Tuesday, October 13, 2015
Prof. Fran Quigley has written a fascinating analysis of the effectiveness of the U.S. Tax Code's charitable contributions deduction and whether the poor benefit from the current scheme. The answer is no. The charitable deduction is largely used by the very wealthy to endow college buildings, art donations and other "charitable" acts that benefit the already well off. Individuals who lack resources receive little to no benefit from charitable contributions as they are currently structured. The article, For Goodness’ Sake: A Two-Part Proposal for Remedying the U.S. Charity/Justice Imbalance is scheduled to be published by Virginia Journal of Social Policy and the Law and can be read here. The abstract reads as follows:
"The U.S. approach to addressing economic and social needs strongly favors individual and corporate charity over the establishment and enforcement of economic and social rights. This charity/justice imbalance has a severely negative impact on the nation’s poor, who despite the overall U.S. wealth struggle with inadequate access to healthcare, housing, and nutrition. This article suggests a two-part approach for remedying the charity/justice imbalance in the U.S.: First, the U.S. should eliminate the charitable tax deduction, a policy creation that does not effectively address economic and social needs, forces an inequitable poverty relief and tax burden on the middle class, and lulls the nation into a false sense of complacency about its poverty crisis. Second, the U.S. should replace the deduction with ratification of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This two-part process would reverse the U.S. legacy of avoiding enforceable commitments to economic and social rights. Charity would take a step back; justice a step forward."
Thursday, July 2, 2015
by Fran Quigley
When Bernetta Boatright learned that her co-workers were trying to form a union in her job at an Indianapolis International Airport-based food service company, she wasn’t sure what to think.
She asked her sister for advice, and she told Boatright, “You better sign up for the union—it may save you your job.”
Boatright thought it unlikely that she would need to worry about that. She had been on the job for 15 years, with a spotless record in roles in food preparation and as a sometimes-cashier. But she signed up as a member of UNITE HERE Local 23 anyway.
Not long after, a cash register came up short on Boatright’s shift. A manager decided Boatright should be automatically fired, despite her long tenure and her repeated insistence that she had not taken a nickel. The manager took Boatright’s ID badge and escorted her out the door.
She was scared and humiliated, and not sure what to do.
For most Indiana workers, the story would end there. As part of our law school clinic, my students and I represent low-income workers in our community. Like Boatright, many have recently lost their jobs. Suddenly, they find themselves without money to pay the rent or feed their families.
Countless times, we have had to break the bad news about these workers’ rights under Indiana law. To be blunt, they don’t have many. If they are not among the very few workers with an employment contract, and if their boss did not fire them because of their membership in a handful of legally-defined protected classes, there is little chance to fight the termination.
The doctrine is called employment at-will, and it is the law in almost all states. A judge I once clerked for called it “employment at-whim.” For the most part, employers have free rein to fire who they want when they want.
But some Indiana workers have more security. Union members usually have the protection of contracts saying they can only be fired for good cause, and that a decision by the boss is subject to a review process.
So a distraught Boatright called her co-worker and union steward, Marcus Gibson, and told him what happened. Gibson is several decades younger than Boatright, but she knew he would fight for her. Gibson contacted the company leadership, cited the contract, and demanded a review of the decision.
When I ask workers what they value about being in a union, I expect them to talk about the increased pay and benefits that reliably flow from collective bargaining. Instead, most answer with a variation of one word: Respect.
Their union contract means they cannot be treated as disposable parts, they say. Their rights as employees—as human beings—must be honored in the workplace.
At one time, Bernetta Boatright did not understand that. She does now. She knows she has rights, and she knows that she and her union steward can make sure they are enforced.
She also knows that her sister’s advice was well-taken. Thanks to her union, Bernetta Boatright has her job back.