Rightsizing the Workplace, Concentrating Profits, and Reimagining the Rules of Race

July 19, 2019

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

1. Reimagining the Rules of Race

Wall Street Journal profile of Roosevelt Fellows William Darity Jr. and Darrick Hamilton explores their groundbreaking theories on stratification economics and charts the increasing ubiquity of their racial wealth gap solutions in political discourse. With decades of pioneering policy proposals ranging from reparations to baby bonds to federally guaranteed jobs, the two experts continue to expand the political parameters of race-based economic remedies. “No matter how hard blacks work to improve their education or earn more, the two men say, they won’t catch up financially,” writes Jacob M. Schlesinger. “Only significant government intervention can address the disparity, they argue.”

2. Rightsizing the Workplace

In her 2018 report “Left Behind” (co-authored with Senior Program Associate Jess Forden), Roosevelt Fellow Rakeen Mabud analyzed the high-level structural trends shaping the future of work—and leaving millions at risk of economic insecurity. In “Rightsizing the Workplace: How Public Power Can Support a 21st Century Labor Market That Works for All,” a follow-up issue brief published this week, Mabud takes a closer look at trucking and domestic work, two seemingly dissimilar industries afflicted by those same structural problems. “While these challenges manifest in different ways, a shared set of policy responses would support the many workers across various industries, including truck drivers and domestic workers, who help grow our economy,” writes Mabud.

3. Concentrating Industries, Concentrating Profits

Corporate concentration is among the hottest topics of the 2020 race—and for good reason. As Roosevelt Fellow Mike Konczal notes in a newly published Nation piece, over 75 percent of US industries have become more concentrated in the last 20 years, and the most concentrated industries have seen the largest spikes in profit. Workers, he argues, haven’t seen the payoff. “While workers today must compete relentlessly to secure the basics in our society, large corporations don’t face the same pressure. With every year, industries get more concentrated, and businesses have to do less to reap ever higher profits,” he writes.

4. Dollars and Values

Protesting Wayfair’s $200,000 sales to inhumane detention facilities at the US southern border, five hundred of the company’s workers recently staged a walkout. In a Forbes piece, Roosevelt’s Rakeen Mabud draws two lessons from the demonstration: Workers can and will organize for their moral values, and the reliance of private companies on government contracts is a key leverage point for that social action. “Given the large impact government contracts have on the American labor market, they are an important lever for both those inside a firm—workers—and those outside the firm—political leaders—to use to push for a more ethical private sector,” writes Mabud.

5. Stop Wall Street Looting

On Wednesday, a group of US House representatives and senators—including 2020 presidential contenders Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)—released the Stop Wall Street Looting Act, a bill to curb the private equity (PE) sector’s most extractive fees and tactics. In a press statement, Roosevelt experts weighed in. “If we want to make real changes in our economy, we need to rewrite the laws so that PE firms are liable for their investments and cannot leave companies, and their workers, to bear all the risk,” said Roosevelt Senior Economist and Policy Counsel Lenore Palladino.

What We’re Reading

Because of deliberately exclusionary rules enshrined in our legal and economic structures, domestic workers have long lacked the essentials of economic security: wage and overtime guarantees, paid time off, and protections against gender and racial discrimination. The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, announced this week by presidential contender Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-CA), builds on a decades-long fight for power and agency in the workplace. As National Domestic Workers Alliance founder Ai-jen Poo argued in an op-ed for the New York Times“No one understands the future of work better than domestic workers.”