A weekly newsletter from the Institute for Policy Studies
It’s official: The UAW has reached tentative agreements with all of the Big 3 automakers, winding down the autoworkers’ corporation-spooking six-week “Stand Up” strike. (Why "Stand Up"? The union chose the tag to link this year’s walkouts with the transformative “Sit-Down” strikes of the 1930s.)
From Labor Notes, some tasty tidbits from the historic deals: At Ford, starting pay will jump from $18.05 to $28, and the path to top pay will take just three years, not the current eight. Stellantis will reopen a cruelly shuttered Illinois plant and will grant workers the right to strike over future closures. And workers key to GM's burgeoning EV capacity will now take home the same wages as traditional production workers.
UAW members are celebrating these outcomes as “proof of concept” for a reinvigorated 21st-century labor movement. Workers making not just trucks and sedans but green vehicles, buses, and trains — often for employers that get public subsidies, notes Erica Smiley of Jobs with Justice — stand to hugely benefit from the new contracts' models.
Adds UAW president Shawn Fain: “We have shown the companies, the American public, and the whole world that the working class is not done fighting. In fact, we're just getting started."
Indeed, the freshly bargained UAW contracts will all expire April 31, 2028, and Fain is inviting unions across sectors to “align” their contract conclusions with that same date. Taking that step, as we’ll detail in next week’s issue, could tee up a massive May Day for collective action worldwide — insuring solidarity for our uncertain future.
Chuck Collins and Bella DeVaan
for the Institute for Policy Studies' Inequality.org team
INEQUALITY BY THE NUMBERS
Fighting Chronic Understaffing in Nursing Homes
“I walk out of work each morning feeling like my best wasn’t enough,” certified nurse aide Shelly Hughes told a recent Congressional hearing. “I’ve dedicated my life to this work, but because of short staffing I feel helpless and defeated.”
Hughes regularly faces the daunting responsibility of juggling care for more than 30 residents on the night shift at a Washington State nursing home. She’s seen how “low staffing leads to even more low staffing” because it drives frustrated employees to quit. The problem is particularly severe at private equity-owned nursing homes fixated on maximizing profits and manufacturing billionaires.
The good news? The Biden administration recently proposed a first-ever rule mandating minimum staffing ratios for skilled nursing facilities. Hughes and other nursing home aides are working with Americans for Financial Reform and SEIU to make this regulation as strong as possible. Register now to participate in a live webinar at 3 p.m. EST today or click the link below to view the discussion later.
Biden’s Cracking Down on One Industry’s Stock Buybacks. Why Just One?
The Biden administration is giving companies a leg up in the competition for new semiconductor subsidies if they agree to give up all stock buybacks for five years.
Wielding the power of the public purse against this once-illegal financial maneuver makes total sense. Taxpayers want every dollar of their public investments to produce maximum benefits. But every dollar spent on stock buybacks makes for a dollar not spent on worker wages or R&D. Buybacks only artificially inflate stock prices and generate windfalls for shareholders and CEOs.
A crackdown on semiconductor industry buybacks makes eminent sense. But why not apply the same restrictions on corporations receiving federal funds of any sort? Inequality.org co-editor Sarah Anderson has more on how we can build on this important policy precedent.
A Sharp New Portrait of the World’s Wealth — and Wealthiest
How can we comprehend — truly comprehend — how concentrated the wealth of our world has become? We have some good new choices. Two new studies let us look at wealth and our wealthiest through the eyes of those who measure just how concentrated our world’s wealth has become. And what can we do about that concentration? Suggests one of these new reports: How about a new “global minimum tax” on the world’s billionaires equal to 2 percent of their net worth? Inequality.org’s Sam Pizzigati has more.
PETULANT PLUTOCRAT OF THE WEEK
How To Make a Millionaire a Billionaire: Hand Him Oodles of Tax Dollars
This week’s dour deep pocket: Clay Bennett, the mega-millionaire owner of the Oklahoma City Thunder NBA pro basketball franchise.
What has him sour: Not everyone in Oklahoma City seems sold on the new City Council plan to have taxpayers bear almost all the freight for a proposed new $900-million arena the Thunder will get to call home. City Council members last month voted 7-2 to put before voters in December an initiative that would require Bennett’s team to foot only a little over 5 percent of the new arena’s cost.
The community group leading the opposition to the Council majority’s scheme, Oklahoma Progress Now, has dubbed the deal “an unfair bargain” that will cost city residents social services that “we desperately need.”
Oklahoma City mayor David Holt, the chief shill for the giveaway to Bennett, is warning that the Thunder franchise will leave town if voters nix taxpayer funding for the new arena. Fifteen years ago, Bennett’s ownership group exited Seattle for Oklahoma City, notes Popular Information, after that city “rejected similar demands for a new publicly financed arena.”
The last word: The City Council’s deal with Bennett, charges Council member JoBeth Hamon, “was negotiated from a position of fear and scarcity” that only “benefits those who are wealthy.”
This week on Inequality.org
Les Leopold, The UAW Wins Fight for Just Transition. What the United Auto Workers won from the manufacturers and why the UAW victory matters so much.
Elsewhere on the Web
Robert Frank, Billionaire politicians have become ‘shockingly common’ around the world, new study finds, CNBC. Over 11 percent of the world’s more than 2,000 billionaires have run for election or become politicians.
Robert Reich, Do billionaires have a right to exist? Substack. UAW president Shawn Fain says no. He happens to be right.
Kai Ryssdal and Sarah Leeson, Is CEO pay out of control? Marketplace. A typical auto battery plant worker, the UAW points out, would have to labor 16 years to make what GM’s CEO makes in one week.
Chris Morris, Fast Company’s CEO Fair Pay report: The 15 ‘least fairly’ paid finance CEOs, Fast Company. The CEO of Blackstone, the private equity giant, last year pulled down $253 million, over 1,000 times his firm’s median pay.
Maxwell Shukuya, Profit Over People: CEOs at These 10 Companies Make Over 1,000 Times More Than Their Employees, Cheapism. Naming profiteers from Live Nation to Oracle and Coca-Cola.
Steven Greenhouse, US unions winning big gains amid ‘Great Reset’ in worker power, Guardian. Workers are feeling rising frustration and anger as they watch corporate CEO pay soar.
Marie Charrel, The millionaires calling for higher taxes: ‘I’m rich, tax me!’ Le Monde. In the United States, as in Europe, more and more millionaires are campaigning for a global wealth tax.
Claire Cain Miller, New SAT Data Highlights the Deep Inequality at the Heart of American Education, New York Times. One-third of the children in America’s richest families score high on the SAT, while less than 5 percent of middle-class students do. Just one in five kids from poor families take the test at all.
Jisha Joseph, Twitter thread dispels myth about famous billionaires starting out from nothing, Upworthy. Most of so-called “self-made” rich start off from privileged positions that gave them a significant leg up.
Chauncey DeVega, ‘Plutocrats and populists’: The GOP’s ‘contradictory principles’ make a perfect recipe for fascism, Salon. On the toxic stew of tax cuts for rich people and racist scapegoating.
Wealth Inequality and Redistribution, Stone Center for Inequality Dynamics. This University of Michigan center illustrates American wealth levels as height differences between pets, houses, skyscrapers, and space travel.
We Went to the Most Unequal Place in America, More Perfect Union. 43 percent of people in Puerto Rico live in poverty. While rich transplants pay 3 percent in taxes, locals pay up to 36 percent.
Sybil Ackerman-Munson, What’s the Big Deal About Donor Advised Funds? Do Your Good Podcast. Our Charity Reform Initiative research director Helen Flannery offers her perspective on donor-advised funds and the struggle for reforms to ensure the charitable sector's vitality and positive impact.
Zing Tsjeng and Simon Jack, Bernard Arnault: The Wolf in Cashmere, The BBC's Good Bad Billionaire. Tracing the ruthless rise of a French entrepreneur’s unstoppable ascent.
The richest 1 percent of Americans, Federal Reserve numbers reveal, hold 54 percent of all stocks and mutual funds, and the richest 10 percent hold 89 percent. That leaves the bottom 90 percent of Americans with only 11 percent of these financial assets. For an interactive version of this chart and other tax and inequality charts, check out the link below.
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Inequality.org | www.inequality.org | email@example.com
Managing Editor: Isabella DeVaan
Co-Editors: Sarah Anderson, Chuck Collins, and Sam Pizzigati
Production: Isabella DeVaan and Kufre McIver