Labor and the Economy

Labor and the Economy

Municipal workers rally against the Mayor’s proposed doomsday layoffs. Foley Square, New York City, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020. Photo: Brett Wallace.

This is a new ongoing series about labor and the U.S. economy. Suggestions are welcome. Read time: 5 minutes. Due to brevity, I had to leave out many relevant updates.

1. There are Wide, Systemic Disparities in Unemployment
  • The U.S. Department of Labor announced the December unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.7%.1. The U-3 rate, as it’s called, represents people actively seeking a job. 2 A more accurate picture of unemployment pegs the rate at 25.7% (November 2020) – this rate skyrockets because it includes everyone who is unemployed, stopped looking for work, not earning above the poverty line, and/or working irregularly.
  • With these criteria, unemployment rates reach 30%+ for Black, Hispanic, and women workers.3 For historical reference, peak unemployment hit 24.9% in The Great Depression.
  • Disabled workers are heavily impacted by this crisis – According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people with disabilities have almost double the unemployment rate (11.0%) of those without a disability (6.7%).4
  • Based on data from all US recessions since 1949, an article points out the disparate gender impact women have faced in 2020. 5
  • In the workplace, discrimination continues to create barriers to career mobility. The Gallup Center on Black Voices finds that about “one in four Black (24%) and Hispanic employees (24%) in the U.S. report having been discriminated against at work in the past year.” 6.
2. Structural Inequalities Lead to Economic and Health Disparities from COVID-19
  • A study shows massive disparities in COVID-19 mortality rates across the U.S — “Pacific Islanders, Latino, Black and Indigenous Americans all have a COVID-19 death rate of double or more that of White and Asian Americans, who experience the lowest age-adjusted rates.”7
  • A New York City-based study on COVID-19-related mortality concluded, “existing structural determinants—including inequality in housing, access to care, differential employment opportunities, and poverty—that remain pervasive in Black and Hispanic communities should be addressed in order to improve outcomes in COVID-19–related mortality.” 8
  • The economic and health impact of Coronavirus has hit oppressed groups hardest. Majorities of Latino (72%), Black (60%), and Native American (55%) households report facing serious financial problems during the coronavirus outbreak, while 37% of Asian and 36% of White households also report this (see data below).9

3. Inequality Leads To Poor Countries Missing Out On The Vaccine
  • The United States has greater wealth inequality than any other developed nation. Millions of working families live paycheck to paycheck while the CEO-to-worker pay ratio was 264-to-1. 10. We are promised the free-market lifts all boats and not to question wealth accumulation. In reality, we are living in a neo-feudal society. [/efn_note] In 2020, the top 13 billionaires saw their wealth grow by $930.7 billion (32%), from March 18, 2020 – October 13, 2020. 11
  • Global wealth inequality hurts the lower income countries. According to Oxfam, “Nearly 70 poor countries will only be able to vaccinate one in ten people against COVID-19 next year unless urgent action is taken.” [/efn_note]Campaigners Warn That 9 out of 10 People in Poor Countries Are Set to Miss out on COVID-19 Vaccine Next Year.” 12
4. Back at Home – The Riot at the Capitol
  • With millions of working families suffering economic and health disasters from Coronavirus, Trumpists who stormed the Capital are not immune to the economic (and health) perils. But, instead of fighting for equality, they are fighting for an election they believe was stolen from them due to Trump’s incessant lies. They are also fighting for an American vision, communicated both overtly and covertly by Trump, that awards economic provisions and mobility for White Americans. And, this goes far beyond electoral politics or economic mobility for ultra-nationalist fascists – “the targets of the fascists are much broader, including the recent anti-racist rebellion, the entire BLM movement, women’s bodily autonomy, LGBTQ+ people, labor unions and the organized working class.” “We Must Stand United Against Trump and the Insurgent Far Right.”13.
  • Marx21 members Iannis Delatolas and Clare Lemlich share their views on what comes next for the left to unite against racism and fascism. 14
5. President-elect Biden’s Rescue and Rebuild Plan
  • Is Biden’s plan enough considering his empowerment of the ruling class over the poor? Part 1 of Biden’s plan includes $1,400 checks for eligible recipients along with additional relief for food and housing. 15. This plan comes after the relief act approved on December 30th. 16
  • Here’s Biden’s full Economic Plan. 17. I’m curious to see how Cecilia Rouse, Biden’s new chair of The Council of Economic Advisors, focuses the administration on the inequalities workers face.18
  • I’m interested in following the latest Universal Basic Income (UBI) experiments. There’s no shortage of critique on UBI so I’ll save a more detailed look at the topic for another post. 19
6. Activism against Big Tech’s Treatment of Workers
  • Amazon workers seek unionization at its Bessemer, Alabama fulfillment center (BHM1). 20 The workers filed a petition with the NLRB to hold an election to create a bargaining unit of 1,500 workers, represented by the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union.
  • DSA Tech Action testified before the NYC Council on how internet access in NYC is unevenly distributed along economic lines, reinforcing inequality.21
  • Uber and Lyft drivers filed a lawsuit to challenge Prop 22, a corporate-funded ballot initiative to classify drivers as independent contractors. 22 Tech Workers stand in solidarity with the drivers.23
  • The Drivers Cooperative, a ridesharing coop coming to New York City, offers an alternative to Uber and Lyft who exploit the labor of a 91%-immigrant workforce of 85,000 drivers.24
  • Google Workers formed a solidarity union, now at 700 due-paying members.25 Google recently fired researcher Timnit Gebru, one of the few Black women in her field, for her paper on the bias of AI. 26 Also, Google was recently found to have illegally fired 2 employees involved in labor organizing. 27

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  1. “Employment situation summary.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. n.d.
  2. “The real state of employment.” Brett Wallace – Artist. n.d.
  3. LISEP True Rate of Unemployment. Last modified October 13, 2020.
  4. “ODEP.” U.S. Department of Labor. Accessed January 15, 2021.
  5. “The Shecession (she-recession) of 2020: Causes and Consequences.” VOX, CEPR Policy Portal. Accessed January 13, 2021.
  6. Gallup. “One in Four Black Workers Report Discrimination at Work.” Last modified January 12, 2021.
  7. “COVID-19 Deaths Analyzed by Race and Ethnicity — APM Research Lab.” APM Research Lab. Accessed January 15, 2021.
  8. “Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Hospitalization and Mortality in Patients With COVID-19 in New York City.” JAMA Network | Home of JAMA and the Specialty Journals of the American Medical Association. Accessed January 15, 2021.
  9. “NPR-Harvard-RWJF Race-Ethnicity Poll_091620.pdf.” Google Docs. Accessed January 15, 2021.
  10. “Executive Paywatch.” America’s Unions | AFL-CIO. Accessed January 14, 2021.
  11. “Since Pandemic Began U.S. Billionaires’ Net Worths Jump $931 Billion, Or Nearly One-Third, as Working Families Suffer.” Americans For Tax Fairness. Last modified October 22, 2020.
  12. Oxfam International. Last modified January 8, 2021.
  13. Marx21 US. Last modified January 10, 2021.
  14. “US Marxists: Where Next After the US Elections?” International Socialism. Last modified December 17, 2020.
  15. Luhby, Tami, and Katie Lobosco. “Here’s What’s in Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Economic Rescue Package.” CNN. Last modified January 14, 2021.
  16. “The CARES Act Works for All Americans.” Front Page | U.S. Department of the Treasury. Accessed January 13, 2021.
  17. “Joe Biden’s Economic Plan: Save the Middle Class to Save America.” Investopedia. Accessed January 14, 2021.
  18. Borg, Linda, and The Providence Journal. “URI Trustee Picked by Biden Would Be the First Black Person to Lead Economic Advisers.” The Providence Journal. Last modified December 12, 2020.
  19. “Bloomberg.” Bloomberg – Are You a Robot?. Accessed January 13, 2021.
  20. Sainato, Michael. “Amazon Warehouse Workers in Alabama: ‘They Work You to Death’.” The American Prospect. Accessed January 13, 2021.
  21. Tech Action Working Group. Accessed January 15, 2021.
  22. “Some Uber, Lyft Drivers Sue over California Ballot Measure.” AP NEWS. Last modified January 13, 2021.
  23. Tech Workers Coalition. “Tech Workers Stand With “Gig” Workers Against Prop 22 Going National.” Medium. Last modified January 14, 2021.
  24. “About Us — The Drivers Cooperative.” The Drivers Cooperative. Accessed January 15, 2021.
  25. “We Built Google. This Is Not the Company We Want to Work For.” The New York Times. Last modified January 4, 2021.
  26. “Google Researcher Says She Was Fired Over Paper Highlighting Bias in A.I.” The New York Times. Last modified December 4, 2020.
  27. “Federal Labor Agency Says Google Wrongly Fired 2 Employees.” The New York Times. Last modified December 3, 2020.