Latest COVID-19 Coverage from Labor Notes

Here is the latest reporting and analysis from Labor Notes on the COVID-19 pandemic. For organizing resources and more, click here. Want help organizing your workplace to respond to the pandemic? Email us at organize[at]labornotes[dot]org.

We have been forced to choose between two terrible options:

    1. Lock ourselves down to prevent the spread of the virus, resulting in massive job loss—while many vulnerable workers are still forced to work in unsafe conditions, or

    2. Maintain some business as usual, stemming the economic impact but putting tens of millions of people at risk.

It didn’t have to be like this.

We could not have prevented the virus itself, nor the resulting loss of life altogether. But imagine if:

Masked health care workers in a hospital hold signs reading: "We... are... here... at... work... for.. you... Please... stay... home... for us."

Last Sunday I worked in the Montefiore Medical Center Moses Division Emergency Department and I want to share with you the real-life story—and most certainly not the worst story.

To back up... I had some concerning symptoms that started the previous Sunday at about 10 a.m. but escalated severely by Tuesday night. I was “approved” for COVID testing only because I had these symptoms and, perhaps, due to my age.

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Defying health experts who say we need a five-week national lockdown, Republicans and employers are pushing for workers to endanger themselves and everyone around them by returning to work in April.

As the coronavirus spreads, more and more workers who are still on the job are taking action to defend their health and safety and demand hazard pay. Here's a round-up. (For an earlier round-up, see “Organizing for Pandemic Time-Off,” Labor Notes, March 16, 2020.)

Capitol building in daytime.

This story has been updated to reflect changes in the policy and political debate.

At 1:30 a.m. today, Senate and House leaders and the Trump administration reached a deal on an enormous $2 trillion proposal to dramatically expand unemployment benefits, provide direct payments to American households, give money to state governments and Native American tribes, and assist businesses reeling from the economic catastrophe unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The coronavirus crisis is spurring record-breaking sales for grocery store chains, straining supply chains and exhausting employees.

Workers in Italy sitting outside a warehouse on strike in orange vests.

S.I. Cobas, or in Italian the Sindicati Interaziendali Comitati di Base (Cross-firm Base Committees) have done extensive work organizing in the logistics sector, principally in northern Italy. As their name suggests, base committees are formations at the “base” and are not part of the country’s three principal trade union federations: CGIL, CISL, and UIL.

In the light of this pandemic, it is imperative that we protect workers immediately, prevent the exploitation of this crisis by management, and consider how to use this moment to advance demands that last far beyond the coronavirus.

How do we do this? What is happening and what can we learn from each other?

Nurses performing drive-thru tests for COVID-19 at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan.

The COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest workplace issue of our lives. Across the country, it is throwing into relief the cold capitalist logic of American workplaces, where the health and safety of workers, their families, and the public is subordinate to the employers' need for profit.

This is an edited version of a piece by Leopoldo Tartaglia of the international department of the CGIL, Italy’s largest union federation. Read further down to see how Italian workers have fought for their health with widespread strikes. Thanks to Peter Olney for translation.

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