Teamster Copyright Win McNamee, Getty Images

Unions Squeeze Companies to Divulge Plans for Tax Bill Windfall

The unions’ announcement of their push for corporate disclosure comes four weeks after Teamsters members at a Toyota Motor Corp. parts distribution center in Torrance, Calif. voted to authorize a strike, rejecting a contract offer they said was far too stingy in light of the company’s recent earnings boost from the tax bill.

Unions are pressing companies they bargain with to disclose details of what they’re doing with savings from the Trump tax cuts, the latest move by organized labor to pressure corporations to pass along their windfall from the overhaul.

Four unions have recently filed formal information requests with 11 companies, including American Airlines Group Inc., AT&T Inc., and PepsiCo Inc. subsidiary Frito-Lay, requesting disclosure of the firms’ plans for the extra cash freed up by the tax cuts.

The labor groups say failure to comply could lead to the filing of complaints with the National Labor Relations Board, which enforces the federal labor law requiring companies to provide unions that represent their employees with information germane to collective bargaining.

“President Trump and the Republican Congress promised that billions of dollars in corporate tax giveaways would ultimately raise wages and brings jobs back from overseas, but a union contract is the only way to get that promise in writing,” Communications Workers of America President Chris Shelton said in a statement. “Working people deserve to know how their employers plan to spend their tax savings so they can bargain for a fair share of the windfall and ensure that corporations do more to bring jobs home and improve pay and benefits.”

Along with CWA, which is currently in negotiations with American Airlines subsidiaries Piedmont Airlines and Envoy Air, and with AT&T, the unions sending the requests are the Service Employees International Union, the American Federation of Teachers and the Teamsters. The companies they’re targeting include long-term care providers, for-profit health corporations, and XPO Logistics.

The requests seek disclosure of what each company’s estimated gains from the tax revamp will be, how much they will spend on stock buybacks, how much capital investment they intend to make in the U.S. and abroad, and how many U.S. jobs they plan to create or bring back from other countries.

Request Rebuffed
American Airlines, AT&T, and PepsiCo. didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday. One of the recent requests has already been rebuffed. In a letter to CWA last month, Randall White, AT&T’s Midwest labor relations vice president, wrote, “Because of the stated purpose for your inquiries, your requests are not relevant to the bargaining relationship between the company and the CWA.” White also told the union that it was seeking “irrelevant, immaterial” information.

Since passing their tax overhaul in December, Republicans have cited bonuses granted to employees at companies including Walmart Inc. and AT&T as evidence of the bill’s broad benefits. “With 3.5 million Americans receiving bonuses or other benefits from their employers as a result of TAX CUTS, 2018 is off to a great start!” President Donald Trump tweeted on Feb. 2.

Democrats have countered that the legislation was skewed in favor of the wealthy, and any boosts to working class paychecks are “crumbs” compared to the billions in handouts to big corporations.

The unions’ announcement of their push for corporate disclosure comes four weeks after Teamsters members at a Toyota Motor Corp. parts distribution center in Torrance, Calif. voted to authorize a strike, rejecting a contract offer they said was far too stingy in light of the company’s recent earnings boost from the tax bill.

“We heard President Trump say that workers would be getting a pay raise with the tax breaks, so when Toyota got a $2.7 billion windfall, we expected to finally be able to catch up with the high cost of living in our communities,” employee Daniel Valenzuela said in a statement released by the union.

The workers, who service Toyota repair shops from southern California to Salt Lake City, voted March 24 to reject a subsequent offer from the company, which they said included raises of 1.2%. On March 27, the local union’s secretary-treasurer sent a letter to Toyota dealers warning that “the workers are on their way to your dealership in the very near future to handbill your customers with the media present to document the event.”

“We greatly value represented team members at our Los Angeles Parts Distribution Center and have offered them a contract that not only delivers considerable improvements over their current, industry-leading wage and benefits package, but also greatly exceeds comparable local wages and benefits,” Toyota spokesman Eric Booth said. At a briefing last month in Tokyo, Toyota Senior Managing Officer Masayoshi Shirayanagi said that the legislation added about 290 billion yen to the company’s bottom line.

By Josh Eidelson

TAGS: The Economy
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