The “re-opening” of the American economy while the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is still circulating puts workers at heightened risk of contracting the deadly virus. In some blue-collar industries, the risk is particularly acute because of the inherent nature of the work itself and of the workplaces in which it is conducted. And the risk, for a variety of reasons, falls disproportionately on people of color and low-income workers. With governors stay-at-home orders and other pandemic safety restrictions, Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholars Thomas McGarity, Michael Duff, and Sidney Shapiro examine the federal government’s many missed opportunities to stem the spread of the virus in the nation’s workplaces, and make recommendations for what needs to happen next to protect employees on the job.
The COVID-19 work stoppages involving employees refusing to work because they are fearful of contracting coronavirus provides a dramatic opportunity for newer workplace law observers to grasp a well-established legal rule: both unionized and non-union employees possess rights to engage in work stoppages under the National Labor Relations Act. This article explains that employees engaging in concerted work stoppages, in good faith reaction to health and safety dangers, are prima facie protected from discharge. The article carefully distinguishes between Section 7 and Section 502 work stoppages. Crucially, and contrary to Section 502 work stoppages, the health and safety-related work stoppages of non-union employees, protected by Section 7, are not subject to an “objective reasonableness” test.
Having analyzed the general legal protection of non-union work stoppages, and noting that work stoppages have been on the increase during the last two years, the article considers when legal protection may be withdrawn from such concerted activities because employees repeatedly and unpredictably engage in them—so called “unprotected intermittent strikes.” Discussing a recent NLRB decision, the article argues for an explicit and strengthened presumption of work stoppage protection for employees who are wholly unaffiliated with a union, even when those employees engage in repeated work stoppages in response to discrete workplace disputes or dangers.
Millions of Americans are working from home in the ongoing public health effort to halt the spread of coronavirus. But many don’t have the benefit of home offices. They are creating makeshift workspaces from their dining room tables, kitchen counters, living room couches, or folding tables and chairs. While these workstations may meet basic needs, most fail to provide sound ergonomic design, according to April Chambers, an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education. Chambers specializes in occupational ergonomics and bioengineering. She expects a steep rise in the number of people who are experiencing pain or discomfort in their neck, back, or shoulders. Unchecked, the pain can develop into long-term musculoskeletal injuries.
Source: Paul Frymer, Jacob M. Grumbach, American Journal of Political Science, Early View, First published: June 29, 2020
From the abstract:
Scholars and political observers point to declining labor unions, on the one hand, and rising white identity politics, on the other, as profound changes in American politics. However, there has been little attention given to the potential feedback between these forces. In this article, we investigate the role of union membership in shaping white racial attitudes. We draw upon research in history and American political development to generate a theory of interracial labor politics, in which union membership reduces racial resentment. Cross‐sectional analyses consistently show that white union members have lower racial resentment and greater support for policies that benefit African Americans. More importantly, our panel analysis suggests that gaining union membership between 2010 and 2016 reduced racial resentment among white workers. The findings highlight the important role of labor unions in mass politics and, more broadly, the importance of organizational membership for political attitudes and behavior.
Source: Good Jobs First, 2020
A new website from Good Jobs First combines CARES Act recipient data and accountability information on the companies from Violation Tracker, Subsidy Tracker and other sources.
The 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (or CARES Act) provides hundreds of billions of dollars in assistance to large and small corporations whose operations have been disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The public deserves to know which companies are receiving the assistance and whether aid is flowing to firms with a poor record of corporate accountability.
Covid Stimulus Watch answers those needs. It assembles CARES Act recipient data and combines it with information about each firm’s history of regulatory violations, previous government assistance, federal tax avoidance, and CEO and worker pay practices.
Source: Strikewave, 2020
Workplace health and safety is more important now, than ever. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, essential workers—whether unionized or not—have fought employers to ensure that workers and the public are protected.
One tool available to workers: complaints made to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA. We’ve compiled an interactive map of COVID-19 complaints made nationwide including the names of employers, narrative descriptions of their offenses, and an overall breakdown of complaints by industry.
Source: Daniel M. Thompson, Jennifer A. Wu, Jesse Yoder, and Andrew B. Hall, PNAS, first published June 9, 2020
From the abstract:
In response to COVID-19, many scholars and policy makers are urging the United States to expand voting-by-mail programs to safeguard the electoral process, but there are concerns that such a policy could favor one party over the other. We estimate the effects of universal vote-by-mail, a policy under which every voter is mailed a ballot in advance of the election, on partisan election outcomes. We find that universal vote-by-mail does not affect either party’s share of turnout or either party’s vote share. These conclusions support the conventional wisdom of election administration experts and contradict many popular claims in the media. Our results imply that the partisan outcomes of vote-by-mail elections closely resemble in-person elections, at least in normal times.
From the summary:
Note: This report is based primarily on data from governors’ budget proposals for fiscal 2021 and reflects state fiscal conditions before the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis. NASBO expects the data in this report will serve as an historical baseline for comparison to post-COVID fiscal conditions. Read more about the post-COVID-19 state budget outlook.
This report shows that before the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis, state fiscal conditions were strong overall and rainy day fund balances were at an all-time high. Governors’ (pre-COVID) budgets for fiscal 2021 were focused on investing in key priorities while calling for modest spending growth, with an emphasis on fiscal discipline and preparing for the next recession.
Source: Dan White, Emily Mandel, and Colin Seitz, Moody’s, June 24, 2020
• States and local governments will need approximately $500 billion in additional aid over the next two fiscal years to avoid major damage to the economy.
• Timing is of the essence, as state and local policymakers face several important budget deadlines in the weeks and months ahead.
• If action is not taken quickly enough, the spending cuts and tax increases that would need to be undertaken could cost several million additional jobs and further delay the recovery.
• The specter of a second wave of widespread infections is broadening the distribution of potential downside scenarios.
Source: Moody’s, June 23, 2020
Many states suffering revenue declines because of the coronavirus outbreak will cut K-12 funding, leaving school districts having to raise revenue, reduce expenses or draw down reserves. Raising revenue or reducing expenses generally lowers credit risk the most, while spending reserves, particularly large single-year drawdowns, tends to carry the greatest risk.