Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

TaxpDeductible Invasions

03.31.11

by Walter Brasch
Millions of Americans gave George W. Bush unquestioned support when he diverted personnel and resources from the war against al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden to invade Iraq.

Several million fewer opposed the invasion, stating that the primary mission was to destroy the enemy hiding in Afghanistan that destroyed a part of America and not to expand the war. At first, President Bush claimed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, capable of destroying Israel and, if placed aboard cargo vessels, could be launched at the east coast of the U.S. When that explanation fizzled, Bush said the invasion was to remove a dictator. Soon, “Regime Change” was the buzz phrase of the month.

Flash forward eight years. Different president. Different country. Same kind of dictatorship. This time, the conservatives have loudly cried that Barack Obama should not have launched missiles at Libya. And many liberals, while protesting expansion of war, were now facing other liberals who supported President Obama’s mini-war of helping oppressed people. The Iraq war has now cost American taxpayers more than $ 780 billion. The two-week (so far) war against Libya has now cost almost $750 million, most of it for Tomahawk missiles.

What’s a president to do? The president’s party spends millions of dollars on polls, none of which are reliable. The president is then forced to put his finger into the wind to see what the voters want—and then does what he wants to do anyway.
Whatever he does will be met by hostility on one side and near-blind support on the other. However, there is a solution. Tax checkoff.

No, that’s not like a distant cousin of the Russian short story writer. It’s a way for the President and the taxpayers to get the biggest bang for their buck.

Let’s say that a president decides he wants to invade some hostile foreign country—Canada, for example. Instead of going into the War Room with his military leadership and plotting how best to meet the strategic, tactical, and political goals of an invasion, he stops for two weeks.

During the first week, all Americans would be sent an email, asking them if they support the invasion of the country that sends Arctic Clippers to the U.S. during Spring. At the end of that week, voting stops. Now, let’s say that 40 percent of Americans think invading Canada is important and the prudent thing to do, but 43 percent oppose it. (The other 17 percent would still be trying to find out why their computers crashed.)

Normally, the president would say that most Americans don’t want to invade Canada and might listen to them. But, the 40 percent are vigorous in their beliefs. No problem.

On the next paycheck will be a question. “Do you support committing American troops to invade Canada, and stopping Arctic Clippers?” Those who answer “yes” will then be assessed a proportion for the costs of that invasion, putting their wallets and purses where their mouths are. If 60 million Americans want war, and the cost is a mere $300 million a week, then each supporter would have about $5 per week deducted from his or her paycheck. It’d hardly be noticeable. Of course, there might be a $5 surcharge for the cost of burying the dead, treating the wounded, and long-term physical and mental rehabilitation. But, hey, even at $10 a week, war is rather cheap. And, most important, all of it is tax-deductible.

Those who don’t support the war wouldn’t have the money deducted. They could decide to support another war later, or pay a “fair share” for more vigorous environmental regulation and enforcement, or even a few dollars a month to allow members of Congress to have junkets. Whatever is raised for junkets would be the total pool available, and would have to be split equally among the 535 members and several thousand critical staffers who, we all know, are the ones who do the work anyhow.

The Tax Checkoff System has one final advantage. With Americans deciding what to support and committing their personal fortunes or anemic savings accounts to the cause, we could wipe out the national debt and war at the same time.

[Walter Brasch probably won’t be deciding to have deductions for war taken from his pay check. His latest book is Before the First Snow, a journalistic novel that looks at the integration of war, peace, oil, and nuclear energy, all within the context of social justice. The book is available, on pre-order, from amazon.com.]

Looking for a summer job or contract promoting labor and working families issues in Mid-Atlantic region

03.31.11

I am looking for something starting around the end of May or early June thru the middle to late August. I will be returning to my College Marketing.com business for the Fall 2011 Semester unless much better opportunities arise before then. I could provide some part-time assistance during the Fall if really needed then.

Of course, College Marketing.com is looking for clients with progressive, working families and related messages, actions and programs.

I have extensive experience in campaigns, advertising, labor issues, public policy, public relations, media, politics, marketing and writing.

Open to new ideas and efforts, employee or contract status, travel, long and irregular hours if needed. Under some circumstances, I might be willing to locate outside the Mid-Atlantic for the summer.

I can be reached by phone at 443-907-2367 or email at demlabor@aol.com.

In Solidarity,

Stephen Crockett

Editor, Mid-Atlantic Labor.com
Host, Democratic Talk Radio
President/Owner, College Marketing.com

Federal right-to-work legislation supported by Senator Pat Toomey

03.31.11

APRIL 2011, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Federal right-to-work legislation supported by Senator Pat Toomey

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, March 18th- Lehigh Valley resident, and former House of Representative Pat Toomey (Republican-15th Legislative District), who was elected in 2010 as one of the two United States Senators from Pennsylvania, supports anti-union legislation that would ban “security clauses” in union bargaining agreements.

The legislation would prohibit contract language that makes joining a union a condition of employment. Often, after an employee serves a probationary period of employment, usually between 30 and 90 days, the employee must join the union or be dismissed.

There are 22 states, mostly in the southern United States, that prohibit any contract language that forces union membership as a condition of employment. Such legislation is called, “right-to-work.” Pennsylvania currently allows union contract negotiators to propose language making joining the union a condition of employment.

Since the Republicans success in the 2010 election, conservative groups such as the United States Chamber of Commerce have lobbied them to seek an anti-union agenda.

In Pennsylvania, both branches of the General Assembly are control by the Republicans and Republican Governor Tom Corbett supports anti-union legislation such as privitizing Pennsylvania’s Wine and Spirits Shoppes, allowing private school vouchers, banning the signing of Project Labor Agreements (PLA’s), and stated he would sign right-to-work legislation if it reached his desk.

Recently in Washington, DC, a House of Representatives Republican-led effort to defund the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) failed but the agency remains a target for spending cuts that would slash its annual budget by $50 million, or nearly one-fifth.

NLRB Chairman Wilma Liebman said that the cuts would amount to 18 percent of the agency’s annual budget, requiring it to furlough all staff members for 55 days.

The legislative effort to defund the NLRB failed by the vote of 250-176, with 60 Republicans joining 190 Democrats in opposition.

The bill that Mr. Toomey supports would create a national right-to-work law, which would ensure that joining a union is not a condition of employment throughout the United States.

The newspaper contacted the local office of Democratic Senator Robert Casey Jr., who along with Mr. Toomey represents Pennsylvania in Washington, DC, to determine if he supports Mr. Toomey’s right-to-work legislation. The newspaper was given Mr. Casey’s Washington, DC office and a member of his staff in Washington indicated on March 16th she did not know what Mr. Casey’s position was on the legislation and someone would return the newspapers call. However, as of presstime, March 21st, the newspapers call had not yet been returned.

Governor Corbett’s budget cuts funding for public education

03.31.11

APRIL 2011, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Governor Corbett’s budget cuts funding for public education

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, March 17th- Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Corbett presented his State Budget Proposal on March 8th and it included slashing funding for programs for children in classrooms across the state.

Mr. Corbett’s $27 billion spending plan cuts more than $1 billion from public education at all levels, reduces state support for some public
colleges and universities by 50 percent and calls for a freeze on compensation for school district employees.

According to Ted Kirsch, President of the Pennsylvania Federation of Teachers (AFT) Union, which is affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) in Washington DC, Governor Tom Corbett has made it clear that his vision for Pennsylvania is a sharp departure from the values and priorities that most Pennsylvanians embrace and his plan to cut basic education aid to school districts will result in many educators being laid-off and the raising of property taxes. “The governor is merely shifting a state tax burden onto local governments and school districts,” stated Mr. Kirsch.

Mr. Kirsch added after taking more than $1 billion away from public education, Governor Corbett did not stop with those cuts. He also supports expansion of vouchers that could drain another billion dollars a year from the state’s neighborhood public schools. Local school districts will lose control and funding, which instead will be given to unaccountable private schools and the corporations that operate many of them.

“The teachers and staff who work in Pennsylvania’s schools understand that our state faces severe budget iusses, including an extimated $4 billion revenue shortfall in the coming year as federal funding that helped us survive the recession comes to an end. But necessary sacrifices should be shared sacrifices. Through its cuts to education and other essential services, the budget presented asks much from those who are least able to shoulder more burdens, and it asks very little from the wealthy and corporate interests, shifting corporate tax obligations to residents across the state who will be asked to pay more to send their kids to college as well as more in local
property taxes,” Mr. Kirsch told the newspaper.

Legislation introduced in 2011 would allow parents to not pay their local school taxes that fund local public school system and receive an voucher that will allow their children to be enrolled in private and religious schools.

The legislation, Pennsylvania Senate Bill 1, will allow vouchers and take funding from the local public school system.

“Senate Bill 1 lacks basic accountability measures to protect the taxpayers’ investment and to measure student achievement. The legislation contains no provisions to require private schools receiving taxpayer dollars to account for the funds,” stated Sharon Kletzien, education specialist of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, which believes the school choice plans have shortcomings.

Group: Unemployment System needs expanded federal role

03.31.11

APRIL 2011, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Group: Unemployment System needs expanded federal role

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, March 2nd- According to the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning economic research and educational institute in Washington, DC., there is a need to expand the Unemployment Insurance System. The purpose of the unemployment insurance system, as Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt noted upon signing the legislation into law, is both to alleviate hardships for the unemployed and to counter recessions.

The rules are that to receive unemployment benefits, a worker must have lost their job through no fault of their own and be actively seeking re-employment. In the wake of the Great Recession, the unemployment insurance system has been effective in helping families hardest hit by unemployment. In 2009 alone, unemployment benefits lifted 3.3 million families out of poverty.

The second purpose of the unemployment insurance system affects everyone, whether unemployed or not.

The system is designed to act as an “automatic stabilizer” for the economy. The unemployment insurance system acts “countercyclically” pumping money into the economy when unemployment is high by paying benefits that replace lost wages to those involuntarily unemployed while they search for work. This boost economic growth just when the economy needs it most.

Some economists have estimated that during the Great Recession, unemployment benefits closed about one-fifth of the recession-caused gap in total economic output. The unemployment benefits are paid for through federal and state taxes on employers, which are highest when unemployment is high and thus not inorrdinately pulling down employment during recessions.

In the wake of the worst recession since the Great Depression, however, the nation’s unemployment insurance system is in a crisis that threatens both its hardship-alleviating and automatic stabilizer functions.

Most state unemployment insurance systems are now insolvent, including Pennsylvania’s, due to the lack of adequate payments into the system in the nonrecession years preceding the Great Recession and the subsequent tepid jobs recovery that has required many states to continue to pay benefits for an extended period of time. As a result, most states (32) have taken out loans from the federal government for this unemployment trust funds to the tune of over $43 billion.

The Center for American Progress laid out the key elements of a plan to accomplish the goal of shoring up the unemployment insurance system’s role as an effective automatic stabilizer, while addressing the solvency crisis in the states.

The first step is to clear the deck by forgiving the trust loans of insolvent states and rewarding states that maintained position trust-fund balances.

The state of Wisconsin enacted the first unemployment compensation law and established the nation’s first program in 1936.

The organization propose a set of conditions for what they called “deck clearing” that will improve the core functions of the unemployment insurance system by:

• Clearly delineating and separating the federal and state roles by increasing the role of the federal trust fund during times of high unemployment;

• Reducing the wide disparity in eligibility rules and benefits across states.

The Center for American Progress stated their proposal will reduce cost for states as their labor markets struggle to emerge from the Great Recession, improve benefits for the unemployed, and better stabilize the economy in future recessions.

AdultBasic healthcare program allowed to expire by Pennsylvania Legislature

03.29.11

MARCH 2011 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

AdultBasic healthcare program allowed to expire by Pennsylvania Legislature

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 1st- The decade old adultBasic healthcare program, that provided low-cost insurance for thousands uninsured working adults, expired on February 28th because Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Corbett allowed the funding to run out.

AdultBasic was created by the legislature in 2001 with funding received through the National Tobacco Settlement Agreement. The program provides coverage for the basic health-care needs of people between 19 and 64 who do not have health insurance. They must also meet certain eligibility requirements, and cannot have an income greater than 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

The main funding of the program during the last five years was financial contributions from the surpluses maintained by the four Blue Cross providers in Pennsylvania that was made available by state law, but expired on December 31st, 2010.

Union member and Pennsylvania House of Representative Eddie Day Pashinski (Democrat-121st Legislative District) has outlined a plan to fund the program.

“The adultBasic program has made an important contribution to the welfare of over 40,000 Pennsylvanians and to the overall health of the state. My plan would save a valuable program and builds upon its foundation,” stated Mr. Pashinski.

Mr. Pashinski is a retired member of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) Union and a member of the American Federation of Musicians Union Local 140.

Charges filed against contractor dropped by Painters Union

03.29.11

MARCH 2011 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Charges filed against contractor dropped by Painters Union

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 1st- Charges filed by the Lackawanna County District Attorney’s Office on behalf of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) District Council 21 against the owners of a Lackawanna County contractor for failing to pay union members benefits have been dropped after the employer paid the amount owned.

“They paid more than $51,000 in benefits owned to our membership,” said John Gatto, Assistant Business Manager of District Council 21 in Drums.

The charges were filed against Paul Sinkaus of Scranton and his son, James Sinkaus of the Borough of Taylor in Lackawanna County. The two owned and operated the company JVS, a construction contracting company, which is currently out of business.

Mr. Gatto told the newspaper charges were filed against the two after IUPAT members were hired to proform construction work on several local building projects includes the IMAX Threater in Dickson City. “We did all we could to get our members benefits paid but were forced to take action when all we got were promises,” added Mr. Gatto.

Paul Sinkaus has been a member of the International Brotherhood of Carpenters Union for several decades, Vern Johnson, Vice President of Carpenters Union Local 645 told the newspaper.

The Carpenters Union also filed a complaint against the company after funds were deducted for workers’ insurance benefits, pensions and other dues but failed to turn the money over to the union. The union also withdrew the complaint after receiving a commitment the funds will be paid.

Lackawanna County Assistant District Attorney Paul Ware comfirmed the IUPAT received more than $51,000 in funds through Paul Sinkaus Attorney Mark Powell.

Mr. Johnson stated charges could be re-filed if the Sinkaus family fails to pay the money owed to the Carpenters Union.

AFL-CIO labor federation against expanding trade with Korea

03.29.11

MARCH 2011 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

AFL-CIO labor federation against expanding trade with Korea

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 1st- The American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organization (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington, DC. opposes the United States - Korea Free Trade Agreement.

According to the AFL-CIO, last year South Korean manufacturers exported nearly 500,000 motor vehicles to the United States while our manufacturers exported only about 6,000 vehicles to Korea. Autos and auto parts accounted for $7.9 billion, or 75 percent, of our $10.6 billion trade deficit with South Korea. Yet the United States Trade Representative (USTR) rejected proposals to rectify this imbalance in the trade negotiations.

The AFL-CIO supports the proposals of the United Auto Workers of America (UAW) Union, which would safeguard and promote the long-term viability of the United States auto industry.

The AFL-CIO stated even if the fixes the issues related to the auto sector, it won’t be enough. There have been cases where free trade agreements have led to higher trade deficits and job loss. For example, it is estimated that since its passage in 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was signed into law by Democratic President Bill Clinton, has cost the United States more than a million jobs, allowed violations of core labor standards to continue and resulted in numerous challenges to laws and regulations designed to protect the public interest.

There are also serious concerns about workers’ rights in South Korea, where numerous laws fall far short of the core international labor standards. Millions of workers are hired on fixed-term contracts or through subcontracts, which makes it more difficult for workers to exercise their basic rights.

The AFL-CIO stated as a result, many workers have no way to fight back against low pay and a lack of job security. In some cases, police have used overwhelming force to break strikes. Courts frequently have imposed massive fines on workers who “obstructed the business” of their employer through collective action.

The labor federaion believes a better trade strategy begins with good domestic policy choices. What’s needed is continued and substantial public investments in education, lifelong workforce training in infrastructure and in research and development and to provide high-quality public services.

IAM Union files complaint against Luzerne County employer

03.29.11

MARCH 2011 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

IAM Union files complaint against Luzerne County employer

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 1st- The labor organization that represents workers at the Pepsi/Quaker Oaks Company plant on Oak Hill Road in Mountain Top filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia alleging the company violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

According to the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge, which was reviewed by the newspaper, the International Association of Machinists (IAM) Union Local Lodge 2905 represents approximately 190 Pepsi/Quaker Oaks Company employees at the Mountain Top facility. The company produces and warehouses Gatorade and other Pepsi products at the Luzerne County plant.

“Since on or about January 6th, 2011, and at all times thereafter, the Employer, by its officers, agents, and representatives, has refused to bargain in good faith with the IAM, a labor organization chosen by a majority of its employees in an appropriate unit, for the purpose of collective bargaining in respect to rates of pay, wages, hours of employment, and other terms and condition of employment.

Specifically, the Employer unilaterally modified the terms of the collective bargaining agreement without offering to bargain with the Union and without contractual authority to do so, changed the pay week from Monday through Sunday to Sunday through Saturday,” states the complaint.

The ULP was filed on behalf of the Union by James Smith, IAM District Lodge 1, Grand Lodge Representative in Cininnati, Ohio. IAM Local Lodge 2905 is affiliated with District Lodge 1. District Lodge 1 has a office in Philadelphia.

The employer representative named on the complaint to be contacted is Beverly Kramer. Her position with the company is not identified on the complaint.

Group: Unemployment System needs expanded federal role

03.29.11

MARCH 2011 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Group: Unemployment System needs expanded federal role

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 2nd- According to the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning economic research and educational institute in Washington, DC., there is a need to expand the Unemployment Insurance System. The purpose of the unemployment insurance system, as Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt noted upon signing the legislation into law, is both to alleviate hardships for the unemployed and to counter recessions.

The rules are that to receive unemployment benefits, a worker must have lost their job through no fault of their own and be actively seeking re-employment. In the wake of the Great Recession, the unemployment insurance system has been effective in helping families hardest hit by unemployment. In 2009 alone, unemployment benefits lifted 3.3 million families out of poverty.

The second purpose of the unemployment insurance system affects everyone, whether unemployed or not.

The system is designed to act as an “automatic stabilizer” for the economy. The unemployment insurance system acts “countercyclically” pumping money into the economy when unemployment is high by paying benefits that replace lost wages to those involuntarily unemployed while they search for work. This boost economic growth just when the economy needs it most.

Some economists have estimated that during the Great Recession, unemployment benefits closed about one-fifth of the recession-caused gap in total economic output. The unemployment benefits are paid for through federal and state taxes on employers, which are highest when unemployment is high and thus not inorrdinately pulling down employment during recessions.

In the wake of the worst recession since the Great Depression, however, the nation’s unemployment insurance system is in a crisis that threatens both its hardship-alleviating and automatic stabilizer functions.

Most state unemployment insurance systems are now insolvent, including Pennsylvania’s, due to the lack of adequate payments into the system in the nonrecession years preceding the Great Recession and the subsequent tepid jobs recovery that has required many states to continue to pay benefits for an extended period of time. As a result, most states (32) have taken out loans from the federal government for this unemployment trust funds to the tune of over $43 billion.

The Center for American Progress laid out the key elements of a plan to accomplish the goal of shoring up the unemployment insurance system’s role as an effective automatic stabilizer, while addressing the solvency crisis in the states.

The first step is to clear the deck by forgiving the trust loans of insolvent states and rewarding states that maintained position trust-fund balances.

The state of Wisconsin enacted the first unemployment compensation law and established the nation’s first program in 1936.

The organization propose a set of conditions for what they called “deck clearing” that will improve the core functions of the unemployment insurance system by:

• Clearly delineating and separating the federal and state roles by increasing the role of the federal trust fund during times of high unemployment;

• Reducing the wide disparity in eligibility rules and benefits across states.

The Center for American Progress stated their proposal will reduce cost for states as their labor markets struggle to emerge from the Great Recession, improve benefits for the unemployed, and better stabilize the economy in future recessions.

United Food and Commerical Workers members ratify pact

03.29.11

MARCH 2011 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

United Food and Commerical Workers members ratify pact

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, February 26th- The United Food and Commerical Workers (UFCW) Union Local 1776 members at JBS Soudertown, Inc. meatpacking plant in Montgomery County recently ratified a first-time labor contract.

The new three-year contract agreement covers approximately 1,200 JBS Soudertown employees, which voted in a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election on October 5th, 2010, to be represented by the UFCW for the purpose of collective bargaining.

“We stood together in choosing to form a union. Now we have a contract that guarantees wages, improves our health care and vacation benefits and spells out steps for grievance and arbitration when differences arise. We have a voice at work,” stated Bernie Coneghen, a JBS Soudertown employee and member of the bargaining unit.

The UFCW Union victory was one of the biggest units of employees to vote in favor of unionization in Pennsylvania in 2010.

“The election and contract negotiations demonstrate that when workers have a fair open choice, they choose union representation and create an environment that is fairer and more productive for workers, the company and the community at-large.

We applaud JBS for taking the high road in allowing a fair and free process,” stated Wendell Young IV, President of UFCW Local 1776, in Plymouth Meeting, which also has offices in Pittston Township and Gettysburg.

Local 1776 represents approximately 24,000 workers throughout Southeastern, Central and Northeastern Pennsylvania, including the Dunmore Department of Public Workers; Citterio USA in Freeland; Cargill Manufacturing in Hazleton; Rite Aid Drug Stores; Wise Chips in Berwick, and the Pennsylvania Wine and Spirits Shoppes.

In ratifing their labor contract the JBS Souderton workers joined 27,000 other JBS workers and 250,000 meatpacking and poultry workers in the United States who are represented by the United Food and Commerical Workers Union.

The United Food and Commerical Workers International Union in Washington, DC. has 1.3 million members including workers employed in the healthcare, garment, chemical, distillery and retail industries.

Mr. Young added the successful contract conclusion ends a 20-year effort
by some of the JBS Soudertown Inc. workers at the plant to be union represented.

Tribute Dinner for late labor leader Sam Bianco to be held on April 28th

03.25.11

MARCH 2011 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Tribute Dinner for late labor leader Sam Bianco to be held on April 28th

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 1st- The Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council labor federation will honor the late Sam Bianco with a tribute dinner on April 28th.

Mr. Bianco was first elected President of the labor federation, which is affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), in 1978 and won consecutive terms until his passing on September 28th, 2010.

“We all know what kind of leader he was, and how much the labor community misses him,” said Ed Harry, current President of the labor organization.

The labor federation created a committee made up of union members to plan for the event which will held at Genetti’s Hotel and Conference Center, 77 East Market Street in Wilkes-Barre.

“As you know, Sam has touched the lives of so many people in so many positive ways, that I am hoping that you can share in this special tribute to Sam and his family,” added Mr. Harry.

The cost of attending the event is $40.00, which includes meal, soda and beer. There will be a cash bar for mixed drinks.

Reservations must be made by April 18th. Checks should be made payable to: Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council.

For more information Mr. Harry can be contacted at: (570) 823-6716.

Mr. Bianco represented the labor community on numerous boards and committees throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania.

He was a retired District Manager of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU). The union once represented thousands of workers and hundreds of garment shops throughout the region.

Mr. Bianco resided in Vandling and is servived by his wife of 60 years Chara, a son David, and two daughters, Barbara and Sandra.

Collective bargaining in Wisconsin has labor history

03.25.11

MARCH 2011 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Collective bargaining in Wisconsin has labor history

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, February 28th- While the collective bargaining rights of public employees are being debated in the state of Wisconsin, the state has a long history of involvement with workers’ rights.Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker’s state budget repair bill calls for increased pension and health care contributions from public employees and calls for restrictions on collective bargaining for certain public employees.

Collective bargaining is the negotiation process between an employer (or group of employers) and a union on behalf of employees regarding wages, benefits and other conditions of employment, such as work hours and dispute resolution.

While the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct) of 1935 extended the right to collectively bargain to private sector employees, it did not include such rights for public employees. However, states may extend such rights to public employees within the affected states. Many states, including Pennsylvania, but not all, have granted collective bargaining rights to some or all public employees.

Wisconsin has a long history of involvement with workers rights in the public sector. In 1959, the Wisconsin legislature passed the Public Employee Collective Bargaining Act, the first state law allowing collective bargaining rights for public employees. It extended rights to local government employees and teachers. Wisconsin state employees were awarded similar rights in the 1970’s.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union grew out of the Wisconsin State Employees Union Council 24 which had its beginnings in 1932 in Madison when a small group of white-collar professional state employees met to discuss strengthening the civil services system.

Also, the first state workers’ compenstation law was passed in Wisconsin in 1911, as was the nation’s modern apprenticeship law. In 1932, Wisconsin enacted the first unemployment compensation law and established the nation’s first unemployment compensation program in 1936.

House of Representative Lou Barletta meets with labor

03.25.11

MARCH 2011 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

House of Representative Lou Barletta meets with labor

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION- March 2nd- United States House of Representative Lou Barletta (Republican - 11th Legislative District) met with members of the labor community on February 25th at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) District Council 87 building in Dunmore.

Approximately fourty-two members of the labor community attended with most being union officials.

Mr. Barletta has represented resident of the 11th Legislative District in Washington, DC since January. He defeated incumbent Democrat Paul Kanjorski in November 2010.

Mr. Barletta use the opportunity to give many of the conservative talking points including cutting the federal budget, replacing the national healthcare legislation, cutting at the United States national debt, and defending cutting taxes to the rich.

Mr. Barletta answered questions for around one hour and stated he needed to leave to attend another event.

Keith Hill, former President of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Union Local 1647, which represents employees at the Tobyhanna Army Depot, and a Political Director for AFGE International Union, challenge Mr. Barletta why he supported cutting taxes for rich Americans when there are huge federal deficits caused mostly by two wars that were underfunded by former Republican President George W. Bush and the Republican led Congress.

“I had nothing to do with that. That happened before I got there,” stated Mr. Barletta.

Mr. Hill voiced his displeasure with Mr. Barletta’s remarks and asked why the government does not audit the Federal Reserve because the taxpayers had to pay the bill for the billions of dollars spent on bank bailouts several years ago.

Drew Simpson, a Representative of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters Union Local 645 and until recently President of the Scranton Building and Construction Trades Council labor federation, asked Mr. Barletta why he voted for legislation that would have weakened the federal Davis-Bacon Act. The legislation failed.

Mr. Barletta responded he voted for the legislation knowing it would not pass and the Davis-Bacon Act would not be weakened. Mr. Simpson told the newspaper, Mr. Barletta’s remark only shows he will vote in Washington the way his party wants him to.

Mr. Barletta stated he had several problems with the David-Bacon Act including why less-skilled workers receive the same pay as more skilled construction workers on federal funded construction projects.

However, Joe Padavan, President of the United Steelworkers of America (UWA) Union Local 15253, which represents construction workers, said less skilled workers are paid less than higher skilled workers in their labor contract.

Mr. Barletta stated he is in Washington to represent the residents of 11th District not just his party.

Charlie and the CBS Factory (and other news)

03.25.11

by Walter Brasch

There has been a lot in the news this past week.
Most important, if measured by getting most of the ink and air time, is the continuing soap opera, “Charlie and the CBS Factory.”
The latest in a seemingly never-ending story is that after Charlie Sheen melted down, was fired, and spread himself to every known television talk show, declaring himself to be a winner and announcing a $100 million forthcoming law suit against CBS for breech of contract, the president of CBS announced he wanted Sheen back in “Two and a Half Men.”
Details are to be worked out. CBS said it would work with creator/executive producer Chuck Lorre and producing studio Warner Brothers, The relationship among Sheen, Warner Bros., Lorre, and most of the cast and crew may be a bit more difficult since Sheen’s warm-and-friendly on-air persona didn’t match his vitriolic attacks upon his co-stars and anti-Semitic remarks about Lorre.
CBS probably wouldn’t be as eager to bring Sheen back if the show wasn’t the best-rated comedy on the schedule. The SitCom brings in about $2.89 million in advertising revenue per show, about $63 million per season. A ninth and possibly final season also makes it even more lucrative for all the parties when the show goes into full syndication.
The boozing, possibly drug-induced self-destructive Sheen earns about $1.8 million an episode. In contrast, Mark Harmon, star of “NCIS,” the top-rated scripted show on TV, and also broadcast by CBS, is paid about $400,000 per episode, the same as any of the “Desperate Housewives,” according to TV Guide. In contrast to Sheen, Harmon is happily married, and his professional and personal lives have been devoid of scandal.
Also devoid of scandal, except for an adulterous affair and subsequent marriage to Richard Burton, was Elizabeth Taylor, one of the greatest film actresses, who died at 79 from congestive heart failure. Unlike Sheen and dozens of sub-par actresses, Taylor set the standard for both acting and a social conscience, being one of the first major celebrities to support not only AIDS education but the victims of the disease at a time when it could have been career-damaging to do so. She won numerous awards, including two Oscars for her acting. But, her most important honor may have been a special Oscar for her humanitarian work, proving her beauty was far more than skin deep.
But, there were still other stories this past week.
● Barry Bonds is in trial, charged with lying about taking steroids. He acknowledges taking steroids but was never told what they were by his trainers. Don’t Congress and the federal judiciary system have far more important things to worry about than baseball players who do or don’t take steroids? How much money has already been spent by Congressional investigations and the subsequent trial that could very well, according to several impartial legal experts, result in a minimal sentence or no sentence at all?
● Because of the disaster in Japan, a few hundred million Americans are now concerned about problems of nuclear energy. When America’s nukes were being planted throughout the country in the ’70s and ’80s, these were the same Americans who bought into all the propaganda about how “clean” and how “safe” nuclear power is. More important, these were some of the same people who not only disregarded but mocked those who, with facts, disputed the claims of the power companies.
● Two passenger jetliners landed at Reagan National Airport without air traffic controller assistance. The lone controller may have been asleep. That, alone, is bad enough, but there are greater issues not being discussed in the media. In one of the busiest airports, one located in the nation’s capital, and with the government well aware that air traffic control is one of the most stressful jobs, why was there only one controller on duty?
● The U.S. launched about $175 million worth of Tomahawk missiles into Lybia this past week. Perhaps another $100–$300 million was spent on tactical operations. President Obama told us the reason for the attack, supported by the UN, was because dictator Muammar Khadafi was attacking civilians in his country. If that’s the reason for the attack, why has the U.S. military been silent on the ethnic slaughter in Darfur/the Sudan? Why have there been no attacks on Iran, North Korea, or other dictatorships that suppress the rights of people? Is it because Libya has more strategic importance, and oil, for the U.S. than Darfur? A more important question is why are we attacking a country in a civil war? Khadafi’s attacks upon rebels may be harsh, but he’s protecting his country. Apparently we learned nothing from the war in Viet Nam. What if England invaded the U.S. on behalf of the Confederates or France provided military assistance to President Lincoln during our own Civil War?
● Finally, labor has come under intense attacks the past couple of months. Wisconsin has eliminated collective bargaining, against the largest protests since the Viet Nam war. Other Republican-controlled states are in full battle gear. And, in Maine, Republican Gov. Paul LePage has proven that he cares nothing about the working class when he ordered murals of workers taken down from the halls of the Department of Labor. He claimed, without providing any proof, that some businessmen said the panels, which have no political theme, just depictions of workers, was anti-business. But, no matter what radical conservatives believe, about two-thirds of Americans still believe in collective bargaining, even if they aren’t in unions, according to several recent national polls.

[Walter Brasch has been a journalist and editor for 40 years, covering everything from PTA meetings to the White House and federal court system. His forthcoming book, Before the First Snow, looks at the problems of the nuclear power industry. The book is available for pre-order at amazon.com ]

President Obama: MIA

03.17.11

by Walter Brasch

As expected, Michael Moore, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka were in Madison, Wisc., to support and rally the workers in their fight against the union-busting governor and Republican-dominated state legislature.

But, so were union members Bradley Whitfield, Susan Sarandon, Tony Shaloub, and dozens of musicians and singers, including Peter Yarrow who, as part of Peter, Paul, and Mary, was at almost every major social protest for more than 40 years.

“This is not merely a protest on the steps of the Capitol here in Madison,” said Shalhoub, “this is the birth of . . . a nationwide movement destined to restore the rights of workers, to safeguard quality education for our children and to reassemble and reconstitute the fragmented and wounded middle class.” Shalhoub, who won three Emmys, was born in Green Bay; his sister is a Wisconsin teacher.

“Workers,” Sarandon told a crowd of almost 100,000, “had to organize, go on strike, defy the law, defy the courts to create a movement which won the eight-hour workday and caused such a commotion that Congress was forced to pass a minimum wage law, Social Security, unemployment insurance and the right to assemble in collective bargaining.”

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) told thousands of cheering protestors they had to “reclaim the essence of economic justice before it is lost on the corporate scaffold.” Former senator Russ Feingold, the only senator brave enough to oppose the PATRIOT Act when it was created, said the actions of the governor and legislature were “an outrageous assault on working people.”

The people, the workers, were there when newly-elected Gov. Scott Walker first announced, Feb. 11, he was going to demand hard concessions from the public sector unions. They were there when he lied about the budget and his intentions. They were there when the truth came out that at the same time Walker and his Republican cabal were taking away worker rights and demanding more wage and pension sacrifices, they were also assuring significant tax rebates and making innumerable promises to Big Business. They were there when a Wisconsin Policy Research Institute poll revealed that in less than a month Walker’s approval rate had plunged to only 43 percent. And they were there after he signed a bill, March 13, deviously manipulated through the Senate in the middle of the night, to strip collective bargaining rights of public employees.

But, while the masses protested the shredding of their rights, not at any rally anywhere in Wisconsin were several people who should have been there. Senate minority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (R-Calif.), Vice-President Joe Biden, and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis have been conspicuously absent. So are almost all major national Democratic political leaders, obviously afraid to publicly support their largest constituency, the American working class.

One person, more than any other, needed to be there, if only to prove that campaign rhetoric and one’s promises mean something after the election.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Sen. Barack Obama told energized and reinvigorated crowds, both small and large, “If American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain when I’m in the White House, I’ll put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself [and] I’ll walk on that picket line with you as president of the United States of America because workers deserve to know that somebody is standing in their corner.”

As president, Obama may be wearing comfortable shoes, but he hasn’t gone to Wisconsin to stand by the workers, nor has he ever walked a picket line at least in the past two years. His only public comments, and even then weak ones, were to call the actions in Wisconsin an “assault upon the workers,” and several days later to add, “I don’t think it does anybody any good when public employees are denigrated or vilified, or their rights are infringed upon.” It was a statement that could have been said by any Democratic president—and most Republican ones as well.

There are dozens of reasons and excuses why President Obama is not in Wisconsin. The one that seems to be most probable is that going into a re-election campaign he doesn’t want to alienate any of his constituencies. It’s doubtful, however, that anyone on the extreme right wing will vote for him, no matter what he does or doesn’t do. It’s also probable that the core of the Democratic party—the unions and workers, the youth, the alienated and disenfranchised, and those who believe in social justice, who awakened in 2008 to give him a mandate for change—may give him only lukewarm approval or, worse, be silent in 2012. They have every reason to believe they had been betrayed.

Good presidents do what is best for the country. Great presidents, however, do not only what is best for the people, but are also willing to speak to the courage of their beliefs, of their principles, even if it may be unpopular among many of their constituencies. They don’t put their “finger in the air” to judge what’s popular. Republican Theodore Roosevelt, and Democrats Franklin Delano Roosevelt and “Give ’em Hell, Harry” Truman were among the great presidents. If Barack Obama doesn’t soon speak out on behalf of the working class, he may find his legacy mired in the struggle to become even a good president.

[Assisting on this column was Brian LeCloux of Sun Prairie, Wisc. Walter Brasch is an award-winning columnist, and the author of 16 books. You may contact him at walterbrasch@gmail.com]

We Are All Part of the Labor Movement Now

03.16.11

We Are All Part of the Labor Movement Now

by Robert Creamer

Speaking to a cheering crowd of eight to ten thousand outside of Chicago’s State of Illinois Building Saturday, American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Deputy Director Roberta Lynch said, “whether you are a member of a labor union or not, we are all members of the labor movement now.”

She was dead on. In a matter of less than a month, since Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker declared war on the right of public service employees to organize and negotiate the terms of their employment, the public’s perception of organized labor has fundamentally changed.

For many who previously believed that unions were just another “special interest” they now represent a labor movement that is fighting for the rights of middle class Americans.

The struggle has become a movement because the battle is no longer simply about dollars and cents – it is about principle. It is about rights. As the AFSCME banners say in Madison: “It’s about freedom.”

The battle of Wisconsin – and all of the other states where right wing governors have trained their sites on public employee unions – is no longer just a struggle over wages and benefits. It’s no longer about the “state budget”. It has become a struggle about the dignity of middle class Americans – about the principle of whether everyday people have the right to sit at a bargaining table and have a say about their wages, their working conditions, and their jobs. It has become a symbol for the desperate desire of everyday Americans to stand up straight and fight back against the forces that are destroying the middle class.

Walker intentionally transformed this battle into a struggle over principle by refusing to accept Wisconsin union member’s willingness to take cuts in salaries and benefits in order to balance the state budget. Instead he has insisted on stripping everyday, middle class Americans of their right to have a say.

Luckily for the future of the middle class – the labor unions – and the millions of others who are now part of the new, broader “labor movement” have risen to the challenge.

As USAction President William McNary said, in an inspired speech to the crowd in Chicago, this is a battle about human dignity the same way that the garbage worker’s fight for union recognition in Memphis, Tennessee in April of 1968 was a struggle for human dignity. That was the battle that drew Dr. Martin Luther King to Memphis to make his famous “I’ve been to the mountain top” speech – just before he was gunned down by James Earl Ray.

Martin Luther King inspired the world by his sacrifice in Memphis 43 years ago. He was there to champion precisely the cause that has become the center of the struggle in Wisconsin.

The movement – the new labor movement – has spread like wildfire across America.

Saturday MoveOn.org and its allies like USAction – together with public employee unions, teachers unions – and labor organizations of all shorts – organized rallies to support the workers in Wisconsin in every state capitol and most major cities. Hundreds of thousands participated.

Usually rallies like this take months of planning and require hundreds of busses to assure turn out. These rallies were organized on several days’ notice. People told their neighbors who told their neighbors. The on-line tools that have helped turbo-charge the movement for democracy in the Arab world allowed notices of rallies to go out in seconds.

The turn out was about the wide spread anger at what Governor Walker has proposed – but mainly it was because people were inspired by the resolve of the workers in Wisconsin – and the Democratic State Senators who have stood their ground.

Movements are not primarily about material self-interest. They are mainly about spiritual self-interest. They are about inspiration – about being part of something meaningful – about making history – about empowerment – about freedom.

The Obama campaign inspired millions. It engaged their hunger for meaning and purpose – for empowerment and hope. It wasn’t mainly about what they thought about Barack Obama – or what he could do for them. It was about how he made them feel about themselves – about what they themselves could achieve.

In the two years since President Obama’s Inauguration, America had lost that feeling in the difficult struggle to dig out of the Great Recession and the “sausage making” of political battle in Congress.

In the last month, many Americans have found it once again.

The people in Chicago Saturday were from every ethnic group. They were veterans of the Progressive Movement and they were kids for whom this was the first experience of the feeling that comes when you’re part of something historic.

The radical right wing Republicans decided to strike now to destroy organized labor. They wanted to destroy it because it is the only institution in the country that prevents Wall Street and the largest international corporations from having their way with America. Organized labor is the only organization that can simultaneously stand up for the middle class at the bargaining table and the ballot box.

But by making their play to destroy unions they risked something that from their point of view is much worse – a reborn labor movement – one that involves labor union members – and millions of others throughout America.

The right gambled that it could make policemen, firefighters, teachers and nurses into the “ greedy welfare queens” of our time – scapegoats for America’s economic woes. Fortunately, most Americans see policemen, firefighters, teachers and nurses as their neighbors – as breadwinners for middle class families that are just like them. Turns out it’s tough to make cops, firefighters, teachers and nurses into villains.

Instead of creating political momentum to destroy unions, the right has sparked its worst nightmare – the rebirth of the labor movement.

On his way to the Chicago rally, and AFSCME staffer was stopped by a young woman in a parking garage. She asked him about the AFSCME insignia on his jacket. “Are you part of the organization that’s defending the workers in Wisconsin?” she asked.

“I’m an organizer for the union, “ he responded.

“Very cool! I’d like to do that too,” said the young woman. That wasn’t exactly the idea was it Governor Walker.

Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on Amazon.com.

Anti-union legislation being proposed in Pennsylvania

03.16.11

MARCH 2011, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Anti-union legislation being proposed in Pennsylvania

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, February 17th- Pennsylvania could experience protest like those in Wisconsin by union workers due to anti-union legislation.

In Wisconsin, pro-union protesters have protested Republican efforts to force labor contract concessions on public employees unions, including teachers and other government workers, that would make them contribute more to their health care and pension costs and change many of the terms and conditions language of their contracts.

The Republican Governor, which was elected in November, 2010, set off the protests by pushing ahead with legislation requiring the concessions from government workers. The Republicans also have majorities in the Wisconsin House of Representatives and Senate. He says the concessions are needed to deal with a state deficit of $3.5 billion.

Wisconsin is one of nine states in the nation that are facing budget deficits and are proposing measures calling for concessions by government workers.

In Pennsylvania, several anti-union measures have been introduced in committee that if passed would hurt members of the labor community.

With the Republicans gaining control of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and the Governors Mansion, anti-union legislation will likely be introduced in the upcoming session of the General Assembly, including a fourth try at banning the use of PLA’s on public construction projects. The GOP also controls the Senate.

Also, teacher unions in Pennsylvania are against legislation that would allow parents to receive vouchers to send their children to non-public schools.

A PLA is a comprehensive agreement signed by a builder and local craft unions under which a defined construction project is agreed to be completed by workers from local union halls, in return for the union’s guarantee of no strikes, a steady labor supply, and general labor peace. Under a PLA, a nonunion contractor could still be hired for a project, however if they are selected, local unionized workers must be hired.

The unions also fear legislation will be introduced on the floors of the General Assembly that would ban union security clauses in Pennsylvania. Such legislation is often referred to as “right-to-work.”

“The fact of the matter is that many non-union contractors here in Pennsylvania and all over the country bid on projects with PLA’s and win those bids. They then go on to complete those projects using local crafts people and still earn a reasonable profit. They do this because PLA’s work,” stated Frank Sirianni, President of the Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council in Harrisburg, which is a labor federation representing unions who members are employed within the construction industry.

Food Workers Union making noise about selling of Liquor Stores

03.16.11

MARCH 2011, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Food Workers Union making noise about selling of Liquor Stores

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, February 14th- The union that represents the majority of the workers employed by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB), which operates the Pennsylvania Wine and Spirit Shoppes, began a public awareness campaign against selling the retail stores to private business people and union officials are meeting with legislators requesting they not support the privatization plan.

The debate of whether Pennsylvania should sell their state liquor stores to private owners has resurfaced in the General Assembly in Harrisburg and the three labor unions that represent the workers will likely be affected if the stores are privatized.

The Pennsylvania Senate has began to conduct hearings and hear testimony on what impact privatization will have on the public, the business community, and the unions that represent the PLCB employees.

The United Food and Commerical Workers Union (UFCW) represents the majority of the workers employed by the PLCB. The UFCW represents shelf stockers and clerk workers.

Most lower tied supervisors of the system are represented by the Independent State Store Union (ISSU) in Harrisburg while the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union represents mainly office employees including auditors.

Should the stores be “sold-off” to private owners the unions’ would likely lose members and may even be removed as the bargaining representative of the employees.

There are approximately 625 liquor stores throughout Pennsylvania and the LCB also operates liquor stores located in around 50 grocery stores. The retail store system generates millions of dollars in profit including creating $400 million in tax revenue.

Supporters of privatization suggest the selling of the stores would generate $1.5 billion of state revenue yield, but it would be a one-time infusion of funds.

Before a sale can be held legislation would need to be passed in the Pennsylvania General Assembly and signed by Republican Governor Tom Corbett, which supports privatizing the stores.

Wendell Young IV, President of UFCW Local 1776, which has offices in Plymouth Meeting, Gettysburg, and Pittston, stated there has been a lot of talk about the merits of selling the stores recently but there are several myths being repeated regarding privatization including the two billion dollar wind-fall for Pennsylvania.

“While the UFCW PA Wine and Spirits Council representing local unions with a combined membership of over 40,000 members in Pennsylvania is not averse to engaging in the debate on this issue, we think that the discussion has to be based on facts, not fantasy. Selling the state stores is an irresponsible, risky scheme that won’t fix Pennsylvania’s budget” stated Mr. Young.

Mr. Young stated privatization opponents suggest selling of the licenses would raise $2 billion but comparable licenses have not been shown to be worth anything close to that anywhere in the nation. Also privatization supporters suggest selling of the stores would give “mom and pop” a chance to go into the liquor business. However, they do not show where “mom and pop” would come up with the $2.3 million needed to purchase a license.

Schakowsky Introduces Bill to Tax Millionaires and Billionaires

03.16.11

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Sarah Baldauf; 202.225.2111
sarah.baldauf@mail.house.gov

Schakowsky Introduces Bill to Tax Millionaires and Billionaires

The most popular way to reduce the deficit, according to 81% of Americans? Put a surtax on federal income taxes for those who make more than $1 million per year.
– NBC/Wall St. Journal Poll, March 2, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC (March 16, 2011) – Today Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), member of President Obama’s 18-member Fiscal Commission, introduced the Fairness in Taxation Act today, which would create new tax brackets for millionaires and billionaires. Original co-sponsors include co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), as well as Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL), Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA), Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY), and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR).

Income inequality in America is the worst we’ve seen it since 1928. Wages have stagnated for middle and lower income families despite enormous gains in productivity. Where has all the money gone?

“In the United States today, the richest 1% owns 34 % of our nation’s wealth – that’s more than the entire bottom 90%, who own just 29% of the country’s wealth,” said Rep. Schakowsky. “And the top one-hundredth of 1% now makes an average of $27 million per household per year. The average income for the bottom 90% of Americans? $31,244. It’s time for millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share, which is why I introduced the Fairness in Taxation Act. This isn’t about punishment or revenge. It’s about fairness. It’s about avoiding budget cuts that harm middle class families and those who aspire to it. We can choose to cut education, job creation and health care, or we can choose to ask those who can contribute more to do so.”

The current top tax bracket begins at $373,000 in income and fails to distinguish between the “well off” and billionaires – like the top 20 hedge fund managers whose average income last year was over $1 billion.

The Fairness in Taxation Act asks enacts new tax brackets for income starting at $1 million and ends with a $1 billion bracket. The new brackets would be:
$1-10 million: 45%
$10-20 million: 46%
$20-100 million: 47%
$100 million to $1 billion: 48%
$1 billion and over: 49%
The bill would also tax capital gains and dividend income as ordinary income for those taxpayers with income over $1 million.

Support for Schakowsky’s Fairness in Taxation Act:

“I think very wealthy people like me should pay substantially higher taxes, since we have done exceedingly well in the last few decades,” said Katharine Myers, a millionaire from Pennsylvania whose income comes from royalties from the Myers-Briggs personality test, created by her mother-in-law, which she has managed with Peter Myers since the 1980s. “Our taxpayer-funded government contributed to my success.” Myers has been a supporter of United for a Fair Economy and its Responsible Wealth project for many years.
“It’s time we treated multi-millionaires the same way we treat working families – by creating a tax bracket to match their income,” said Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “There’s no reason to treat the wealthiest one percent of the country any more specially than anyone else, and right now that’s exactly what our tax system is doing. The Republican war on working families means cutting from the middle and handing the savings to the top. Instead, let’s have everyone pay their fair share to create jobs and get the economy moving again.”

“Millionaires and billionaires should be giving to charity not getting it,” said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “The middle class is shrinking and deficits are rising because Republicans are giving a pass to special interests who aren’t paying their fair share. This bill is part of a plan to level the playing field.”

“A tax system where families earning several thousand dollars are taxed at the same rate as millionaires is unfair, and unsustainable,” said Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD). “The Fairness in Taxation Act is a common sense solution to eliminating this inequality and balancing the federal budget. At a time when House Republicans are demanding that working families, teachers, and firefighters bear the burden of reducing the deficit, millionaires should be required to contribute their fair share.”

Groups that have endorsed Schakowsky’s Fairness in Taxation Act:

United for a Fair Economy, Citizens for Tax Justice, Citizen Action Illinois, U.S. Action, Campaign for America’s Future, Wealth for the Common Good, and The Agenda Project.

Congresswoman Schakowsky has shown that there is another way,” said Steve Wamhoff, tax expert from Citizens for Tax Justice. “Her proposal would make the federal income tax more progressive by introducing higher rates for taxpayers with income in excess of $1 million. Millionaires have benefited disproportionately from the tax cuts enacted over the past decade, so it seems entirely reasonable that they share in the sacrifices needed to get our fiscal house in order.”

“The budget cuts being debated in Washington shamefully require middle class families to pay the price for the recklessness of the Wall Street bankers and hedge fund managers who broke our economy,” said Brian Miller, Executive Director of United for a Fair Economy. “Instead of punishing middle class families and de-funding America, the Fairness in Taxation Act asks those who have benefitted so heavily from the economic bounce of Wall Street to share responsibility for getting our nation’s finances on track.”

“Any sensible program for deficit reduction must begin with changing the massive tax cuts for the very wealthy,” said Roger Hickey, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future. “Those tax give-aways were a major cause of our current deficit. In an era of excessive inequality we should end Bush era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. We need progressive revenues not just to bring down deficits, but also to finance investments in job and sustainable growth. The introduction of the Fairness in Taxation Act is an important step that will be popular with the American people.”