News From the Net

The Forbes 400 emailed the following article by Mark Karlin, who points out that the 400 richest Americans are now worth a combined $2 trillion, according to Forbes. That sets a record, Forbes says, and marks a jump from last year’s total of $1.7 trillion. The average net worth of a Forbes 400 member is now $5 billion—the highest ever. And the costs of being part of the 400 Club rose to $1.3 billion. But it’s the $2 trillion number that remains the most interesting. The 400 richest are now worth more than the GDPs of many nations—and they are worth more than what most governments spend or tax.

The Economist’s September 14 edition has a round-up of financial news with this tidbit posted as its sixth item, showing the lack of importance of the declining incomes of the non-wealthy to the financial press. An ongoing study of income distribution found that the richest 1 percent in America took 19 percent of the national income last year, their biggest share since 1928. The top 10 percent of earners held a record 48.2 percent. During the recovery between 2009 and 2012, real family incomes rose by an average of 4.6 percent, though this was skewed by a 31.4 percent increase for the top 1 percent. For the other 99 percent, incomes rose by just 0.4 percent. Now, let’s put in perspective” what the richest 400 Americans are worth:
  • $2 trillion is more than the combined net worth of half of all Americans.The bottom half.
  •  $2 trillion is more than the annual GDP of Italy, Mexico, or Canada.
  • $2 trillion is equal to the Federal Reserve’s holdings of publicly traded U.S. Treasurys.
  • $2 trillion would fund all government spending through July of this year.
  • $2 trillion is equal to about two-thirds of all taxes to be collected in the U.S. for 2013.
  • $2 trillion would pay for all of the existing home sales in the U.S. in 2012 and 2013 year-to-date.

 Austerity for the rich would be the best idea to implement as a public policy as you can see from these statistics. But instead, we have a Congress and White House ready to impose “austerity” on the other 99 percent of U.S. citizens, even though their incomes are basically flat.

Meanwhile, the wealth of the wealthiest continues to soar. Anybody feeling any trickle down dollars out there? It’s only raining money and jewels and bonds and dividends on the top 1 percent. And they aren’t pulling out their umbrellas, they are stashing their money overseas and moving their factories to slave-wage workforces in other nations.

Isn’t this the kind of arrogance, exploitation and gluttony that kindled the French Revolution?


Mobilizations & Workers’ Rights

Giovanna Vitale ( forwarded this information about the many actions last September

Thousands marched and 100 Walmart workers and community members were arrested in 11 cities while calling on their employer to reinstate the illegally fired and disciplined workers, publicly commit to improve jobs, and end the company’s aggressive violations of workers’ rights.

Thousands of supporters—including the president of the National Organization for Women, Terry O’Neill— joined the group in 15 cities in the largest mobilization since Black Friday in 2012. In response to Walmart’s inaction, the group announced widespread, massive strikes and protests for Black Friday in 2013. The group made headlines last year on Black Friday with the largest strike in the company’s history.  Workers and community members protested in:

  • Baton Rouge, LA
  • Boston, MA
  • Chicago, IL
  • Cincinnati, OH
  • Dallas, TX
  • Denver, CO
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Miami, FL
  • Minneapolis, MN
  • New York, NY
  • Orlando, FL
  • Sacramento, CA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Seattle, WA
  • Washington, DC

The arrests and protests came in the midst of national calls for better wages in low-paying jobs. “Enough is enough,” said Venanzi Luna, a worker who was arrested in Los Angeles, where more than 1,000 protestors marched in downtown Los Angeles. “Walmart continues to put us in an impossible position, and people are finally standing up for what’s right. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make sure we’re heard. We’ll be out in even greater force on Black Friday.” 

Similar protests across the country drew hundreds of workers and community supporters, including in the Washington, DC area where protesters shut down one of the busiest streets in Prince George’s County.

“We’ve had enough of Walmart’s inaction,” said Tonya Cauley, a Walmart worker who was arrested in Hyattsville, Maryland. “As the country’s largest employer, Walmart can and should do better. We aren’t calling for much—a minimum full-time yearly wage of $25,000 and assurance that we can stand up for what’s right without being attacked. I’m energized by the support I saw today and will be out stronger than ever on Black Friday.”

Economists, labor market experts, and others have been increasingly voicing concern about the growing income inequality and its impact on the economy. Walmart, the largest company on the Fortune 500 list, made $16 billion in profits last year and the majority of owners of the company, the Waltons, have the combined wealth of nearly half of American families. Meanwhile, many Walmart workers continue to earn, on average, poverty wages of $8.81 an hour, despite misleading claims from Walmart that wages are higher. A Congressional report released earlier this year calculated the Walmart workforce reliance on public assistance, including food stamps, healthcare, and other needs, is estimated to utilize $900,000 per year of taxpayer funds at just one of the company’s 4,000 stores. 

“As the nation’s largest employer, Walmart and the Walton family should be raising standards, not lowering them. To whom much is given, much is expected,” said Kim Bobo, Executive Director of Interfaith Worker Justice.

“Walmart should share its prosperity with workers and publicly commit to paying workers $25,000 a year for full-time work, as the courageous Our Walmart workers are demanding. If Walmart workers earned living wages, the entire economy would benefit.”

A report from the national public policy center shows that better jobs at Walmart and other large retailers would even help the store’s bottom line, as well as have an impact on individual families and the larger economy. A wage floor equivalent of $25,000 per year for a full-time, year-round employee for retailers with more than 1,000 employees would lift 1.5 million retail workers and their families out of poverty or near poverty, add to economic growth, increase retail sales, and create more than 100,000 new jobs. 

Rather than providing good jobs that American workers need and deserve, Walmart is trying to silence workers who are standing up with their co-workers and spending money trying to deny workers a decent day’s pay. But ongoing labor mismanagement concerns, including Wal-mart’s inaction on ending illegal retaliation, improving jobs at stores, and putting meaningful protections in place at its suppliers, have contributed to record-levels of votes against the Walmart Board of Directors and even shareholder divestment this year.  

Since June, Walmart has illegally disciplined nearly 80 workers, including firing 20 worker/leaders. More than 100 Unfair Labor Practice charges have been filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against Walmart. Workers in California recently announced that, after an investigation, the NLRB regional office found that Wal-mart committed 11 violations of national labor law.  

Venanzi Luna and Tonya Cauley are members of the growing national organization OUR Walmart. OUR Walmart, or Organization United for Respect at Walmart, formed two years ago, when 100 Walmart associates came together to voice their concerns about the company’s retaliating against those who spke out for better working conditions. With thousands of members across the country, the group organized the first strikes in company history last year and helped bring more than 30,000 supporters to protest at stores on Black Friday in 2012.