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Updated: 17 min 57 sec ago

How Rich People Haunt You

46 min 25 sec ago

This is a story from beyond the grave, a frightful tale of how the wealthiest Americans are able to keep their assets tax-free long after they are in their graves, thanks to laws written to help the rich stay that way – forever.

In a fascinating new article for The Nation magazine, Mike Konczal, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, writes about a legal method the very wealthy can use to keep the IRS away from money they leave to their heirs. Great for them, perhaps, but a drain on revenue the country needs to spend on public services, to maintain infrastructure and to remain strong.

Here’s how this clever tax-avoidance scheme works, according to Konczal:

“Americans have, historically, had a simple approach to dealing with wealth after its holder dies: You can do whatever you want with your property, but not for very long. … Eventually, time catches up with them and their estates dissolve. Or at least that’s how it used to be. Remember that the dead can’t actually do any of this themselves because they are, in fact, dead. Instead, a trust is empowered to carry out the last wishes of the deceased.”

A trust, writes Konczal, “acts like a ghost, enforcing their wishes beyond the grave. But there’s a safeguard built in to prevent abuses: Trusts have been governed by something called the rule against perpetuities, which places a roughly 100-year limit on how long they can exist. This prevents people with no connection to the living world from putting restrictions on our country’s wealth.” 

But there is a type of trust that keeps the estate’s funds tax-free long after the estate owner dies, called a “perpetual dynasty trust.” Twenty-eight states have them, and what they do should scare your socks off if you really care about America’s future. The reason is that dynasty trusts can avoid taxes as long as that dynasty trust exists.

“And since the eventual death of the trust isn’t built in, a dynasty trust can buy houses and assets that are retained for descendants, tax-free, by the trust indefinitely,” writes Konczal.The wealthy can tie up their money, outside of any public obligation or scrutiny, forever.”

This handy guide from The Nation magazine explains it simply.

We all know that the wealthiest Americans already have too many tax breaks and large corporations have methods of legally avoiding them entirely. But it seems it’s never enough. Corporate-backed lawmakers keep handing out even more outlandish ways for the rich to avoid paying taxes without regard for how much harm it does.

If that doesn’t scare you, watch this truly shocking video to find out just what the super-rich are able to accumulate during their lives, and which – thanks to perpetual dynasty trusts – they can leave to their heirs, tax free, long after they’re dead.

Categories: News By Union

Voting Rights Act at 50 Needs Restoration

4 hours 17 min ago

Two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the federal law designed to end discrimination at the polling booth. Several states moved quickly to enact voter ID laws intended to make it harder for minorities and younger voters to cast their ballots. On the 50th anniversary of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, Aug. 6, we must recommit to the founding principle that made this country free – the right to vote.

The law, signed by Pres. Lyndon Johnson, was supposed to create the legal foundation to enforce the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, which guaranteed all citizens the right to vote regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” It was meant to end the use of barriers such as poll taxes and literacy tests that Southern states, in particular, used to keep African-Americans from voting for their representatives.

For the most part, it worked. But some lawmakers – mostly in Southern states – were particularly determined to keep African Americans, other minorities, and young voters, away from the voting booths and found creative ways to evade the Voting Rights Act.

“They rolled back early voting, eliminated same-day registration, disqualified ballots filed outside home precincts and created new demands for photo ID at polling places,” The New York Times Magazine recently reported in a story entitled, “A Dream Undone: Inside the 50-Year Campaign to Roll Back the Voting Rights Act.”

Voting discrimination has especially hurt African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and Asian Americans, according to a report by the National Commission on Voting Rights. “Each of these minority groups suffered extensive official voting discrimination in the past. Since 1995, successful lawsuits have been brought on behalf of each group to remedy voting discrimination and to provide equal electoral opportunities,” the commission said. 

Last year, some members of Congress tried to prevent these abuses of our basic right to vote by supporting the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014, introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont. At the time, AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders said the legislation “would restore voting oversight in states with a history of racial discrimination.” It did not pass.

Now it has been reintroduced as the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015. It has our strong support. Last year, at our International Convention in Chicago, delegates passed a resolution stating that “AFSCME will fight any form of voting discrimination or voter suppression by mobilizing and energizing American workers” and will “lobby Congress to support legislation to protect the Voting Rights Act….”

You can help us pass this critically important bill. Just click here to sign a petition to your Senate and House members urging them to move forward with the Voting Rights Advancement Act. 

Categories: News By Union

Gov. Rauner Solicits Retirees To Be Strikebreakers

Fri, 07/31/2015 - 13:31

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Echoing his campaign threats to strip public service workers of their rights and drive down their middle-class standard of living, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration is asking retired state employees to report to work as strikebreakers in the event of a possible work stoppage.

The governor also failed to deny reports that he is considering calling on the Illinois National Guard to replace state workers in the event of a lockout or strike – even though there’s never been a work stoppage in the more than 40 years of state employee collective bargaining in Illinois.

According to a report by the State Journal-Register, AFSCME retiree David Scheina of rural Sangamon County received a call from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, asking him to work in the event of a strike.

“I was somewhat appalled by it,” he said. “I feel it was wrong, an employee on state time trying to line up retirees to cross a potential picket line that I didn’t see being suggested. I thought it wasn’t bargaining in good faith.”

Following a 25-year career working for the state of Illinois, Scheina retired three years ago.

“I think it’s important that the retirees also understand that these negotiations have an impact on their future also,” Scheina added. “Our medical and dental and vision care benefits could still be on the table.”

The possibility of using Illinois National Guard soldiers in place of locked-out or striking state workers got a negative review from former National Guard Adjutant General and current state Rep. David Harris, a Republican.

"It's a terribly impractical and, in my opinion, inadvisable idea," said Harris. "You're going to replace [state public service workers] with people who carry M-16s and .45 pistols?”

After more than five months of negotiations over a new union contract, AFSCME’s current agreement that covers more than 35,000 Illinois state employees expired on June 30. AFSCME Council 31 and Governor Rauner’s administration agreed to a two-month contract extension on July 29. Soon after, however, Rauner vetoed legislation that would have offered state employees the option of binding arbitration to resolve contract differences and avoid a strike or lockout.

The veto is a further sign that the governor may be seeking to provoke a needless crisis. AFSCME will join with all unions that represent Illinois state employees in seeking to override the veto.

Check out this video to learn more about what is at stake.

Categories: News By Union

AFSCME Texas Corrections Mourn Fallen Officer

Fri, 07/31/2015 - 12:10

TELFORD, Texas – Corrections Officer Timothy Davison, the victim of an attack by a prisoner at the prison unit here in Bowie County, was laid to rest July 25 amid an outpouring of support for the Davison family from his Corrections family. 

Officer Davison, 47, succumbed July 15 to injuries suffered when a prisoner serving a life sentence for robbery and aggravated assault attacked him with an iron bar. Davison is survived by his two daughters.

“It’s hard for us to know that Officer Davison put on his uniform in the morning and did not come home; it’s even harder for his family,” said Cathe Wilson, president of the AFSCME Gatesville local. “As a Corrections Officer, I believe we come in together and we leave together; it’s always hard when that doesn’t happen. I wish the family strength and peace during this time. We are here to support them in any way we can.”

The services included Corrections Officers from all over the country, from as far away as California. Condolences and donations for his family can be left at the Officers Down Memorial Page. Words of comfort and prayer may be sent to afscme.texas.corrections@gmail.org.

The details surrounding the fatal incident are currently under review by the state of Texas, but many believe that short staffing played a role. Texas Corrections has nearly 3,000 vacancies it is trying to fill throughout the state.

Categories: News By Union

Walker’s No Harley Guy

Thu, 07/30/2015 - 13:03

Scott Walker, the anti-union governor from Wisconsin, has made the union-made Harley-Davidson motorcycle a centerpiece of the first tour of his presidential campaign.

How ironic is that? Walker, whose entire presidential campaign is based on touting his attacks on collective bargaining for tens of thousands of Wisconsinites, is campaigning with an iconic piece of American machinery adorned with a label that reads "Union made in the USA."

Like many politicians before him, Walker apparently wants to show that he’s a regular Harley guy, a rider of the All-American motorcycle. But he is the last person who should be burnishing his patriotic credentials riding a Harley.

In fact, Walker’s political record indicates that he has no regard for the story of the iconic American machine and the hardworking union men and women who build them. Instead of praising union workers for turning out some of the best motorcycles in the world, Walker recently compared union workers and their families to ISIS terrorists.

What Walker fails to note, as Reuters reports, is that Harley-Davidson’s relationship with its union employees – certainly not without tribulation at times – has been hailed as a model of workplace cohesion that facilitates better production quality and output. He also fails to acknowledge the hardworking and skilled members of the Machinists (IAM) and United Steelworkers (USW) who helped prevent the company from going under during the Great Recession.

Union workers are calling Walker on his cynical use of the Harley as a campaign prop.  A politician who attacks union workers and other working Americans should not be using the fruits of their labor to score political points. The only reason Walker can ride his Harley in the first place is because they built it. 

Harley’s unionized workforce is among the most skilled in the industry, and their craftsmanship is central part the production of a motorcycle that is synonymous with American quality. Watch the video.

Categories: News By Union

AFSCME Strong Bus Driver on Board

Thu, 07/30/2015 - 08:42

Corey Upchurch and his family came up in transportation.

His father was a manager at the Department of Transportation of the Washington, DC, Office of the State Superintendent of Education. He worked there for 32 years. His mother started out as a bus attendant, moved to dispatch, and then worked as routing and scheduling manager. She, too, had a long career in transportation.

His brother, Andrew Washington, started his career in transportation back in 1992. Now he is the executive director of AFSCME Council 20.

“Transportation came home to our dinner table every night, as I was coming up,” Upchurch says.

Upchurch, 36, is a school bus driver in Washington, DC, his hometown. He started his career in 1999, and became active with his union, AFSCME Local 1959, as an organizer. He’s also a Volunteer Member Organizer. Local 1959 is composed of bus drivers and attendants in DC Public Schools. Upchurch moved up to shop steward, chief shop steward, vice president, and recently became president of his local. He’s also AFSCME Strong.

After taking the AFSCME Strong training in Maryland in April, Upchurch has been busy. He says he’s used the summer months, when most kids are on vacation, to talk to his coworkers and apply AFSCME Strong in the workplace. He found a positive response. In three days, he signed up 49 individuals as PEOPLE contributors and got 94 to sign AFSCME Strong cards.

“I basically used the opportunity, with the help of shop stewards, to have conversations with my coworkers,” Upchurch says. “When the drivers are sitting around waiting to bid on their routes, I talked to them about what we need to do to make our union stronger.”

Upchurch says his biggest challenge is educating his coworkers about the vicious attacks they’re facing together as a union.

“My strategy is to try to educate them, try to get them to understand what we’re about, what AFSCME is about,” he says. “And what’s going on in other states, with the Koch brothers, with Scott Walker, and all the billionaires trying to downsize unions. I tell them about the Supreme Court, and the case involving union dues (Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association). They’re trying to weaken our union.”

Upchurch says the AFSCME Strong strategy is working.

“I’m extremely happy with the response,” he says. “It’s been a huge response. I mean, we’re a rowdy local as it is, but when it’s time to stand up they’re willing to do that. They’re not scared to stand up for what’s best for unions overall.”

Upchurch, who lives in DC with his three children, says he’s always wanted to be a voice and make a difference in his workplace.

“I have a very strong passion in what I do,” he says. “I’m still learning, but I feel as though I am making a difference in my workplace, in my local. It’s all about the membership.”

Categories: News By Union

Kentucky COs Earn Raises, Respect

Wed, 07/29/2015 - 10:00

Kentucky corrections officers earned hefty pay increases and bonuses from an administration concerned about retaining and attracting good employees willing to perform the dangerous work.

Faced with turnover rates as high as 67 percent, Gov. Steve Beshear approved a plan to stabilize the workforce that raises pay for security staff; provides 40-hour workweeks for institutional hazardous duty, non-security staff; and implements a monthly stipend for members of the correctional emergency response teams, or CERT.

AFSCME pushed hard for the increased pay, which put Kentucky more in line with surrounding states’ compensation rates.

“This increase is nice, but it’s still not enough. Corrections officers in Kentucky risk their lives every day, but the state ranks 49th in pay for the work they do,” said Debbie Garcia, executive director of the Indiana/Kentucky Organizing Committee Council 962. “But for many COs this is too little too late. Many veteran COs haven’t had a raise in six years and workplace shortages remain an epidemic.”

Under the new wage structure, the starting salary for corrections officers will be increased by 13.1 percent, raising the entrance pay from $23,346 to $26,400, with higher increases for sergeants, lieutenants and captains.

The new structure also sets across-the-board salary increases for existing staff, and will affect security staff at the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center near LaGrange, which is run by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

The 40-hour workweek for all institutional hazardous duty, non-security staff moves them from their current 37.5-hour schedule – the equivalent of a 6.7 percent increase in compensation.

CERT members, who respond to incidents, riots, cell extractions, mass searches or disturbances in prisons, will receive a $50 monthly maintenance stipend.

“Our corrections staff work under stressful, dangerous conditions, and as our economy improves, it's understandable that many seek opportunities in less hazardous environments,” Governor Beshear said.

Hopefully, these raises will help stem the tide of such high turnover and provide Kentucky’s COs with a new level of respect on the job.

Categories: News By Union