Opinion

The Divide: Tax cuts, labor under attack

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The Divide: Tax cuts, labor under attack

 

The Republicans finally released their tax overhaul plan. To no one’s surprise, almost all of the proposed $1.5 trillion deficit-increasing tax breaks go to large corporations, while middle and low income Americans were offered a crumb – doubling the standard deduction. Of course, the increase in the standard deduction is more than offset by placing caps on the mortgage interest deduction and the state and local tax deduction (SALT), and by repealing many other individual tax credits and deductions. Most pundits believe the tax reform proposal will undergo changes before it is voted on, but, whatever the final version is, it looks like the trick will be how states will be able to close the divide between the benefits the average citizen will lose so that the Republicans can give a massive bagful of treats to their corporate donors.

The biggest insult to our intelligence by House Speaker Paul Ryan and his GOP cohorts is that they actually believe that we will fall for the joke that the deficit increase resulting from their corporate tax giveaway will be balanced out by the increase in economic activity from corporations sharing their newfound largesse with their employees. It seems the GOP mixed up April Fool’s Day with Halloween if they really believe corporations are going to share the wealth with their employees. All we have to do to see how preposterous the GOP explanation that ‘trickle down’ economics will counter the increase in the deficit is to look at the attack on unions and workers’ benefits that is going on right now. As corporate earnings and profits are hitting record highs, American workers are losing their hard-fought for and time-honored protections.

Here are three very recent examples of how employees, especially union members, are being treated by corporate America:

Locally, we have the employees of the Hilton Albany, members of the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, AFL-CIO, being asked to accept the following offer: eliminating the current pension plan; slashing wage increases; clawing back a week of vacation; reducing the number of family bereavement days; and eliminating the guarantee to receive a full day’s work when called in on an off day.  The workers call these proposals “an attack on our livelihoods.” An attack so severe that the employees felt that they had no other choice but to call for a boycott of their own workplace. When you drive by the Albany Hilton, please honk to show your support for these hard working hotel employees. After all, your company could be the next one to disrespect its employees in a similar manner.

In New York City, reporters and editors in the combined newsroom of DNAinfo and Gothamist voted in late October to join the Writers Guild of America East. A week later, they all lost their jobs. The billionaire founder of TD Ameritrade, Joe Ricketts, who founded DNAinfo in 2009 and bought Gothamist this spring, shut down these two “digital purveyors of local news” following the vote to join the Guild. Ricketts, a conservative who supported Trump’s presidential bid, and whose companies will likely see a financial windfall from the proposed tax overhaul, is on record as being anti-union. A post on his blog was titled “Why I’m Against Unions at Businesses I Create.” Even having more than nine million readers a month was not enough to save these now union jobs.  Other unionized newsrooms are also facing pushback from ownership. Right here in the Capital District, employees of the Times Union (Hearst Communications), represented by the Albany Newspaper Guild, are entering their tenth year without a contract.

The third example of the corporate attack on unions just occurred in Boston. Radio station WBZ-AM was recently acquired by iHeartMedia. The Boston Globe reported that following the sale, the employees of WBZ-AM received a letter from the new owner stating two things: Current employees at the station will have to reapply for their positions; and iHeartMedia will not honor the two union contracts agreed to by the former owner of the station, CBS Radio, and the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, SAG-AFTRA. The sale of WBZ-AM was a result of the upcoming merger of Entercom Communications Corp. with CBS Radio. Hours before the employees received this unsettling letter, managers from iHeartMedia visited the station and told the workers that “they wanted the station’s transition to new ownership to be seamless.” Of course, like the housekeepers and restaurant staff at Hilton Albany and the editors and reporters of DNAinfo and Gothamist, WBZ-AM’s employees were in “total disbelief” by the actions announced by ownership.

The loss of employee benefits like bereavement leave and vacation time by workers will force the states to step in and to legislate that businesses provide humane benefits to their employees. One example of this type of regulation is New York State’s new law instituting paid family leave for working families. Starting January 1, 2018, paid family leave will be available to workers who need time off to care for a family member who has a serious health condition or to welcome a new member into the family following birth, adoption, or fostering of a child. The program guarantees that employees will be able to continue their health insurance while on leave and that their job will still be there when they return to work after the leave period is over. (For information visit: www.ny.gov/paidfamilyleave or call (844) 337-6303.)

These three small examples of how corporate entities treat their ‘most valued’ employees, should help us see that the financial rewards to big business under the Republican tax plan will not be shared with workers. The benefits will not ‘trickle down’ to you and me to help spur the economy. The tax savings will go directly into ownerships’ pockets and stockholders’ dividends. In the end the rich get richer and the poor and middle class get left holding an empty bag. Even far worse, the low and middle income earners are the ones who will lose their income tax deductions and credits to pay for the decrease in the corporate tax rate and the elimination of the estate tax on the wealthy.

If the GOP and Trump-endorsed tax reforms go into effect as they are currently written, Congress should also move the tax filing deadline from April 15 to April 1 as we will all be the victims of the cruelest April Fool’s Day prank ever perpetrated on the American people.      

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