Labor ramps up campaign against Trump tax cut for the rich
President Trump is under fire for putting forward a tax plan that makes him richer than he already is but hurts the 99 percent. AP

WASHINGTON — Led by the AFL-CIO, more unions are speaking out against the Republicans’ tax cut for the rich, saying the middle class – and union members – will wind up footing the bill.

The statements, urging members to contact their lawmakers in a mass campaign against the measure, came as the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee started work on November 6 on the legislation.

And AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka even went so far – defying orthodoxy in both political parties – by saying any tax bill should not only make the rich and corporations pay their fair share but should increase government revenue.

Doing so would let the feds “make the investments we need” for a growing population and to create jobs fixing an aging infrastructure, Trumka wrote in an op-ed in The Hill.

Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, the panel’s chairman, wants to finish work on the measure by November 9, and the House’s GOP leaders aim to pass it – on party-line votes – before Thanksgiving. President Trump wants it on his desk by the end of December.

Panel Democrats, saying they were blindsided by new provisions Brady introduced Monday, promised lawmakers would hear personal stories from constituents who would suffer from the Republican scheme.

But every Democratic attempt to change the legislation, plus one to stall it for a week until there are actual hearings, lost on 24-16 party-line votes.

The tax bill, including new provisions, would bar deductions for state and local taxes, medical expenses, casualty losses – except for those from the three recent hurricanes – and even the $250 deduction teachers get when they shell out their own money to buy pencils and papers for their low-income pupils. AFT President Randi Weingarten said on the union website the average teacher spends $945 yearly on such school supplies.

Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., illustrated the damage by telling of his constituent from Fort Lee, a 50-year-old building trades union worker named “David” who was injured in a car crash in 2008. The GOP’s tax cut bill, Pascrell said, meant David “could no longer deduct $15,000 in medical expenses.”

“He told me if this bill passes he’ll have to move out of his home in Fort Lee apart from his wife until she can retire. Look,” he told Republicans, “You’re tearing families apart. I’ve got a lot of these stories. You’re going to listen to them somehow, someway over the next four days.”

Besides the workers, Pascrell later read into the record a letter against the tax cut bill, not from unions or workers, but from the state Chamber of Commerce.

The union leaders were more caustic about the GOP tax bill, while urging members to hit the phones and e-mails to try to convince lawmakers to kill it on the House floor after Brady’s panel acts.

“Working people are tired of hearing how tax giveaways for Wall Street billionaires and corporations will supposedly trickle down to the rest of us. Too many politicians and pundits want us to believe our country is broke, and we have no choice but to demand sacrifices from working people, yet they have no trouble finding trillions of dollars to waste on tax giveaways for people who do not need them,” Trumka wrote.

“Here is what a plan that actually works for working people looks like: Wall Street, big corporations and the wealthy must pay their fair share of taxes. Our rigged and broken tax system lets” them avoid that “while sticking the rest of us with the tab.”

The Communications Workers, the Steel Workers, the Teachers, AFSCME and the union-backed Alliance for Retired Americans came out against the bill as soon as Brady unveiled it. “Trump and the GOP leadership are making teachers, cops and firefighters—and other union members—pay for the tax giveaways to the rich,” Weingarten’s website letter says. Other union leaders, urging their members to call lawmakers, followed:

Government Employees President J. David Cox: “The plan would actually raise taxes on our poorest citizens. The House plan would eliminate several deductions and tax credits that helped working-class families, including being able to deduct student loans and medical expenses and getting a tax credit for adopting a child. The plan also would cap the property tax deduction, repeal the deductions for state and local income and sales taxes, and slash in half the mortgage interest deduction for new homebuyers…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.”

Service Employees President Mary Kay Henry: “These types of tax breaks never ‘trickle down’ to working people and will result in cuts to healthcare, education and other programs our communities depend on. These tax cuts would give millionaires and corporations a reason to celebrate but would hurt working Americans who are trying put food on the table…send their children to college, save for their retirement and buy homes. No matter how the Trump administration and Congressional leaders try to spin these tax provisions, they are just wrong for working families.”

National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen-Garcia also hit the plan’s elimination of the school supplies deduction, which she said 99.5 percent of teachers take. “Republican leaders unveiled a massive tax plan that gives away huge tax breaks for the wealthiest and corporations, while putting middle-class families at risk of higher taxes. The plan also expands an education tax loophole that would further benefit the wealthy and allow them to set aside money for private school expenses while cutting tax deductions for the middle class.

“Eliminating any part of the state and local tax deduction equals a tax increase on middle class families that will have a negative, ripple effect on states’ and local communities’ ability to fund public services, like public education. That will translate into cuts to public schools, lost jobs to educators, and overcrowded classrooms.

“We’ve been down this yellow brick road before. The failed ‘Kansas experiment,’ in which GOP leaders pushed brutal tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations starved the state of basic services and resulted in crippling cuts to public education.” The GOP-dominated Kansas legislature defied the Republican governor this year and erased his tax cuts, she noted.

The Laborers of Minnesota and North Dakota, in a tweet: “Let’s prioritize America’s infrastructure, not tax cuts for the rich.”



Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.