Worker Power Strikes Back
September 20, 2019
By Matt Hughes
The movement for structural change takes to the streets.
The Roosevelt Rundown is an email series featuring the Roosevelt Institute’s top stories of the week.
Across the nation, workers are making their voices heard this week. Nearly 50,000 General Motors workers have been on strike since Monday, fighting to increase pay and job security and end benefit discrepancies between permanent and temporary employees. As Laura C. Bucci notes for the Washington Post, both public- and private-sector strikes are on the rise in the US, and 62 percent of the public now supports unions—up 14 percentage points since 2008.
- Another angle: The youth-led Global Climate Strike begins today, with millions of students and employees planning thousands of walkouts across 150 countries. Among the strikers: workers at Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, whose Seattle headquarters will see its first-ever walkout.
“You can’t have a successful corporation without employees working there. You can’t have a successful corporation without customers, without the public providing roads [and] infrastructure,” Roosevelt Senior Economist and Fellow Lenore Palladino explains on BBC’s Business Daily podcast. “We do need new laws or policies so that we’re not relying on some business leaders to put in place better practices while letting the bad actors continue to act as they do today.” Listen here.
2020 Plans for Power
Outsized corporate power and untapped public power lie at the heart of our current inequality. Three new plans from 2020 candidates seek to remedy this long-standing power imbalance.
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s anti-corruption plan seeks “to take power away from the wealthy and the well-connected in Washington and put it back where it belongs—in the hands of the people.”
- Sen. Cory Booker’s labor proposal hopes to “transform our economy by empowering workers to take collective action, restructuring our laws to make our workplaces fairer and more inclusive, and rebalancing our tax system so that everyone pays—and receives—a fair share.”
- Sen. Bernie Sanders’s housing-for-all plan includes a 21st Century Homestead Act, which would “promote integration and end local segregation that excludes low-income and minority tenants and homeowners.”
The Racial Wealth Gap
Roosevelt Fellow William “Sandy” Darity “has enlisted a dozen Black academics and activists, the self-titled ‘Planning Committee for Reparations,’ to craft a report that will lay out not only a rationale for why descendants of slaves should be paid reparations but also suggestions for how to implement such a program.” Read more from the Washington Post.
How to Fix Our Politics
A problem that’s gotten little (if any) of the spotlight this campaign season: high housing costs. For the blog, Roosevelt Fellow Katy Milani diagnoses the trends that got us here and suggests how we can reimagine the role of government in the housing market. “First, any plan must rein in—or better yet prohibit—predatory Wall Street investors (specifically [private equity]) from buying homes and hiking up rental costs. Second, we need to think boldly about how the federal government can and should directly provide housing—especially since housing is a fundamental necessity for human thriving, and the private sector is failing to provide safe, affordable housing to all.”
What We’re Reading
- The GM Strike Isn’t Just About Higher Wages. It’s Also a Protest Against the Gig Economy – Time
- The Environmental Movement Needs to Reckon with Its Racist History – Vice
- Can Public Ownership of Utilities Be Part of the Climate Solution? – Forbes
- The Case for a Public Option for the Drug Industry – New Republic
- New Mexico’s Free-College Plan Could Be a Game-Changer for Student Debt in America – MarketWatch
- A Generation of Economists Helped Get Us into This Mess. A New Generation Can Get Us Out. – Vox