A savvy inside look at the social movement challenging decades of stark economic decline.

THE FIGHT FOR FIFTEEN

THE RIGHT WAGE FOR A WORKING AMERICA

An expert exploration of a provocative blueprint for rescuing the American middle class through the creation of a new living wage.

When New York City fast-food workers first walked off the job in the fall of 2012, power brokers nationwide roundly derided their calls for a $15-per-hour minimum wage as nothing more than pie-in-the-sky prattling. "God bless them—shoot for the stars,” said New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo after the assembly finally moved to take action. But the spark that those hard-pressed workers ignited would not be limited to New York. Soon, struggling workers in the Pacific Northwest were also spurred to action—first in modest SeaTac, then in Seattle, where the drive for the higher minimum wage finally hit pay dirt. In this comprehensive analysis of the Fight for $15's earliest challenges, Rolf, the president of the Service Employees International Union 775, provides true insight into the competing forces that ultimately yielded one of the most important victories for organized labor in decades. The author’s plainspoken approach and stellar scholarship illuminate in-depth discussions about the deliberate policy decisions that began to decimate the middle class at the start of the 1980s as well as the insidious new ways in which big business continues to attack American workers today via stagnant wages, rampant subcontracting, unpredictable scheduling, and other detrimental practices associated with the so-called “share economy.” Ditching moldy, Reagan-era dogma for a fresh “middle-out” approach, Rolf looks beyond traditional unionism for new ways to empower workers through collective action. Self-avowed venture capitalist “gazallionaire” Nick Hanauer is on board. “ ‘The fundamental law of capitalism,’ he argues, is that ‘if workers have more money, businesses have more customers. Which makes middle-class consumers, not rich businesspeople like us, the true job creators.’ ”

A savvy inside look at the social movement challenging decades of stark economic decline.

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62097-113-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

CAPITAL AND IDEOLOGY

A massive investigation of economic history in the service of proposing a political order to overcome inequality.

Readers who like their political manifestoes in manageable sizes, à la Common Sense or The Communist Manifesto, may be overwhelmed by the latest from famed French economist Piketty (Top Incomes in France in the Twentieth Century: Inequality and Redistribution, 1901-1998, 2014, etc.), but it’s a significant work. The author interrogates the principal forms of economic organization over time, from slavery to “non-European trifunctional societies,” Chinese-style communism, and “hypercapitalist” orders, in order to examine relative levels of inequality and its evolution. Each system is founded on an ideology, and “every ideology, no matter how extreme it may seem in its defense of inequality, expresses a certain idea of social justice.” In the present era, at least in the U.S., that idea of social justice would seem to be only that the big ones eat the little ones, the principal justification being that the wealthiest people became rich because they are “the most enterprising, deserving, and useful.” In fact, as Piketty demonstrates, there’s more to inequality than the mere “size of the income gap.” Contrary to hypercapitalist ideology and its defenders, the playing field is not level, the market is not self-regulating, and access is not evenly distributed. Against this, Piketty arrives at a proposed system that, among other things, would redistribute wealth across societies by heavy taxation, especially of inheritances, to create a “participatory socialism” in which power is widely shared and trade across nations is truly free. The word “socialism,” he allows, is a kind of Pandora’s box that can scare people off—and, he further acknowledges, “the Russian and Czech oligarchs who buy athletic teams and newspapers may not be the most savory characters, but the Soviet system was a nightmare and had to go.” Yet so, too, writes the author, is a capitalism that rewards so few at the expense of so many.

A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-674-98082-2

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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A readable, persuasive argument that our ways of doing business will have to change if we are to prosper—or even survive.

REIMAGINING CAPITALISM IN A WORLD ON FIRE

A well-constructed critique of an economic system that, by the author’s account, is a driver of the world’s destruction.

Harvard Business School professor Henderson vigorously questions the bromide that “management’s only duty is to maximize shareholder value,” a notion advanced by Milton Friedman and accepted uncritically in business schools ever since. By that logic, writes the author, there is no reason why corporations should not fish out the oceans, raise drug prices, militate against public education (since it costs tax money), and otherwise behave ruinously and anti-socially. Many do, even though an alternative theory of business organization argues that corporations and society should enjoy a symbiotic relationship of mutual benefit, which includes corporate investment in what economists call public goods. Given that the history of humankind is “the story of our increasing ability to cooperate at larger and larger scales,” one would hope that in the face of environmental degradation and other threats, we might adopt the symbiotic model rather than the winner-take-all one. Problems abound, of course, including that of the “free rider,” the corporation that takes the benefits from collaborative agreements but does none of the work. Henderson examines case studies such as a large food company that emphasized environmentally responsible production and in turn built “purpose-led, sustainable living brands” and otherwise led the way in increasing shareholder value by reducing risk while building demand. The author argues that the “short-termism” that dominates corporate thinking needs to be adjusted to a longer view even though the larger problem might be better characterized as “failure of information.” Henderson closes with a set of prescriptions for bringing a more equitable economics to the personal level, one that, among other things, asks us to step outside routine—eat less meat, drive less—and become active in forcing corporations (and politicians) to be better citizens.

A readable, persuasive argument that our ways of doing business will have to change if we are to prosper—or even survive.

Pub Date: May 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5417-3015-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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