Bezos and co. vs. the Amazon Labor Union is a classic case of “Oligarchs vs. All of Us,” a kind of conflict we at Inequality.org have covered since our founding.

 
INEQUALITY.ORG
THIS WEEK
On Staten Island last week, workers at Amazon’s JFK8 warehouse made history: By a solid 2,654-to-2,131 margin, these workers voted to form America’s first-ever labor union at an Amazon facility.

This victory represents no small feat. Amazon understands the threat of worker power to its high-speed, high-danger, high-turnover “business as usual.” The company fired on all cylinders to suppress the Staten Island union drive, spending millions at JFK8 proliferating anti-union propaganda and attempting to discredit union leader Chris Smalls, a former worker who the company fired after he walked out to protest unsafe working conditions at the warehouse early on in the pandemic.

But Amazon’s anti-union blitz proved no match for the rank-and-file union organizers’ considerate and thoughtful worker-to-worker approach.

“We’d like to thank Jeff Bezos for going to space,” Smalls quipped after the vote totals went public. “Because while he was up there, we were signing people up.”

Bezos and company vs. the fledgling new Amazon Labor Union offers up a classic example of the “oligarchy vs. all of us” clashes that Inequality.org has been covering for well over a decade. Two of our co-editors are talking today in greater depth on that oligarchy — and the ongoing struggle against it — at a major Patriotic Millionaires conference in Washington, D.C.

Catch the livestream of “Oligarchs vs. All of Us” here, from 2:30-5:30 Eastern, or watch it later at this link.  

Chuck Collins and Rebekah Entralgo,
for the Institute for Policy Studies Inequality.org team
 
INEQUALITY BY THE NUMBERS
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FACES ON THE FRONTLINES
During Farmworker Awareness Week, la lucha sigue
On March 31, members of the United Farm Workers get to observe a paid holiday in honor of César Chávez, one of the union’s founding activists. To proud UFW members, the holiday represents the power of union.

“Fellow farm workers, join the union so that you get this paid day off too,” says Martin, a worker spotlighted by the United Farm Workers last week. “Thanks to César Chávez, we have bathrooms and regular breaks.”

Yet despite UFW victories over the years, inequitable and exploitative working conditions persist. We need, notes Institute for Policy Studies New Mexico Fellow Ennedith Lopez on the occasion of National Farmworkers Awareness Week, immediate policy changes to bolster labor standards, widen pathways to citizenship, and battle climate dangers.

“The farmworkers who feed us are on the frontlines of climate change, poverty, and our broken immigration system,” writes Lopez. “They shouldn’t be treated as sacrificial or replaceable — especially when they’re nothing short of essential.”
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WORDS OF WISDOM
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PETULANT PLUTOCRAT
OF THE WEEK
Not Every Silver Maserati Can Run on Dirty Coal
The worst kept secret in Washington? That may be how West Virginia U.S. senator Joe Manchin has become fabulously rich off his unrelenting advocacy on behalf of the dirtiest of coal. Last week, three New York Times reporters became the latest in an ever-lengthening line of journalists to expose the lucrative coal connection of the lawmaker who’s become the “single most important figure shaping the nation’s energy and climate policy.” Politico covered that same ground last month, Rolling Stone the month before. Manchin, Rolling Stone explained, is helping a dying industry pull “one final heist — and the entire planet may pay the price.” Manchin, meanwhile, continues to refuse to answer queries about his coal dealings and insists instead that investing in clean energy at a rate “faster than technology or the markets allow will have catastrophic consequences.” A real commitment to clean energy certainly would have “catastrophic consequences” — for Manchin. He might even have to give up his silver Maserati.
 
BOLD SOLUTIONS
White House Targets CEO Pay-Inflating Buybacks
Consumers today are struggling with rising costs. CEOs, meanwhile, are celebrating rising corporate profits with a stock buyback spree. This legal form of stock manipulation artificially inflates the value of a company’s shares — and the value of executives’ stock-based pay. 

S&P 500 companies last year splurged a record $882 billion on buying back their own shares, and this year the party could get even wilder. With Americans facing pain at the pump, the seven big oil companies are on track to blow $38 billion on share repurchases in 2022.

The new White House budget proposal, presented by Office of Management Director Shalanda Young, would put a damper on the buybacks party. The plan would prohibit top executives from selling their personal stockholdings for several years after a buyback. This would prevent CEOs from timing share repurchases to cash in personally on a short-term price pop that they themselves artificially created. 
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GREED AT A GLANCE
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TOO MUCH
Could Joe Biden Be Channeling Thomas Paine?
The great pamphleteer of the American Revolution, Thomas Paine, had much more on his mind than mere independence from the British. Paine spent his life, a new analysis of his work notes, advocating for a democratic “commonwealth” that shared the wealth, a new society that freed all people “from domination both political and economic.” An important step toward that society, Paine believed, would be a wealth tax, a levy on grand private fortune. Today, over two centuries later, we may finally have a President who’s taking Tom Paine to heart. The just-unveiled new Joe Biden budget is proposing that America’s richest start paying Uncle Sam — for the first time ever — what amounts to an annual wealth tax. Inequality.org’s Sam Pizzigati has more.
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MUST READS
What's on Inequality.org 

Domenica Ghanem, Two Years In, We Need To Learn the Lessons of This Pandemic. America’s pre-existing condition when the pandemic hit just happened to be inequality. That is a “normal” we should never return to.

Marina Durano, Financialization of the Global Care Economy: Maximizing Profits at the Expense of Those in Need. Only through democratized finance can we build a care economy that supports the rights of women, workers, and care receivers.

Bob Lord, Closing the Loopholes America’s Super Rich Love: Can the Dog Catch Its Tail? How we can prevent the wealthiest of our wealthy from exempting virtually unlimited billions from tax.

Elsewhere on the Web

Sarah Anderson, Biden budget takes a step toward corralling out-of-control CEO pay, MarketWatch. His administration’s proposal would restrict insider trades and impose a tax on the stock buybacks that enrich corporate top execs.

Chuck Collins, Don’t give up on taxing billionaires, The Hill. Between 2014 and 2018, the 25 wealthiest Americans saw their wealth increase by $401 billion. They paid $13.6 billion federal income taxes during those years at an effective rate of only 3.4 percent.

Luke Savage, Russia’s Oligarchs Are Stashing Their Wealth Abroad — Just Like America’s, Jacobin. The techniques Russian billionaires use to hide their wealth often employ the same Western financial industry enablers that U.S. billionaires use.

John Cassidy, Joe Manchin Can’t Shoot Down the Logic of a Wealth Tax, New Yorker. The idea of directly taxing unsightly agglomerations of wealth is finally gaining political momentum.

Katharina Buchholz, The Fall and Rise of the U.S. 1%, Forbes. The rich in the United States have fared much better over the past century than their counterparts in the UK and France.

Gabija Palšyte and Liucija Adomaite, ‘Their Greed Knows No Limit’: 50 Times Insanely Rich People Got Shamed On This Online Community, BoredPanda. A collection of highlights from Greed Incorporated, a subreddit created to gather up people who just “can’t sit and stay silent about greed with no limits.”

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, The Money Trail to the Ginni Thomas Emails to Overturn Biden’s Election Leads to Charles Koch, Wall Street on Parade. An email smoking gun leads directly to the billionaire right-wing political mastermind Charles Koch.

Robert Reich, Why do Putin, Trump, Tucker Carlson and the Republican party sound so alike? Guardian. The grievances Putin, Trump, and Carlson exploit always reliably rest on cultural issues, never on the economy and the predations of the super-rich.
 
 
A FINAL FIGURE
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