"Disposable Workers" Doing Essential Jobs

Historians in the News
tags: labor, inequality, COVID19

Millions of Americans are risking their lives to feed us and bring meals, toiletries and new clothes to our doorsteps — but their pay, benefits and working conditions do not reflect the dangers they face at work.

Why it matters: People who stock grocery shelves and deliver packages never expected to be on the front lines of a national crisis, and now they're playing a vital, but undervalued, role. "These are viewed as essential jobs done by disposable workers," says John Logan, a U.S. labor historian at San Francisco State University.

What's happening: Some companies, including Amazon and Walmart, increased hourly pay or distributed cash bonuses to low-wage workers when the pandemic began — in recognition of the hazards involved — but many of those pay bumps are expiring as employers worry about how much longer the pandemic will last.

  • Kroger is ending its $2 an hour wage hike for grocery workers in mid-May.
  • Liquor store chain Total Wine & More's $2 an hour bump only lasted from mid-March to mid-April, per the Wall Street Journal.
  • Lawmakers have proposed bills that would make hazard or "hero" pay for low-wage essential workers more permanent, but it's unclear when or if those policies would take effect.
Read entire article at Axios

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