Unions — Not Corporations — Stand for Freedom of American Workers

Freedom is one of the most cherished American principles. But freedom means more than the ability to speak your mind, practice your religion, or choose your own democratically elected leaders. Our freedoms don’t end with the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Freedom is also the ability to enjoy economic security and stability. And that means more than making a decent living and having enough to pay the bills. It’s about both financially supporting our families and having time to be there for them. Freedom is the ability to take your mom or dad to a doctor’s appointment, to attend a parent-teacher conference, and to retire with dignity.

Unions provide the power in numbers that allow workers to secure and protect these freedoms.

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Unions champion policies that benefit all Americans. They fight for affordable healthcare for all, especially now, as Congress is considering legislation which would inexplicably throw millions of people off the insurance rolls.

Unions fight to improve the quality of public services. Union member Tyrone Wooten is an environmental technician at a medical facility in Flint, Michigan. He knows firsthand the devastating impact of the water supply contamination in his community. And he traveled 14 hours by bus last year to Washington, to protest the testimony of the Michigan governor, whose austerity policies led to the water crisis in Flint.

Unions are also on the front lines when it comes to retirement security participating actively in protecting public pensions and safeguarding Social Security.

RELATED: The Pros of Joining A Labor Union

It’s hard to believe anyone could be against pregnant women and infants having quality health services, families having clean drinking water, or retirees having rock-solid Social Security benefits. But many people actually are. The privileged and powerful — CEOs, massive corporations, and the wealthiest 1 percent — do not just oppose these freedoms. They rig the rules to undermine them and they spend billions of dollars lobbying against them.

And because Unions fight for these freedoms, the moneyed interests have made Unions a target. They want to use the courts to chip away at the rights and protections Unions have won for everyone. They have now petitioned the Supreme Court to take a case called Janus v. AFSCME, in which the plaintiffs seek to impose “right-to-work” as the law of the land in the public sector.

Right-to-work threatens the ability of working people to stand together in a strong Unions, drives down wages and weakens workplace protections, while redistributing wealth upward. Moreover, right-to-work has its roots in the Jim Crow south, where segregationists pushed it to restrict the labor rights of African Americans and keep them from finding common cause with their white coworkers. Right-to-work, in other words, was created to inhibit freedom.

RELATED: What Are The Common Topics In Most Union Contracts?

Americans value their freedom, and they define it broadly. It is the ability to earn a decent paycheck without sacrificing family life. It is the opportunity to live in a safe community and send your kids to a decent school. It is the peace of mind of knowing that an injury or illness won’t ruin you financially and that you can live in some modest comfort in your golden years.

The labor movement believes in — and are the guardians of — all of these freedoms. So, as the corporate special interests gear up for another well-funded attack, let us do everything in our power to protect and defend our freedom to join together in a union.

YOUR TURN

How is your Union taking a stand to protect and defend the freedoms and rights of American Workers. We want to hear your story. Sound off on the Union Built PC Facebook Page or on our Twitter or LinkedIn Feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly UNION STRONG email newsletter. You may unsubscribe at any time.

Elizabeth Warren Unveils Her Blueprint for Fighting (and Defeating) Trump

Last week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) appeared on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” after kicking off her nationwide book tour in New York City the day prior. This Fight Is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America’s Middle Class is the 11th book by the U.S. senator and a blueprint for resisting President Trump’s havoc on everyday Americans, many of whom elected him.

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Watch Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” here.

In the book, Warren cites the Women’s March, which she attended in Boston, as a pivotal moment for the resistance movement.

“I’m thinking, how are we gonna fight back against Trump, and at this point I know we gotta have an army,” Warren told Maddow. “I’m thinking… ‘Where does an army come from what does an army look like?'”

“I look up… and there’s this man with this little girl on his shoulders and she’s holding up this sign and the sign says ‘I fight like a girl,'” recalled Warren. “I said, ‘This is our army’, and it did change from that moment.”

Another pivotal moment? The collapse of the American Health Care Act last month, after the House of Representatives voted 60 plus times to repeal Obamacare.

“We had one narrative… you cannot repeal and run, you have to repeal and replace,” Warren noted. Slowly, people began to “realize how they will be touched, how their neighbors will be touched.”

“It’s a sense of the collective,” she explained. “It’s the notion [that] we have the richest country on Earth; healthcare should be a basic human right.”

“People who showed up who made their voices heard… they weren’t all Democrats,” Warren added. “There were a lot of Trump voters [who said] ‘Whoa… that’s not what we had in mind.'”

YOUR TURN

Are you part of The Resistance Movement? What does it look like to you?

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Eight Wealthiest Men Own the Same Amount as the Poorest Half of The World

A new Oxfam (Oxford Committee for Famine Relief) report confirms many of our worst suspicions about about inequality, that it is horrible and getting worse. Eight men, many have the same wealth as the poorest 50% of the world, or 3.6 billion people, according to the report. It was published to coincide with the start of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the world’s largest gathering of leaders and business heads.

The poorest half of the world owns own the same in assets as that group of eight, $426 billion to be exact. The group of eight is led by Bill Gates, Amancio Ortega, the founder of the Spanish fashion chain Zara, and investor Warren Buffett. The others on the startlingly short list are Carlos Slim Helú, the Mexican telecom tycoon, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison of Oracle and Michael Bloomberg, former billionaire mayor of New York and founder of Bloomberg news and financial information service.

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Photo Credit: Rui Duarte/Flickr CC

This information would be frightening enough on its own, but gets even worse when compared to 2016’s data, when a whopping 62 owned the same in assets as the poorest half of the world, partly because new data shows that poverty in India and China is even worse than reported just last year. Such a steep drop should be troubling to anyone concerned the scourge of economic inequality. Oxfam’s report certainly didn’t mince words, calling the data “beyond grotesque,” and advcates for “a new economic model to reverse an inequality trend that it said helped to explain Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election.”

“From Brexit to the success of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, a worrying rise in racism and the widespread disillusionment with mainstream politics, there are increasing signs that more and more people in rich countries are no longer willing to tolerate the status quo,” the report said.

It’s not enough, and in fact, is probably counterproductive, to make these eight men the poster boys for economic evil though they are the beneficiaries. As Mark Goldring, Oxfam’s CEO writes in a Guardian Op-Ed explaining the report, many of the top eight are also among the world’s most prominent philanthropists. Goldring continues,

this is not an exposé of eight people, but of a broken economics. Narrowing the gap between the richest and the rest requires us to take on a more challenging task than asking eight men to change their behaviour. It requires us to create a more human economy; one that does not result in 1% of the world’s population owning the same wealth as the other 99%. One that encourages and rewards enterprise and innovation, yes, but one that also offers everyone, regardless of background, a fair chance in life and ensures when individuals and businesses succeed, they do so for the benefit, rather than at the expense, of others.

Even the heavyweights at the World Economic Forum in Davos know this, as in a study published ahead of the gathering, 700 experts said inequality is the number one threat to the global economy. One way to begin might be to address this threat, aside from a fundamental cultural shift in values, would be to limit tax avoidance, which Goldring reminds us “costs poor countries more than $100B annually that could be used to provide clean water, lifesaving medicines or education. Rich countries, including the UK, lose countless billions more. Yet governments, anxious to defend their own corporate sectors and perceived national interests, have failed to adequately respond to companies’ use of tax loopholes, corporate power and new technology to avoid paying their fair share.” Also contributing to the inequality are policies allowing aggressive wage restraints.

If any of the World Economic Forum Davos attendees were serious about fighting this threat they would do well to read both the report, and and Goldring’s commentary.

Oxfam is considered the world leader in the delivery of emergency relief and implements long-term development programs in vulnerable communities. Today, there are 19 member organizations of the Oxfam International confederation. They are based in: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Ireland, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Quebec, South Africa, Spain and the United States.

YOUR TURN

What would you do to begin to shift the unequal distribution of wealth in this country? In this world? Sound off on the Union Built PC Facebook Page, on our Twitter or LinkedIn feeds and don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly #UnionStrong email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.

 

Source: Additional reporting and statistics provided by Alternet

 

5 Hidden Ways to Boost Your Tax Refund

While Americans may disagree on how their taxes are spent, at tax time, most of us are looking for ways to pay no more than we owe, or even boost our tax refunds.

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These five strategies go beyond the obvious to give you tried-and-true ways to reduce your tax liability:

1. Rethink filing status to boost your refund
One of the first decisions you make when completing your tax return, your filing status, can affect your refund’s size, especially if you’re married. While most married couples file jointly — 95 percent did in 2015 — a joint return is not always the most beneficial way to boost your refund. Married-filing-separately status requires more effort, but the time you invest offers tax savings under the right circumstances. Calculating your taxes both ways will point you in the higher refund direction.

The IRS uses a percentage of adjusted gross income — AGI — to determine whether some deductions can be used such as medical and certain miscellaneous expenses. Filing separately gives each spouse a lower AGI. If one of them has a lot of medical expenses, such as COBRA payments resulting from a job loss, computing taxes individually allows that spouse to reach the needed AGI percentage based on his or her own income.

Or, a spouse who spends a lot of time on the road and in the air might have travel expenses such as baggage fees that merit separate filing. Expenses can add up for an unemployed spouse looking for work — long distance calls, resume preparation, career counseling and networking — and could be a sleeping miscellaneous deduction that reduces taxable income. However, choosing to file separate returns has drawbacks, such as losing credits available to joint filers, that you must weigh to maximize your refund potential.

Tax reductions from claiming dependents can cut a single parent’s tax bill when he or she files ashead of household. You need to have one or more children who lived with you for more than six months, and paid more than 50 percent of the cost of keeping a home. Those costs include mortgage and rent, utilities, homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, repairs and food.

Single taxpayers who care for a parent may also qualify for the more advantageous head-of-household status if they paid more than half of the cost of maintaining that parent’s residence for the whole year. Your parent need not live with you; when you pay more than half of their cost to live in a home for seniors or rest home, you can claim head of household.

2. Don’t shy away from tax deductions
Keeping a trip log for your volunteer work, job-hunting and doctor’s appointments may seem like a waste of time, but those miles add up and represent deductions. Parking, toll and bus or taxi receipts support your claim, while a record of the miles you drove lets you write off the cost of using your car through the standard mileage rate. Good travel records could help you reach the needed minimum percentage of adjusted gross income for miscellaneous deductions.

Moving for a new job 50 miles or more away can boost your tax refund because you can deduct moving, storage and travel expenses related to your relocation. You have to work full time at the new job for at least 39 weeks the first year; however, you can take the deduction in the year you move if you expect to meet this time test within the following tax year. You don’t have to itemize to get this tax break to lower your adjusted gross income. Simply figure your total using IRS Form 3903 and attach it to your 1040 return.

Charitable deductions can help your refund cause, too. Record keeping lets you add up the dollars spent doing charity work, in addition to claiming the market value of any clothing or household things you donate. When you bake for a fund-raiser, the cost of your ingredients can be deducted, but not the value of the time you spent baking.

3. Maximize your IRA contributions
You have until April 15th to open a traditional IRA for the previous tax year. That gives you the flexibility of claiming the credit on your return, filing early and using your refund to open the account. Traditional IRA contributions reduce your taxable income. You can take advantage of the maximum contribution and, if you’re at least 50 years old, the catch-up provision, to add to your IRA. If you contributed to a Roth IRA, you may be able to claim the retirement savings contribution credit that also lowers taxable income and result in a larger refund check.

4. Timing can boost your tax refund
And while this line item may be a day late and a dollar short, it’s good to keep in mind for next year. Taxpayers who watch the calendar improve their chances of getting a larger refund. If you can, pay January’s mortgage payment before December 31st and get the added interest for your mortgage interest deduction.

Schedule health-related treatments and exams in the last quarter of the year to boost your medical expense deduction potential.

Paying property taxes by New Year’s Eve could make the difference between itemizing and taking the standard deduction, and thus, a bigger refund. If you’re self-employed, you can pay your fourth-quarter state estimated taxes in December, rather than in January when they’re normally due, to increase your itemizing potential.

5. Become credit savvy and refund happy
Credits work better than deductions as refund boosters. For each credit dollar, your taxes go down a dollar. Yet, 20% of eligible Americans don’t claim the earned income tax credit. If you’re working and meet the guidelines, you may be eligible for EITC even if you’re single with no children. If you have kids, the child-care credit may help you.

For those with children in college, credits related to higher education expenses, such as the American Opportunity Tax Credit, could provide tax relief. We spoke with CPA Miles Brkovich of Bennett & Brkovich, LLC in Latrobe, Pennsylvania and he says; “The American Opportunity Credit is great because up to $1,000 is refundable. That means you could receive as much as $1,000 even if you had no tax liability. The total credit is $2,500 and applies only to the first four years of undergraduate higher education expenses. If you’re in grad school or beyond, you may be eligible for the Lifetime Learning Credit.”

Tax laws change frequently, and credits come and go, so staying informed can be financially rewarding. Credits for home improvements that save energy keep more money in your wallet throughout the year and at tax time. For example, an investment in an alternative energy heating system for your home could let you claim 30 percent of the cost through 2017.

YOUR TURN

Do you have any tips to add to this list? We want to hear from you! Sound off on the Union Built PC Facebook Page or on our Twitter or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly #UnionStrong email newsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox.

This article is for general informational purposes designed to help you put these valuable deductions on your radar. Union Built PC employees and principals are not certified accountants. Please be sure to check with your tax adviser to see if you qualify for a particular credit or deduction.

Dividend Paying Stocks Strategies

Guest Post by Donald Conrad fiduciary adviser, Conrad Capital Management

Dividend Paying Stocks are often a great option to traditional income investments. Investors measure dividend value through dividend yield, which is calculated by dividing annual dividends with the current stock price. Although the stock price tends to fluctuate, it might be a good addition to ones current strategy for those willing to hold for long term. In fact, the most popular dividend strategies such as the Dogs of the Dow, DRIPS, Proprietary Dividend Capture Strategy, to name a few, are straightforward and have relatively minimal capital requirements. The typical dividend is offered by mature companies that have graduated from the growth stage and are looking to provide additional investment incentives. Dividends may also lower a stock’s volatility as investors are more likely to hold dividend stocks longer than non-dividend stocks.

dividend-paying-stocks

There are four important dividend dates that investors should be aware of before investing in dividend paying stocks:

Declaration date – The board of directors announces all the important dividend dates, and the amount of the dividend payments.

Ex-Dividend date – An investor must purchase the stocks before the Ex-Dividend date to be eligible for dividend payment.

Date of Record – Two days after the Ex-Dividend date. The settlement of the trade needs to occur either before, or on the date of record, for investors to be eligible for the dividend payment.

Date of payment – The registered investors will be paid.

Dividend Investing Strategies

1)  The Dogs of the Dow is a high dividend yield investment strategy where the investor invests in the top 10 highest yielding Dow Jones stocks out of the 30. This strategy often offers diversification, less downside risk, and beneficial reward potential. The investor’s position is re-balanced after a year and a day to take advantage of more tax-efficient capital gains. To learn more about this and other variations to this strategy, consult your financial advisor.

2)  A Dividend Capture Strategy is when the investor purchases the stock before the ex-dividend date and then sells it ex-dividend, hence capturing the dividend. There may be many ways of doing this; thus it is important to work with your financial advisor to develop a strategy that best fits your needs.

3)  Dividend re-investments are another effective way for investors to take advantage of dividends where stockholders can increase their holdings and accumulate the value of their investment over time. Although investors will still have to pay taxes on reinvested dividends, a reinvestment strategy may be attractive to smaller investors looking to build a larger position in a company through dollar cost averaging. Some corporations also offer specialized dividend reinvestment plans called DRIPs, which are usually free of brokerage and transaction fees. Some corporations may even offer stock at a discount to market price through their DRIP programs. Ask your financial consultant about available dividend reinvestment plans that might be suitable for you and your investment goals.

Choosing a Dividend Investment Plan

While dividend investing can provide an attractive source of income for stockholders, it is important to consider the timing and efficiency of your investments. Be aware that dividends are taxed at different rates than income, and may cause administrative hassle if done incorrectly. Consult your investment advisor to ensure that your dividend investment plan maximizes return and best fits your needs as an investor.

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Phone: (631)-439-7878  Fax: (631)-439-7879
www.conradcapital.com

Protecting Your ID When You’re Always Connected

With more and more of our time spent connected to smart devices, security is always an important factor to consider whether you’re working on files that live in the cloud, filing photos, or trying to get to the next level of your favorite online game. Your smartphone or tablet could be a target for a savvy hacker looking to capture your information. When you use a smartphone for all the convenience it can deliver (including mobile banking, document signing and sharing, and staying social), what steps should you think about to help ensure your security?

identity-theft

Using Apps Safely

As you look for applications to add into your smartphone, make sure you’re taking the legitimacy of apps into account before clicking ‘download.’ You can do this by reading reviews of apps that are unfamiliar to you so you’re in the know on issues that other users have experienced. Make sure, too, that you know and can confirm that the developer source is a reputable one. The good news for you is that app stores now have rigorous screening procedures to vet submissions, so they’re on the lookout to make sure your store shopping experience is safer and more intelligent than in earlier days.

Protecting Yourself Beyond Apps

Apps are a major window into device access, but hackers have commonly resorted to other increasingly sophisticated tactics to get into your information by email, too. Commonly known as phishing, these look-alike attempts to scam you out of your personal information by resembling communications that you do (or might reasonably do) business with. Commonly requested information: your Social Security number, account information, and passwords. As a reminder of something you probably are already familiar with, never give these out in email: reputable companies won’t ever ask for you to supply this information by email.

When it comes to taking your information with you on the go, mobile devices are unbeatable for convenience, portability, and staying connected. Just make sure that you’re keeping security in mind when you set up accounts, consider new apps, or access your information from another new place.

RELATED: Protect Your Sensitive Data from Cyber Criminals with the Union Built Cloud

This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.

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Stealing the Economy in 6 Easy Steps

So… How Does So Much Wealth End Up in the Pockets of CEOs and Wall Street Firms?

1. Companies buy other companies using borrowed money.
Since the 1980s, corporate raiders, corporations and hedge funds have looked to take over any company they could. But here’s their secret.

2. Raiders use the assets of the targeted company to pay for the costs of the acquisition.
The target company is weakened because it has to pay back millions of dollars. Worse, the corporate raiders pay themselves from the assets of the acquired company, too, in fees and special dividends. The CEOs and bankers get their cut as well. Not much left to share with the workers from a once-successful company.

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3. CEOs get paid with stock incentives.
That means when a company’s stock goes up, CEOs get even more money.
Unfortunately, in the U.S., most CEOs are focused on very short-term goals, like improving their own compensation. They most likely aren’t looking at long terms goals like increasing productivity or reinvesting in research and development. They aren’t interested in increasing workers’ real wages and benefits. So what does the CEO do?

4. CEOs use company earnings not to invest in better equipment or operations, not to pass along gains to workers, but to buy more stock.
That raises the stock prices and raises the CEO’s salary.

5. CEOS IMPLEMENT “THE SQUEEZE.”
The company downsizes, and workers get laid off. Jobs are shipped offshore. Pension funds are frozen. Wages and benefits are cut.

6. Results
The earnings of the corporation are redistributed to executives and Wall Street bankers.

What’s left for workers?

NOT MUCH.

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