At 7 p.m. Tuesday, September 19, Les Leopold will give a presentation, What Happened to the American Dream, at the Wilmington ILA Union Hall, 1305 S. Fifth Ave. The public is invited.

At 5 p.m. on Wednesday, September 20, Leopold will reprise his presentation at UNCW, with a Q+A session to follow.

Daniel Buffington wrote in the Wilmington Star News this week:

“The title of Al Hunt’s Sept. 4 op/ed column, “Flat wages drive instability,” points out how American workers have been left out of economic growth over the past 40 years and the dangers that represents. Workers have not shared in the prosperity; corporate profits and the pay for CEOs have skyrocketed, but this increase has not trickled down to us.

Why? The major reason is that American workers have no bargaining power. Before the 1930s, workers had little power to improve their wages and working conditions. The result was runaway inequality, much like today. In the end, this was a major cause of the Great Depression.

Then two things happened. There was a huge surge in union organizing with the birth of the CIO, and Franklin Roosevelt won the 1932 election and delivered on his promise of a New Deal. Workers won the 40-hour work week, benefits like paid vacations, health insurance and pensions. The government passed Social Security and created huge public works programs.

Over the next 40 years, the U.S. saw the growth of the largest and most prosperous middle class in history. But starting in the 1970s, both the unions and the New Deal came under attack from conservatives. They claimed that cutting taxes for the wealthy, busting unions and doing away with New Deal programs would lead to rapid economic growth that would benefit everyone. It didn’t.

When workers lost their seat at the negotiating table and their political power in elections, the share of our wealth going to middle class went down, while the percentage of income going to the very wealthy went up. The result – runaway inequality.

Labor activist Les Leopold has written an excellent book describing the causes and consequences of “Runaway Inequality” and what we can do to reverse it.”