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Amy Poehler And Tipped Workers Call For One Fair Wage in NY

 Cuomo can cut sexual harassment in 1/2 in restaurant industry by raising the subminimum wage for workers, 82% of NY restaurant workers report being harassed

Coalition of allies include other tipped and low-wage workers, nail salon technicians, car wash workers

NEW YORK, NY – On Tuesday, tipped wage workers joined actor/producer and former waitress/server, Amy Poehler, at a marquee event with labor leaders and elected officials to call for One Fair Wage in New York. Restaurant servers, nail salon technicians, and car wash workers shared their personal stories about economic instability, including their #MeToo experiences, and how it’s #TimesUp on the subminimum wage.

One Fair Wage is a national campaign to bring New York in line with seven other states that pay tipped workers their state’s general minimum wage on top of their tips. In New York, tipped workers make a subminimum wage ranging from $7.50 – $8.65, relying on tips to bring them up to the state’s general minimum wage, which ranges from $10.40 – $13.00, depending on the region. One Fair Wage states have more robust wages, sales, establishment, and employment growth than their counterparts, and workers report significantly lower rates of harassment.

In his January State of the State address, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the NYS Department of Labor will hold hearings to examine establishing One Fair Wage. Hearings have been scheduled for March-June.

“In many cities and for many years I worked for tips as a waitress to support myself. This is why I stand with workers for One Fair Wage in New York. We shouldn’t have to sacrifice our economic stability in order to preserve our self-respect. Time’s up on profiting off of women while refusing to pay them a fair wage,” said Amy Poehler, actor/producer and former waitress/server.

“The current broken two-tiered wage structure in New York puts women restaurant workers at the mercy of their customers and co-workers,” said Saru Jayaraman, President and Co-Founder of ROC United, and author of Behind the Kitchen Door: The People Who Make and Serve Your Food. “With just a small change in policy, Governor Cuomo can cut sexual harassment in half for a majority female workforce, without sacrificing economic growth. One fair wage is good for workers and good for business.”

Jayaraman recently appeared on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher to discuss the issue, and attended the Golden Globes with Amy Poehler as part of the #TimesUp campaign to end sexual harassment across industries.

“Tipped workers, who are majority female and disproportionately women of color, receive a lower minimum wage and struggle with economic instability and sexual harassment. This two tiered wage system is a legacy of slavery and must be abolished. New York needs to  put an end to the subjugation of women, and workers of color in particular, by establishing One Fair Wage now,” said Erika Alexander, actress and activist.

With nearly 13 million employees, the restaurant industry is the single-largest source of sexual harassment charges filed by women with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), with a rate twice that of the general female workforce. According to the EEOC since 2010 (and as of 6/2016) ‘employees have filed 162,872 charges alleging harassment’ with employers paying out $698.7 million in penalties. There are 395,680 tipped workers in New York, 76% of whom work in the restaurant industry, and 82% report being harassed on the job.

Seventy percent of restaurant servers are women, who experience a disproportionate amount of sexual harassment as a result of the broken two-tiered wage system. Relying on tips to make a living wage forces workers to tolerate sexual harassment from customers in return for “gratuities,” and they often receive additional pressure from management to dress in a revealing way to attract larger tips.

“When I was a server, I was sexually harassed repeatedly, like when a male customer once said to me, ‘hey big titty black girl, got enough milk in those jugs for my coffee?’ I reported it to my manager, but he told me to suck it up. I refused and kept complaining, so he gave me fewer shifts and eventually forced me out. Women should not have to use our bodies to serve food to put food on our own tables, and that’s why I support One Fair Wage,” said Shanita Thomas, restaurant worker and member leader at ROC United.

“My income naturally fluctuates when working for tips. So I enter each shift trying to make as many tips as possible by catering to customers as much as I can, which often means I have to put up with sexual harassment. No worker should be forced to have to fake giggle to a customer who has had one too many or put up with customers who make lewd comments about my “sexy” body to earn a living. Unfortunately management plays into this behavior, often encouraging workers to double down on their sex appeal. I used to work in an establishment that exclusively hired female servers, and at staff meetings we were blatantly told to wear more makeup. One Fair Wage has a unique effect on restaurant servers because it frees workers’ dependence on subjecting themselves to sexual harassment in order to secure a livable wage,” said Gemma Rossi, New York City restaurant worker for 15 years.

“As a Manhattan restaurant owner, anti-sexual harassment trainings and increasing the wages of our servers and kitchen staff has made my business stronger, my employees happier and less stressed in their environment, and everyone’s livelihoods stabler and more secure. As a result, our low turnover rate is the envy of our peers: while the national average is 70% per year, ours is less than 10%. One Fair Wage has done wonders for California’s restaurant industry. It can do the same for New York State,” said James Mallios, owner of Amali restaurant.

“Why do we want one fair wage? Because our industry is different in that it varies during seasons. During winter time business goes down and there aren’t enough clients coming in, which means not enough tips to even make minimum wage. If we don’t have a stable wage, we are unable to pay our bills, rent, we can’t provide a good education for our kids. We need a different system… We need there to be a change in order for our industry to be better and the workers can have a dignified and healthy life. We need something different, something new, a way to transform our industry because right now we are exposed to a lot of wage theft so we need this change in order for us to have economic stability,” said Araceli, nail salon worker and member of the NY Nail Salon Worker Association

“It is painful for me to watch my husband get up so early to go to a job that pays poverty wages,” said Federica Martinez, wife of a car wash worker. “It’s not right that he makes a subminimum wage because of the trip credit rule. This is not just about car wash workers. We all have a stake in making sure everyone gets the wage they deserve.”

Sexual Harrassment and Tipped Work

According to a 2014 study conducted by ROC United, a key leader in the One Fair Wage campaign, women dependent on tips are twice as likely to experience sexual harassment than women who aren’t. A 2016 follow-up study in D.C. found that over 90% of restaurant workers surveyed experienced some form of sexualized behavior while at work. A similar 2016 study in Boston found that 35% of tipped workers had been sexually harassed by customers, over twice as many as other workers in the same survey.

Restaurant workers of all genders report harassing behavior:

·      66% from restaurant management

·      78% from customers.

·      80% from co-workers (cooks and back of house staff)

·      37% of tipped workers are mothers

·      18% are single mothers

Many restaurant workers tolerate harassment from customers so that customers pay tips, as well as being harassed from managers to get better tips by “dressing sexy” or who ask for sexual favors in exchange for better shifts, and from colleagues (cooks and back-of-house) staff who make the food that customers base their tips on. A shocking example: a manager or colleague will grope a female server. If the server says no, managers will give servers punitive shifts (morning shifts when there are fewer customers) or cooks will purposely mess up food that will make customers unhappy.

NY vs. One Fair Wage States

  • In New York over 17% of tipped workers of color live in poverty, twice the rate of the overall workforce.

  • OFW would reduce food stamp usage by 22% in New York.

  • In OFW states poverty rates are 10% lower than in New York

  • In OFW states full service restaurants opened and operated at a rate nearly double that of New York, which only had an increase of 4.88%.

  • In OFW states, the median wage for restaurant tipped workers is $11.44, compared to $10.88 in New York.

  • Tipped-wage workers in OFW states report making as much, or more, in tips than tipped-wage workers in New York.

  • The average tip rate in New York is 15.6%.

  • Restaurant employment rates are equal or higher in OFW states. From 2011-2016, full service restaurant employment (FSRE) grew by 20.4%, compared to 20.13% in New York.

  • New York, home to one of the largest restaurant industries in the country, had a projected restaurant sales increase of 3.6%, a rate lower than the individual rates of 6 of the 7 OFW states.

  • The National Restaurant Association predicts that the industry will add 1.6 million jobs over the next nine years, helping boost New York’s restaurant workforce by 6.1%

  • Over 80% of tipped restaurant workers in New York experience sexual harassment at work, and over half report that this is a weekly or daily occurrence.

  • Only 42% of workers surveyed reported that employers ensured their wages were brought up to the regular minimum wage.

  • Most tipped workers participate in a tip pool; the vast majority of workers has no say in the allocation of tips, and many do not know how tips are allocated.

  • Tipped workers experience wage theft associated with the tipped wage system both due to misapplication of service charges and failure to pay overtime.

Additional Information

In his January State of the State address, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the NYS Department of Labor will hold hearings to examine raising the subminimum wage and establishing One Fair Wage in New York, saying:

“New York continues to be a national leader in fighting for justice for working men and women, and by providing a platform for New Yorkers’ concerns to be heard, we are furthering our efforts to deliver fair wages for all. I am urging those impacted by this proposal to register, attend a hearing, and help us move this state one step closer toward a better, more just New York.”

Hearings have been scheduled for March-June.

The ONE FAIR WAGE Coalition includes: Adhikaar for Human Rights and Social Justice, A Better Balance, AlignNY, Citizen Action of New York, Community Service Society, Enlace, Food Chain Workers Alliance, Judson Memorial Church, Make the Road New York, Metro Justice, National Employment Law Project, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, New Economy Project, NY Communities for Change, NY Healthy Nail Salons Coalition, NYS Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, Planned Parenthood of NYC, PowHerNY, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, ROC-NY, RWDSU, SEPA Mujer, Tompkins County Workers Center, Women’s Equality Party, Women’s Organizing Network, Workers United NY NJ, 32BJ SEIU.

The NH AFL-CIO Endorses Mark MacKenzie For Congress In NH’s 1st District

Today the New Hampshire AFL-CIO Executive Council is pleased to announce its endorsement of its former President, Mark Mackenzie in his race to succeed Representative Carol Shea-Porter in New Hampshire first Congressional District.

“Mark Mackenzie served as President of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO for twenty-five years. During his tenure he fought to provide opportunities for working families across New England. Former President Mackenzie spent twenty years fighting fires and protecting the Greater-Manchester community. When Mark was elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives, organized labor gained an invaluable asset in the legislature. The New Hampshire AFL-CIO Executive Council knows that Mark Mackenzie will go to Washington and use his experience as a union member to fight for the betterment of all working families,” wrote the NH AFL-CIO in their endorsement announcement.

The Executive Council is proud to endorse Representative Mark Mackenzie in his campaign for Congress. His proven leadership is what the working people of New Hampshire deserve.

“I am proud to have this endorsement,” said MacKenzie. “the AFL-CIO has a long history of standing up for all working people and that is why I want to go to Washington. It is good to know that the labor movement understands how important it is to have a working person win this race. This really is a campaign about what all of us can do together to change the direction of our country.”

“I spent over 25 years fighting fires in Manchester”, continued MacKenzie “and I always went into a fire knowing that my sisters and brothers had my back. That’s what this endorsement means to me – the working people of NH have my back and together we are going to have a strong, sucessful campaign.”

“I promise to take on the powers that be – to fight for Medicare for all, for good jobs in a clean environment, and for an end to economic inequality.  I know that the working women and men in NH are just as concerned as I am about the continual rise in income inequality, the skyrocketing costs of health care and college debt. I know that my lifelong commitment to these issues is why the NH AFL-CIO has chosen to endorse me.  Together we are going to win this election.”

The NH AFL-CIO represents over 20,000 members and their families in New Hampshire.


Mark MacKenzie is a member of Local 856 of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) for over forty years and was the President of the NH AFL-CIO for 25 years.  He is currently a state representative from Manchester.

Sen Shaheen Blasts Republican Leadership For Putting Partisan Politics Above Working Families

In End-of-Year Remarks on Senate Floor, Shaheen Calls Out Republican Leadership for Prioritizing Partisan Tax Bill Over Needs of the Middle Class

(Washington, DC) — Today, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) spoke on the Senate floor about Congressional Republican leadership’s dangerous and callous decision to prioritize partisan politics over the needs of the middle class. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the tax bill’s repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate means nearly 13 million fewer Americans will have health coverage. Shaheen also pointed out that Republican leadership has failed to enact long-term reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Community Health Centers program and the Special Diabetes Program, risking healthcare coverage for 9 million children, 25 million Americans and 1.25 million Americans living with type 1 diabetes, respectively.

During her remarks, Shaheen also argued that Republican leadership missed an important opportunity to address the nation’s severe opioid epidemic. Shaheen argued for a strong federal response, noting, “Just this week, we learned from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that because of soaring overdose mortality rates, life expectancy in the United States has declined for the second year in a row… 63,000 died from overdoses in 2016. 63,000 people. If we were losing that many people to a war in the Middle East, there would be an outcry in this country. I want to know where the outcry is and when is this body going to act?”

She continued, “On Tuesday, the University of New Hampshire released a study that cited a fivefold increase over the past decade in our state on babies that were born addicted because of their parent’s substance use disorders. And yet in the face of this uncontrolled national public health emergency, the majority has once again failed to find appropriate funding.”

Shaheen urged her colleagues to return to bipartisanship and address the needs of working Americans, saying, “In the new year ahead, I hope to work with Senators on both sides of the aisle to address these urgent needs. The American people deserve better than this legislation. They also deserve a Senate that values bipartisanship, cooperation and compromise in the service of all Americans, not just our largest corporations and the wealthiest in this country.”

AT&T “celebrates” by promising sliver of tax savings to employees

You probably saw the headlines this morning: “AT&T giving $1,000 bonuses after tax bill.”  According to press reports, AT&T plans to give those bonuses to 200,000 US employees. That’s $200 million AT&T is promising to share with its employees. Sounds like a lot of money.

New AT&T Logo in Dallas, TXBut according to its annual report, AT&T would have paid $6.9 billion in federal taxes at the 35% corporate tax rate.[1]  Congress just cut that tax rate by 40%. For AT&T, that could mean a tax savings of $2.76 billion a year.

Do the math.  AT&T is celebrating – and making headlines – by promising a one-time employee bonus equal to about 7.25% of what it can expect to save on taxes next year.

One other thing: AT&T paid stockholders $11.8 billion in dividends during 2016.

So, this headline-grabbing employee bonus is equal to about 1.7% of what AT&T paid to stockholders last year.

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Just weeks ago, proponents of the tax bill promised that it would “mean at least $4,000 more in income every year for the average household.”

Communications Workers of America asked some of the country’s largest employers to guarantee “that working people will receive the raises the administration promised and ensure that the bill’s treatment of overseas profits will not result in domestic job loss.”

“Together, through collective bargaining, we can ensure that promises about wages and jobs are kept,” wrote CWA President Chris Shelton.

“By pushing employers for this raise, CWA proves that working people have power when we join together to negotiate for a fair return for the work we do. Unions remain the most effective means for working people to stand together and achieve wage growth and keep good jobs in the U.S.,” Shelton said. “If you don’t ask for your fair share you’ll never get it – so join a union and start asking.”

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The $1,000 per-employee bonus announced yesterday is a good start.  But even if AT&T raises those 200,000 employees’ wages by $4,000 (as the tax bill proponents promised):

  • that would still be less than one-third of what AT&T can expect to save from the 40% drop in the corporate tax rate
  • that would still be less than 7% of what AT&T paid out to stockholders as dividends last year.

And if this tax “reform” is followed by Social Security and Medicare “reform” – as Congessonal leaders promised, earlier this month – we’re all going to need to remember this, come next November’s elections.

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ICYMI, here are some other recent headlines about AT&T:

AT&T plans to lay off nearly 300 at center in Dallas next year

AT&T lays off DirecTV workers despite pledge to create jobs

AT&T layoffs in 2018 to take place across Missouri, Michigan, & 4 more states

AT&T looking to cut 80,000 jobs in five years

[1] According to Note 11 of the annual report, AT&T’s effective tax rate was only 32.7% last year – not 35% – so its windfall from yesterday’s tax bill may be lower than $2.76 billion/year.

Homelessness On The Rise In New Hampshire From Lack Of Affordable Housing And Low Wages

Annual Report From NH Coalition to End Homelessness Shows
Alarming Rise In Homelessness Throughout New Hampshire

Today, the NH Coalition to End Homelessness (NHCEH) has released its sixth State of Homelessness in New Hampshire Report, which provides an overview of statewide indicators and trends in homelessness from 2015 to 2017.  After decreasing by 19% from 2015 to 2016, the overall number of people experiencing homelessness in New Hampshire rose by 11%  in 2017. This is in part due to increasing rents in conjunction with extremely low vacancy rates, which place low income renters in tenuous positions to find affordable housing.

“The increase in the numbers of children and families experiencing homelessness is concerning,” said Cathy Kuhn, director of the NHCEH. “Reversing this growth will require continued commitment and investment in the proven strategies that we know are successful in quickly rehousing those who become homeless.”

In the NH Labor News write up on NHCEH’s 2016 report, chronic homelessness was declining but there were serious concerns about affordable housing that could lead to a rise in homelessness.

This year saw a significant increase in homelessness in a few key areas.

  • After decreasing by 19% from 2015 to 2016, the overall number of people experiencing homelessness rose by 11% in 2017.
  • After dropping by 29% last year, the number of persons in families experiencing homelessness rose by 26%, from 539 people in 2016 to 680 people in 2017.
  • Unsheltered Homelessness rose by 22%, from 143 to 174 in 2017
  • From the 2015-2016 school year to the 2016-2017 school year, the statewide number of students experiencing homelessness rose by 6%. This rise continues a pattern of increases in the number of students experiencing homelessness in recent years.
  • Increases in median gross rents continued to outpace increases in median household renter incomes, diminishing an already sparse market of affordable housing. Vacancy rates continue to decrease to alarmingly low levels across New Hampshire, with the state average falling from 2.2% in 2015 to 1.4% in 2017. A healthy vacancy rate is normally around five percent.

Over the last year, Strafford county saw the largest increase in homelessness with a 67% increase from 2016, but everyone in the state is feeling the pressure.

“Last year, our shelter was at or over capacity every night from December to July. We’ve had to bunk beds and place extra mattresses and cots in spaces not normally meant for dorm rooms to accommodate the increased demand,” said Martha Stone of the Cross Roads House in Portsmouth.

The NHCEH found that families make up 47% of overall homeless population. Persons in families who have experienced homelessness often have histories of violence and trauma, which can have harmful effects on the long-term wellbeing of both adults and children.

“Every month, we receive calls for shelter that we are unable to house. We receive calls daily from families looking for space,” said Arolyn Chappell of the Friends Emergency Housing Program in Concord.

In 2016, family homelessness dropped by 29%, however those gains were quickly erased after a 26% increase in 2017. Eight of the ten counties in New Hampshire saw in increase in family homelessness in 2017.

“Due to a lack of affordable housing in conjunction with a shortage of emergency shelter beds for families across New Hampshire, many service providers report increasing numbers of families residing in cars, campgrounds, and other unsafe and unsanitary living conditions,” wrote NHCEH.

Over the last three years, unsheltered homelessness — those who are living in temporary shelters, such as emergency shelters or transitional housing, and those who are living unsheltered, such as in a tent, a car, or somewhere else not meant for human habitation — is down by 33% but 2017 New Hampshire saw a rise in unsheltered homelessness by 22%.

The largest concentration of unsheltered homelessness is in Hillsborough County, but thanks to recent efforts to combat homelessness, Hillsborough County reduced their unsheltered homelessness by nearly 48% since 2015.  Strafford County saw a 123% increase in unsheltered homelessness over the last year going from 18 to 38.

According to NHCEH, the key factors that lead to homelessness are “poverty and the lack of affordable housing.” While New Hampshire has one of the lowest unemployment rate’s in the country at 2.8%, workers are still struggling to find affordable housing.

One recent analysis reports that someone working full-time at minimum wage would need to work 120 hours per week in order to afford a two-bedroom apartment at the Fair Market Rent in New Hampshire,” NHCEH stated. “The same report lists New Hampshire as having the 14th highest housing wage in the country, with a worker having to earn almost $22 an hour in order to afford a modest two-bedroom unit in the state.

 

The difference between getting by paycheck-to-paycheck and becoming homeless is “one unexpected financial, medical or familial event.” Overall the poverty rate in New Hampshire fell slightly, 8.2% in 2015 to 7.3% in 2016,  NHCEH says “financial stability is still out of reach for many in New Hampshire.”

As previously stated the biggest issue facing New Hampshire is lack of affordable housing.  NHCEH found that monthly rental costs rose 8.8% to a median of $1259 per month.  This is unacceptable considering that workers wages only rose 3.3% over the last year.  The average renter makes $38,569 a year and pays over $15,000 a year in rent alone.

“We have seen a huge increase of people in threat of being evicted for nonpayment, and not just one or two months behind… five and six months, or more behind at times.” Dawn Ferringo, Prevention Services Division Director at Tri-County CAP in Lancaster.

To make matters worse, just finding an apartment has become increasingly difficult.  Statewide the “vacancy rate” for rentals fell to 1.7%.  Carroll County reported that  they have a no rentals available and Cheshire Country reports less than 1% vacancy.

“These low vacancy rates further exacerbate the scarcity of affordable housing in these regions of the state, making it even more difficult for low income renters to find stable housing.”

There are many things that need to be done to decrease the homeless population in New Hampshire and the NH Coalition to End Homelessness will continue to push for policies and programs that will help eliminate homelessness in NH.

“With a continued commitment to collaboration in conjunction with a renewed investment in prevention strategies, it is possible to end homelessness in NH, creating a state in which every citizen has the opportunity to achieve long-term stability, wellness and success.”


Full NHCEH report can be found here

A quick reference info-graphic from NHCEH

The NH Coalition to End Homelessness is a nonprofit organization with the purpose of eliminating the causes of homelessness through research, education, and advocacy. For more information about the NHCEH or the State of Homelessness in New Hampshire Report, visit www.nhceh.org or call 603-641-9441.

NHLN Coverage of the 2016 NHCEH annual report

Are you angry yet? Tax “reform” will be followed by Medicare, Social Security “reform”

Late last night, the Senate passed its version of the tax cut bill.  Next step? According to GOP leaders, it will be “entitlement reform.” Which includes the Social Security and Medicare benefits you have been paying for – with every paycheck – since you started working. Just like they’ve been talking about since the Bush tax cuts.

Congress won’t have to do anything, to cut Medicare by $25 billion next year.  If President Trump signs a final version of this bill, according to the Congressional Budget Office, it will create a budget deficit that will trigger $25 billion in automatic cuts to Medicare.

And if “chained-CPI” is still in the bill, Congress won’t have to do anything to cut Social Security benefits, long term. “Chained-CPI” is a way of calculating inflation that incorporates a ratcheting-down of benefits. It assumes that senior citizens who can’t afford steak don’t need a cost of living increase because they can buy chicken, instead. And those who can’t afford to buy chicken can buy tuna. And if they can’t afford tuna…  It’s the cat food thing. (Read our 2013 post about chained-CPI here.)

BUT they’re already planning more cuts. Because at some point, our government is going to have to do something about our national debt. Which has quadrupled since the Bush tax cuts.  Which is now equal to more than $170,000 per taxpayer. Which has increased by $745 billion – almost 4% — since the debt limit was suspended on September 8th.  Which was only 11 weeks ago.

Having a hard time wrapping your head around what you just read?  Let’s try it again.

On September 8, 2017, Congress suspended the debt limit.  Since then (only 11 weeks), the debt has grown by more than $745 billion. And Congress is cutting taxes in order to add $1.5 Trillion to that number.

It’s pretty clear that Congress is creating a “debt problem” that they’re going to “solve” by going after Social Security and Medicare.

Newsweek: Republicans will cut Social Security and Medicare after tax plan passes, Rubio says
Forbes: How the GOP tax plan scrooges middle class, retired and poor
Washington Post: GOP eyes post-tax-cut changes to welfare, Social Security and Medicare

This isn’t a surprise.  Back in 2004, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan suggested cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits to pay for the cost of the Bush tax cuts.

Looks like that’s still the strategy. Here’s where it goes from being “strategy” to “theft.”

Since 2012, most workers have been paying more into the Social Security system than they can expect to receive in benefits.

People retiring today are part of the first generation of workers who have paid more in Social Security taxes during their careers than they will receive in benefits after they retire. It’s a historic shift that will only get worse for future retirees, according to an analysis by The Associated Press.

Back in 2001, 57% of Americans wanted to roll back the Bush tax cuts to protect (what was then) the budget surplus. A whopping 92% wanted to prevent Congress from using Social Security for any other purpose. But at last report, about $3 trillion of the national debt is now owed to the Social Security system.

So… if you’ve already put more in to the Social Security system than you can expect to get out of it – and Congress wants to put even more tax cuts on the nation’s credit card – and Congressional leadership wants to pay down that extra debt by cutting Social Security… that means the money to pay for these tax cuts is coming out of your pocket.

Are you angry, yet?

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Public Citizen reports that at least 6,243 Washington lobbyists have been working on this tax bill.  That’s almost 12 lobbyists per legislator! Read about some of the last-minute add-ons – including an amendment that exempts a college in Michigan and a carve-out for cruise ships docking in Alaska – here. Wondering who benefits from this tax bill? Read about analyses done by the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation here.

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If you want to contact your elected federal officials about this, please do so on your own time and using your own personal phone/email. (Most employers prohibit using work time or resources for this sort of thing.)

Contact information for President Trump is available here.

You can find contact information for your two US Senators here.

You can find the phone number and website for your US Representative here.  (If you don’t know who your Representative is, check here.)

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.”

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%.

3 NH Counties See Child Poverty Grow To Over 20%

New Data Finds Regional Disparities in Median Household Income, Child Poverty Rates Exceed 20 Percent in Three New Hampshire Counties

Concord, NH – New data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau measuring median household income and poverty rates for the state’s ten counties and municipalities with more than 20,000 residents finds regional income disparities across the state. These new data point estimates for 2016 show median household incomes remaining highest in the more urban counties, while the state’s rural regions continue to experience lower household incomes and higher child poverty rates.

“While New Hampshire has the lowest overall poverty rate among states, this new data shows troubling trends in certain regions of the state,” said John Shea, executive director of the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute. “Child poverty rates of above 20 percent in Belknap, Carroll and Coos counties make clear that there is much work to be done to ensure economic stability for New Hampshire’s children and their families.”

On a county level, Granite Staters see widely different median household incomes from statewide median of $70,936. The state’s two most populous counties, Hillsborough and Rockingham, help boost the statewide median income, but the least populous county, Coos, has a substantially lower estimate of $47,092. The state’s other predominantly rural counties — Sullivan, Grafton, Carroll, and Belknap — have estimated median household incomes lower than the cluster of more urban counties — Strafford, Merrimack, Hillsborough, and Rockingham.

New Hampshire boasts the lowest statewide poverty rate in the country, at 7.3 percent. Despite these low statewide numbers, the percentage of people living in poverty varies widely by county. The four northernmost counties in the state all have estimated poverty rates of 11 percent or higher, while Rockingham County’s overall poverty rate is 3.6 percent. Manchester had a poverty rate of 14.1 percent, and Nashua’s poverty rate was 9.1 percent.

Relative to the 2015 estimates, Coos and Strafford counties saw statistically significant decreases in their poverty rates, while Belknap County had a statistically significant increase. Belknap County was the only county to have a statistically significant increase in child poverty, while it dropped in Cheshire, Rockingham, Strafford, and Sullivan counties.

NHFPI’s analysis of the October 19 Census Bureau data release is available here.


The New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to exploring, developing, and promoting public policies that foster economic opportunity and prosperity for all New Hampshire residents, with an emphasis on low- and moderate-income families and individuals. Learn more at www.nhfpi.org.

Walmart Buys Back $20 Billion In Company Stock Instead Of Raising Wages

Walmart announced a $20 Billion stock buyback yesterday.

From Business Insider: Walmart is using the oldest trick in the book to boost its stock price

$20 Billion is a whole lot of money.

  • It’s equal to almost $8,700 per full-time Walmart employee.[i]
  • It’s more than three times what taxpayers spend each year on health care, food stamps and other forms of public assistance for Walmart employees.[ii]
  • It’s 50% more than Walmart’s total profits last year.[iii]
  • It’s equal to about half of the company’s total long-term debt.[iv]

And Walmart directors have decided to spend all that money buying back shares of their own corporation’s stock.  Which doesn’t really do anything other than condense corporate ownership.

2005 photo of the Rev. Billy Talen leading the “Stop Shopping Choir”
by J.L. Sousa/Times-Herald Creative Commons license via Flickr

So rather than paying better wages to employees, or allowing more employees access to the company’s health insurance, or hiring more employees, or even just paying off corporate debt… Walmart directors want to spend $20 billion on reducing the number of shares of stock.

It’s all a question of priorities.  And condensing corporate ownership has been one of Walmart’s priorities for at least a decade.  Walmart has “repurchased” almost 30% of its shares since 2005.[v]

While taxpayers have been paying billions of dollars each year in public assistance to Walmart employees.

While Walmart employees have had to ask for public assistance, just to make ends meet for their families.

As the “Fight for Fifteen” movement[vi] continues, it’s worth asking:

If Walmart can afford $20 billion for more stock buybacks, why isn’t it already paying better wages to employees?

————

[i] https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/WMT/profile?p=WMT
[ii] https://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2014/04/15/report-walmart-workers-cost-taxpayers-6-2-billion-in-public-assistance/
[iii] “net income” https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/WMT/financials?p=WMT
[iv] https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/WMT/balance-sheet?p=WMT
[v] http://www.macrotrends.net/stocks/charts/WMT/shares-outstanding/wal-mart-stores-shares-outstanding-history
[vi] http://fortune.com/2016/06/11/walmart-minimum-wage-study/

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