News Release Archive - Capitalism

Amazon Union Vote

MIKE ELK, mike.elk@gmail.com@MikeElk
Elk is senior labor reporter for PaydayReport.com. His latest piece is “Anti-Union Amazon Workers Explain How Mandatory Anti-Union Meetings Turned Them Against RWDSU [Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union].”

He said today: “As the union is trailing nearly 2-to-1 with almost half of the vote in, it appears likely that the union drive at Amazon in Alabama will be defeated.

“In our interviews with workers, we discovered that most workers weren’t so heavily anti-union as much as they just didn’t know anything about unions.

“This union failed to form a strong organizing committee that had a real plan to show how the union worked prior to the election. To win union elections, the election feels like more formality since the organizing committee has already been acting as a union, winning campaigns in the workplace to change things and standing up for co-workers facing unfair discipline.

“When the union election comes, workers already feel like they know the union and are a part of it. Instead, what happened at Amazon was that workers knew little; this allowed the company through anti-union meetings to create a fear of the change that unions could bring — from warning workers that their wages may actually decrease under a contract, or worse, the facility closes.

“Within 24 hours of the defeat of the union at Amazon appearing likely, non-union workers at Amazon went on a wildcat strike in Chicago. So while it may appear that workers at Amazon were defeated, they are still on the march as the strike in Chicago shows.

“Winning union elections is tough, but the key to winning them is to invest heavily in training workers in how to organize and mobilize workers before they even have a union. Otherwise, unions will never win these union votes because workers won’t feel already like they’re part of the union.”

Will Infrastructure Investment be Syphoned by Hedge Funds?

A top USA Today headline reads: “Joe Biden wants to spend $2 trillion on infrastructure and jobs.”

LYNN PARRAMORE, lynn@lynnparramore.com@INETeconomics
Parramore is senior research analyst for the Institute for New Economic Thinking and recently wrote a piece key to understanding how President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan could be thwarted by hedge fund predators: “Meet the ‘New Koch Brothers’ — the Hedge Fund Activists Wrecking America’s Green New Deal.”

She explains how “billionaire financiers have made sure the companies the government must partner with to achieve critical goals like clean energy are focused on further enriching predatory hedge fund executives.” According to Parramore, these predators “force companies to play Wall Street casino games with their resources instead of investing in R&D and attracting and retaining the best talent.”

“Putting infrastructure plans in place requires the government to partner with companies that have the deep know-how and the substantial resources to develop these complicated and cutting-edge technologies,” writes Parramore. “The problem is,” these hedge fund “activists” usually “aren’t interested in companies being the best at what they do, or doing anything, really, except handing over money to shareholders. A favorite tactic is to force companies to use their cash, or even borrow it, to buy back outstanding shares of their own stock.

“The playbook of today’s hedge fund” manipulators, Parramore notes, “looks like this: Buy a wad of shares of a company on the stock market. Then, line up the proxy votes of the managers of funds who have hedgies manage pieces of their portfolio. Next, send a letter to the CEO of a target company demanding that he or she get busy pumping up the stock price. Hedge funds with deep pockets will spend millions making this happen — remember, their money comes from rich people or institutional investors like pensions and mutual funds who are seeking high yields. Occasionally hedgies will use their own money — those whose ‘war chests’ have come from previous raids.”

Parramore notes that “companies partnering with the government for infrastructure projects should be protected from hedge fund predators, prevented from doing stock buybacks, and incentivized for building up capabilities and new technologies and training employees rather than playing stock market games.”

Tax Billionaires to Pay for Pandemic Recovery

CHUCK COLLINS, chuck@ips-dc.org; also via Bob Keener, bobk@ips-dc.org@inequalityorg

Collins just wrote the piece “We should tax billionaires’ wealth to help pay for pandemic recovery” for MarketWatch. He writes: “This week, Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts introduced the Ultra-Millionaire Tax Act, an annual wealth tax on households with more than $50 million. Lead sponsors in the House are Democratic Reps. Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania.

“’The ultrarich and powerful have rigged the rules in their favor so much that the top 0.1 percent pay a lower effective tax rate than the bottom 99 percent, and billionaire wealth is 40 percent higher than before the COVID crisis began,’ Warren explained.

“Around two-thirds of Americans, including majorities of both Democrats and Republicans, said they supported a wealth tax in a January survey. ‘A wealth tax is popular among voters on both sides for good reason: because they understand the system is rigged to benefit the wealthy and large corporations,’ Warren said.

“Under the Warren-Jayapal-Boyle bill, the richest 100,000 Americans would be subject to an annual tax of a few pennies on the dollar on their great fortunes.

“The tax rate would be just 2 cents on the dollar, or 2 percent, for people with wealth between $50 million and $1 billion. It would rise to just 3 cents on the dollar, or 3 percent, for wealth above the $1 billion threshold.

“Only the country’s 650 or so billionaires would pay the 3 percent rate.

“It makes sense to tax billionaires to pay for the immediate-term pandemic recovery, as well as for longer-term investments in infrastructure, health care, and education. As hundreds of thousands of Americans lost their lives, and millions lost their livelihoods, U.S. billionaires have seen their combined wealth increase $1.3 trillion over the last 11 months, an increase of 45 percent.

“U.S. billionaires now have a combined wealth of $4.2 trillion. That’s nearly double the wealth owned by the bottom half of all U.S. households — 165 million people combined — who collectively own just $2.4 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve.”

Chuck Collins directs the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies, where he co-edits Inequality.org. His new book is The Wealth Hoarders: How Billionaires Pay Millions to Hide Trillions.

New Report Calls on Biden to Put an End to Program That’s “Not Far From Slavery”

DAVID BACON, dbacon@igc.org@photos4justice
ANURADHA MITTAL, amittal@oaklandinstitute.org, @oak_institute
Bacon is author of the new report “Dignity or Exploitation – What Future for Farmworker Families in the United States?” for the Oakland Institute. Mittal is founder and executive director of the group.

Bacon said today: “The H-2A program has created a captive labor force, made to work in brutal and often illegal conditions. In practice, it is not far from slavery. The majority of these migrant workers arrive in the U.S. already in debt. Department of Labor regulations permit companies to subject them to quotas that require them to work at an exhausting speed. Efforts to organize against exploitative conditions have been met with terminations, deportations and blacklisting.”

The report states that: “H-2A workers also face disproportionate exposure to the COVID-19 pandemic.” The report describes some of the most acute situations, and analyzes the basic reason for the high infection rate — congregate housing, or barracks, where workers sleep in bunk beds.

Growth of the H-2A program has also exacerbated an existing housing crisis for rural workers, as recruitment has skyrocketed from 10,000 visas in 1992 to over 250,000 in 2020. The exploitative conditions and vulnerability of migrants who came under the H-2A program are very close to those of the bracero program that was in place from 1942 to 1964. The Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, which put an end to the bracero program, established an immigration system based on family reunification and community stability, protecting the wages, rights, health, and housing of farmworkers. This system is under increasing threat today.

Mittal said: “Restoring the family preference system and halting the H-2A program are two of the most important decisions that will face the Biden administration in regards to the direction of U.S. immigration policy. The new administration needs to choose whose interests they are going to serve. Will it support the H-2A program and protect the profits of growers, or will it stand with the farmworkers who labor in the fields to feed this country?”

Cities Targeting Homeless

KEITH McHENRY, keith@foodnotbombs.net@keith_mchenry    McHenry is co-founder of the Food Not Bombs movement. He can connect media with other activists. He points to a series of efforts in various cities targeting homeless people.

He tweeted Tuesday of the most recent example: “The City of Santa Cruz is threatening to evict Food Not Bombs again claiming they will arrest us if we don’t stop.” The group was evicted from another location just last week, see Santa Cruz Sentinel: “Food Not Bombs displaced from Santa Cruz lot.”

McHenry said today: “City governments across the United States are waging a war against the homeless and their supporters as millions of Americans are facing eviction. As the Santa Cruz City Council was meeting to introduce an ordinance against ‘Temporary Outdoor Living’ it was sending an email to Food Not Bombs threatening to arrest our volunteers if we continue to share meals in an empty parking lot at a main intersection in Santa Cruz.

“Santa Cruz Food Not Bombs will be celebrating its 365th day in a row of providing food, drinking water, and the city’s only reliable hand-washing station while the city and its corporate sponsors failed to provide for the needs of most of our community’s unhoused. The city is also pressuring the state to evict over 100 people from the roadway outside Housing Matters homeless center and is seeking to vacate an injunction ordered by U.S. District Court Judge Susan van Keulen against their holiday evictions of over 100 people living in San Lorenzo Park.

“The Denver Police Department cleared camps of unhoused on February 21, 2021. Police used an armored vehicle to support a sweep of unhoused in Bellingham, Washington on January 28, 2021. The cities of Minneapolis, Portland, Seattle, New Orleans, San Jose and Sacramento are among the many other municipalities clearing camps of unhoused into the doorways and roadways of their communities.”
Food Not Bombs is a global movement. See from the London-based Freedom News: “Belarus: Food Not Bombs activists receive prison sentences for giving away food.”

Twelve U.S. Billionaires Have a Combined $1 Trillion

12 Top Billionaires imageOMAR OCAMPO, via Olivia Alperstein, olivia at ips-dc.org, or Bob Keener, bobk at ips-dc.org, @IPS_DC
Ocampo, a researcher for the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies, just co-wrote the report “Twelve U.S. Billionaires Have a Combined $1 Trillion,” which states: “For the first time in U.S. history, the top twelve U.S. billionaires surpassed a combined wealth of $1 trillion. On Thursday August 13, these 12 held a combined $1.015 trillion.

“This is a disturbing milestone in the U.S. history of concentrated wealth and power. This is simply too much economic and political power in the hands of twelve people. From the point of view of a democratic self-governing society, this represents an Oligarchic Twelve or a Despotic Dozen.

“The Oligarchic Dozen are Jeff Bezos ($189.4b), Bill Gates ($114b), Mark Zuckerberg ($95.5b), Warren Buffett ($80b), Elon Musk ($73b), Steve Ballmer ($71b), Larry Ellison ($70.9b), Larry Page ($67.4b), Sergey Brin ($65.6b), Alice Walton ($62.5b), Jim Walton ($62.3b), and Rob Walton ($62b).

“Since March 18, the beginning of the pandemic, this Oligarchic Dozen have seen their combined wealth increase $283 billion, an increase of almost 40 percent.

“Elon Musk has been the biggest pandemic profiteer, seeing his wealth triple from $24.6 billion on March 18th to $73 billion on August 13, an increase of $48.5 billion or 197 percent.

“Amazon co-founder Jeff Bezos was worth $189.4 billion on August 13, up $76 billion or 68 percent since March 18.

“Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was worth $95.5 billion on August 13, up $40.8 billion or 75 percent since March 18.”

The Billionaire Behind Efforts to Kill the U.S. Postal Service

A U.S. Postal Service letter carrier delivers mail while wearing PPE | Credit: In the Public Interest (ITPI)

LISA GRAVES, via Evan Vorpahl, evan at truenorthresearch.org,
Graves is the executive director of True North and has led several investigations into those distorting U.S. democracy and public policy. She just wrote the brief “The Billionaire Behind Efforts to Kill the U.S. Postal Service,” which states: “The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the already-struggling U.S. Postal Service to the brink of financial collapse. But the most trusted and popular institution in America hasn’t been struggling by accident.

“Since the 1970s, a concerted effort to popularize the fringe idea of privatizing the Postal Service has been advanced for nearly five decades with the support of one man: the billionaire and libertarian ideologue, Charles Koch, chairman and chief executive officer of Koch Industries.”

The brief traces Koch’s connections, influence, and ideological push to “weaken and ultimately privatize one of America’s most essential public services — and, along with it, the jobs of hundreds of thousands of public servants. …

“The Postal Service has lost revenue since COVID-19 started spreading exponentially in the U.S., with its revenues down more than 30 percent as many businesses have closed or reduced operations. But the real reason for its financial crisis is not only the pandemic. The agency would be in a much stronger financial position had Congress not passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) in 2006, which ‘requires the Postal Service, which receives no taxpayer subsidies, to prefund its retirees’ health benefits up to the year 2056,’ on a 50-year basis. (John Oliver’s ‘Last Week Tonight’ did an in-depth show on this manufactured crisis earlier this year.)

“The HEROES Act would fund a portion of the Postal Service’s request to keep it from going bankrupt, but Koch’s groups oppose even that, seeking to achieve his longtime goal of eliminating one of the most trusted of American institutions and one vital to our democracy. The question is: will the American people stand up to Koch’s radical efforts to defund and destroy one of our most essential public services, wreak havoc on our economy, and privatize the good jobs of thousands of public servants? Or will we stand up to this billionaire and his bullying, say ‘NO!,’ and punish any politician who toes the Koch party line?” See PDF of the brief.

How Behemoth BlackRock Rigs Finance

ELLEN BROWN, ellenhbrown at gmail.com, @ellenhbrown
Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books, including the best-selling The Web of Debt: The Shocking Truth About Our Money System and How We Can Break Free.

She just wrote the piece “Meet BlackRock, the New Great Vampire Squid,” which states: “To most people, if they are familiar with it at all, BlackRock is an asset manager that helps pension funds and retirees manage their savings through ‘passive’ investments that track the stock market. But working behind the scenes, it is much more than that. BlackRock has been called ‘the most powerful institution in the financial system,’ ‘the most powerful company in the world’ and the ‘secret power.’ It is the world’s largest asset manager and ‘shadow bank,’ larger than the world’s largest bank (which is in China), with over $7 trillion in assets under direct management and another $20 trillion managed through its Aladdin risk-monitoring software. BlackRock has also been called ‘the fourth branch of government’ and ‘almost a shadow government’, but no part of it actually belongs to the government. Despite its size and global power, BlackRock is not even regulated as a ‘Systemically Important Financial Institution’ under the Dodd-Frank Act, thanks to pressure from its CEO Larry Fink, who has long had ‘cozy’ relationships with government officials.

“BlackRock’s strategic importance and political weight were evident when four BlackRock executives, led by former Swiss National Bank head Philipp Hildebrand, presented a proposal at the annual meeting of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in August 2019 for an economic reset that was actually put into effect in March 2020. Acknowledging that central bankers were running out of ammunition for controlling the money supply and the economy, the BlackRock group argued that it was time for the central bank to abandon its long-vaunted independence and join monetary policy (the usual province of the central bank) with fiscal policy (the usual province of the legislature). They proposed that the central bank maintain a ‘Standing Emergency Fiscal Facility’ that would be activated when interest rate manipulation was no longer working to avoid deflation. The Facility would be deployed by an ‘independent expert’ appointed by the central bank.

“The COVID-19 crisis presented the perfect opportunity to execute this proposal in the U.S., with BlackRock itself appointed to administer it. In March 2020, it was awarded a no-bid contract under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to deploy a $454 billion slush fund established by the Treasury in partnership with the Federal Reserve. This fund in turn could be leveraged to provide over $4 trillion in Federal Reserve credit. While the public was distracted with protests, riots and lockdowns, BlackRock suddenly emerged from the shadows to become the ‘fourth branch of government,’ managing the controls to the central bank’s print-on-demand fiat money. How did that happen and what are the implications? …”

Brown concludes: “If the corporate oligarchs are too big and strategically important to be broken up under the antitrust laws, rather than bailing them out they should be nationalized and put directly into the service of the public. At the very least, BlackRock should be regulated as a too-big-to-fail Systemically Important Financial Institution. Better yet would be to regulate it as a public utility. No private, unelected entity should have the power over the economy that BlackRock has, without a legally enforceable fiduciary duty to wield it in the public interest.”

Brown’s other books include The Public Bank Solution: From Austerity to Prosperity and most recently, Banking on the People: Democratizing Money in the Digital Age.

Billionaires Deforming Education?

KEVIN KUMASHIRO, kevin at kevinkumashiro.com
Author of ten books on education, Kumashiro is former dean of the School of Education at the University of San Francisco and co-founder of Education Deans for Justice and Equity,

He has helped organize a statement signed by over “650 educators of color and educational scholars of color across the U.S.” calling for a “retreat from the market-based initiatives (like the so-called ‘portfolio model,’ expansion of choice, and deprofessionalizing of teaching) being foisted by billionaires upon poorer communities of color.”

The statement — “This Must End Now: Educators & Scholars of Color Against Failed Educational ‘Reforms’” begins: “The public is being misled. Billionaire philanthropists are increasingly foisting so-called ‘reform’ initiatives upon the schools that serve predominantly students of color and low-income students, and are using black and brown voices to echo claims of improving schools or advancing civil rights in order to rally community support. However, the evidence to the contrary is clear: these initiatives have not systematically improved student success, are faulty by design, and have already proven to widen racial and economic disparities. We must heed the growing body of research and support communities and civil-rights organizations in their calls for a more accurate and nuanced understanding of the problems facing our schools, a retreat from failed ‘reforms,’ and better solutions.”

Kumashiro recently wrote the piece “Corona-Capitalism and the Racialized Looting of Public Schools,” which states: “As the COVID-19 crisis unfolds, proponents of market-based reforms have wasted little time capitalizing on the same two conditions that propelled privatization post-Katrina, except at a scale and level without precedent: school closures and federal funding.”

Lack of Union Jobs “Obliterated an Emergent Black Middle Class”

WILLIAM LAZONICK, william.lazonick at gmail.com
Lazonick is professor emeritus of economics at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and president of the Academic-Industry Research Network.

He co-authored a new paper: “How the Disappearance of Unionized Jobs Obliterated an Emergent Black Middle Class” for the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

See summary blog post: “The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the deep-rooted racial divide that infects American society. According to APM Research Lab, the Covid-19 mortality rate for blacks has been 61.6 per 100,000 compared with 28.2 per 100,000 for Latinos, and 26.2 per 100,000 for whites. It’s another abhorrent statistic to add to the highly disproportionate number of African Americans who are poor, unemployed, and incarcerated.

“The longer life-expectancy of white men compared with black men in the United States has narrowed in recent years, but that is because of a significant drop in longevity of white working-class males, who, even before the pandemic, were succumbing to ‘deaths of despair.’ The fact is that blacks are doing terribly in a nation wracked by extreme economic inequality, which is dragging down the whole working class, irrespective of race or ethnicity. In a nation that once advertised itself as the land of upward socioeconomic mobility through equal employment opportunity, intergenerational downward mobility has become the norm.

“As a new generation has taken to the streets with demands for social transformation, we need to look back a half century to a time when the quest for equal employment opportunity gave rise to an African American blue-collar middle class. During the 1960s and 1970s, blacks with no more than high-school educations gained significant access to well-paid unionized employment opportunities, epitomized by semi-skilled operative jobs in the automobile industry, to which they previously had limited access. Anti-discrimination laws under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act with oversight by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) supported this upward mobility for blacks in the context of a growing demand for blue-collar labor in the United States.

“From the late 1970s, however, the impact of global competition and the offshoring of manufacturing combined with the financialization of the corporation to decimate these stable and well-paid blue-collar jobs. Under the seniority provisions of the increasingly beleaguered industrial unions, blacks tended to be last hired and first fired. As U.S.-based blue-collar jobs were permanently lost, U.S. business corporations and government agencies failed to make sufficient investments in the education and skills of the U.S. labor force to usher in a new era of upward socioeconomic mobility. This organizational failure left blacks most vulnerable to downward mobility.

“Central to this corporate failure was a transformation of corporate resource allocation from ‘retain-and-reinvest’ to ‘downsize-and-distribute.’ Instead of retaining corporate profits and reinvesting in the productive capabilities of employees, major business corporations became increasingly focused on downsizing their labor forces and distributing profits to shareholders in the form of cash dividends and stock buybacks. Legitimizing massive distributions to shareholders was the flawed and pernicious ideology that a company should be run to ‘maximize shareholder value.’ Eventually, the downward socioeconomic mobility experienced by blacks would also extend to devastating loss of well-paid and stable employment for whites who lacked the higher education now needed to enter the American middle class. By the twenty-first century, general downward mobility had become a defining characteristic of American society, irrespective of race, ethnicity, or gender.”