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Enforcing Workers’ Rights: ‘Hit Bosses In The Wallet, Hard’

Published Thursday, September 16, 2021
by Mark Gruenberg/Via People’s World
Enforcing Workers’ Rights: ‘Hit Bosses In The Wallet, Hard’

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - “Hit ‘em in the wallet,” hard - That, in so many words, is the message the Democratic majority on the House Education and Labor Committee sent last week in its part of the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion tax and program package which lawmakers will vote on in mid-September.

“We passed penalties for firms that break the law on wage theft, on safety and health and when (firms prevent Workers who) try to bargain collectively,” said U.S. Representative Andy Levin (Democrat-Michigan), a former Top Union Organizer and Deputy AFL-CIO Organizing Director.

“I do not expect or want to see these provisions eliminated or see them watered down,” he told a zoom press conference on the legislation that was held on Monday (September 13th). “They raise revenue, but they’re also provisions to fight wealth and income inequality.”

Education and Labor’s fines against firms that harm their Workers aren’t the only ones in the legislative package that lawmakers will tackle.

Indeed, they aren’t even the main ones.

The tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee considered, also on party lines, to raise corporate tax rates and individual rates on high earners too.

The tax provisions that the panel’s chair, U.S. Representative Richard Neal (Democrat-Massachusetts), also unveiled on Monday would raise the corporate tax rate from its current 21% to a new 26.5% rate, raise the top capital gains rate from its current 20% to a new 25% and raise the top individual tax rate from 37% percent to 39.6%, plus a 3% surtax on individuals’ income above $5 million.

It’s not enough, though, for the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS).

Ways and Means “moves the ball forward but doesn’t meet the scale of the moment,” IPS’s Chuck Collins and Rebekah Entralgo said in an e-mail. “The House Tax Reforms would raise an estimated $2.2 trillion, just barely more than the revenue lost to the 2017 Republican tax cuts. Under this initial House plan, the rich would pay a higher rate on ordinary income, but billionaires like Jeff Bezos - who make most of their money off investments, wouldn’t owe the IRS much more.  In the coming weeks, let’s all keep pushing for the transformational budget deal the Nation needs.  And don’t forget to check and our social media feeds for regular updates.”

The package, now being assembled on Capitol Hill, envisions the societal overhaul Democratic President Joe Biden proposed in his Build Back Better Agenda.

Besides the fines, it has many positive aspects.

Just the two committees’ sections include $707 million more for the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), nationwide Paid Family and Medical Leave, free universal pre-K, and two years of free community college tuition, for starters.

The Education and Labor section also features increased spending to rehab and upgrade crumbling schools, $450 billion for child care centers - and for Center Workers’ pay - and capping any family’s annual spending for child care at 7% of its income.

Ways and Means’ section also includes measures to combat climate change and expanding Medicare to cover dental, vision, and hearing treatment, and extending the larger child care tax credit to at least 2025.

That’s cut child poverty in half.

“The high cost of child care is straining family’s budgets and pushing millions of Americans out of the workforce,” said U.S. Representative Bobby Scott (Democrat-Virginia), the Education and Labor Committee Chair. “A majority of those are Women.  Lack of affordable child care is also hurting our economy, as employers are struggling to fill job openings to meet demand and grow their businesses.”

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