The Brooklyn Law School Library New Books List for April 1, 2018 has 42 print titles and 30 e-book titles. Among them is one e-title The Rise of the Working-Class Shareholder: Labor’s Last Best Weapon by David Webber, a rare good-news story for American workers. Combining legal rigor with inspiring narratives of labor victory, Webber shows how workers can wield their own capital to reclaim their strength. When the CEO of the supermarket chain Safeway cut wages and benefits, starting a five-month strike by 59,000 unionized workers, he was confident he would win. But where traditional labor action failed, a novel approach was more successful. With the aid of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, a $300 billion pension fund, workers led a shareholder revolt that unseated three of CEO’s boardroom allies. In the book, the author uses cases such as Safeway’s to shine a light on labor’s most potent remaining weapon: its multitrillion-dollar pension funds. Outmaneuvered at the bargaining table and under constant assault in Washington, state houses, and the courts, worker organizations are beginning to exercise muscle through markets. Shareholder activism has been used to divest from anti-labor companies, gun makers, and tobacco; diversify corporate boards; support Occupy Wall Street; force global warming onto the corporate agenda; create jobs; and challenge outlandish CEO pay. Webber argues that workers have found in labor’s capital a potent strategy against their exploiters. He explains the tactic’s surmountable difficulties even as he cautions that corporate interests are already working to deny labor’s access to this powerful and underused tool.
This book could be the modern bible of the movement to harness labor’s capital for working-class interests. It is a riveting and thoughtful book that is not only a fast and fun read, but contributes wonderfully to a new and ongoing conversation about inequality, dark money, and populism in the electorate. On Wednesday, April 18 at 4pm, Brooklyn Law School will host a Book Talk with David Webber, Professor of Law, Boston University School of Law to discuss the book. It is sponsored by the Center for the Study of Business Law and Regulation.