by Benjamin Sachs
Published January 23rd, 2020
After eighteen months of highly collaborative work involving over seventy academics, organizers, lawyers, and students from around the world, we released this morning the report and recommendations of the Clean Slate for Worker Power project. You can learn all about the project at cleanslateworkerpower.org. Our full Report is available here, and the Executive Summary here. The Introduction, which outlines the theory and ambition of the project, is below:
A Clean Slate for Worker Power:
Building a Just Economy and Democracy
Since the founding of the country, concentration of power in the hands of a small minority has been recognized as a threat—perhaps the primary threat—to the viability of American democracy. This threat of concentrated power motivated the drafters of the U.S. Constitution to advocate for a system of checks and balances and a division of authority between state and federal governments. Concern over concentrated power explains the founders’ desire to ensure that a “multiplicity of interests” would be represented in the decisions of the national government. This aspiration finds expression in core principles of our democratic system: in the idea that every person should have one vote, no more and no fewer; in the idea that we are to have a republican form of government, not an oligarchy or an aristocracy; in the idea that we are all equal before the law.
But, since the founding of the country, the struggle to uphold these constitutional principles against the threat of concentrated wealth has been a continual one. This struggle was central to the story of the New Deal. Thus, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt critiqued wealthy business and financial elites by naming them “economic royalists,” thereby invoking the American revolutionary struggle against political royalism. As FDR put it in 1936: “For too many of us the political equality we once had won was meaningless in the face of economic inequality.” 1 This democratic struggle against concentrated economic power has also been core to the highest aspirations of the labor movement. Dolores Huerta, leader of the United Farm Workers’ historic organizing effort, put it this way: “Organized labor is a necessary part of democracy, [because o]rganized labor is the only way to have fair distribution of wealth.”
The struggle to preserve democracy in the face of extreme wealth concentration is a defining feature of our current historical moment because we live in a time of radical economic inequality. The point can be illustrated with any number of statistics, and it is worth reviewing a few of them:
· The average Amazon worker makes $29,000 per year, while Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, has a net worth of $110 billion. This means it would take an Amazon worker 3.8 million years, working full time, to earn what Bezos now possesses. It would take an Uber driver, driving full time, nearly 150,000 years to earn what Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick made on the Uber IPO.
· The country’s wealthiest 20 people own more wealth than half of the nation combined—20 people with more wealth than 152 million others.
read more. https://onlabor.org/a-clean-slate-for-worker-power-building-a-just-economy-and-democracy/
The opinions expressed here are those of members and allies of DSA North Star Caucus meant to educate, inspire discussion and encourage comradely debate.