Today’s News & Commentary — December 11, 2017

Published December 11th, 2017 -  - 12.11.1718


In the new tax plan, “the amount you make may be less important than how you make it,” reports the New York Times.  Both the House and Senate bills link tax rates to characteristics such as “ownership, day-to-day level of involvement, organizational structure or even occupation.”  This income tax framework is unprecedented, and it would apply a higher tax rate to employee wages than to income received by other types of earners.  John L. Buckley, a chief of staff for Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation in the 1990s, called the plan “grossly unfair” because “[s]omebody working for a wage gets a higher tax rate than somebody doing the same job under a different legal structure.”

Thousands of employees at nine California state departments will have to pass criminal background checks that could affect their employment.  The reviews are a result of a new IRS regulation that requires criminal background checks for contractors and public employees who have access to federal taxpayer information.  Additionally, California Office of Emergency Services employees will participate in criminal background checks due to federal regulations imposed by the Department of Homeland Security.  The Sacramento Bee reports that letters sent to union representatives convey that the state is “casting a wide net,” though it is still unclear which criminal convictions would lead to job termination.

Today, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and the unions involved will meet with a mediator–the first step in settling the Oakland city worker strike, which began last Tuesday.  City workers seek higher wages as well as a commitment from the city to hire more full-time workers, as opposed to relying on part-time workers and mandatory overtime.  The city maintains that full-time workers are expensive.  “We are looking at a lot of financial instability. We see our pension bill going up and we see this crazy tax bill that congress [is] getting ready to pass. These are all things that will have a terrible financial impact on this city,” said Mayor Schaaf.

On Sunday, NPR‘s Weekend Edition reported on post-Hurricane Harvey labor abuses, particularly the risks faced by day laborers that end up doing the most dangerous jobs.  Especially after a storm like Harvey, OSHA regulations are impossible to enforce; moreover, day laborers–who are often undocumented–are afraid to report violations because they fear deportation.  The same fear prevents workers from fighting for the money that they are owed by employers. The NPR story cited a recent study from the University of Illinois at Chicago, which surveyed 361 day laborers doing post-Harvey recovery work.

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