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.

Produce seller with his sidewalk stand in Chinatown, New York, in front of store

Labor Notes’ Saurav Sarkar spoke with New York City teacher Annie Tan on March 23 about the rise in anti-Asian racism with the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Labor Notes: Can you tell me a little bit about your family background and how it connects to organizing against anti-Asian racism?

The following is a lightly edited version of a special edition of the UE Steward, the United Electrical Workers’ monthly publication for stewards. Labor Notes is reprinting it under the terms of the UE’s reuse policy and in our shared interest of promoting democratic, rank-and-file unionism. For more coronavirus resources for workers, visit labornotes.org/coronavirus.

Garment workers march in protest.

The world is in the grips of a horrible pandemic that will touch us all. But as has almost always been the case, the burden of COVID-19 will disproportionately fall on marginalized and working people. In New York, now the epicenter of the U.S. crisis, we watch as the crisis pushes the stories of previously invisible workers—the grocery store clerks and delivery persons, transit workers and hospital orderlies—squarely into the public conversation.

Union members at a Detroit-area auto parts plant refused to work March 19 and 20 after learning that a management employee had tested positive for the coronavirus. Angry first-shift workers gathered outside the plant and refused to enter.

Strikes, work stoppages, and protests this week at Amazon, Instacart, Whole Foods, and other workplaces may not have done much to shut down the nation’s stores and warehouses, but they sent America a very loud and potent message none the less.

This week and last, Labor Notes invited labor leaders and organizers to talk via Zoom about what we can do to organize during this pandemic. These are the beginning steps we came up with:

SPREAD OUT written on a sign above a road with pillars in the background.

Workers’ health and safety matter more than anything, but workers are being forced to choose between their income and their health. It is right and necessary to be angry about how you and your co-workers are being treated.

Many workers still on the job during this pandemic are upset about their working conditions. But can you get in trouble for talking about your concerns—to your co-workers, on social media, or to the newspaper?

In a word: no. Not legally, anyway.

The coronavirus pandemic poses serious risks to those workers still on the job, and all too often, management is acting slowly and doing far too little to protect essential employees like grocery workers, UPS driver

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