The past several months, for those of us fighting to bridge our stark economic divides in the United States, have seen one dismal moment after another. The Republican tax plan passed late last year caters to the nation’s wealthiest. And the Janus case now before the Supreme Court threatens to devastate public sector unions and the workers they represent.

But down at the local level activists are now fighting back, pushing for a more equitable economy. In West Virginia, teachers and school support staff are striking statewide — and inspiring public employees all across the country. And on the tax front progressives are offering up promising egalitarian initiatives that range from new taxes on luxury real estate transactions to plugs for carried interest loopholes. In this week’s issue, more on these encouraging signs for a brighter, more equal tomorrow.

Chuck Collins, for the Institute for Policy Studies team
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Florida Farmworkers Push for Fairness in the Fields
Gerardo Reyes Chavez has been a farmworker for most of his life, one key reason why he’s been such an effective organizer for the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. Reyes and the farmworkers in the coalition aren’t looking for experts who can come save them. They’ve created a worker-driven program that demands accountability from Florida’s tomato growers and the food companies they supply. And they’re seeking allies who can listen and commit to their struggle for dignity. co-editor Negin Owliaei has more on the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and its landmark Fair Food Program.
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A CEO Curse on Workers in the Magic Kingdom
This past December, on the heels of the GOP corporate tax cut, Disney CEO Robert Iger pledged he would direct $125 million of his company’s tax savings “to our cast members and employees across the country.” But Iger’s pledge came with a catch for the 36,000 Disney workers who belong to the company’s 10 union locals. They would have to agree to Disney’s latest contract offer or go without his pledged $1,000 bonus. Disney union activists are balking at that threat. Iger’s contract offer, they note, would leave Disney workers below living-wage levels. A just-released study found that since 2000, Disney has cut Disneyland worker pay by 15 percent in real dollars. CEO Iger will this year alone take home personal compensation that could equal the pay of over 9,000 Disneyland workers. 
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A Social ‘Trigger Lock’ for the Ages
Last month’s homicidal horror at Stoneman Douglas High in Florida has Americans searching for answers to the most elemental question a parent can ever ask. How can we, Americans want to know, protect our kids? We can clearly do many things that could make a difference. The one we can’t afford to overlook: giving our kids a more equal society. Nations that experience rampant homicidal violence all share one commonality: high levels of economic inequality. Why does that inequality so often trigger violence? co-editor Sam Pizzigati helps explain.
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This week on 

Melinda St. Louis, Paying Tribute to a Warrior Against Big Pharma: Zahara Heckscher. Until the very end, this activist used every tool she had to fight against trade rules that protect drug company monopolies and deny patients essential medicines.

Manuel Perez-Rocha, 5 Reasons Mexican Workers Would Cheer the Demise of NAFTA. Ending this trade pact could change Mexico’s course.

Josh Hoxie, The Tax Scam Is Starting to Sink In. Most ordinary workers report seeing no increase in their take-home pay.

Sarah Anderson and Chuck Collins, How to Reduce Poverty and Inequality Through State Government Taxes. The momentum is growing for state-level taxes that could recoup revenues lost to federal tax cuts that lavish windfalls on the rich. 

Elsewhere on the web 

Josh Hoxie and Bob Lord, One-Time Bonuses, Full-Time Con: Trump’s Tax Cuts Deliver Worker Layoffs. The American Prospect. Corporate public relations teams extol bonuses to pump up the Republican re-election effort, but many people will end up unemployed.

Fred Harris and Alan Curtis, The Unmet Promise of Equality, New York Times. A look at the feeble progress made against inequality and racial injustice since the famed 1968 Kerner Commission report.

Joshua Holland, A Wave of Corporate Propaganda Is Boosting Trump’s Tax Cuts, The Nation. Businesses saw that most Americans didn’t like the tax law at first. So they’ve gone on the offensive.

Rachel Wetzler, How Modern Art Serves the Rich, The New Republic. The ultra rich are using their art holdings to defer paying taxes and launder ill-gotten gains.

James Brewer Stewart, The Far Right's Toxic Forbears: Super-Wealthy Secessionist Slaveholders, History News Network. To understand the threat to democracy that today's right-wing billionaires pose, we need to go back to the slave-owning fortunes of Antebellum America.

Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson, You’re much more likely to achieve the “American dream” if you live in Denmark, World Economic Forum. Research has repeatedly shown a clear link between high levels of income inequality and low levels of social mobility.

William Lazonick, Stock Buybacks Hurt Workers and the Economy. We Should Ban Them. Institute for New Economic Thinking. Buybacks enrich the already rich and wreak immense damage on households, companies, and the economy.

Alex Edmans, When CEOs’ Equity Is About to Vest, They Cut Investment to Boost the Stock Price, Harvard Business Review. New evidence that “CEOs’ personal wealth concerns” jeopardize long-term enterprise effectiveness.

Michael Paarlberg, The future of American unions hangs in the balance. The Guardian. With unions increasingly under threat, a case before the Supreme Court promises to be the most consequential in a generation.
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