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.

Three workers seated around a table collaborate to draw a hazard map

Unions and bosses have different outlooks on safety. Employers say illnesses and injuries are caused by worker carelessness: he didn’t wash his hands enough; she touched her face. That’s the way the boss wants you to think, too.

But the union realizes that it’s the hazards themselves that cause injuries, and that it’s the boss who sets up the workplace, either designing in hazards or failing to design them out. The boss has everyone work in the same tiny space. The boss won’t install a cough guard between you and customers. Emphasize these different outlooks with workers.

Workers injured or killed by their jobs are honored every year on April 28, Workers’ Memorial Day. (It’s the anniversary of the date the Occupational Safety and Health Act went into effect in 1971.) This year the somber occasion is especially urgent, in the midst of the biggest workplace safety disaster this country has seen in decades.

In the midst of a pandemic wreaking havoc on Chicago, a victory was won by nurses and the community served by Provident Hospital. Located on the overwhelmingly black South Side near Washington Park, this institution has a rich history.

At this moment of unprecedented crisis, how can we ensure the physical safety and economic health of U.S. workers?

As we head into the fifth month of the outbreak millions of working families feel like they have been kidnapped and sent to hell.

As unemployment (officially reported) soars toward 30 percent or more, an estimated 20 million more people will fall helplessly below the poverty line. In a recent Pew poll, 60 percent of Latinos reported losing jobs or wages, as did more than half of all workers below the age of 30. In addition to their jobs, millions will lose everything they had spent their lives working for: homes, pensions, medical coverage, and savings accounts.

New York City transit workers working in a subway tunnel in 2017.

Transit workers have always known they were essential to the functioning of New York City. Wider public recognition of this fact has come at a high cost.

Group of singers in line, with arms around each other, at 2018 Labor Notes Conference.

Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Stacy Davis Gates led off the first-ever Labor Notes Virtual Conference April 18, calling on workplace activists to “pivot from mourning into action.

“This is a moment that we won’t get back, and if we’re not careful this moment will dovetail into more austerity,” she said. “I don’t want to go back to 2008....I do not want to go back to what anyone has deemed normal, because normal was insufficient for everyone.”

Two postal workers talking to each other inside an office.

I’ve had the honor and privilege to serve my fellow Baltimore postal workers as a shop steward for the last decade. Twelve years of challenges and triumphs at the Postal Service have helped define who I am—but no training could have prepared me to represent 1,500 postal workers during a global pandemic.

Group of protesters in Honduras assembled in the street with signs

On April 10 residents of Choloma, an industrial town in northern Honduras, blocked the main highway connecting the city of San Pedro Sula to the Port of Cortes. Choloma and nearby towns are the center of sweatshop production for U.S. brands in factories called maquilas. They are also the epicenter of COVID-19 in Honduras.

While workers around the world scramble for physical and economic safety in the pandemic, some factory owners in Southeast Asia see an opportunity to attack unions to increase their profits.

On March 28 the Myan Mode garment factory in Yangon, Myanmar, permanently fired all 520 union members working in the factory and withheld March wages, citing a decrease in orders due to COVID-19. But the Korea-based owners kept all 700 workers who are not members of the union, and the factory continues to operate.

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