Tag Archives: workers

Pandemic Privacy and Discrimination

New Orleans      Businesses are madly lobbying Congress for liability protection from lawsuits by their workers.  They are clear that they want their staff to return to work, but they do not want to have to vouch for their health on the job.  Business must be worried that if their boy doesn’t make it back to the White House, then there might be a real Occupational Health and Safety Administration and hell to pay.  Face it, for business all workers are essential.  The economy doesn’t run without workers.  It is an interesting irony that in a pandemic, all capitalists become Marxists when they are forced to remember that nothing works without workers.  It is not paradoxical that the same business capitalists want to turn to the politicians they own in donor servitude to save them from their workers now that they are reminded, they are all critical.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) must not be equally under the grip of the White House.  They issued an order recently forbidding businesses to discriminate in recalling and employing older workers over 65-years of age, fearing that these workers might be more susceptible to Covid-19, and that they would be liable.  It is easy to predict that in the magical mystery tour of layoff and recall now, that few seniors may get this message and many more may be lost in the EEOC filing bureaucracy forever as they seek a callback.

Local 100 United Labor Unions represents many state employees in Arkansas.  As the state determinedly tried to reopen, regardless of the spiking numbers of cases and deaths from this coronavirus, they were desperate to curtail remote workers and have them back in state offices.   Toney Orr, 100 field director and Arkansas state director, shared with me the survey questions sent to state workers.  The state wanted to know how they obtained groceries or prescriptions.  They wanted to know when and where they went outside of their home.  Where they traveled and why?  You get the message.  The state wanted to investigate and essentially regulate their nonwork and at home activity to build its own case for compelling them to come to the office using the information to establish that they were not quarantined in their own homes.  Tell me that’s not an invasion of privacy.  Where’s the ACLU?  Workers with underlying conditions are facing return to office demands. What do conservative Republicans call state intervention in the personal lives of people?  Overreach, right?  Bad news, guys, workers have rights to privacy, too.  I guess I mean, don’t they?

Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM have all agreed to stop selling police facial recognition software until there are rules and regulations that govern surveillance.  We need the same protection for workers now on remote work, key stroke monitoring, boss drive-bys, and especially requirements to come back to offices until they are guaranteed to meet health and safety standards.

No workers are safe in a pandemic.  Neither are their bosses who must be both responsible and accountable.


Supplemental Unemployment is the Best Thing about the Pandemic

New Orleans      What could possibly be good about a pandemic?  OK, not much, but…there are some things that have turned out to be a complete win.  The one that I hear over and over again is the huge benefits that supplemental unemployment has brought to people who were underemployed or unemployed.  For many, it has been seriously life changing.

Losing your job is terrible.  Cobbling together low wage jobs is a horror.  In the best of times looking for work is painful and depressing.  No way to put sugar in that coffee.  Worries about the future remain ever present.

At the same time, especially for lower waged workers, $600 supplemental unemployment in addition to whatever regular unemployment workers were entitled to receive, coupled with a stimulus check, has taken huge weight off of many workers and opened doors for others.  The examples I’ve seen are endless.

  • Workers feel they have the security to actually volunteer in their communities, take on projects and passions that might lead to work or initiatives later. I know people who have found a niche in delivering supplies in the pandemic, created database tools for research, and have been able to protect their small businesses with the additional governmental support.
  • Some workers are making more until July 31st than they have ever made allowing them real comfort as well as creating leverage because of their current status on employers to increase wages to keep staff, especially essential workers.
  • Some workers have used the supplemental pay to finally take a breath, spend time with family, exercise, garden, and think about the future.  I talked to a woman on the phone last night who was almost giddy in describing what the increased financial security had meant to her life and thinking about the future.

Many Republican senators are saying that an extension of supplemental pay will happen essentially over their dead bodies.  Electorally speaking, they should be careful, because people are trying it, and they are liking it.  I’m betting this kind of subsidy and its popularity, despite the pandemic, is not going to disappear, but will evolve into increased support for guaranteed annual income, and, just maybe, I’m hoping for a re-evaluation of our welfare programs, though admittedly that is less likely.

Here’s another benefit that no doubt has conservatives grinding their teeth in despair.  The supplemental unemployment has provided sustenance for activism.  Without a doubt we see some more marginally employed progressives taking full advantage of this income insecurity to increase their commitments and involvement.  A more granular study than my anecdotal reflections, I would bet would find that this income security has helped provide part of the infrastructure for marches and protests in the current movements against racism and police brutality that would normally have been difficult without more direct organizational participation and involvement.  On the other side of the coin, landlords are receiving more rent because of the supplemental unemployment, grocery stores are selling more food, and home repair outfits are bursting at the seams to keep up with DYI projects.

This is the silver lining of the pandemic, literally.