Corporations continue to exploit workers during pandemic

Corporations continue to exploit workers during pandemic

Photo Credits: AGGIE FILE

Support workers every day, not just May 1

On May 1, the UC Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) movement and UC Academic Federation of Teachers were among more than 80 graduate and university labor organizations that participated in International Workers’ Day demonstrations. As UC campuses have transitioned to online instruction and have suspended in-person operations in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, graduate students continued their call for livable wages and joined lecturers — who also face job insecurity as they currently work without a contract — in bringing attention to the threat of future staff layoffs.

These actions were set against the backdrop of a larger, nationwide strike at a number of companies — including Amazon, Target, Trader Joe’s, FedEx and Instacart — that took place on the same day. Strikers fought for hazard pay and stricter health and safety measures at their places of work, imploring people to boycott these companies while the strike was ongoing. They want, and deserve, to be properly protected and adequately compensated by their wealthy employers for the essential services that they are still performing.

The Editorial Board is in solidarity with the COLA movement, university lecturers and all workers who chose to take action on May 1. We urge everyone to support the workers who are keeping our education and essential services viable — especially as the country continues to feel the effects of the coronavirus. It’s inconceivable that employers are not providing workers with the bare minimum — financial security and workplace safety — needed to perform their jobs without risking their lives.

The pandemic has taken the lives of over 80,000 people living in the U.S., and the resulting economic slowdown has put tens of millions of Americans out of work. It has exacerbated the profound societal issues that stem from a broken health care system and a culture of worker exploitation. 

Millions of the country’s unemployed are expected to lose their health care coverage as a result of being removed from their previous employer’s plan. And because the country has neglected to invest in a comprehensive plan for Medicaid expansion, almost a third of those people will be forced to go without any insurance because they do not qualify for Medicaid where they live.

Had American workers been compensated with wages commensurate with the growth in earnings that top executives have experienced over the past several decades, it would have been much more feasible for many of those who lost their jobs during this crisis to save up enough cash to get by. But as wages have remained stagnant, American workers and the unemployed are left especially vulnerable during an extreme economic downturn.

But even those who are still employed at this time are being forced to risk contracting the virus without any additional compensation while facing backlash from the wealthy corporations — like Amazon — that employ them. Claims of a shortage of protective gear, lack of sanitation and inadequate paid sick leave policies have driven warehouse, delivery, store and gig workers to speak out against their employers and participate in the May 1 strike. 

We encourage everyone to push for fair labor practices and livable wages, and to find alternatives to using the services of companies that aren’t providing their workers with them. Whenever possible, buy from independent stores instead of Amazon and tip gig workers directly in cash instead of through the app. We all must do our part to help those who are helping us during this difficult and trying time.

Written by: The Editorial Board