred events and actions across the country to hold congressional Republicans accountable for pushing tax cuts for the wealthy and well-connected at the expense of working families.

Advocates and activists continue to mobilize in opposition to Republicans’ tax scam. From hundreds gathering together at rallies alongside Leaders Pelosi and Schumer, Members of Congress, and progressive allies on November 1 and November 15, to local grassroots activity across the country, Americans will continue to resist this toxic tax plan.

“Progressive groups have come together to prevent Republicans from rigging the system even further for the wealthy and well-connected, and we will not quit until this taxpayer-funded giveaway to millionaires, billionaires, and wealthy corporations is stopped dead in its tracks. After months of activity, we continue to mobilize thousands of activists to stop Republicans attempts to raise taxes on middle-class families. Congressional Republicans should take note: we will hold you accountable for every vote you take that threatens the health and financial security of your constituents,” Hogan added.

“This bill has always been about giving massive tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations, paid for by the rest of us — and our groups have been fired up about that from the beginning,” said Ezra Levin, Co-Executive Director of Indivisible, a member of the Not One Penny coalition. “Even before this tax fight became a health care fight, we had over 100 events in every corner of this country to oppose the Trump Tax Scam. Now that Republicans have explicitly included ACA repeal, our groups are even more energized than before.”

The bill now moves to the Senate where it is sure to face stiff opposition, especially after the news that Senator McConnell added the repeal of the Affordable Care Act to their tax plan.

Should-be Republican supporters are beginning to defect from the GOP tax plan because of the disastrous impact it would have on the American economy and the harm it would have on millions of middle-class families. Opposition to the plan includes:

  • Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, who said the plan benefits corporations over small businesses, and he finds the process being used to rush the bill “offensive.”
  • Arizona Senator Jeff Flake said, “I remain concerned over how the current tax reform proposals will grow the already staggering national debt by opting for short-term fixes while ignoring long-term problems for taxpayers and the economy.”
  • MaineSenator Susan Collins said, “I don’t think it’s a good idea from either a political or policy perspective.” Tennessee Senator Bob Corker said, “If I believe it’s going to add to the deficit, I’m not going to vote for it.”
  • Oklahoma Senator James Lankfordsaid, “It’s one thing to be able to cut taxes. It’s another thing to say how are we going to deal with our debt and deficit.”
  • Texas Senator Ted Cruzsaid, “Right now, they don’t have my vote.”

Make sure to let your Senators know how you feel about this new proposal. The Senate Democrats are unanimous against the bill but in order to ensure this bill never reaches the President’s desk we need to get at least three Republicans to vote it down.

“We need bipartisan tax reform that simplifies our tax code to help small businesses and delivers meaningful relief to middle-class families. Sadly, the tax bill approved last night is a partisan effort that doesn’t meet any of those goals,” said Senator Shaheen. “This bill would add over one and a half trillion dollars to our national debt and hurt Granite State students, seniors and working families, all to provide tax cuts to the very wealthy and large corporations. I stand ready to work with Republicans and Democrats to reform our tax code, but we need a bill that’s fiscally responsible, helps grow our economy and prioritizes the middle class.”

Kentucky State AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan Says, ‘Right to Work’ is Rooted in Racism

Bill Londrigan, Kentucky State AFL-CIO president Bill Londrigan

By BERRY CRAIG

AFT Local 1360

“Right to work” proponents hate it when somebody exposes the racist roots of RTW.

“These are Jim Crow era laws to divide black against white,” Kentucky State AFL-CIO president Bill Londrigan told delegates at the federation’s recent biennial convention in Lexington.

In the 1940s and 50s, ten of the 11 ex-Confederate states were among the first states to pass RTW laws. Segregation and race discrimination were the law and the social order in Dixie.

In a union, everybody is equal. Thus, white supremacist legislators and governors feared unions would undermine the Jim Crow system, so they eagerly hopped on the RTW bandwagon.

Londrigan added that conservative politicians beyond the old Confederacy embraced RTW because the laws “divide everybody at the work site. ‘Right to work’ was an ingenious concept to break down union solidarity.”

Under a RTW law, workers at a union shop can enjoy union-won wages and benefits without joining the union or paying the union a service fee to represent them. The idea is to weaken strong unions, destroy small unions and keep workers from organizing.

Kentucky’s Republican-majority legislature passed a RTW law in January, and GOP Gov. Matt Bevin eagerly signed it.

“‘Right to work is not about economic development,” Londrigan said. “It’s not about individual freedom. It’s about dividing workers.”

Londrigan pointed out that “unions operate, and are founded on, the democratic principle of majority rule and they are one of the last truly democratic institutions in our society.”

In a union, he explained, “all members have an equal voice in voting on union contracts, expenditures and leadership. RTW is another incarnation of tyranny of the minority.”

RTW laws undermine unions by prohibiting union security agreements under which all bargaining unit members belong to the union or pay a service fee. Union and management must ratify such agreements, union members by a majority vote, Londrigan said.

Meanwhile, in the 1940s, the RTW drive got a big boost from Vance Muse, a Texas tycoon and white supremacist who detested “the doctrine of human equality represented by unions,” wrote Roger Bybee in The Progressive. A Klan fan, Muse  was “the Karl Rove-meets-David Duke brains behind the whole right to work movement,” wrote Mark Ames in Pando Quarterly online.

The Texas Legislature passed a right to work law in 1947 but changed the measure to its current form in 1993.

Muse, who also was rabidly anti-Semitic, saw “right to work”as a twofer: RTW would help smash unions and help maintain segregation and white supremacy in Texas and elsewhere in the Jim Crow South.

In 1936, Muse started the reactionary, racist Christian American Association in opposition to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Muse allied the group with the KKK. FDR was running for re-election and Muse bitterly opposed him.

The year before, a Democratic Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act. Also known as the Wagner Act, the legislation gave workers legal protection to organize and bargain collectively.

“The appallingly racist views of Muse and his Christian American Association coincided with the mentality of corporate managers dedicated to holding down wages and maintaining the tight control over workers dating back to the days of slavery,” Bybee wrote. “The CEOs of the 1930s recognized that Muse’s segregationist ‘right to work’ concept would break up unified worker efforts to claim the rights granted under the 1935 National Labor Relations Act.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. also recognized the racist origins of right to work.

“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work,'” he warned in 1961. “It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone….Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.”

Also in 1961, Dr. King told the AFL-CIO Convention, “Our needs are identical with labor’s needs—decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old age security, health and welfare measures, conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children and respect in the community. That is why Negroes support labor’s demands and fight laws which curb labor.

“That is why the labor-hater and labor-baiter is virtually always a twin-headed creature spewing anti-Negro epithets from one mouth and anti-labor propaganda from the other mouth.”

RTW laws are “lies by lying liars,” Londrigan said. “They are a focused attack directly on unions.”

House GOP Tax Plan Hurts Working Families

Today, the House Republicans released their new tax plan that would lower taxes for the ultra-wealthy and add trillions to the national debt. The plan would also drastically reduce the corporate tax rate while continuing to reward companies for offshoring American jobs.

“This tax bill is a job killer. It gives hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks to companies that outsource jobs and profits,” said Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. “No matter how it’s spun by Republican politicians, their tax bill is nothing but giveaways to Wall Street, big corporations and millionaires, paid for on the backs of working families.”

“It’s shameless to propose cutting Medicaid, Medicare, education and infrastructure to pay for tax breaks for the 1%. History tells us, commonsense tells us and careful analysis of this tax bill tells us that these tax giveaways for the wealthy and big corporations will never trickle down to the rest of us. Real tax reform actually can put money back in the pockets of working people, but this is not that kind of plan,” Trumka added.

“The Republican tax plan is a handout to millionaires, billionaires, and big corporations that will raise taxes on working families and give corporations new incentives to send more U.S. jobs overseas,” stated Chris Shelton, President of the Communication Workers of America (CWA). “Republicans and White House staff have been working overtime to spin this deal as a ‘middle class tax cut.’ It’s not.”

Shelton explained just a few of the ways the new tax proposal will hurt CWA members and working families across the nation.

  • It limits the ability to deduct property taxes and completely eliminates the ability to deduct state and local taxes.
  • It gets rid of tax deductions that help families pay education expenses. It will tax directly the value of employer-provided education assistance that at least 10,000 CWA members use.
  • It restricts the amount of home mortgage interest that can be deducted, hurting CWA members and working people especially in areas like California, New York, New Jersey, and other states with high housing costs.
  • It wipes out the ability of families to deduct their medical expenses.
  • Any employer-provided child care benefit will be taxed, and assistance from employers to help CWA families adopt a child also will be taxed.

“We cannot allow tax cuts for the wealthy to harm millions of working families. CWA and our allies are fighting back against this massive transfer of dollars from working families to the richest 1 percent,” added Shelton.

David J Cox, President of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) also spoke out against the new tax plan.

“The tax plan unveiled by House leadership would mostly benefit those who need the help the least: wealthy individuals and large corporations. While the plan would lower the tax rate for many middle-income families, most would end up having more of their income taxed. And the plan would actually raise taxes on our poorest citizens.”

“Too many American workers have been suffering from stagnant wages, rising costs for health care and other essentials, and an economic system that favors the millionaires and billionaires. This plan does nothing to help them,” he concluded.

The new plan angered the Alliance for Retired Americans, a national advocacy group for seniors.

“This is the latest cruel scheme. The tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans are so massive that they plan to cut nearly $500 billion from Medicare and more than $1 trillion from Medicaid over the next 10 years to pay for them – but they will still add $1.5 trillion to the deficit,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans.

“Exacerbating the problems they are creating, the House and the Trump Administration would no longer allow Americans, including retirees, to deduct their medical expenses, including nursing home costs or out of pocket medical or dental expenses from their taxes.”

Even some on the right oppose this new tax proposal. The Concord Coalition, a self proclaimed “non-partisan, grassroots organization,” heavily funded by former Sec. of Commerce Peter G Peterson, spoke out against this new proposal calling it “fiscally irresponsible.”

“True tax reform should aim to grow the economy without growing the debt ” said Robert L. Bixby, Concord’s executive director. “This plan would move U.S. fiscal policy in a dangerous direction, openly inviting higher deficits in the face of unsustainable debt.”

The federal debt recently passed the $20 trillion mark, and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that under current law the government is on track to add more than $10 trillion to that in the next 10 years. This version of the tax plan will add at least another $1.5 trillion onto that projection.

“It is important that any changes made to this draft to accommodate interest group concerns and increase potential support be paid for by reducing tax cuts rather than increasing the number of budget gimmicks,” Bixby added.

Working people across the country should not be made to suffer to give the top 1% more tax breaks.

Former Sec. of Labor and respected economist Robert Reich said, “The proposed tax cuts are tiny and temporary. And some middle class Americans will actually get a tax increase.”

Reich calls this tax plan a “Trojan Horse” in this short video released today.

“Meanwhile, the top 1 percent will get a gigantic tax cut. The Tax Policy Center estimates that the current plan will save the bottom 80 percent between $50 and $450 in taxes per year, but that it saves each person in the top 1 percent an average of $129,000 a year. For people at the very top, like Trump himself, the tax cuts are humongous. And the corporations they own will also get a massive tax cut,” Reich added.

Working people have suffered through decades of stagnant wages, budget cuts to programs that help them and provide healthcare when they get old.  Enough is enough. We must stop this massive giveaway to the wealthy 1%.

AFL-CIO pledges to fight VA privatization, support workers

Largest labor organization approves AFGE-backed resolutions in support of VA staff

WASHINGTON – The AFL-CIO is pledging to work with the American Federation of Government Employees to fight efforts to privatize veterans’ health care and to restore due process rights for VA workers.

On Tuesday, delegates to AFL-CIO’s quadrennial convention in St. Louis adopted two resolutions submitted by AFGE in support of workers at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The AFL-CIO resolved to oppose the privatization of veterans’ health care services and to help AFGE restore due process rights for VA employees that have been weakened by Congress.

“Ever since the waitlist scandal at the Phoenix VA, it’s been open season on VA employees,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said in introducing the privatization resolution for adoption.

“Very few people know that the scandal was brought to light by AFGE bargaining unit employees – whistleblowers – who knew that their bosses were manipulating the data in order to qualify for big bonuses,” Cox said. “Yet that scandal has been used by politicians of both parties to justify not only privatization, but also the weakening of our civil service protections and collective bargaining rights.”

The AFL-CIO’s vote came the same day that the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a hearing to consider legislation opposed by AFGE that would make the private-sector Choice program permanent, which would further starve the VA of needed resources and lead to more privatization of veterans’ health care services.

“This is a deliberate strategy: Establish the basics of a privatization plan – they call it Choice – and they keep throwing more and more money at it and encourage veterans to use it instead of the VA,” Cox said in his AFL-CIO address. “At the same time, they starve the VA of staff and other resources in order to make it fail. And of course, when the VA fails, the VA workers’ union disappears as well. It’s a story we all know too well.

“Then they have what they want: A broken system that has lost public support, a system with lots of valuable real estate they can sell off, and a privatization infrastructure that sends all the patients whose treatment is profitable to the private sector, with a skeletal VA left to care for the sickest that the private sector doesn’t want.

“Brothers and sisters, we need your help in the fight to retain our beloved VA health care system.”

AFGE is an affiliate with the AFL-CIO, the umbrella labor federation representing 12.5 million working people nationwide. AFGE represents 250,000 employees across the VA.

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The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 700,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.

AFL-CIO Elects Top Officers at 2017 Convention in St. Louis

Trumka, Shuler, Gebre Unanimously Re-elected

Delegates to the AFL-CIO 28th Constitutional Convention in St. Louis elected Richard Trumka (UMWA) as president, Liz Shuler (IBEW) as secretary-treasurer and Tefere Gebre (UFCW) as executive vice president. In addition, delegates elected 55 vice presidents, who will serve as the Executive Council for a four-year term.

AFL-CIO sealRichard Trumka begins his third term as president of the AFL-CIO since first elected in 2009. Before his election to president, Trumka became the youngest president of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) in 1982 and secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO in 1995. Born in the small coal-mining town of Nemacolin, Pennsylvania, Trumka’s commitment to improving life for working people began early. Trumka worked in the mines while attending Penn State and Villanova University law school. Throughout his leadership positions in the labor movement, Trumka has retained a strong commitment to creating an economy based on broadly shared prosperity, and holding elected officials and employers accountable to working families.

“I am humbled and honored for the opportunity to serve the working families of the AFL-CIO,” Trumka said. “We are committed to delivering on what we’ve started—a focused, independent and modern federation that works for working people and fights successfully for our shared priorities. We’ve come a long way, but we still have work to do.”

Liz Shuler begins her third term as secretary-treasurer, the second-highest position in the labor movement. First elected in 2009, she became the first woman elected as the federation’s secretary-treasurer. Shuler, a graduate of the University of Oregon, worked her way through the ranks of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) beginning at IBEW Local 125 at Portland General Electric in Portland, Oregon, where she grew up. As secretary-treasurer, Shuler has led the federation’s work to engage with young workers, promote women’s leadership, guide the future of work and ensure the federation is on solid fiscal ground.

“Serving as secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO has been the greatest honor of my life and I’m confident that together, we will adapt to the challenges ahead and secure the future of our movement,” Shuler said. “As we look ahead, we realize the future of our movement isn’t far off, and it won’t be easy. But nothing worth doing ever is.”

Tefere Gebre begins his second term as executive vice president. In 2013, Gebre became the first immigrant, political refugee, black man and local labor council leader elected as a national officer of the AFL-CIO. Born in Gondar, Ethiopia, Gebre fled state-sanctioned violence and emigrated to Los Angeles as a teenager. A graduate of Cal Poly Pomona, Gebre has devoted his entire life to the values of democracy, justice and helping workers organize to achieve a voice at the workplace. Before coming to the AFL-CIO, Gebre led the Orange County Labor Federation. As executive vice president, Gebre has focused on building strong labor-community partnerships at the local level through the movement’s central labor councils and state federations.

“These are tough times for our country, our movement, and our communities,” Gebre said. “But in the face of these challenges, I have hope of a brighter day, a stronger tomorrow and an America with liberty and justice for all. As executive vice president I pledge to do my part, lead with my heart and never stop fighting.”

International Labor Leaders, MOCs Call for Strong Labor Protections in NAFTA Renegotiation

(Washington, D.C.) — At a summit and press conference hosted by the AFL-CIO, labor leaders from the U.S., Mexico and Canada, as well as members of Congress discussed a tri-national strategy to influence the NAFTA ​ renegotiation process to ensure that effective, targeted rules to ​raise​ wages and improve​ labor standards in all three countries are included.

“I want to be clear: the enemy of American workers is not Mexican workers. It’s not Canadian workers, and it’s not even corporations,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. ”The enemy of American workers is a broken system of trade that rewards corporate greed at our expense. NAFTA is the single greatest example of this broken system. It’s an economic disaster that must be fixed.”

“It’s time for our political leaders to keep the promises that were made and not bow to the special interests and free trade ideologues,” said USW President Leo W. Gerard.

“Teamsters in the U.S. are mobilized against the spread of so-called ‘right-to-work’ laws in the states because they depress wages by undercutting union power,” said Teamsters Union General President James P. Hoffa. “I applaud the Canadians for making this a trade issue. We agree that these laws incentivize employers to relocate from Canadian provinces that don’t allow ‘free-riders’. I urge the Canadian negotiators to hold their ground on their progressive labor text and for the U.S. negotiators to take this issue seriously.”

“NAFTA’s biggest problem is Mexico’s industrial policy of suppressed wages through the lack of rights for workers,” said Rep. Sandy Levin (MI). “Ensuring labor rights in Mexico will help workers there climb out of poverty, while protecting American jobs from a race to the bottom. This effort to harmonize upwards, to the mutual benefit of workers in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, must be the top priority for the renegotiation of NAFTA.”

“NAFTA continues to erode the incomes of working people and to drive the outsourcing of good paying jobs to Mexico, where corporations can more easily exploit workers,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (CT). “The greatest economic challenge of our times is that people are in jobs that do not pay them enough money to live on. Unless the new NAFTA includes fully enforceable rules that address the labor abuses in Mexico and levels the playing field, then workers across North America will continue to lose while corporations reap record profits.”

“President Trump campaigned for a trade agenda to benefit American workers. And the Canadian government continues to promote its ‘progressive’ trade agenda,” said USW National Director for Canada Ken Neumann. “But words are just that. What we need is real action to ensure that trade agreements benefit working people and not just corporate elites.”

“Canadian Teamsters, like our sisters and brothers in the United States, know that a renegotiated NAFTA must include an ambitious new labour chapter that will protect workers’ rights and act a model for future trade agreements,” said Teamsters Canada President François Laporte. “We support Canada’s labour proposal, and we want to emphasize that enforcement is essential. New rights under NAFTA won’t be worth much without trade sanctions to back them up.”

The fourth round of NAFTA talks are taking place in the DC Metro area through October 17.

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