The U.S. faces an increasing income and wealth gap. The proportion of wealth held by the top 0.1 percent is almost as great as in the late 1920s prior to the Great Depression. Since 1980, the average income of the top one hundredth of percent more than quadrupled, while the bottom 90 percent had no change after inflation. During our current period of “recovery” 95 percent of all growth of has gone to the top 1 percent.
The public good demands a radical readjustment of economic priorities and a redistribution of economic power.
After the economy crashed in 2008, the Bush and Obama administrations bailed out Wall Street bankers who had speculated on homes and mortgages, but never bailed out the homeowners they victimized. Working people’s wealth declined by 28 percent during the Great Recession, largely the result of the destruction of the value of homes. The Obama administration’s stimulus plan was too limited in both scope and duration, did not adequately address the fundamental economic problems of society, and did not result in increased wages for working people.
Senator Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign raised economic inequality as an important political issue, calling for a vast overhaul of the political and financial systems. In so doing, he excited a new generation of political activists. In contrast, the Trump administration has given carte blanche to banks and corporations to loot what little wealth the working class has left.
In addition to the increasing gap in income over the last few decades, the racial disparity of wealth has also increased. White families now have 12 times the wealth of African Americans and 10 times the wealth of Latinos. While many people believe that “redlining” – a banking practice which restricted access to credit in working-class, predominantly black and Latino neighborhoods – ended with the 1968 Fair Housing Act, the same policies continue today under different names. Wells Fargo called predatory subprime mortgages “ghetto mortgages.” Loan officers were offered incentives to push subprime mortgages onto African Americans, Latinos, and many other working-class home buyers. African-American wealth dropped 48 percent during the Great Recession. Black Americans lost between $72 and $93 billion in homeowner equity. Latino and African-American families also earn significantly less money than their white counterparts, lagging $13,000 and $20,000, respectively, behind the average white family income.
Women’s income is only 80 percent of men’s income, with women of color receiving even less. The gender wealth gap is even more significant, with single women’s wealth being only 32 percent of single men’s, and women of color again faring even worse.
Fundamental political changes are needed to reverse this massive inequality of wealth.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT THIS 75th UE CONVENTION:
- Demands Congress:
- Enact a federal jobs program to stimulate the economy by raising wages, promoting unionism, providing infrastructural development, and assisting funding-starved state and local governments;
- Declare a moratorium on home foreclosures;
- Enact legislation that breaks up banks that are “too big to fail;”
- Enact comprehensive financial regulations including eliminating offshore tax havens, taxing economic speculation, and reducing corporate political influence;
- Reform the tax system by restoring higher tax rates for the wealthy and corporations and passing the Robin Hood Tax on Wall Street transactions;
- Enact a guaranteed basic income program;
- Address the student loan debt crisis that is impacting the ability of many working people to fully participate in the economy;
- Calls on regions and locals to:
- Participate in local movements that challenge the power of the 1 percent;
- Hold educational workshops about wealth, income inequality, and capitalism;
- Articulate bargaining goals within a broader economic framework that calls for greater equality;
- Encourage elected officials to introduce bills that address wealth inequality, especially to eliminate discriminatory barriers for individuals of color;
- Participate in immigrant worker and low-wage worker projects;
- Engage in militant resistance to plant closings, layoffs, overwork, two-tier schemes, and other concessions, and to stand in solidarity with other unions engaged in similar struggles;
- Encourage elected officials to increase minimum wages in communities with higher costs of living and protest legislation that prevents localities from passing higher minimum wage laws;
- Consider the impact of student loans on their their members when drafting contract demands;
- Encourages members to participate in local economic development initiatives to interject pro-worker perspectives into state and local government, such as Good Jobs First.