Why now?

The extreme concentration of wealth and power in monopolistic corporations and billionaires represents an existential threat for not just the United States, but the world. These corporations and billionaires–increasingly concentrated in three industries (tech, finance, and oil and gas)–exert enormous power over our political system. Through both their political strategies and business practices, they prevent people across the country from living safe and dignified lives. They dramatically impact our ability to meet our most fundamental needs: secure, affordable housing, a habitable climate, and quality medical care, just to name a few. They hoard their wealth, underpay their workers, and avoid paying their taxes, thereby starving schools, hospitals, and other public goods of resources. They both underpin and profiteer from systemic racism, while either actively funding or quietly collaborating with increasingly far-right politicians. Elected officials change, but the corporate power structure remains the same. 

Again and again, we’ve seen how corporations and billionaires emerge from global crises–whether they be climate, economic, or health related–even richer and more powerful. But, in recent years, movements for social change have increasingly challenged these powerful players. In many spheres, using many strategies, workers, teachers, racial justice activists, leftist politicians, and more are challenging the legitimacy of corporations that prioritize profits at the expense of everything else. In doing so, social movements are winning the policies, resources, and power we all need to thrive. 

For example, Starbucks workers are leading a historic and growing campaign to unionize their company. These workers, many of whom are young people coming of age in an era of interrelated economic, climate, and political crises, are successfully challenging their billionaire boss, Howard Schultz, and his union busting board of directors. They’ve unionized over three hundred stores across the country, fighting for and winning better pay, health care coverage, protections from customer harassment, and other policies to increase dignity and justice on the job. And they’re inspiring others to organize in what may have once seemed like impossible conditions. 

Power research is one element of strategic, vibrant social movements that aim to build a more just society by helping us better understand the forces that are shaping our everyday lives. Our hope is that this toolkit helps you use power research to lay the groundwork for challenges to the billionaires and corporations standing in the way of justice.