The Case For a General Strike in the Aftermath of COVID-19.
In order for the working class to be protected in the wake of a global pandemic, it’s time to stand together in solidarity.
As devastating and as unprecedented as these times are, I’ve appreciated the opportunity it has given met to reflect, and consider how we got here and how we need to move forward after the spread of the coronavirus has stopped. When all is said and done, there will be millions of us going back in to a work force that we have every ability in the world to rebuild and make better for the people who fuel it. We are witnessing firsthand the power that we have in our hands, and what we could actually achieve with a worker’s strike.
Maybe it’s the naive eternal optimist in me, but I can’t help remaining hopeful that something is happening.
Recently Lauren Kaori Gurley of VICE reported that the worker’s strike may be starting with the Amazon owned company Whole Foods, writing:
“On March 31, Whole Foods employees will call in sick to demand paid leave for all workers who stay home or self-quarantine during the crisis, free coronavirus testing for all employees, and hazard pay of double the current hourly wage for employees who show up to work during the pandemic.
…‘The most obvious demand we have is for an increase in hazard pay. We’re asking for double pay,’ a Whole Foods worker in Chicago and organizer of the “sick-out” who wished to remain anonymous because they feared retaliation, told Motherboard. ‘Since we first announced the intent to do a sick out, Whole Foods announced a temporary raise of $2 an hour, which isn’t enough. A bunch of us have already gotten sick. It’s very plausible that some of us will die for this job.’”
Now more than ever, workers across the country are realizing the power that they have, and the critical role they play in the functioning of our society. “Unskilled” suddenly became “essential”, serving as a reminder of their purpose and contributions to the communities around them. With little pay and a lack of respect overall, workers like those at whole foods are putting their lives on the line in order to keep their communities fed, and realizing that they are able to demand more for their work.
There has never been a stronger case for a worker strike.
If we are going to protect our workers in the aftermath of this crisis, we need to use the powerful leverage we now know we have in order to secure better conditions across the board. Now is the time to demand robust paid sick leave plans, paid family leave, a sizable increase in the minimum wage, and the overall establishment of a strong safety net for the workers across the country. There is no denying that the crisis we find ourselves was further exacerbated by the lack of programs designed to keep our working class secure, and failing to act now to demand that changes will only lead to more trauma and instability down the line.
Imagine how having guaranteed paid sick leave for workers would have slowed the spread. Imagine how much more secure people would feel knowing that they were going to be earning their paycheck while they stayed home and did their part in helping to prevent giving this deadly disease to the people around them? It becomes increasingly obvious as time goes on that a workers strike may be the best way to ensure that we have these protections in place moving forward. We have a massive amount of leverage at our hands that those in positions of power have been determined to keep us from understanding, and it’s time to use it.