The Future of Labor in Post-Pandemic America
For workers’ movements, this is an understandably confusing time, a period of both peril and hope.
On the one hand, the coronavirus has thrown a spotlight on tens of millions of workers who are usually invisible to the media, upper-middle-class professionals, and political decision-makers. Suddenly, health care aides, farmworkers, food processors, supermarket employees, delivery drivers, transit workers, warehouse workers, hands-on public employees, and many others have been deemed “essential” by both the government and the public. At the same time, millions of “nonessential” blue-collar retail and hospitality workers who can’t work from home have abruptly been laid off. In consequence, there has been a wave of sympathy and support for both groups, a strong sentiment that they deserve safer working conditions, paid sick leave, higher pay, and health insurance.
As for the essential workers themselves, growing numbers have staged job actions to win safer and more appropriately remunerative work. The number of reported walkouts and strikes over the past weeks stands at roughly 150.
All this comes on top of a growing public awareness of our stratospheric levels of economic inequality, and increasing calls for public policy to bring those levels down. Whether this portends a surge in worker organizing such as that seen in the 1930s, however, is not at all clear.