A nickel a ticket makes health care affordable

Airline food service workers on January 29 launched a nationwide campaign for affordable health care by holding demonstrations and other actions in cities across the US.

The workers are asking airlines to earmark from each ticket sold a nickel, which would be used to provide affordable health care for food service and other workers, who work for the airlines’ subcontractors.

“A nickel more per ticket won’t affect the airlines’ pockets, but it would mean a huge relief for us,” said Diego Ortiz, who drives a food service truck at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.

Ortiz services plane for American, Delta, and United, the three largest air carriers in the US.

More than 1,200 airline food service workers participated in “nickel a ticket” actions across the US.

In Atlanta, Chicago, and Dallas, workers delivered a letter to the big three’s CEOs.

“We proudly cater food for the hundreds of millions of passengers who fly your airlines,” reads the letter. “We work very hard, but our families and your business are at risk.Quality healthcare is just a pie in the sky for us airline food workers. Most of us make less than $20,000 a year. We can’t afford the health insurance offered to us by airline food companies as it costs anywhere between $100 and $500 a month to insure ourselves and our families!”

Natasha Hill, a Chicago airline food service worker, participated in one of the demonstrations.

She pays the high premium for her health insurance because she has two children who need coverage. The high price strains her budget and doesn’t provide adequate coverage.

“I pay more than $400 each month, almost an entire week’s paycheck, for insurance,” said Hill. “It’s expensive and on top of that I have to pay $10,000 out of pocket before my family even starts seeing any benefits. But I do it because my two sons need health insurance.”

If Hill didn’t pay for the expensive health insurance provided by her employer, she would have to pay the income tax fine that the Affordable Care Act requires of those who do not purchase health insurance.

That fine could affect as many as 25 percent of the 40,000 workers who work for airline food service contractors throughout the US.

UNITE HERE, the union coordinating the January 29 action, surveyed workers in the airline food service industry. Of those surveyed, one-quarter did not have health insurance because they couldn’t afford it.

Expensive health insurance plans provided by food service companies, put their employees in another bind.

Employees who work for companies that don’t provide health insurance can purchase affordable policies through the health insurance exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act, but employees who can’t afford to purchase company sponsored health insurance are ineligible

Low wages in the airline food service industry make health insurance unaffordable or a burden on those who pay the premiums.

According to UNITE HERE, 40 percent of airline food service workers make less than $10.10 an hour.

These low wage workers provide services to airlines that are essential the airlines’ bottom line.

Diverting a nickel from each ticket to make health care affordable to these essential workers would hardly impact the companies’ earnings.

For example, American reported a 3rd quarter 2014 net profit of $1.2 billion.

Some of these profits are made possible by the generous support that the airlines receive from the public in the form of tax incentives and other subsidies.

Despite their profits and their subsidies, airlines like American, Delta, and United continue to squeeze their subcontractors to lower their costs, which puts pressure on the subcontractors to hold down labor costs.

One way to hold down labor costs is to provide high cost health insurance.

The workers’ letter to the CEOs points out that unaffordable health care is not good for business.

“Neither you nor we can afford for airline food workers to be unhealthy,” reads the letter. “No one wins when we, the tens of thousands of workers who cater your aircraft, come to work sick. We implore you to support the affordable and quality healthcare that we and our families need. We deserve it.”

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Syriza wins, now the hard work begins

The results of Greek national election on January 25 were clear: the Greeks are fed up with the austerity program imposed on them in 2010 by the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Union, also known as the troika.

The Coalition of the Radical Left, or more commonly known as Syriza, won a decisive victory by promising to end the austerity program that during the last five years has caused widespread misery and eviscerated the Greek economy.

Syriza won 36 percent of the vote, well ahead on New Democracy, the conservative party that has ruled Greece since 2012.

Addressing an election night audience in Athens, Alex Tsipras, Syriza’s leader, told supporters that Syriza’s election means that “Greece has turned a page. Greece is leaving behind destructive austerity, fear and authoritarianism. It is leaving behind five years of humiliation and pain.”

The atmosphere at Syriza’s post election rallies was filled with jubilation and optimism, but the new government will be inheriting an imposing set of problems.

In 2010, a financial crisis caused the Greek government to seek loans from the European Union to keep the Greek economy from cratering.

The loans came with a high price. The troika, demanded that the government reduce spending on social services, privatize government owned assets, reduce the public sector, reduce the minimum wage, cut pensions, and revise labor laws to reduce the power of unions.

The so-called reforms were supposed to produce investor confidence and get the Greek economy on the road to prosperity.

Five years later, almost one-third of the Greek population live below the poverty line, one-third have no access to health care, 18 percent can’t afford to pay for basic food needs, the unemployment rate is 25 percent (50 percent among young people), and the national debt is 175 percent of Gross Domestic Product.

In his victory speech, Tsipras said that he will enter into negotiations to rewrite the terms of the loans that have left his country in shambles, but he will likely encounter stiff resistances from Greeks debtors.

Should the debtors balk at restructuring the loans in a way that allows the government to make the public investments needed to alleviate Greek misery and kick start the moribund economy, Syriza will have a tough choice to make–agree to a loan deal that keeps the current austerity measures in place or default on the loans.

A default would likely lead to Greece exiting the eurozone, the countries that use the euro as their currency.

Exiting the eurozone would have immediate repercussions on the Greek economy, but it may be the price that Greece will have to pay to get out from under the thumb of the troika.

Syriza is also offering an economic program that breaks with neoliberal orthodoxy. It wants to increase the minimum wage, rebuild the country’s health care system decimated by austerity cuts, return the country’s social security system to pre-austerity levels, eliminate unfair taxes dictated by the troika, restore electricity to all homes whose power was cut because they couldn’t afford to pay their bills, and restart the economy by expanding public investment.

Unlike the neoliberal orthodoxy, which holds that public policy should only consider the needs of business, Syriza wants to “relaunch the economy in a way that suits social and environmental needs,”said Syriza Central Committee member Stathis Kourelakis .

Doing so, “will not be easy and we should be prepared for a serious battle,’ said Kourelakis in an extensive interview with Jacobin.

Syriza’s success will likely depend on its ability to keep its internal components united and to mobilize grassroots support for its ambitious program.

As its name implies, Syriza is a coalition of radical left groups that have united as a political party.

These groups include eurocommunist and other groups that broke away from the Communist Party of Greece such as Synaspismo and Renewing Communist Ecological Left as well as Maoist and Trotskyist organizations.

An equally important component of the coalition are groups from the social justice movements, including those of environmentalists, lesbians and gays, feminists, immigrants, and minority rights groups like those of the Muslims and Turks in Thrace.

Syriza gained prominence in 2008 when its members joined the poor and young people of Athens demonstrating in the streets too protest the police shooting of a 15-year old boy.

In 2011, Syriza joined the Occupy protesters at their encampments where protesters called for an end to the rule of privilege by a self appointed elite.

During the austerity crisis, Syriza established solidarity networks to help the working class deal with the savage impact of austerity.

Through these networks, people in need received health care, low-cost food, legal advice, education, help starting collective businesses, and cultural activities.

The combination of these solidarity networks, Syriza’s work with social movements, and its anti-austerity message gave Syriza a mass following.

In the 2012 elections, it came in second and was the leading opposition group in Parliament.

In 2013, the coalition formally constituted itself as a political party.

After becoming a political party, it retained many of the features of the coalition that preceded the party.

The parties that came together as a coalition maintained their own identity and status. The social movements did so as well.

Instead of trying to incorporate the social movements into Syriza, Syriza recognized and encouraged the autonomy of these movements.

While Syriza’s election victory is not without peril, it is also not without hope–hope that not just a better Greece but a better world can be created.

“Greek democracy today chose to stop going gently into the night,” writes Greece’s new finance minister Yanis Varoufakis on his blog. “Greek democracy resolved to rage against the dying of the light. Fresh from receiving our democratic mandate, we call upon the people of Europe and, indeed, the world over, to join us in a realm of shared, sustainable prosperity.”

Fight for $15 at UT-Austin

On opening day of the 84th biennial session of the Texas Legislature, about 50 members of the Texas State Employees Union (TSEU) stood together in front of the Capitol grounds to deliver a message to lawmakers: stop privatizing state services, give all state employees a fair pay raise, and fully fund the state employee pension fund.

Some union members also carried signs demanding that the University of Texas at Austin raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour.

TSEU is part of the UT Save Our Community Coalition, a student and community coalition, that is bringing the Fight for $15 to the UT campus, located a few blocks north of the Capitol.

While much of the focus of the Fight for $15 has been on raising wages in retail and the fast food industries, many workers at UT Austin and other state universities make less than $15 an hour.

These low-wage workers provide vital services that make education possible, and many of the jobs they perform are not the kind of jobs we think of as low-wage work.

“An administrative assistant in my department makes $20,019 a year,” said Anne Lewis, a lecturer in the UT-Austin Radio, Film, and Television Department and a member of TSEU’s executive board. “These kinds of jobs are prevalent throughout UT, and most of them pay in the low 20K range.”

The hourly wage for a person making $20,019 a year is about $9.60 an hour.

“A friend of mine who was laid off after working as an oral history transcriber at UT for 30 years was making about $27,000 a year when she was laid off,” said Lewis.

The hourly wage of a person making $27,000 a year is about $13 an hour.

Some  administrative jobs at UT are filled by temporary workers hired through UT’s temporary staffing agency UTemps. Many of them make $11 to $12 an hour.

And there are many other low-paying jobs on campus.

The starting pay for the workers who clean UT’s building after students, faculty, and other staff members go home at night is $1,907 a month, or about $11 an hour, and starting pay for food preparation workers at UT’s dining halls is about $11.50 an hour.

Pay for graduate students who teach many of UT’s undergraduate courses starts at $11.27 an hour.

According to an MIT living wage calculator, a living wage in Austin for a worker with one child is more than $19 an hour.

One reason that so many workers aren’t making a living wage at UT is that there has not been an across the board cost of living pay increase in more than ten years.

“In 2003, university workers were severed from state worker pay raises,” said Lewis. “As a result when state workers have gotten cost of living raises, university workers have not.”

“Departments can give cost of living raises, but because of expensive salaries that UT is paying for newly hired executives and huge raises of high level administrators, the departments are being starved and can’t give sufficient across the board raises to keep up even if they wanted to,” said Lewis.

When the Legislature in 2003 exempted universities from giving state employee raises, it also deregulated student tuition and fees at the state’s public universities, giving university administrators a free rein to increase tuition and fees.

Since then, tuition and fees at state universities have nearly doubled and student debt in Texas has increased 61 percent.

According to UT administrators, the lack of state funding has caused a budget crisis at UT that requires higher tuition and low wages.

But the austerity measures imposed on UT’s student and workers do not extend to executives who manage the campus.

“Last summer, UT advertised a position in Shared Services with a starting pay of $14,500 a month,” said Lewis.

Shared Services is the university administration’s latest attempt to make the university operate more like a corporation.

It consolidates and centralizes services, relies on call centers rather than face-to-face contact for services, and has caused job losses at UT.

It is currently being piloted in a few departments.

Despite the highly paid executives supervising Shared Services, the results have not been good.

In November, the College of Education, one of the departments where Shared Services is being piloted, asked to be let out of the experiment because Shared Services service level was so bad.

Shared Services management team isn’t the only group of UT executives receiving over sized paychecks.

The Austin Business Journal reports that, “The University of Texas at Austin has one of the highest rates of executive pay in the nation.”

According to a report published by the Institute of Policy Studies, the average pay for UT’s top executives in 2012 was $716,644 (in 2006 dollars), and UT ranked tenth in executive pay among US public universities.

According to the Save Our Community Coalition, the top 100 earners at UT are paid $42 million a year, and the top 10 earners more than $14.9 million a year.

Members of the  Fight for $15 campaign have been calling attention to the fact that UT workers and students have been the ones making sacrifices while top UT administrators have been enriching themselves.

Right now, Fight for $15 supporters are circulating a petition that they are asking members of the UT community to sign.

On January 27 at 6:00 P.M., they’ll be screening a documentary entitled “Shadows of Liberty” about the corporate takeover of the media. The screening takes place at the Belo Center for New Media at UT.

In February, they’ll be hosting a forum where the featured speaker will be James Galbraith, the Lloyd M. Bentsen Jr. Chair in Government/Business Relations and Professor of Government at UT.

In March, UT TSEU members will be holding a mini-lobby day where they will make a case to lawmakers for including UT workers in state employee pay raises and increasing the minimum wage at UT to $15 an hour.

Opposition puts York, PA school privatization in limbo

High school students in York, Pennsylvania recently passed out flyers urging parents to contact the state board of education and voice their displeasure over a plan to have a for-profit charter school company takeover the public schools in York.

The York school district could become the second school district in the US to be operated by a charter school company or companies (the other is New Orleans).

“We care about our school, we love our school and we love public school,” said Ashlee DeSantis, a York high school student to a reporter from NPR. “We don’t want receivership to happen here.”

When the York school district experienced financial difficulties because of state education budget cuts, outgoing governor Tom Corbett put the district in receivership and appointed David Meckley as the district’s so-called recovery officer.

Meckley, who lives outside the district, decided to hire Charter Schools USA (CSUSA), a for-profit company based in Florida, to operate the York schools.

CSUSA formed a foundation and appointed some business people who live outside the York district to serve on the foundation’s board. If and when the takeover is finalized, the foundation will be responsible for overseeing the new charter schools in York and will function as if it were an elected school board.

The decision to privatize York’s schools has drawn widespread community opposition including members of the elected school board, school employees, parents, and students.

As of now, the fate of the takeover remains up in the air.

In December, York County Judge Stephen Linebaugh ruled that Meckley and CSUSA could carry out their privatization plan, but in January, he allowed an appeal of his decision to proceed.

The election of Gov. Tom Wolf, who opposes education privatization, has also left the takeover in doubt.

Opponents of privatization have voiced displeasure with the choice of CSUSA, which operates charters in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan.

According to its critics, CSUSA has excelled at one thing–figuring out how to make a profit off public education.

Recent reports on the way  CSUSA operates in Florida have shed some light on how CSUSA makes its money.

In Florida, CSUSA has set up a real estate development company, Red Apple Development, whose mission according to a CSUSA investor presentation “is to identify and acquire land or existing schools, develop the land or expand upon the schools, and to create a pipeline of schools exclusively for CSUSA to operate.”

The pipeline of schools are then rented to non-profit foundations set up by CSUSA to operate and oversee its charter schools.

The charter schools have to pay rent and service any debt taken on to build or renovate their buildings.

One of CSUSA’s charter schools in Hillsborough County, Florida pays an interest rate of 8 percent to CSUSA to service the school’s debt.

That school is Winthrop Charter School. For the 2014 school year, Winthrop will pay $125,700 in rent and $2,073,787 in debt repayment.

Winthrop will also pay CSUSA $383,385 in management fees and $56,565 to Connex 12, another CSUSA owned company, for computer services.

In all, 30 percent of Winthrop’s $8.6 million in revenue for 2014 will go to CSUSA or CSUSA related companies.

The Florida League of Women Voters conducted a study of charter schools in the state.

According to the study, Woodmont Charter School, another CSUSA school in Hillsborough County, in 2011 spent 42 percent of the school’s revenue on administrative expenses and only 44 percent on instruction.

“By contrast,” reads the League of Women Voters report. “Hillsborough public schools spent 86 percent of their revenue on instruction.”

While CSUSA has excelled at making money, its academic achievements are at best ordinary.

A few of its charter schools outperform comparable public schools, most perform at about the same level, and some perform significantly worse.

Woodmont, which spent 42 percent of its revenue on administration, received an F for 2013 and a D for 2012, according to the League of Women Voters study.

Six public schools within one mile of Woodmont all had higher scores on Florida’s standardized achievement tests than Woodmont.

CSUSA has figured out other ways to make money.

In Indiana, CSUSA in 2011 took over some schools in Indianapolis, even though John Hage, CSUSA’s principal owner, said that it would be difficult to turn a profit on the schools.

Hage turned out to be partially prescient; CSUSA wasn’t able to make money on the schools until a stroke of good luck happened–the Indiana Board of Education mistakenly appropriated an extra $6 million to CSUSA.

Coincidentally, Tony Bennett, who at the time was superintendent of the state board of education, an elected office in Indiana, received a $5000 campaign contribution from Red Apple.

The board’s mistake proved to be a contributing factor to Bennett’s subsequent election loss, but Bennett landed on his feet, or at least his wife did. She landed an executive position with CSUSA in Florida.

Whether CSUSA will be able to continue its money-making magic in York appears now to be up in the air.

A spokesperson for newly elected Gov. Tom Wolf said that he and his acting secretary of education Pedro Rivera are reviewing the situation. As governor, Wolf has the authority to revoke the petition that led to York being put into receivership, which resulted in the hiring of CSUSA.

The York community itself seems to be uniting behind a campaign to keep the city’s public schools public.

The local NAACP is sponsoring a forum on January 29 to update the community on the events that led up to the district being put into receivership and the possible options that the community has going forward.

The York Education Association, the local teachers union, and York Concerned Clergy on January 28 will be holding a rally opposing the privatization of the city’s schools.

After the rally, the elected school board will hold its meeting.

A statement released by the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) said that the plan to privatized York’s schools has little local support.

“York’s citizens don’t want this, the elected school board doesn’t want this, and parents and educators don’t want this,” said Michael Crossey, PSEA’s president.

Microsoft permatemps unionize

It started with a simple question: Could temporary workers get a raise and benefits similar to those enjoyed by permanent employees?

According to the Seattle Times, that’s the question that Marliyse Benyakar, a temporary worker, asked during a staff meeting called by managers at the firm for which she works.

Benyakar, who works for a staffing company called Lionbridge, is a permatemp, a worker classified as a temporary worker but whohas held the same job for an extended period.

Lionbridge contracts with Microsoft to review and edit Microsoft applications that have foreign language content. Benyakar and her fellow permatemps work at the Microsoft campus in Richmond, Washington.

The 40 Lionbridge permatemps in Benyakar’s section did not have benefits that permanent workers at Microsoft take for granted–health care insurance, paid sick leave, paid vacation, family leave, etc.

Before beginning the meeting at which Benyakar asked her simple question, the Lionbridge managers encouraged the permatemps to be frank with them.

Unfortunately, Benyakar’s frankness cost her her job. The day after the meeting, she was told that she was being laid off.

Benyakar subsequently filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) charging Lionbridge with unfair labor practices.

The charge led to a settlement, which among other things, required the company to post a notice explaining that the workers had a right to join a union.

That led some Lionbridge workers to think that the time was ripe for them to form a union.

The pro-union workers began circulating a union representation petition. When they had enough signatures, they submitted it to the NLRB, which then called for a union election on September 11.

The election would decide whether Lionbridge workers wanted to join the Temporary Workers of America, an independent union organized by the Lionbridge permatemps, so that they could bargain collectively.

After the NLRB scheduled the election, the company immediately began to push back with an anti-union campaign.

During the six weeks between the time that the NLRB announced that a union election would be held and the election itself, the company held five captive audience meetings during work in an attempt to convince workers that they didn’t need a union.

“It’s interesting to see how LB (Lionbridge) wanted to paint such a dark and negative picture of the union,” wrote Philippe Boucher, one of the leaders of the union campaign, on the union’s blog after the third meeting.

The union is being formed “by the very people who were in the room (where the captive audience meeting took place) and are doing such a good job but cannot obtain any raise or real benefits . . . because that would put LB’s competitiveness in danger,” continued Boucher.

Unlike the company, which forced workers to attend captive audience meetings on company time, the union held no captive audience meetings to rebut the company’s propaganda and very few meetings of any kind; instead, union supporters relied on word of mouth, e-mail, and the union’s blog to present their case for a union.

As the election drew near, Boucher posted on the union’s blog a list of questions that workers should consider before voting on whether to choose a union.

“Do you come to work sick because you can’t afford to lose a day’s pay?” “Do you have health insurance?” “What’s it like to live paycheck to paycheck?” were some of the questions on the list.

Despite the advantages that the company enjoyed, the union won the election.

At first, it looked as if Lionbridge would challenge the results, but the company decided not to do so, and on September 19, the NLRB certified the Temporary Workers of America as the exclusive collective bargaining representative for the Lionbridge permatemps in Richmond.

Since then, the union and the company have engaged in three bargaining sessions. The last one was held January 7.

The Lionbridge workers aren’t the only temporary workers at the Microsoft campus. In fact, the company relies heavily on permatemps and the staffing companies like Lionbridge for whom they work.

Boucher has written an e-book entitled the Other Microsoft about the plight of these temporary workers.

“Almost half of Microsoft’s workforce are contracted through vendors who misclassify them as ‘temporary’,” writes Boucher. “As a result, they do not receive any benefits: no paid sick leave, no paid family leave, and no paid vacation.”

These are just some of the issues that Temporary Workers of America is trying to address as it bargains for its first collective bargaining agreement.

Canadian Supreme Court affirms that collective bargaining is a basic civil right

The Canadian Supreme Court on January 16 affirmed that joining a union for the purpose of bargaining collectively is a basic civil right protected and guaranteed by the Canadian Constitution.

The ruling was issued in a case involving officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who had been barred from joining a union and bargaining collectively.

“This is definitely a historic moment for working people and labor in Canada,” said James Clancy, president of the National Union of Public and General Employees. “Not only has the Supreme Court affirmed the fundamental labor rights of working people, it has reinforced the positive roles that unions and collective bargaining play in Canadian society.”

Section 2 of the Canadian Constitution is the Charter of Rights and Freedom that guarantees certain basic civil rights. Section 2(d) of the Charter guarantees the right of free association.

The right of free association is generally understood to mean the right to join groups, such as labor unions, for the purpose of taking collective action.

Nevertheless, personnel policies of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) forbid officers from joining unions for the purpose of collective bargaining.

Two voluntary associations of RCMP officers in a suit to overturn the policy argued that the RCMP was denying them a right guaranteed under the country’s constitution.

The Supreme Court agreed.

“We conclude that the s. 2(d) guarantee of freedom of association protects a meaningful process of collective bargaining that provides employees with a degree of choice and independence sufficient to enable them to determine and pursue their collective interests,” said the Court in its decision.

The Court also noted the important role that collective bargaining plays in giving workers a voice on the job.

“Only by banding together in collective bargaining associations, thus strengthening their bargaining power with their employer, can (employees) meaningfully pursue their workplace goals,” states the Court.  “Just as a ban on employee association impairs freedom of association, so does a labor relations process that substantially interferes with the possibility of having meaningful collective negotiations on workplace matters.”

The Court also observed that collective bargaining gives employees “the opportunity to influence the establishment of workplace rules and thereby gain some control over a major aspect of their lives, namely their work. Put simply, its purpose is to preserve collective employee autonomy against the superior power of management and to maintain equilibrium between the parties.”

Dems propose tax cut to raise workers wages and a financial transaction tax

US House of Representative member Chris Van Hollen on January 12 laid out what he described as an action plan to raise wages for workers by cutting their taxes.

In addition to cutting workers’ taxes, Van Hollen’s action plan includes tax incentives that encourage companies to raise wages and a financial transaction tax on those he called Wall Street “high rollers.”

Van Hollen is the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee and his action plan has the support of Democratic leaders in Congress.

“There’s a disconnect between the value workers are creating and what they are taking home,” said Van Hollen at a January 12 media conference held to announce his plan. “So it’s no wonder that so many Americans feel they’re on a treadmill falling behind.”

The major feature of Van Hollen’s plan is a $1000 tax credit for workers. Two earner families would be eligible for a $2000 tax credit. The tax credit would increase workers’ take-home pay.

His plan would also allow families a 20 percent tax deduction on income up to $60,000 a year and would make the few worker friendly elements of the tax code such as the child care credit and the earned income tax credit permanent features of the tax code.

“The proposal that I’m making today to reform the tax code began from (the) premise that we need a tax code that rewards those who earn their living through hard work and rebalance it against the fact that it’s tilted today in favor of people who make money off of money” said Van Hollen.

Van Hollen said that action to increase workers wages is needed because so far the market has failed to do so.

Despite steady job growth since 2010, workers wages have remained flat and in some instances haven’t kept up with inflation.

In fact, since the 1970s, there has been little wage growth despite the fact that productivity has increased substantially.

Instead of being shared broadly, most of the wealth created by the gains in productivity has gone to the wealthiest.

“The income gains from increased productivity have gone overwhelmingly to those at the very, very top of the income scale, the top 1 percent,” said Van Hollen. “Their after tax income between 1979 and 2010 grew by 200 percent.”

These results show that wealth doesn’t automatically trickle down.

Today’s tax code, said Van Hollen, largely rewards those who make money off money rather than those who make their money through hard work.

Van Hollen said that his plan seeks to correct some of this imbalance in the tax code by offering more tax benefits to working people.

To help pay for these corrections to the tax code that help working people, Van Hollen also proposed a modest financial transaction tax similar to one that existed in the US before 1966.

Van Hollen’s proposal would levy a 0.1 percent tax on financial transactions such as trades in stocks, derivatives, and equities.

In addition to raising money to pay for the tax cut for workers, a financial transaction tax would discourage the kind of reckless speculation that led to the financial crisis of 2008 and the Great Recession.

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO responded favorably to Van Hollen financial transaction tax idea.

“A modest Wall Street speculation tax, or ‘high-roller fee’ as Rep. Van Hollen has proposed, will help curb harmful Wall Street practices and raise billions of dollars annually,” said Trumka. “These are critical funds that could pay for infrastructure and education to lay the foundation for long-term productivity growth.”

In addition to reforming the tax code so that it corrects its current imbalances, Van Hollen is also proposing legislation to encourage companies to give their workers a pay increase.

His bill, entitled the CEO-Employee Paycheck Fairness Act, would limit deductions that corporations can take when they give their CEOs bonuses unless those corporations also give their employees a fair raise.

According to Van Hollen CEO bonuses have gotten out of hand and are one reason that gap between those at the top and the rest of us has increased so dramatically over the years.

In the 1970s CEOs’ average pay was about 30 percent higher than their average workers’ pay. Today, CEOs’ average pay is more than 300 times the average pay of their workers.

Van Hollen said that taxpayers shouldn’t be subsidizing these bonuses unless there is an attempt share the rewards when a company does well.

“Pay yourselves what you want, but if you want the taxpayers to allow you to deduct your bonuses and performance pay, for goodness sakes, you better be giving your employees a fair shake,” said Van Hollen.