Rebuilding Worker Voice in Today’s Economy, Why Companies Can Afford to Pay Workers More, and Money in Government

August 10, 2018

The Roosevelt Rundown is an email series featuring the Roosevelt Institute’s top 5 stories of the week.

1. We Need Fundamental Labor Law Reform

U.S. labor law does not work for most Americans, fueling the decline of unions—which, historically, have helped reduce economic inequality—and leaving workers increasingly powerless. In Rebuilding Worker Voice in Today’s Economy, law professor Kate Andrias and Roosevelt Fellow Brishen Rogers argue that our labor law must be guided by one core principle: guaranteeing all workers a voice in their workplaces, in the broader economy, and in our democracy. We cannot have an inclusive and just society until workers have a say in how economic and political decisions are made. Read the two-page summary here.

2. Giving Gig Workers a Voice

In the gig economy, workers who previously served as employees or as truly independent contractors are now neither. As seen across tech firms like Uber and TaskRabbit, gig workers lack the security of traditional employment (such as health care or paid leave benefits) yet also hold control little over their own working terms and conditions. Anchored by Roosevelt Fellow Marshall Steinbaum, a potential panel discussion at the South by Southwest Conference & Festival will give these workers—who are too often overlooked in public debate about the future of work—a chance to speak. Show your support and upvote the panel.

3. Companies Can Afford to Pay Workers More

With nearly 80 percent of workers in the U.S. living paycheck to paycheck, it’s clear that the wealthy are taking more and more of the economic pie. Many American companies, however, claim to be strapped for cash and unable to provide employees with better compensation. On the blog, Roosevelt Editor Kendra Bozarth explains why our recent report on stock buybacks proves that corporations can afford to pay workers more. “Companies today are funneling funds up and out of firms to enrich corporate executives … rather than using their ample corporate resources to invest in workers’ wages,” she writes.

4. Money in Government

This week, Representative Chris Collins (R-NY)—the first sitting congressman to endorse Donald Trump’s presidential campaign—was indicted on charges of insider trading, accused of using nonpublic information to avoid losses in the stock market. For Salon, Roosevelt Fellow Julie Margetta Morgan responds to the blatant corruption: “We’re having a public debate today about the role of money in politics, but we’re not seeing [much] attention paid to the role of money in government,” she says. “So we really need to be looking at the way that money is influencing how individual actors like members of Congress but also government agencies are acting for the benefit of either themselves or for powerful interests.”

5. The Rules of Monopoly

Elevating Roosevelt’s Powerless report and issue briefs, Current Affairs magazine examines today’s skewed economy in “The Rules of Monopoly.” Over the last 40 years, a shrinking number of firms have gained outsized market power—acquired and sustained through unchecked practices and behavior, including corporate consolidation—leading us to the second Gilded Age. As outlined in Powerless, “Market power redistributes wealth and opportunity away from disadvantaged communities.” For too long, the rules of the game have only worked in favor of those with the most. It’s past time we change them.

What We’re Reading

Ten Years After the Crash, We Are Still Living in the World It Brutally Remade,” from New York magazine is a comprehensive, illuminating, and unsettling examination of the 2008 financial crisis and the decade since. From a short video on the lingering consequences of the crash to a list of shocking statistics (consumer credit-card debt at the end of 2017, for instance, was over $1 trillion—about 30 percent higher than in 2008), the piece provides a profound lesson on how economic and political choices shape our future.