October 14, 2019

History of Labor Day

Labor Day 2019

On September 2, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor celebrates and honors the greatest worker in the world – the American worker. Labor Day 2019 is the 125th anniversary of Labor Day being celebrated as a national holiday.

Labor Day: What it Means

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Labor Day Legislation

The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed in 1885 and 1886. From these, a movement developed to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During 1887, four more states – Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York – created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 more states had adopted the holiday, and on June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

Founder of Labor Day

More than a century after the first Labor Day observance, there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers.

Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.”

But Peter McGuire’s place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged. Many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.

The First Labor Day

The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.

By 1894, 23 more states had adopted the holiday, and on June 28, 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed a law making the first Monday in September of each year a national holiday.

A Nationwide Holiday

Women's Auxiliary Typographical Union

The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take was outlined in the first proposal of the holiday — a street parade to exhibit to the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. This became the pattern for the celebrations of Labor Day. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civic significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.

The character of the Labor Day celebration has changed in recent years, especially in large industrial centers where mass displays and huge parades have proved a problem. This change, however, is more a shift in emphasis and medium of expression. Labor Day addresses by leading union officials, industrialists, educators, clerics, and government officials are given wide coverage in newspapers, radio, and television.

The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pays tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership – the American worker.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Labor

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Consumer Tips: Grocery Shopping on a Budget (and a Special Offer!)

Each month, the one thing that people spend a significant amount of money on is food. Grocery shopping can be overwhelming, time-consuming, and expensive – but it doesn’t have to be! I’ve created a list of my best grocery shopping hacks to make sure that you keep the costs down and save money when grocery shopping!

  1. Download the apps! Nowadays each store has it’s own app.  Some apps will allow you to enjoy discounts and coupons that you couldn’t find in the circular at the store. It’s also a great time saver, so you don’t have to clip coupons.  Some stores allow you to do your deli order on the app and then pick up in store. Other apps track your points for you.  Save money and time with apps!
  1. Know what you have at home. There’s nothing worse than buying something expensive only to come home, rummage through the pantry, and realize that you already have it. Take inventory of what you already have on hand to avoid these mix-ups.
  1. Plan out your meals. In order to know exactly what you are spending, plan out what you need to buy and calculate the cost of your trip before you go. If you create a budget, you can stick to it by planning in advance.
  1. Decide when you are going to eat out, and resist temptation. We’ve all been there. You had to get up early to finish a project for your boss, you spent the whole day running around the office, and a solid hour at the gym. You haven’t stopped moving for the past 12 hours – the last thing that you want to do is cook dinner. Put a little wiggle room in the budget for occasions like these so that you don’t have to cook. But you also have to realize when there is no room in your budget for wasting food that you have at home and going out instead. Come up with some quick recipes so that you can whip something up when you’re in a situation like this.
  1. Don’t waste food. Don’t just buy food because you think you should eat it. Yes, it’s great to have tons of fresh produce on hand, and you should be eating it, but if it goes to waste every week because you don’t feel like having it, you’re throwing money down the drain. Take baby steps when it comes to incorporating a new food into your diet so that you don’t end up wasting it.
  1. Eat before you go to the grocery store. This is a psychological trick. Shopping on an empty stomach increases our likelihood to make impulse buys. As we walk through a grocery store, we are blinded by our hunger and end up grabbing whatever looks good. If you shop on a full stomach, it will reduce these impulses.
  1. Buy in bulk, when it makes sense. If you’re willing to do some research, you can calculate when it will save you money to buy items in bulk. Taking advantage of bulk items can be helpful in reducing costs in the long run.
  1. And last but not least, bring your own reusable bags.  With the new law going into effect on August 1, 2019, avoid the fee to buy bags – and use one of ours instead.

Contact us if you would like a “Consumer Legal Services, LLC” reusable bag, provided by my friend and colleague, Erin Eberhardt at West Shore Associates, LLC.  (Please note that this is a special offer; supplies are limited; the offer is valid only while supplies last on a first come, first served basis, and you must pick-up your bag at our Milford, CT office.)

Passwords: 6 Best Practices (Guest Blog by Scott Gombar)

Passwords – Hate Them or Love Them, You’re Stuck with Them

Passwords are the bane of every person who uses multiple social media and email platforms.  At your job many people (including you maybe?) hate them and do their best to circumvent best practices.

Meanwhile people like me can’t fathom why anyone would use password123 as a password.  I wholeheartedly believe in a strong password policy, and practice what I preach.  I often run into computer users with very lax passwords (and in some cases none).

A lot of people simply don’t understand the consequences of an easy password.  Using a one word, all lowercase passwords, often a word associated with them, is extremely easy to crack.

The password 123456 is still one of the most commonly used passwords.  I run dark web breach assessments for business owners all the time and find their very simple passwords have been cracked and are added to lists on the dark web.

I have had clients tell me that they know their password is not strong, and then half-jokingly say “Why would anyone want my password?”

Then there’s the dreaded sticky note or notepad right next to their computer, with all their passwords.

There’s laptop and iPad owners who have no password on their device.  I can easily pick it up, walk away and likely have access to their entire life in a matter of minutes.

I get it.  Passwords are a pain in the…..

Unfortunately, they’re not going anywhere.

There have been some cool advances in authentication.  Biometrics, RFID cards, tokens, and QR codes to name a few.

If you have purchased a smart phone in the last few years you know that facial recognition and/or fingerprint scanning are now standard on most phones.

But ultimately passwords are here to stay.  Have you ever tried unlocking your phone with a wet thumbprint?  And my son was able to bypass the facial recognition on my phone.  Most people say he looks like my wife but not according to my Samsung phone.

The Great Password Debate

In the Infosec world we usually get our guidelines and best practices from NIST.  NIST recently published a study on whether recycling passwords worked.

Many businesses require you to change your password every 30 or 45 days and won’t allow you to reuse a password for 12-18 months.  Many security experts recommend changing your social media and email passwords every few months.  Some sites even prompt you to do this.

It has been determined that this practice is not effective, meaning it does nothing to improve account compromise.

What it does do is ensure that any unauthorized individual who has gained access with a compromised account will no longer have access once that password is changed.  But by then the damage is done.

There have been lots of debates on what makes a secure password.  Random letters/numbers/special characters are great but who can remember them?

Using something you can remember makes it easier to crack or even guess the password.  I have successfully guessed a network password for a major cable provider’s supposedly secured modem/router.  Meaning I did not use specialized tools to crack the password.  I simply used information available to me to make an educated guess.

Things to consider include length, complexity, time until expiration, and account lockout rules.

Password Best Practices for Your Business

Despite the introduction of alternative authentication methods passwords are still necessary.  The alternative methods should be used as multifactor authentication (MFA).  Meaning you should use a password and another method.

I will get to those methods in a few paragraphs.

Password Best Practices:

  1. Use Passwords of at Least 8 Characters – The more the better. For each additional character the time it takes to brute force the password increases exponentially.  A password of 8 lowercase letters can take 5 hours to brute force.  By comparison a password of 12 lowercase characters can take 200 years.
  2. Use a combination of UPPERCASE, lowercase, numbers and special characters. Above I mentioned that a password of 8 lowercase characters can be cracked in 5 hours. If you add UPPERCASE, numbers and special characters it will take a lot longer.
  3. Force Yourself to Use Complex Password Policies – Doing this will also greatly decrease the likelihood of a compromise.  Complex passwords mean in addition to requiring UPPERCASE, lowercase, numbers and special characters you also avoid dictionary words and variations, proper names, using the account name in the password, and reusing the same or similar passwords across different platforms.
  4. Use MFA – This is also referred to 2FA or TFA (Two-Factor Authentication). There are a few different methods for multifactor authentication available. The most common is the use of a token.  It is becoming more popular to use a soft token.  Using an app on your smartphone that generates a time-based code is easy to set up in most cases, and almost always free.  Microsoft and Google offer apps to manage the codes for you.  There is also an app called Authy that works great.  This means you need to make sure your phone has a lock on it, preferably a biometric lock such as facial recognition or thumb print.  Other methods of MFA (depending on what you’re logging in to) include text message, biometrics (retina scanner, fingerprint, facial recognition) and RFID cards.
  5. Password Manager – I use LastPass and Keepass. Both tools store my complex passwords so that I don’t need to remember them all.  They’re both available for free.
    If you put a gun to my head and ask for my Facebook password, I can’t give it to you because I don’t know it.  Even better is if you do somehow get it, I still need to approve the log in on my phone.  LastPass is a website that works with your browser, computer and smartphone.  Once you log in to LastPass your passwords can automatically fill in wherever you need it.  Keepass is a tool you can download to your computer if you’re not comfortable with a website knowing all your passwords.  There are plenty of other tools out there.  I have personally used these two for years without any problems.
  6. Stop Sharing so Much Information – We’ve all seen them, and many of us are guilty of participating in them. 20 questions about you that you share (often publicly) on the internet.  This can be used to social engineer you.  Social engineering makes it easier to make an educated guess as to what your password might be, or perform further social engineering.  I’ve done it to prove a point on multiple occasions.  It’s not hard to gain access to someone’s info given enough information, and if a less than secure personal password policy is in use.

Get Comfortable with Passwords

Passwords are a necessary evil that are not going away anytime soon. It’s best to get comfortable with having to use them in a secure manner.

One last note.  There are websites on the internet dedicated to hosting dictionary files filled with passwords that have been used, Security professionals and not so ethical people can purchase these lists to use for brute force attacks.  They don’t even cost that much money…pennies on the dollar for tens of thousands of passwords.

I recently discovered that a password I was using was on this list.  I don’t normally use the same password in multiple places (call me paranoid) but this password was used in a couple of applications.  The password consisted of a nickname of someone I know (that most people would not know) random numbers and a special character.

Needless to say, I do not use this password anymore.  Using the exclamation point as your one and only special character seems to be the default for a lot of people.  Don’t do it.

I should also note these password suggestions can (and should) be used on most internet applications today (Google, Facebook, PayPal, Banking, etc.)   They all have multi-factor authentication options but don’t always make it easy to find that option (PayPal!).

Bottom line, make peace with using a more complex personal password policy.  They’re not going anywhere.

 

THANK YOU to Scott Gombar for this Guest Post.  To get a FREE RISK ASSESSMENT click HERE!

Contact Scott: web: support@nwaj.tech, phone: 203.680.8151.

The Confirmation Hearing

The next step in your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Process will be to attend your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Plan Confirmation Hearing.  Do not be alarmed!  You will likely not have to testify at this Hearing at all.  But I will explain below the process leading up to and including your Conformation Hearing, so you can have a preview of events and can ask me questions well in advance so you are fully prepared for this step in your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Process.

After we sign and file your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Petition and Plan, your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Trustee will review your plan and may suggest changes to the Plan.  These changes may adjust the amount paid to your Creditors, the period of the Plan or the Plan payment.  Once I make the suggested changes to your Plan, I will have you review them and sign an Amended Plan.  This is common, and amendments to Plans usually occur at least once or twice in each typical Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Case.

Once your Chapter 13 Trustee believes that your Plan is “confirmable” (or feasible) and has no further changes to suggest, a date for your Confirmation Hearing will be scheduled by the Clerk of the Bankruptcy Court.  I will inform you of that date as soon as it is available to me so that you can arrange to take time off from work or other commitments, if need be, to attend the Hearing with me.

Your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Plan Confirmation Hearing is not like your Chapter 13 Section 341 Meeting in any way.  The Confirmation Hearing will be held in a Federal Courtroom and there will be a Judge present to make an Order of the Court as to whether your Plan is Confirmed or not.  You will likely not even have to stand with me or speak at all.

This is usually a very simple procedural Hearing as we usually know in advance if the Chapter 13 Trustee will support your Plan or not, and most times the Plans are Confirmed as Amended.

At the conclusion of the Confirmation Hearing the Judge will make his or her Order and a copy of the Order will be emailed to my office.  We will send you a copy for your records.

Once the Plan is confirmed the Trustee usually requests that payments be made by way of wage garnishment (or income deduction) if you have a regular salary or wages (not if you are self-employed or retired collecting social security and/or a pension).  This may also be made a Court Order.  This takes the worry and hassle of making the monthly payments away from you.  Again, do not be alarmed, your employer will understand and will not be allowed to discriminate against you for having the wage garnishment.

At this point in your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy process your work is nearly done.  The Plan will now run for 3 or 5 years and there should be no changes unless there is a substantial change in your circumstances, like an illness or loss of income.  You will be responsible for reporting any major changes to me and/or the Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Trustee.

You will also be responsible for delivering a copy of your filed tax returns to me each year.

If there are no major changes in circumstances, you will have to complete one last step (a Debtor Education Course) sometime before your last payment is due to the Trustee.

I will send you a gentle reminder to take the Debtor Education Course sooner rather than later so you don’t forget in the up to five year period it takes to reach the end of the Plan.  In the following blog of this Chapter 13 Series, I will explain what Debtor Education is and how it will assist you in rebuilding your credit.

For more information on this and other Bankruptcy topics, contact Attorney Theresa Rose DeGray at 203-713-8877.

This is no April Fools’ Joke: Means Test Numbers are Going Up as of April 1, 2019!

After your initial consultation, I will analyze your financial circumstances and perform your Means Test. A Means Test is an assessment used to determine if you qualify to file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.

Before 2005 it was easy to file for bankruptcy; virtually anyone could do so. In 2005 Congress enacted the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA)1 and added the Means Test requirement to prevent abuse of the Bankruptcy process. Simply put if you “pass” the means test, you are a qualified candidate and can file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition. If you “fail” the means Test, you may not file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy but you may enjoy other alternatives such as a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.

The Means Test primarily encompasses a two-step analysis:

STEP ONE: Your (the “debtor’s”) gross income is calculated on an average over a six month period prior to filing for Bankruptcy. Gross income for means testing purposes includes wages, salary, tips, bonuses, overtime and commissions. It does not include social security benefits. The figure derived from taking the average is than considered the Debtor’s Current Monthly Income which is then compared to the median income for your state and household size. If your current monthly income is less than the median income for your state and household size, than you “pass” the means test and are allowed to file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition. If, however, your current monthly income is greater than the median income for your state and household size, you may proceed to Step Two.

STEP TWO: If your current monthly income is greater than the median income for your state and household size, there is, in technical terms, a “presumption of abuse.”2 In order to rebut the presumption, or in other terms, to pass the means test by using the second step, the means test’s second section allows you to subtract from your current monthly income certain allowable and deductible expenses.3 These allowed deductions include, but are not limited to, expenses for living (mortgages and property taxes), transportation (car loans and car taxes), health insurance and charitable donations. After the calculations are performed, and the allowable deductions are taken, and if you then have no disposable monthly income available, you will then have passed the Means Test and may file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. If, on the other hand, you do have remaining disposable income, you may consider a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.

The discussion above is an overview of the Means Test in basic terms and is in no way intended as a specific analysis of your personal financial circumstances.

For an analysis of your own financial circumstances, please contact Attorney Theresa Rose DeGray, to schedule your free consultation today!

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1See: 11 U.S.C. § 707(b)

2See: 11 U.S.C. § 707(b)(2) and 11 U.S.C. § 707(b)(3)

3See: 11 U.S.C. § 707(b)(2)(A)

Wife, Mother, Attorney and…now, Author!

About a year ago, over the course of many months, in between taking care of my son and clients, I co-authored a book called “Tiger Tactics: Powerful Strategies for Winning Law Firms.”  Below is a sample.  Copies can be ordered on TigerTacticsBook.com.

Balance

They say when you have a baby, you should sleep when the baby sleeps. I say work when the baby sleeps.

Thirteen months ago I had a baby. I did not have a maternity leave. I emailed clients within one hour of having a C-section. When you are a solo, there is no other choice.

My son’s name is Chase. I now think of my life in two parts: (1) Before Chase (aka BC) and (2) After Chase (aka AC). Before he was born, I worked all the time. And I mean All. The. Time. I loved it. I know, I am weird. But I wanted to be a lawyer all my life and I love what I do……all aspects of it, working in the business as well as working on the business. My husband didn’t love it. But he adjusted BC and understood why I didn’t have many friends or hobbies, because I was always working and that was my passion.

After Chase, things were immediately different. I now have this little human that depends on me 24/7 and is the cutest, most fun little guy in the world, so of course, spending time with him has become my first priority, and my work has naturally taken a close second place.

My number-one piece of advice to any lawyer who has children or wants to balance their work and life, even if they don’t have kids, is this: Make a schedule and stick to it.

Easy to say and hard to do, I know. It’s the nature of our profession and one of the top reasons why I love it. No day is the same. Mondays I might spend all morning in court and all afternoon in client meetings, and on Thursdays I might spend all day doing networking, going to Rotary meetings, and meeting new referral sources. But the longer you practice, the more you will notice a rhythm to your practice and your schedule, so you can make a rough schedule and try to stick to it. That goes for home too.

When you have small children, they rule your schedule, and you have to adapt to them. That’s where the rule “work when the baby sleeps” comes in. But as they grow and organically create their own routine, you can work your business and personal responsibilities, tasks, and events into and around their routine…

To continue reading, head over to www.TigerTacticsBook.com.

GOOD NEWS: Updated Census Bureau Median Family Income Data

March 14, 2019

The Census Bureau’s Median Family Income Data accessible through the “Means Testing Information” page has been updated. The U.S. Trustee Program will apply the updated data to all cases filed on or after April 1, 2019.

SOURCE: https://www.justice.gov/ust

FAQ: Child Support Enforcement Services (Re-posted from Connecticut Judicial Branch Website)

Tax Amnesty

A Guest Blog by Joshua M. Dickinson, CPA

Now is the perfect time to come clean and catch-up on your outstanding tax obligations. Connecticut has introduced “CT Fresh Start” which is a Connecticut tax amnesty program which runs through November 30, 2018. Almost all tax types are eligible under the program including both business and individual income taxes, payroll withholding taxes, business entity taxes, gift taxes, and sales & use taxes. A taxpayer is eligible if they failed to file a return, or failed to report the full amount of tax on a previously filed return, for any return due on or before December 31, 2016. The program is generally not available for taxpayers who have already received a bill for unpaid taxes or are currently under audit by the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services. The benefits include no assessed penalties on the outstanding obligation as well as interest at 50% of the normal rate. The program also allows for a limited look-back period for eligible non-filers of only three years and no criminal prosecution. Connecticut has not offered a tax amnesty program in quite a few years and the window to apply under the program is relatively short, so don’t miss out! To see if you can take advantage, please contact Joshua M. Dickinson, CPA of Walsh & Dickinson at 203-447-0550 immediately.

Special thanks to my colleague, Joshua M. Dickinson, CPA (pictured here on the right with me and Attorney Karen Zarkades on the left), for submitting this article to my newsletter and blog. He is a partner at Walsh & Dickinson, a full-service CPA firm operating out of Shelton, Connecticut, specializes in the needs of small to medium size privately held business and individual clients. Josh has over 22 years of diverse experience helping clients located throughout Connecticut. Please contact Josh at Walsh & Dickinson at 203-447-0550 or www.cpaswd.com. Thank you.

THIS WEEK: HUD Home-Buyer’s Seminar in West Haven

HUD Home-buyer’s Seminar at the West Haven Main Library, 300 Elm Street on Wednesday, September 12th from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm

Join in learning the ins and outs of buying a home. They will be covering topics such as housing rights, loans, home buying programs, and more!

Registration is required:
Please call (203) 937-4233

This firm is a debt relief agency. We help people file for bankruptcy relief amongst other things, under the Bankruptcy Code.