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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  • With these criteria, unemployment rates reach 30%+ for Black, Hispanic, and women workers.3 For historical reference, peak unemployment hit 24.9% in The Great Depression.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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