Happy Labor Day! We hope you’re enjoying some rest and time with loved ones. And if you’re looking for a little edification on your day off, our team has pulled together a stellar list of inequality-related recommendations for Labor Day reading, viewing, and listening.
Happy Labor Day! We hope you’re enjoying some rest and time with loved ones. And if you’re looking for a little edification on your day off, our team has pulled together a stellar list of inequality-related recommendations for Labor Day reading, viewing, and listening.

Labor Day this year feels particularly special. We’re marking the resurgence of a movement. A new Gallup poll reports that labor unions have become the most popular they’ve been with the American people since 1965. Union organizing drives are sweeping the nation, extending workplace protections and the power of collective bargaining to baristas, warehouse workers, and so many more working people.

Helping all this along has been President Biden, for all his flaws the labor-friendliest president in a generation. As SEIU vice president April Verrett has just observed: “When was the last time you saw the president open up the doors to the White House to welcome in workers?”

So we do indeed have cause for celebration this Labor Day. Yet we have so much more to push for as the leaves start to fall. Of particular note: labor’s marquee legislative priority — the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or PRO Act for short — is still languishing in Congress.

Thinking of all the work ahead brings us to a rather somber note. One of the finest and fiercest pro-worker writers of our time, Barbara Ehrenreich, has just passed away. Barbara, a long-time supporter of the Institute for Policy Studies and our work here at Inequality.org, leaves behind a lasting legacy. We can honor her memory, as her son Ben notes, “by loving one another — and by fighting like hell.”

And we will. More on Barbara’s memory and the fight ahead below.

Chuck Collins and Rebekah Entralgo,
for the Institute for Policy Studies Inequality.org team
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Barbara Ehrenreich Pointed Her Pen at Inequality
Barbara Ehrenreich, a warrior for the working class who wielded a wickedly witty pen against injustice, died on September 1 at age 81. 

More than a decade before the Fight for $15, Ehrenreich drew attention to the struggles of low-wage workers through her seminal 2001 book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. Based on her “undercover” experiences as a restaurant server, cleaner, nursing home aide, and Walmart employee, the book sold more than 1.5 million copies and smashed prevalent myths about the poor. 

Ehrenreich’s critique of our top-heavy economy had a searing bite. One of our favorite vintage-Barbara passages, from The Nation:

…even the very rich cannot escape into their own little bubble of purity and excellence, of "haute" this and "haute" that. Ride around in a limo and you still have to sit in traffic created by ordinary people who can't afford to live near where they work. Fly in a private jet and you're still dependent on archaic, under-financed, systems of air traffic control…Oh, and you lobbied against higher taxes and regulations on business? Then think twice before you sink your teeth into that chocolate and gold dessert. The vermin are always with you.

Ehrenreich had a 40-year history with the Institute for Policy Studies, first as a staff member and later as a project leader and board member. Below, a tribute from Barbara’s IPS colleagues John Cavanagh and Tope Folarin.
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How to Live the CEO Good Life, Close to Tax-Free
The CEO as noble genius. Lots of corporate chiefs love that framing. They even start to believe it. And then they get sloppy and let the greed shine through. Take Michael Saylor, MicroStrategy’s long-time billionaire CEO. Saylor has been claiming residency status over recent years in Florida, a no-income-tax state. But he’s lived the high life over those same years in Washington, D.C. — and even trumpeted that life on social media, where he’s joked about having to “crack the whip” on contractors renovating his Georgetown penthouse. Tax officials in Washington have not been amused, and D.C. has just brought suit against Saylor. The billionaire, the city charges, has resided in the District since at least 2005, including time spent living on yachts anchored along the Potomac. Current D.C. law lets the city sue for three times the value of taxes owed. That high a ding could set Saylor back as much as $100 million. Saylor stepped down as MicroStrategy’s CEO last month. He’s firmly denying all wrong-doing.
Chilean President Will Continue Constitutional Fight
Chileans have just rejected a proposed new progressive constitution, leaving their current dictatorship-era charter in place. The reform process that led to Chile’s September 4 referendum grew out of massive protests in 2019 over the country’s extreme economic and social inequalities.

The proposed new constitution would have been transformational. Among the document’s 388 provisions: the rights to water and decent housing, strong national health care and social security systems, expanded labor and indigenous rights, and free public college.

Inequality.org co-editor Sarah Anderson last week reported on a video supporting the proposed constitution from constitutional scholar — and current member of Congress —Jamie Raskin.

“This Constitution represents not just a legal victory,” Raskin notes in the video, “but decades of political organizing and commitment by the Chilean people to make your country a global leader for freedom, equality, and democracy for all.”

Chilean President Gabriel Boric is now vowing to learn from the defeat and work with all political parties and civil society to find an alternative path forward. We have a deeper analysis of the Chilean proposal below.
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Our Ultra Rich — and Their Great-Great-Grandkids
Tax attorneys and financial advisors — for the super rich — are noticing a new angst within their client ranks: Our wealthiest are fretting deeply about their distant descendants’ financial future. In working with super wealthy families, one of America’s top wealth advisors observes, “the topic of expanding their fortunes to benefit their great-great-grandchildren regularly comes up.” How worried have our super rich become? One U.S. billionaire has come to believe that horrors will surely befall tomorrow’s most privileged unless today’s wealthy take aggressive political steps to future-proof their fortunes. This billionaire has just started down that aggressive path — with the largest political donation ever made to a politically minded nonprofit. Inequality.org’s Sam Pizzigati has more.
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What's on Inequality.org 

Inequality.org team, Recommended Labor Day Reading, Viewing, and Listening. Inequality.org staff share their media suggestions for a holiday that honors the working class.

Elsewhere on the Web

Bob Lord, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema has been cozying up to Wall Street and the über rich for years, Arizona Republic. Private equity’s defense of Kyrsten Sinema’s vote on the Inflation Reduction Act doesn’t hold water.

Zachary Tashman, William Rice, and Frank Clemente, Billion-Dollar Union Busters: How Starbucks and Its Rich CEO Are Stifling Worker Organizing, Americans for Tax Fairness. Wealthy CEOs shouldn't be rewarded with American tax dollars for crushing their employees.

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, Goldman Sachs’ Secrets Spill Out in New Book by a Former Managing Director, Wall Street on Parade. A gripping, just-published inside story of high-finance greed and grasping.

David Sirota, You’re Subsidizing The Threat To Democracy, Rolling Stone. A secret $1.6 billion donation shows why Congress, state legislators, and shareholders must act now against the tightening billionaire grip on our political process.

Bernie Sanders, The US has a ruling class – and Americans must stand up to it, Guardian. In the year 2022, three multibillionaires own more wealth than the bottom half of American society – 160 million Americans.

Kenneth Thomas, Good Jobs First Data Fuels Research On Economic Inequality, Good Jobs First. States deeply into economic development subsidies, researchers find, also have higher levels of income inequality.

Emily Atkin, The beauty industry is a climate disaster, HEATED. Our celebrity beauty idols have an aesthetic of looking like they funnel money into their faces. The standard of beauty comes down to wealth.

Russ Alan Prince, The Ultra-Wealthy Are Increasingly Focusing On Dynastic Wealth, Private Wealth. In working with very wealthy families, tax attorneys note, the topic of expanding their fortunes to benefit their great-great-grandchildren regularly comes up.
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