Belabored Podcast #198: Not Safe to Work

Belabored Podcast #198: Not Safe to Work

What should you do if your boss is pressuring you to return to an unsafe workplace?

(Joana Toro/ VIEWpress via Getty Images)

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As state governments rush to “reopen the economy,” you may be wondering whether you can really trust politicians who are gunning to get people back to work even as the COVID-19 death toll continues to climb steadily. And given that bosses have been failing to comply with safety standards at the workplaces that have remained open under the lockdown, you have reason to fear that the lifting of stay-at-home orders will precipitate more devastating outbreaks. So what do you do if your workplace is reopening, and your boss is pressuring you to resume your job, but you fear that your workplace will be unsafe—that there won’t be enough gloves and masks, or that you’ll be packed together with coworkers and will not be able to socially distance? We talked to Peter Dooley, Senior Project Coordinator of National Council for Occupational Safety and Health about what you need to know about your right to a safe workplace, and how workers can take action for better protections, both for their health and their right to organize.

In other news, we look at striking sanitation workers in New Orleans, striking apple packing plants in Washington’s Yakima Valley, a victory on “hero pay” for Kroger’s workers, and an organizing surge in teachers’ unions in West Virginia and Britain. With recommended reading on the essential workers threatened with deportation, and the promise and peril of the job guarantee.

This week’s show was supported by our monthly sustaining members. If you think our work is worth supporting, please consider becoming a member today. If you’re interested in advertising on the show, please email And as always, if you have any questions, comments, or tips, email us at


COVID-Related Strikes Hit Washington’s Apple Sheds (Capital & Main)

Worker strikes continue at 6 Yakima Valley packing houses; Apple shipments not affected overall (Yakima Herald)

Sarah: What Happened to Kroger’s “Hero Pay”?  (Dissent)

Striking New Orleans Sanitation Workers Escalate Their Fight  (New Orleans Public Radio)

The Growing Power of West Virginia’s Teachers (Progressive)

Boris Johnson Underestimated Teachers – Now They’re Fighting Back (Tribune)

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Peter Dooley, Senior Project Coordinator of National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (NCOSH)

Coronavirus: Resources for Workers (NCOSH)

Safe and Just Return To Work Toolkit (NCOSH)

Worker Safety & Health During COVID-19 Pandemic: Rights & Resources (National Employment Law Project)

Argh, I Wish I’d Written That: 

Michelle: Maurizio Guerrero, Thousands of Essential Workers Are at Risk of Deportation (In These Times)

Sarah: James Meadway, Pandemic Labour and the Politics of Job Guarantees (Novara)