Belabored: Back to Work

Belabored: Back to Work

If you’re nervous about going back to work, you’re not the only one. Workers and labor advocates discuss what the lifting of pandemic-related restrictions might mean for workplace safety and labor rights.

A man with a mask walks out of a Starbucks near a "if you are fully vaccinated, facial coverings are optional" sign displayed on a door in NYC on May 26, 2021. (Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

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After over a year of lockdowns and mass death, this past Memorial Day weekend seemed to mark a turning point in our so-called recovery. As we move toward vaccinating a majority of the nation’s adults, people are beginning to travel and gather in groups again, and millions are returning to their workplaces and rejoining the labor force. And now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a new guidance on mask wearing, dramatically loosening both indoor and outdoor guidelines for people who are vaccinated.

So how are you feeling about going back to work? If you’re a bit nervous, you’re not the only one. Unions and labor advocates have decried the new guidelines for failing to take into account occupational safety, and have called on the Biden administration to issue a workplace-safety standard specifically for COVID-19. For our 223rd episode, we spoke to workers and labor advocates about what the lifting of pandemic-related restrictions might mean for workplace safety and labor rights. We talked to two members of the New York-based Worker’s Justice Project, Mercedes Aguilar and Gustavo Ajche; and Debbie Berkowitz, Worker Health and Safety Program Director, National Employment Law Project.

In other news, we look at Naomi Osaka refusing to play ball at the French Open; a “right to return” bill for laid-off workers in Nevada with Geoconda Argüello-Kline; a labor trafficking case linked to a Hindu sect; and research on bad jobs in the gig economy and what to make of Uber’s much-hyped deal with a UK union with Matt Cole of Fairwork and the Oxford Internet Institute. With recommended reading on organizing college athletes and a historic cartoonists’ strike.

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Hindu Sect Is Accused of Using Forced Labor to Build N.J. Temple (New York Times

GLJ-ILRF Stands in Solidarity With New Jersey Workers Who Exposed Forced Labor and are Demanding Transnational Labor Justice Across the BAPS Global Supply Chain  

Fairwork UK Ratings 2021: Labour Standards in the Gig Economy 

Uber’s union deal doesn’t mean its battles are over (Wired

We’re not the good guys: Osaka shows up problems of press conferences (The Guardian)

Sarah: Don’t Call It a Boycott: NBA Players Are Inspiring a Strike Wave (Progressive)

Culinary Union applauds the Nevada Legislature for standing with hospitality workers and for the passage of Senate Bill 386 Right to Return

Gaming and labor leaders reach a compromise on ‘Right to Return’ legislation (The Nevada Independent)


Workplace safety and the post-pandemic “recovery,” with:

Mercedes Aguilar, Worker’s Justice Project

Gustavo Ajche, Worker’s Justice Project

Debbie Berkowitz, Worker Health and Safety Program Director, National Employment Law Project

Unions are horrified at the mask mandate rollback — and fear workers’ lives are at risk again (Salon)

CDC’s Mask Guidance Ignores Workers’ COVID-19 Risk (Time)

NELP Decries New CDC Mask Guidance for Failing to Address Workplace Exposure 

Which States and Cities Have Adopted Comprehensive COVID-19 Worker Protections? 

Michelle: Essential Workers Fight for Their Lives (In These Times)

Michelle: This Amazon Grocery Runner Has Risked Her Job to Fight for Better Safety Measures, (In These Times)

Argh, I wish I’d written that!

Sarah: Nathan Kalman-Lamb, Derek Silva and Johanna Mellis, There’s never been a better time for US college athletes to unionize (The Guardian)

Michelle: Paul Prescod,  80 Years Ago Today, Disney Animation Workers Went on Strike (Jacobin)

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