Letter from a Member: Verizon Restricted Stock Award

Especially since we supposedly received a tax break from congress this year. While the Corporate Profit Sharing Award is something we are all familiar with because it was bargained for years ago, the Restricted Stock Plan is new and as a unionized workforce we are used to receiving our compensation from the company through bargaining not out of the goodness of their heart. So being a little skeptical of any company that wants to give anything away for free let’s take a look at how we got here.

In 2017 Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs act. This was a supposedly an ‘across the board Tax cut for individual tax payers and Corporate America’. Some of the highlights of this plan are the lowering of the percentage of taxes owed across all tax brackets, doubling the standard deduction, and reducing the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%. This all sounds nice but in order to pass this law through Congress Republicans needed either Democratic votes, or to pass it with a simple majority by keeping the costs equal. Since it’s safe to say political parties coming together for the good of the people are pretty rare these days, Republicans chose the latter. So in order to make all these tax cuts they had to take money away from other piles. Those piles consisted of eliminating personal exemptions, capping deductions for property taxes and state and local taxes also known as SALT at $10,000, eliminating the individual mandate for the Affordable Care Act and eliminating deductions for work clothes, boots, foul weather clothing, and the cost of cleaning them. As we look deeper into what we got in tax cuts as opposed to what we gave back in deductions, it seems like corporations made out like bandits and we got stuck picking up the slack.

As we go to our accountant to get our taxes done a lot of us are finding out that we’re not getting as much money back as we used to in our return. This is because while the 3% tax break most have received is nice, the thousands of dollars in lost deductions is not. The combination of our state and local taxes (SALT) and our property taxes is nearly double the $10,000 limit, costing us around $2,200 alone. Throw in the fact that we can’t deduct the cost of purchasing and cleaning our work wear and it’s even more. Other union jobs across the state are required to buy their tools. None of which is deductible anymore, costing middle class families thousands of dollars. Our work clothes and boots are a requirement by OSHA and company standards, not a choice, which makes it an expense. Corporations can still deduct expenses just not us.
                   
As someone who likes to follow politics there are some key words and phrases that I have heard the Republican Party say for years that apparently don’t apply anymore. The first one is that they were “FISCALLY CONSERVATIVE”. Every time they try to cut government programs like CHIP (The Children’s Health Insurance program) or SNAP ( food stamps) or WIC (Women Infants & Children’s program) they say that they are being fiscally responsible and don’t want to increase the national debt for the next generation. In 2016 the National Debt was 19.5 trillion dollars. It is now 22 trillion dollars. Another is “SOCIALISM”. Every time someone brings up Healthcare For All they say it’s Socialism and it will destroy America as we know it. But in the last 25 years the biggest socialistic bill passed in Congress was the 2008 Bank Bailout. A person can argue whether this program was right or successful in stabilizing our economy at the time but you can’t argue that wasn’t Socialism. Which brings me to my last phrase “REDISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH”. Every time Republicans try to eliminate programs like Social Security and Medicare they call it a Redistribution of Wealth. They say it is unfair to take money from younger workers and redistribute it to older people for retirement or healthcare. Now this statement is asinine but has been parroted as a talking point to eliminate these programs for years. I bring this up because Corporate America’s tax rate was changed from 35% to 21%. This rate is actually lower than the rate we pay. If a company like Verizon was to post a profit of 10 billion dollars their tax bill went from 3.5 billion to 2.1 billion. That is also before they use accounting tricks or tax loopholes to make it lower. Our loss of legitimate tax deductions to lower our obligations to the Government went into the pockets of Corporate America making this Tax plan the biggest REDISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH the middle class has ever seen.

At the end of the month you will receive your money from The Restricted Stock Plan. You will also receive one next year. Whether you pay off bills or start a vacation fund or do some home repairs with it just remember one thing. IT IS NOT A GIFT. It is your money. Congress just decided to Redistribute it to Corporations. They just felt like giving you a taste.

Patrick Hunt
CWA Local 1101