Covid-19 and American Workers

The Covid-19 epidemic has impacted everyone in the United States in some way or another, but its impact on many categories of workers has been especially brutal. Some sectors, such as air transportation, hotels and restaurants, are virtually shut down, leaving workers without a paycheck. Meanwhile, workers employed in mass transit, grocery stores and especially hospitals and nursing homes are exposed to severe risk of infection, illness and death.

Let’s start with the unemployed. UNITE HERE, which represents more than 300,000 workers in hotels, restaurants and institutional cafeterias, reports that 98% of its members are out of work. The grand hotels of major cities and casinos of Las Vegas have gone dark, but those aren’t the only UNITE HERE members affected. Airline bookings have fallen through the floor. That’s led to furloughs and layoffs for flight attendants, pilots, ticket agents and ramp workers – and the kitchen workers who pack meals for airline flights. As readers of this blog well know, many of these workers also belong to UNITE HERE. Airline, hotel and restaurant workers surely have a long and difficult road ahead: with financial concerns and residual fears of infection, it will take years before Americans resume their pre-pandemic travel and entertainment spending levels.

While record unemployment affects much of the workforce, a few critical sectors are witnessing skyrocketing demand – and with it, skyrocketing risk of worker exposure to the coronavirus. Witness the challenges of supermarket cashiers and clerks: on April 13 the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) reported that covid-19 infections had killed at least 30 supermarket workers. Amazon warehouse workers don’t have a union, so there’s no workers’ representative to share numbers, but infections there have resulted in worker protests and walkouts. And of course no one faces a greater risk of infection than the doctors, nurses and techs treating covid-19 victims in our nation’s hospitals. Nearly 10,000 health care workers have been infected by the virus, making them a shocking 10-20% of the coronavirus cases. (Fortunately, many of these workers are young and have no prior health conditions, so there are fewer hospitalizations and fatalities than that number might suggest.)

Bus drivers and subway operators face the worst of both worlds. Reduced service means fewer hours and fewer jobs, and many riders are expected to steer clear of crowded buses and trains for the foreseeable future. But our metro employees continue to carry those at-risk health care, supermarket, and distribution center workers to and from their jobs, and mass transit is not configured for social distancing. The result? At least 75 transit workers killed by covid-19 despite reduced service. It’s especially bad in New York City, home of both America’s largest mass transit system and the pandemic’s domestic epicenter.

Please pray for the unemployed and those whose jobs place them at elevated risk for infection. And urge OSHA to issue an emergency temporary standard to protect everyone from unnecessary risk on the job.

2 replies
  1. James Blum
    James Blum says:

    Here is another HUGE problem if you are a Catholic Union Labor advocate.
    In the mail, I received notice from my healthcare provider that COVID-19 care was to be paid for at ? percent. That is good. At the bottom of the notice, the healthcare provider is now going to pay for an elective surgery that violates my religion and violates the code of life including the promotion and creation of life. That is bad.

    Wow. Neither my wife nor myself could believe what we were reading. At that point, my conscience kicked in as I felt cornered into a space surrounded by hungry animals with one intent and purpose while knowing we have to get out of that corner.

    What makes matters worse than that, in the last year, I have had family members benefits denied in large amounts that we had to pay out of pocket for promoting life. Those were not covered under our group insurance and are still not covered. Now we are going to have to pay for under our group insurance elective surgeries that don’t promote life but are designed to prohibit life.

    I won’t put up for it.

    There are some things you should not mess with. Those include societies ability to promote life. Depending on who you believe started the Coronavirus, some believe it was started in a lab narrowed down to one person who was told to NOT mess around with mutation of the Coronavirus. That person allegedly did not listen and we see what happened IF that is true. That is what happens when you do things that do not promote life.

    It is not coincidence that the Coronavirus letter and the elective surgery issue are on the same notice. Nothing happens by coincidence. There is not a doubt in my mind that this was on the same notice due to the fact that the world if being affected by a pandemic and someone thought this was the best time to sneak something in without someone noticing it.

    It is also not a secret that God will test your faith. The issue will only be if we fight for what is right and get out of the corner alive and victorious while also knowing that on judgement day we corrected a wrong to make it right. If someone wants to have an elective surgery that does not promote life, no one should stop them but it should not and in the future must not be covered by a group insurance policy that willfully violates my religion and the code of life. That is not progress but regression into a pagan life style thousands of years ago where life was not deemed important.

  2. Ric Schmidt
    Ric Schmidt says:

    We may finally have arrived at a place where the will of the masses to have a graduated income tax will overwhelm the very wealthy. It may be the only way out of this.

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