The Fair Pay Petition for Dutchess County sign now

If you agree in these extremely difficult times that the least our county's leaders can do to help us make ends meet is to make sure that that salares are cut or frozen for high-paid Dutchess County employees and elected officials (including county legislators, the County Executive, County Clerk, County Sheriff, District Attorney, and County Comptroller)-- while contractually obligated raises are preserved for the thousands of hard-working, overworked employees and CSEA members of Dutchess County, then sign on to this petition and pass it along to all you know.

This is the least we can do here in Dutchess County-- modeled after the good example our new President Obama set his very first day in office (see below), when he announced announced salary freezes for all White House employees making over $100,000 a year.

[note, too-- letters sent to [email protected] certainly couldn't hurt, either!]

Joel Tyner
County Legislator
324 Browns Pond Road
Staatsburg, NY 12580

[Recall my petition effort in late 2008 to make sure county employees got their contractually obligated raises-- see; over three dozen county residents signed on to this and spoke out as well; also recall that earlier this winter in late 2008 I made it public and clear that I myself am more than willing to pay 15\% of health insurance costs as part of the leadership of Dutchess County government, and indicated willingness to co-sponsor resolution to this effect-- however, again, as stated above, I remain steadfast in my commitment to make sure that our county's rank-and-file employees receive their contractually obligated raises.]

[Recall as well-- for six years now I've been calling for Dutchess County to save literally a million dollars a year for the taxpayers of Dutchess County-- by allowing county employees here the same choice that county employees and retirees have had for years under G.O.P. and Dem administrations in Rensselaer, Schenectady, and Lewis counties-- the option of getting reimbursed for prescription drugs from Canada; many from across Dutchess signed on to; also see:;;]

[Finally, worth noting here-- we have to do everything we can to fight the seemingly endless race to the bottom, the ongoing effort to strip working people of decent wages, health care, and other benefits-- and protect those things for our rank-and-file county workers. The fact is also that time and time again, over and over across the country in dozens of counties, cities, towns, and villages where living wage laws have been passed, that making sure that public employees (and workers at companies getting public contracts) are paid a living wage in the end more than pays for itself-- with increased productivity and employee loyalty, actually saving money for taxpayers by preventing the need for those workers to apply to county DSS for taxpayer-subsidized services like Family Health Plus, Child Health Plus, food stamps, and subsidized housing; see:;; much support:;;;;;;;;;]

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"Obama's First Day Not 'Business As Usual': President Freezes Salaries Over $100,000, Limits Lobbyists' Access And Preps To Close Gitmo"
WASHINGTON, Jan. 21, 2009

(CBS/AP)A day after celebrating his historic inauguration, President Barack Obama spent his first full day in office instituting policies that "represent a clean break from business as usual."

The Obama administration announced salary freezes for White House employees making over $100,000 a year, placed new limits on lobbyists' White House access and had aides circulate a draft executive order that would close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay within a year.

"The way to make government responsible is to hold it accountable," Obama said as he unveiled ethics rules that he portrayed as the fulfillment of a major campaign promise. He said the action was necessary "to help restore faith in government without which we cannot deliver the changes that we were sent here to make."

Those affected by the freeze include the high-profile jobs of White House chief of staff, national security adviser and press secretary. Other aides who work in relative anonymity also would fit into that cap if Mr. Obama follows a structure similar to the one George W. Bush set up.

"Families are tightening their belts, and so should Washington," said the new president, taking office amid startlingly bad economic times that many fear will grow worse.

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"Panel will study employee benefits: 198 pay nothing for health premiums"

A task force commissioned by Dutchess County Legislature Chairman Roger Higgins will study the salaries and benefits packages of managers, confidential employees and elected officials.

Higgins, D-New Hamburg, said Monday James Hammond, a retired teacher and former county legislator; Anthony Campilli, the retired chief financial officer and vice president of finance at Marist College; and Elizabeth Eismeier, vice president for finance and administration at Vassar College, will be on the task force.

The recently formed task force comes on the heels of a Journal investigation that began two months ago on generous health benefits packages for county employees and officials.

About 198 county officials and employees pay zero percent of their health insurance premiums. That number includes 153 full-time and part-time managers, six confidential employees (employees who are privy to information leading to decisions of management that affect employee relations) hired before Jan. 1, 1982; five full-time elected officials; 20 part-time legislators; and 14 union employees hired before Nov. 1, 1979, according to Colleen Pillus, spokeswoman for the county executive.

Union Members Included

The 14 union employees include 10 members of the Dutchess County Sheriff's Employee Association and four members of the Dutchess County Deputy Sheriff's Police Benevolent Association, Pillus said. Five legislators do not use county health insurance.

A consultant will be hired to help the task force find out the compensation packages for elected officials and employees in other counties, Higgins said. The Dyson Foundation will give a grant of up to $50,000 to pay for the review.

"It's about finding ways we can save money," Higgins said. "It's important to find what other counties are doing."

Higgins uses the county health plan and receives health benefits as a retired guidance counselor from Roy C. Ketcham High School in Wappingers Falls.

He said he chooses to use the county health benefits, because, "it's a good benefit to have."
Higgins said he had thought about creating the task force early last year, but had not publicly announced his intention.

The estimated cost to the county to provide legislators with health, dental, optical and life/accidental death insurance plans will be $326,878 this year, according to Personnel Commissioner Earl Bruno.

An estimate of the total cost for the 198 county officials and employees who pay 0 percent of their health insurance premiums was unavailable Monday.

Depending on when they were hired, 1,442 confidential and union employees pay 5 percent to 20 percent of their health insurance premiums, Pillus said.

Legislator Marge Horton, R-Town of East Fishkill, has county health insurance, but she would be willing to pay a portion of her premium.

"If county legislators and all elected (officials) had to pay 15 percent, I would pay that," she said.

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"Lawmakers Set a Minimum Wage and Should Set a Maximum Wage"

United Airlines Flight Attendants Demand Congressional Action to End
Compensation Disparity and Ensure Employees Share in Airline Profits

[source: Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO]

WASHINGTON, April 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- United Airlines Flight
Attendants, represented by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA,
AFL-CIO, are demanding that Congress address the wage disparity between
workers and executives. Members of the Association of Flight
Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO are informing members of Congress about the
outrageous compensation levels of United executives, while Flight
Attendants continue to struggle to regain pay and benefits lost during the
airline's recent bankruptcy.

"When CEO compensation exceeds the entire profit of the airline, we
know there's a problem," said Greg Davidowitch, AFA MEC President at
United. "But when executive compensation reaches as much as 2000 times that
of the average new Flight Attendant, the system is clearly broken."

AFA members at United are asking Congress to recognize a problem that
is rampant throughout the airlines and in other industries. The Corporate
Library, a corporate governance watchdog group, surveyed the proxy filings
of 1,000 large U.S. companies and found that overall CEO compensation in
increased at a rate of 16\% in 2005 and 9.29\% in 2006. By comparison, UAL
Securities and Exchange Commission filings show Tilton and his suite of
senior executives received increases in compensation equaling 40\% on a
year-over-year basis, as well as bonuses throughout the company's

"Our members are sick of the unmitigated greed of the executives of
this airline," said Davidowitch. "During the bankruptcy these same
executives preached a policy of 'shared sacrifice/shared rewards.' So far,
the workers are sharing the sacrifices, but only the executives are sharing
the rewards. We demand our fair share."

Union groups at United, including AFA-CWA and its 17,000 United Flight
Attendants, have demanded that the airline's executives address workplace
issues open labor contracts to negotiate improvements. Letters were
delivered to every member of Congress as AFA-CWA works to enlist
Congressional leaders in their effort to recognize and address the growing
wage disparity between workers and executives. A copy of the letter to
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is posted on the Union website at

More than 55,000 Flight Attendants, including the 17,000 Flight
Attendants at United, join together to form AFA, the world's largest Flight
Attendant union. AFA is part of the 700,000 member strong Communications
Workers of America, AFL-CIO. Visit us at

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From Sam Pizzigati's

Fact: The richest 1\% have over 34\% of the nation's wealth, and the next 9\% have over 35\% of the nation's wealth.

Try visualizing wealth in the United States as a three-piece pie, with one piece going to the top 1 percent, one to the next richest 9 percent, and one to everyone else. In 2004, America's top 1 percent held over $2.5 trillion more in net worth than the entire bottom 90 percent, according to Federal Reserve data supplemented by the annual Forbes 400 list.

America's Income Distribution: Quite a Bit Top-Heavy, Too

Income what people take in on an annual basis also tilts toward the top in today's United States. In 2004, the nation's top 1 percent raked in more income than the bottom 40 percent, Congressional Budget Office research released in December 2006 indicates.

So What's New? Don't the Rich Always Get Richer?

Actually, no. A century ago, income in America skewed steeply toward the top, but in the mid 20th century the United States became significantly more equal, as data from economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty show here, before turning back toward greater inequality. Note: Saez and Piketty crunch their data from tax records. The CBO researchers above add in-kind income sources, everything from job-paid health insurance premiums to food stamps. That's why calculations of income shares can vary.

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From ...

"When the Rich Make Too Much: Is it Time for a Maximum Wage?"
By Sam Pizzigati, Too Much: A Commentary on Excess and Inequality.

[Sam Pizzigati is also the editor of the online weekly Too Much, and an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.]

Posted September 13, 2007.

One of the world's most honored public intellectuals, writing in a premiere policy journal, is calling for limits on income and fortunes.

Can our contemporary world be saved from the problems that ail us, from climate change and oil dependency, from AIDS and religious extremism, from poverty and inequality? Foreign Policy, the world's most prestigious global affairs journal, is tackling this weighty question head on, in a new issue that asks 21 of our earth's most thoughtful observers to suggest the "one solution that would make the world a better place."

That "one solution," suggests Howard Gardner, the Harvard-based psychologist whose widely acclaimed books on human intelligence have been translated into 26 languages, ought to be a cap on the income and wealth that any one individual can accumulate.

The United States needs an income cap, Gardner posits in the new Foreign Policy, that limits the amount of money a single individual can annually take home to no more than "100 times as much money as the average worker in a society earns in a year."

"If the average worker makes $40,000," Gardner proposes, "the top compensated individual may keep $4 million a year."

Gardner's Foreign Policy contribution also advocates a cap on wealth, proposing that "no individual should be allowed to accumulate an estate more than 50 times the allowed annual income."

If that allowed annual income were $4 million, then Gardner's proposal would allow no one, at death, to bequest a fortune greater than $200 million. Any individual wealth above that would have to "be contributed to charity or donated to the government."

What's driving Gardner, a psychologist, to an economic prescription?

"Most people in the United States cannot even envision a society that doesn't revolve around an untrammeled market," Gardner writes, noting the "widespread assumption," particularly among today's young people, "that the most accurate measure of success is how much money you have accumulated, indeed that general merit can best be gauged by one's net worth." These assumptions, says the Harvard psychologist, have nurtured a society where accumulation "has gone way too far," where a "hedge fund manager can take home a sum reminiscent of the gross national product of a small country."

A cap on income and riches, Gardner adds, would raise billions, even trillions, "to begin to solve the problems about which others are writing in this collection of solutions to save the world."

Attacks on Gardner's proposal are already emerging. One nationally syndicated critique -- from foundation president Clifford May -- labeled Gardner's antidote to inequality "preposterous." Gardner's Foreign Policy piece anticipates that sort of outraged reaction.

"To those who would scream 'foul' to such limits on personal wealth," Gardner notes, "I would remind them that just 50 years ago, this proposal would have seemed reasonable, even generous."

Sums up the Harvard scholar: "Our standards of 'enough' have become irrationally greedy. Were these proposals enacted, I predict that they would be accepted with amazing speed, and individuals would wonder why they had not always been in effect."

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From ...

"Does America Need a Maximum Wage?"
By Sam Pizzigati

Dennis J. Gannon, President Tim Leahy, Secretary-Treasurer
This is the official website of the Chicago Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO
2005 Chicago Federation of Labor. 130 E. Randolph St., Ste. 2600 / Chicago, IL 60601

On this Labor Day 2004, is your labor valued? Not likely. Not if you work in the United States. Corporate employers have never, not in the lifetime of any American currently alive, valued labor as little as they do today.

Just how little is labor valued? Corporate CEOs in the United States, according to the latest Business Week statistics, now make more than 300 times the income of average American workers. Forty years ago, by contrast, top corporate executives took home just 42 times what their average workers earned.

The Business Week numbers, incredibly enough, actually understate the actual pay gap between workers and top executives, since not all executive paychecks make its annual list.

Two years ago, after Enrons collapse, many Americans felt sure that CEO paychecks like these would soon be history. Congress, after all, enacted a major piece of corporate reform legislation, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Corporations would presumably no longer be able to play the accounting games that let CEOs run their companies into the groundand their bank accounts into the nine-digits.

But the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the latest executive pay reports make clear, has little impact on who gets what within corporate America. Indeed, corporate leaders are now citing the new reform law as a reason why CEO pay needs to rise even higher. The job of CEO, the argument goes, has become much more difficult since the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation imposed new disclosure and ethical requirements on chief executives.

This has become a very serious and taxing job with enormous personal reputational responsibility, a top official at the Merrill Lynch financial group, James P. Gorman, told a national business group late this past spring. Obviously you're going to have to pay people a lot more money to perform that function. If you want executive honesty, in other words, pay extra.

Can anything be done to end this corporate arroganceand narrow the grotesque pay gaps that separate American workers from American executives? Last year, one antidote to executive excess surfaced from a somewhat unlikely source.

Richard Breeden, that unlikely source, had been a chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the federal agency that regulates Wall Street. In 2002, a judge appointed Breeden to come up with a fix-it plan for WorldCom, the scandal-ridden telecom giant.

Breeden, in 2003, did come up with a plan. His overhaul for WorldCom totally dismantled the company's lavish structure of executive pay incentives, a structure, he charged, that had encouraged a reckless pursuit of wealth.

Breeden's plan banned executive stock options and ended the practice of granting WorldCom executives millions in bonuses simply for agreeing not to jump ship to some other company. Most interestingly, his plan set a lid on total compensation from all sources for the top executive at MCI, the successor company that emerged out of WorldCom's ashes. Breeden fixed this maximum dollar amount at not more than $15 million a year. But MCI's board, he added quickly, would be free to set a lower number.

Breeden's plan didn't make many headlines. But his explicit limit on executive pay did remind some observers that once upon a time, not that many generations ago, many top elected leaders in the United States had the courage to seriously discuss and debate proposals that would cap the incomes of America's very richest.

In fact, back in 1942, a call for what amounted to a maximum wage actually came from the President of the United States. President Franklin D. Roosevelt that year asked Congress to impose a 100\% tax on all individual income over $25,000, the equivalent of about $300,000 today, after adjusting for inflation.

FDR didn't get his 100\% top tax rate. But he did get Congress to pass a 94\% top tax rate on all income over $200,000. And America's top tax rate on high incomes would hover around 90\% for the next two decades, years that would see unprecedented economic prosperity for average American families.

Those high tax rates on high incomes FDR inspired have disappeared. In 1943, the very richest Americans paid 78\% of their total incomes in federal income tax. In 2003, by contrast, our very richest Americans paid a mere 17.5\% of their total incomes in federal tax.

And Roosevelt's idea of a maximum wage has largely disappeared, too. No economic justice advocates today see a maximum wage as a realistic possibility anytime soon. But some see some exciting real potential for more modest proposals that would shove the United States in a maximum wage direction.

Rep. Martin Sabo (D-Minn.) now has pending in Congress legislation that, if enacted, would ban corporations from deducting off their tax bills any executive compensation that totals over 25 times the pay of their lowest-paid workers.

A similar proposal, backed by the UAW and other unions, surfaced a few years ago in Connecticut. That initiative, if passed, would have denied government contracts and subsidies to any corporations that pay executives more than 25 times what their workers receive.

Might maximum wage proposals start to gain some political traction? Why not? A hundred years ago, who ever thought we would see a minimum wage?

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