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.

woman outdoors holds sign: "You try 10% wage cut Carmel!"

Employers look at COVID-19 and see an opportunity to demand concessions.

Can concessions save jobs? Almost always they cannot, and certainly not in the big picture. Concessions can’t fix a collapsed market nor the 1%’s relentless assault on workers.

The best rationalization for concessions is a retreat to fight another day. Concessions may save jobs at a particular company in the short term if the union gets specific, concrete guarantees—but not without big risks. The competition will cut wages, too, and make that the new normal.

Masked person holding sign "Honor Our Contracts" in front of trees, other masked demonstrators

All summer, our union of undergraduate workers has been battling UMass Amherst over its response to the coronavirus crisis. We won personal protective equipment (PPE), campus-wide COVID testing, and workers comp; then we won the reversal of an incredibly dangerous reopening plan. Now we’re battling retaliatory layoffs.

Workers across the country are taking up the fight for health and safety and against furloughs, budget cuts, and concessions.

Faced with unsafe school openings, educators are at the forefront of these struggles—and we can learn a lot from them. On August 25, Labor Notes hosted a discussion with labor activists organizing around safe reopenings.

It was a pipe dream to think, when we went into crisis mode in March, that we could possibly have a vaccine for a rampantly growing and politically charged virus before school was due to resume in the fall.

How should our university be funded? Should students be liable for its debts? Who are the winners and losers when public higher education is privatized?

Graduate students at the University of Texas at Austin do not have formal union protections, but that has not stopped us from organizing to put demands on university administration during the pandemic.

Teachers wearing masks hold signs that say Make Our Schools Safe and Not Until It's Safe.

As the coronavirus continues to spread, teachers and school employees are being handed reopening plans that require them to be in their classrooms at the bell—and they are resisting.

Faculty at the University of Akron (UA) voted down a proposed contract on August 5 by 184-159. The offer blatantly violated the faculty’s union contract on order of layoffs and would have declared open season on public university union contracts, in Ohio and nationwide.

On July 15 the grocery chain Kroger announced that starting July 22 its stores would begin requiring mask coverings for all shoppers in its stores. Walmart had announced a similar measure earlier that day.

Shop stewards at the Strand, a prominent New York City bookstore, are denouncing owner Nancy Bass-Wyden for accepting federal loans but failing to keep workers on the payroll.


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