Moving Towards Economic Justice

By Alyssa Petrella, USW Communications Assistant 

The great American aspiration, that every person can achieve a middle class life through dint of hard work, is being shattered by runaway inequality. That is, income inequality, that ever-increasing chasm in wealth between the average guy and the one percent.

Economics, safety and labor educator Les Leopold describes how inequality is destroying the American Dream in his recently-published book, Runaway Inequality: An Activist’s Guide to Economic Justice.  What’s striking to Leopold, executive director of The Labor Institute, is that most Americans have no idea how bad the inequality, and thus the destroyed dream, really is.

The book, separated into four sections, addresses where inequality began, America’s ranking on key economic issues compared to other developed nations, how it affects Americans today and what the solution is. It is rich, so to speak, with charts and tables that illustrate the impact on the 99 percent as the wealthiest seize an increasingly larger share of the income from production.

The United States has among the highest income inequality in the world. Leopold examines the fading of the American Dream and how Americans are losing as inequality rises. The United States is portrayed as the fairest nation in the world but the economic facts Leopold shows reveal that the country is last in energy efficiency and infrastructure soundness. 

Leopold shows how Wall Street bankers, CEOs, and those with inherited wealth use their money to maintain a corrupt campaign finance system, a crooked lobbying system and a perverse tax system allowing them to pay lower rates than their secretaries.

Leopold makes it clear that the situation is not hopeless. Because the United States operates as a democracy, Americans can help reduce the income gap by coming together and building a movement to demand an economy based on shared prosperity, one that works for the 99 percent. Only a powerful social movement will force change on economic elites.

At the end of the book, Leopold makes a powerful point about the issue of runaway inequality, writing: “The money that enriches the few is extracted from all that we hold dear – our public life, our incomes, our health and the education of our children. It is making poor the richest country on Earth…Until we do something about it.”

Leopold’s book provides an economic analysis and a solution -- creating a powerful mass movement to fight back against a rigged system. His book can be purchased online at For more information about Leopold and The Labor Institute, check out the website at


Posted In: Union Matters

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