Opinion: Union pensions not to blame

Millard Cox 5:32 a.m. ET April 16, 2017 for Burlington Free Press

Art Woolf’s article in the March 30 Free Press (“Only 11 percent of Vermonters are union workers”) leaves me wondering about his intent. He faults the state for not putting away enough money now to pay for future pensions and health benefits to unionized state employees and public educators. But then he implicates Vermont’s unionized public sector workers as being the underlying cause for these future tax burdens.

The reality is that current and future tax burdens in this state and nation have much more obvious origins. Since the 1980s a dramatic inequality in wealth and income has evolved between the mass of working people and the wealthiest top percent. Incomes for working people have flat-lined since the 1960s, so that working families are worse off now in terms of their purchasing power than they were then. And, since the economic recovery began in 2009, more than 90 percent of the economic benefit has gone to the top 1 percent.

Today, the richest 20 percent of Americans control 93 percent of the nation’s wealth. Eighty percent of Americans control only 7 percent of the nation’s wealth. Yet, in spite of this increasing inequality, the wealthy pay taxes today at a much lower rate than they have historically. Beginning with FDR’s administration through the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s, until the Reagan administration, the wealthiest Americans paid a tax rate ranging from 60 to 90 percent of their income.

Today the wealthy typically pay less than 20 percent in taxes. Corporate taxes in the 1950s accounted for 25 to 30 percent of government operation costs. Today corporate taxes account for less than 11 percent. Clearly, the deficits in government revenue in Vermont and across the nation are not caused by pension payments to unionized public sector workers. The cause of government revenue loss is directly attributable to a reduction in corporate tax obligations and reduced taxes on the wealthy.

Labor unions in the private and public sectors have done more to increase the economic power of working people than any other historic factor, and the current levels of wealth inequality in America are directly related to the demise of unions over the past 60 years. The death of unions in America has been engineered by corporations and the wealthy who have influenced elections and lobbied for anti-union legislation. Unionized American jobs have been moved to countries where impoverished, non-unionized workers can be exploited.

Art Woolf is an economics professor who teaches at UVM, which has a unionized faculty. My experience as a public school educator and union partisan is that those faculty members who do not agree with the concept and purpose of unions nevertheless do not refuse to accept the enhanced pay and benefits that are won by the union they do not believe in.

Millard Cox lives in Ripton.

 

Original source: http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/opinion/my-turn/2017/04/16/opinion-union-pensions-blame/100461254/

Labor Unions Continue Push Back to 'Right to Work' Law

By Marissanne Lewis-Thompson Feb 17, 2017

Missouri became the 28 right-to-work state when Gov. Eric Greitens signed it into law earlier this month. The legislation prohibits employers and labor unions from requiring employees to shell out dues. But the new law hasn’t been without opposition from unions statewide. Mark Baker who is a business representative for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers is against the new law and says it’s an attempt to drive down wages.

Click through below to listen to the interview and read what Mark Baker says why he's opposed to the legislation, give his opinion on companies who say they won't come to states that aren't right-to-work, and what this legislation means for unions.

Original source: http://krcu.org/post/labor-unions-continue-push-back-right-work-law#stream/0

This election could decide the fate of American labor — and that’s the problem

By Joseph A. McCartin

One of the many questions to be decided in this election is the future of U.S. labor policy. Unions entered the race with high hopes, having recently made big gains. They had won rising support for a $15 minimum wage, reformed overtime rules and dodged a potentially devastating blow from the Supreme Court, which, had it not been for the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, undoubtedly would have crippled labor’s ability to collect fees from millions of public sector workers who benefit from union contracts.

But any hope of translating such victories into a broad union revival hinges on the outcome of the election. Early indications suggest that the preferences of working-class voters in once densely unionized states — such as Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio — might be decisive. But while unions usually punch above their weight in elections, getting their members to vote Democratic in disproportionately high numbers, this year Republican Donald Trump is complicating their task.

Read more: Washington Post

Commentary: Consider ordinary workers

The income gap in this country is widening, and the working class's honest labor is increasingly devalued. This has not happened by accident or misadventure; rather, it's the work of new corporate aristocrats and the ultra wealthy to tilt the scales in their favor.

Tom Perez says union members earn median $200 a week more than nonunion workers

By Sean Gorman

U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez says a union job is a ticket to the middle class.

"If you are a member of a union, your median weekly income is roughly $200 more than if you are a nonunion member, and that doesn’t include benefits," Perez said in an interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch, prior to headlining the Democratic Party of Virginia’s Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner on June 18.

Read more: http://www.politifact.com/virginia/statements/2016/jun/29/thomas-perez/tom-perez-says-union-members-earn-median-200-week-/

New high school diplomas steer grads to trade jobs

After high school, graduates are eligible to serve full apprenticeships, earning up to $14 an hour with benefits. After four years, they could land union jobs in the trade industry that pay up to $37 an hour, said Jim Odle , an instructor at North County Trade Tech, where eight of this year’s class of more than 30 graduates completed the program.

Why young Americans are giving up on capitalism

Americans under 20 have had little to no adult experience in a pre-Great Recession economy. Things older generations took for granted — promotions, wages that grow over time, a 40-hour work week, unions, benefits, pensions, mutual loyalty between employers and employees — are increasingly rare.

Wisconsin judge strikes down state's right-to-work law

Brendan O'Brien - Reuters - Friday, April 8, 2016

A Wisconsin judge on Friday struck down the state's right-to-work law, saying the measure is unconstitutional by banning unions from charging fees to non-union workers for certain services, court papers showed.
Dane County Judge William Foust decided in favor of International Association of Machinists, United Steelworkers and the AFL-CIO, which filed a lawsuit against the state, arguing the law passed in 2015 by Republican lawmakers violates the state constitution.
Before the right-to-work law was passed in Wisconsin, workers who chose not to be a member of a union at their workplace were still charged a fee to cover collective bargaining, contract administration and other services.
The law prohibits these fees and, as a result, allows the "taking of the plaintiff's property without just compensation in violation" of the state constitution, Foust wrote in his decision.
Attorney General Brad Schimel said in a statement that he will appeal the decision.
"We are extremely disappointed that the Dane County Circuit Court struck down Wisconsin's right-to-work law," he said.
In 2015, the legislation was spearheaded by state Republican lawmakers, including former U.S. presidential candidate Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
"Today, the courts put a needed check on Scott Walker's attacks on working families by ruling that Wisconsin's right-to-work law is in violation of our state constitution," said Phil Neuenfeldt, President of Wisconsin AFL-CIO, in a statement.
Walker drew accolades from conservatives across the nation in 2011 when he ushered through legislation curtailing the powers of most public-sector unions in Wisconsin amid large protests at the state capitol in Madison.
Similar but much smaller protests ensued during the passage of the right-to-work measure in Wisconsin, which made it the 25th U.S. state to have such a measure on the books.
Conservative support for the law helped catapult Walker onto the national scene and propelled his campaign for the 2016 U.S. presidential election before he bowed out in September. (Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Diane Craft)

Original source: MSN Money