Since the beginning of coronavirus lockdowns, the words “essential workers” are suddenly on everyone’s lips. Hospital orderlies, bathroom cleaners, bus drivers – until recently ignored, denigrated, and underpaid – are suddenly treated as heroes. Locked-down Americans stand in front of their houses at 7:00 pm to applaud them. Politicians give speeches celebrating them. These workers were always essential to the running of our society, but now they are being recognized as such. Recognized — but abused more than ever.
This is the fourth in a series of commentaries proposing an Emergency Green New Deal. Mass unemployment, misery, and impoverishment require emergency response not only to the medical pandemic but to the economic catastrophe that is accompanying it. “The Coronavirus Depression and the Emergency Green New Deal” explores a program tailored to the realities of the economic emergency.
When I look at the so-called “world order” of the human race, I lick my chops. In the good old days, my ancestors used to be able to conduct pandemics around the world without interference. And it looks like the good old days are coming back!
When young people around the world began their Climate Strikes, organized workers began joining in, contributing to the September 20, 2019 tally of more than seven million participants worldwide. Many unions were poised to help make the 2020 Earth Week climate strikes still bigger—when the coronavirus pandemic intervened. But trade unionists and other climate protectors are saving Earth Week by taking it on-line.
t was hardly surprising when a group of trade unions sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking him to provide ventilators and other personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers and all other workers put at risk by exposure to coronavirus.
On March 26, the Labor Network for Sustainability convened a videoconference in which leaders of the environmental, climate, and climate justice movements heard directly from leaders of seven unions about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their members and what they are doing about it.
There have been more than a dozen strikes in the past two weeks by workers striking to protect themselves against infection by the coronavirus. Some have already won increased protection but there is still much needed work to be done to ensure all frontline workers are adequately protected. What do these strikes portend for the future?
While the economic future is a bit unpredictable even in normal times, there are plenty of indications that American workers will be facing unemployment at historic levels for many months or even years to come.
On March 19, New York activist and student Erik Forman wrote, “I spent some of today doing deliveries with a volunteer crew of unemployed Uber drivers, mostly to elderly people living in public housing developments.” He asked for a small amount of funds to continue this work and scale it up, and “build momentum for emergency funds to pay for home delivery of meals as a public utility in the crisis.”