We have more this week on the coronavirus squeeze on workers and more as well on another kind of strike — a rent strike — that’s gaining steam.
The chaos of the last several weeks have put a few things into stark relief. Two of the most obvious: who actually does the work essential for our world to function and how little value the wealthy put on this work.

In industries like meatpacking, the corporations our wealthy run are forcing a mostly immigrant and minority workforce to choose between their livelihoods and their lives. But workers are showing the world where the power lies. More than 160 wildcat strikes across the United States, the labor outlet Payday Report details, have flared since the beginning of March.

On the May 1 International Workers’ Day, meanwhile, employees of companies like Amazon, Target, and Instacart went on strike to demand better protections from companies that have watched their revenues soar while workers sicken. We have more this week on the coronavirus squeeze on workers and more as well on another kind of strike — a rent strike — that’s gaining steam.

Chuck Collins, for the Institute for Policy Studies Inequality.org team
Facebook Twitter
Thousands Stage Rent Strike for #CantPayMay
Housing barely rated as affordable before coronavirus came to the United States. Now, with unemployment skyrocketing and workers in constant uncertainty, housing costs have become unbearable for renters nationwide. That’s why thousands of people pledged not to pay their rent on May 1, in what could be the biggest coordinated tenant action in nearly a century. We have more this week on what tenants are demanding.
Read More
Facebook Twitter
Did the Envy Make Him Do It? Or Just Sheer Greed?
David Solomon, the CEO at Wall Street colossus Goldman Sachs, is having trouble getting out from under the shadow of his predecessor, Lloyd Blankfein. Goldman’s profits have dropped to a four-year low, and the bank had to set aside an extra $1.1 billion for legal fees around a Malaysian corruption scandal. But Solomon is pressing ahead, amid pandemic economic shock, as if his two-year reign as CEO has been an unqualified success. His first controversial move: buying two ultra-luxury private jets to shuttle Goldman execs to and fro. His second: engineering himself a 20 percent pay hike. At the bank’s annual meeting last week, conducted online, critics pressed for a shareholder advisory “no” vote on Solomon’s $24.7-million pay, calling his deal out of line at a time of mass unemployment. Countered a Solomon friendly board member: “We believe David’s compensation is aligned with his peers and his predecessor.” In other words, if some CEOs get paid more than they deserve, all should. The “no” vote failed.
Time for An Emergency Charity Stimulus
Millions of Americans are lining up these days at food banks, counting on help from the nation’s independent nonprofit sector. But that sector is facing insolvency and dissolution. What could Congress do? For starters: put in place an emergency temporary three-year mandate to increase how much private foundations and donor-advised funds must annually pay out. This policy change would stimulate over $200 billion in additional giving to charities in the independent nonprofit sector. Wealthy donors have already taken tax deductions on the dollars now sitting in private foundations and donor-advised funds. An “Emergency Charity Stimulus” would put these dollars to work helping people and also save jobs. The nonprofit sector employs 12 million workers, over 10 percent of the private workforce. Notes Wallace Global Fund co-chair Scott Wallace: “The wealthy donors who created these foundations and DAFs have already reaped vast taxpayer subsidies for their future generosity. But we are in the crisis of our lifetimes. Let’s speed up some of that generosity.”
Read More
Facebook Twitter
Our Slaughterhouses: Not Just for Cattle Anymore
Industrial plants that process cows, hogs, and poultry have now become more pandemically dangerous than any other sites in America save prisons. But the White House doesn’t seem to particularly care. The president last week issued an executive order that prevents states and localities from shutting down meatpacking plants that are infecting workers by the thousands. Meatpacking executives cheered the order and moved quickly to reopen shuttered plants. Why the reckless rush to put lives at risk? The haste has nothing to do with the “protein” the meatpacking industry says the nation so desperately needs — and everything to do with the rewards the industry’s top execs stand to lose if their plants close or slow down for any appreciable amount of time. Inequality.org co-editor Sam Pizzigati has more.
Read More
This week on Inequality.org 

Colin Powers, COVID-19 in the Middle East and North Africa: Insecurity Today, More Austerity Tomorrow? High levels of inequality and weak public health and safety net systems make the region extremely vulnerable to the ravages of the pandemic.

Bartlett Naylor, Bailed-Out CEOs Should Have Skin in the Game to Keep Them Honest. As Congress debates a fourth crisis relief package, lawmakers must enact oversight and accountability measures that Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and the White House cannot waive.

Sarah Anderson, Scott Klinger, and Brian Wakamo, Postal Bankruptcy Would Hit Rural America Hardest. The 15 most rural states would face heavy blows to jobs, revenue, mail and package deliveries, and voting rights.

Elsewhere on the Web

Jon Schwarz, The Coronavirus Lays Bare the Right’s Hostage-Taking, Intercept. The question our billionaire class would rather we not ask: If we can use the power of government in a crisis like corona to help people on a huge scale, what else could we do with that power when the crisis ebbs?

Vicky McKeever, US billionaires boost collective wealth by $406 billion as markets rebound in the coronavirus pandemic, report finds, CNBC. The nation's top business network spotlights an update to the new Institute for Policy Studies Billionaires Bonanza 2020 research.

Meagan Day, Billionaires Are the Pandemic’s Villains, Not Its Heroes, Jacobin. Tens of millions of Americans have lost their jobs in the coronavirus crisis. The richest Americans have seen their fortunes rise by hundreds of billions. No coincidence.

Amy Goodman, Economist Thomas Piketty: Coronavirus Pandemic Has Exposed the “Violence of Social Inequality,” Democracy Now. Economic orders can change much faster than our dominant discourse tends to imagine.

George Packer, We Are Living in a Failed State, Atlantic. The inequality we’ve tolerated for so long has skewed the effects of the coronavirus right from the start.

Luke Hildyard, We can’t do more for low-paid workers without tackling excess pay at the top, High Pay Centre. The director of a key UK group working for more equal corporate pay explains why.

Reuven Avi-Yonah, Taxation and Born-Again Progressives, American Prospect. Beware the counsel of political insiders with rich people-friendly track records too long to hide.

Luke Darby, How Are Rich People Getting Richer During the Coronavirus Pandemic? GQ. America's billionaires have been greasing the system in their favor since well before this crisis started.

Matt Shaw, This Luxury Tower Has Everything: Pools. A Juice Bar. And Flood Resilience, New York Times. Our latest climate challenge comes from wealth-vested interests that use the language of environmental resilience to fortify themselves at the expense of lower-income and vulnerable populations.

Phil Mattera, New Website Documents Accountability Track Records of CARES Act Recipients, Good Jobs First. An important new resource for monitoring which corporations receiving coronavirus federal aid have been abusing worker rights, overpaying their execs, and sidestepping taxes.
Facebook Twitter