Wednesday, August 05, 2020

History of Labour in a Pandemic

Something about labour unions:  it looks like people with strong unions have better odds of surviving in a pandemic than those without.

I don't have a clue what is the right thing to do about the reopening of schools this fall. But I do note that when politicians declare, well, the experts say what we just decided will work fine, teachers' unions are stepping in energetically in hopes of preventing a lot of their members -- and also the students they teach -- from dying in the process.  Transit unions, nursing unions, and others have also been assertive about the safety measures their members (and their clients) require.  Jacobin magazine argues it's a general rule, but it doesn't seem to be a story that major media and commentators have taken up.

It's hard not to conclude that if workers in nursing homes had had strong unions able to act on unsafe working conditions, instead of being unrepresented marginal gig-work piecework contractors, more of them, and their patients, could have survived last winter and spring. Same with slaughterhouse workers, migrant farm workers, Uber and limo drivers, and others. Regulation didn't seem to help them the way being organized might have.

Where university faculty fit on this line is not very clear. Universities are starting to announce their reopening plans for the fall, but one does not hear much from faculty organizations. I seem to hear about young people planning an unexpected gap year, but not much from those who would have taught them.

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