It’s Time to Strike! This Could Be the Last Stand for American Workers

From today’s New York Times:

Labor Day hit with an extra knife-twist of cruel irony this year, in an America that is barely trying to pretend anymore that the plight of tens of millions of working people merits national concern.

On Friday, the government announced a slowing recovery from the job losses and economic shutdown caused by the pandemic. Nearly 14 million Americans are now unemployed, and almost eight million more are euphemistically called “involuntary part-time,” meaning they would work more if there were enough work.

In March, as part of a wider stimulus, Congress expanded unemployment aid by $600 per week, a plan that scholars say may have temporarily reduced the nation’s poverty rate. As of mid-August, about 29 million Americans were receiving some form of unemployment assistance.

But the $600-per-week bonus ran out in July, and Senate Republicans have rejected Democrats’ bill to extend the payments. The G.O.P. is now working on its own more limited plan, though several Republican senators are reluctant to support even that.

Inaction may prove disastrous. Beth Ann Bovino, chief U.S. economist for S & P Global, told The Times last week that federal aid was meant as a kind of economic bridge through uncertain times, but, she added, “it looks like the ravine has widened and the bridge is halfway built, so there are a lot of people stranded.”

Bovino’s image suggests a way out of this mess: Workers should band together and demand, collectively, a bridge across the ravine.

To put it more plainly: It’s time for a general strike. Actually, it’s time for a sustained series of strikes, a new movement in which workers across class and even political divides press not just for more unemployment aid but, more substantively, a renewed contract for working in an economy that is increasingly hostile to employees’ health and well-being.

This may be the American worker’s last stand: If we can’t get our government to help us now, when will we ever?

Read the complete article here.

With pandemic relief programs set to run out for workers, a reckoning lies ahead

From today’s New York Times:

The multitrillion-dollar patchwork of federal and state programs intended to address job losses from the pandemic has not prevented tens of millions of layoffs or long lines at food banks. But it has mitigated the damage.

Now the expiration of those programs represents a looming cliff.

The $1,200 payments have already gone out to most eligible households. The lending program that helped millions of small businesses keep workers on the payroll will wind down if Congress does not extend it. And the $600 a week in extra unemployment benefits that have allowed tens of millions of laid-off workers to pay rent and buy groceries will expire at the end of July.

The economic damage wrought by the virus has been widespread. More than 40 million people — the equivalent of one out of every four American workers — have filed for unemployment benefits since mid-March. It is an astonishing tally that rivals the bleakest years of the Great Depression. And people continue to lose their jobs: the government reported Thursday that 2.1 million people had filed unemployment claims last week.

Now there are questions about how long the federal aid meant to cushion the blow will last.

Even the possibility that the programs will be allowed to expire could have economic consequences as consumers and businesses rein in spending, said Aneta Markowska, the chief financial economist for the investment bank Jefferies. “This economy is clearly going to need more support,” she said.

Economists including Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, have called for further action. But a partisan standoff on Capitol Hill makes it likely that any aid will be far more limited than the $3 billion package passed this month in the Democratic-controlled House.

President Trump and other Republicans have played down the need for more spending, saying the solution is for states to reopen their economies. Extending benefits, they say, could impede the recovery by giving people an incentive not to return to work.

Read the complete article here.