(EDITOR’S NOTE, 8/26/18, 1:14 AM ET: Our calculation of Penn Waste’s approximate tax liability in an earlier version of this article was initially found to be incorrect and we have since corrected the math to generate a more approximate estimate. It should be noted that because Penn Waste is not a publicly traded company, there are no Securities and Exchange Commission filings to help determine Penn Waste’s exact profit margins.)
Scott Wagner, the Republican nominee in the Pennsylvania governor’s race, gave an odd reason for not releasing his tax returns at a recent town hall.
In addition to being the GOP’s pick to run for governor, Wagner — a state senator — is the owner of Penn Waste Inc., which is a non-union company. As of this writing, Wagner has refused to release his tax returns to allow voters to see how much he makes and what percentage of his income he pays in taxes.
According to the York Daily Record, it’s been a decades-long tradition dating back to the 1990s for all gubernatorial candidates in the Keystone State to release their tax returns. However, none of the three Republicans who ran in the gubernatorial primary released their tax returns. This is likely due to President Trump setting the precedent of being the first presidential candidate in more than 40 years to not release his own to the public.
While Wagner declined to state a reason for keeping his tax returns secret during the primary, he finally divulged why his tax documents have been kept from the public at a town hall in Erie, Pennsylvania earlier this week: If his workers knew how much he made, they would form a union.
“If I disclose those tax returns, union representatives get a hold of my tax returns, go around to my employees’ homes at night and say, ‘Hey Mrs. Jones, how much does your husband make?’ She goes, ‘Well he makes this.’ ‘Well this guy makes a lot more,’ ” Wagner said.
In response to Wagner’s comments, Pennsylvania’s unions issued a statement saying the Republican was “telling the truth about his views on labor because nobody in Harrisburg has been more anti-union and anti-worker than him.”
“This November, the men and women of organized labor will be sending Mr. Wagner a message that every worker — even Penn Waste employees — have a right to join a union,” stated Allegheny-Fayette County Central Labor Council President Darrin Kelly.
Brothers and sisters, our labor councils formal response to Scott Wagner. @PaAFL_CIO @SEIUPA @PFT400 @AFTPA @AndiPerez @PADems @JohnFetterman @steelworkers @jjabbott @kmlcarpenters @Catanese668 pic.twitter.com/Zfat5ZSWZ9
— Darrin Kelly (@Darrinkellypgh) August 22, 2018
According to the Central Penn Business Journal, Penn Waste Inc. made approximately $75,000,000 in revenue in 2017 (up from $67 million in 2016) and has roughly 400 employees. This means that, If each of Wagner’s employees were paid $100,000 last year in salary and benefits, Wagner’s company would have $35 million in profit. Assuming Penn Waste paid the standard 35 percent tax rate and took no deductions, the company would be on the hook for $12.25 million in taxes on those profits. This would leave Wagner with more than $22 million for himself.
However, Penn Waste doesn’t appear to pay its employees nearly that much. Data on job site Glassdoor shows that garbage truck drivers for Penn Waste can expect to make between $14/hour and $15/hour, which is, at most, $31,200 before taxes for someone working a 40-hour week. A logistics coordinator only makes between $18/hour to $20/hour (up to $41,600 before taxes for a full-time employee). A maintenance technician’s salary only goes as high as $58,000/year.
Reviews on Glassdoor of Penn Waste are less than flattering. Employees wrote that management typically doesn’t fill positions vacated by workers when they quit, meaning the remaining workers have to take on a higher workload. Penn Waste employees also said it’s hard to get a raise approved by management.
“This job sucks,” one employee wrote on Glassdoor, giving the company two out of five stars. “No overtime pay. Work anywhere from 8 to 12 hours a day. Rules only apply when supervisors say so.”
“Don’t increase someone’s workload by 50% without also increasing their compensation,” another anonymous employee wrote.
Wagner’s entire economic platform is based on weakening protections for workers. Sen. Wagner has called for so-called “right to work” legislation that prevents unions from collecting dues from workers they represent. PennLive reported that Wagner has opposed equal pay legislation and prevailing wage laws on taxpayer-funded projects, and that Wagner has compared unions to Adolf Hitler.
Logan Espinoza is a freelance contributor specializing in economic issues. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife and daughter. Contact him at logan DOT espinoza AT yahoo DOT com.