A Tax Break for Union Workers

For once we have a tax break for the middle class instead of the 1 percent.

A new state tax break will save an estimated 500,000 workers up to $35 million a year, or $70 for individuals.  This tax break pales in comparison to the state and federal tax breaks millionaires and billionaires receive.

But the tax break helps put a little in our pockets during this new Gilded Age. Perhaps as important, this calls attention to our country’s vast inequality.

From the 1920s to the early 1970s, economic inequality rose most of the time in the United States. Since then, the inequality of income and wealth has worsened so much that it is as bad as it was in the 1920s.

So the new tax break is a small, but very welcome, step in the right direction.

The New York State AFL-CIO pushed for the tax break during deliberations over the new $153 billion state budget. The tax break will be available to union members who itemize deductions on their state taxes.

This change comes as the state has taken on a number of initiatives to help the working poor and the middle class, sometimes in response to union lobbying.

In 2015, New York became the first state in the country to adopt a $15 minimum wage.

This helped boost the raises that thousands of our members at the City University of New York received in their contract a year later. In addition to the minimum wage increase, New York enacted a family leave benefit.

The Joint Enforcement Task Force, which protects workers from fraud and abuse, has recouped $109 million for 84,000 workers who were victims of wage theft over the past three years.

In an era in which unions face vicious attacks from the White House and statehouses, the new tax break shows the importance of the union movement’s political work.

We must continue to resist.

This originally appeared in the July-August 2017 issue of Public Employee Press.

The DC 37 Blog is an online publication of DC 37, AFSCME, which represents 125,000 municipal workers in New York City.

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