The power of a general strike

Drawing by Jen Dolan

Happy Labor Day! This is actually a happy day for labor. Low wage earners are finally seeing an increase in income and paid sick leave. Workers in several industries are finally being granted more flexibility in scheduling and the option of working from home. While this may not be due to the actions of any labor union, it is in fact the result of a general strike; one that was brought about by the pandemic and funded by the federal government.

In the future, we may remember different things about living in the time of COVID. We ought not forget how a more generous unemployment benefit lifted so many people out of poverty, or how so many workers who were never granted sick leave of any sort in the past, were finally granted paid sick leave because the government acted in the interest of the American people.

A lot of frustration remains. People refusing to be vaccinated have prolonged the pandemic, and this has most certainly taken its toll on healthcare workers. As the Delta variant sweeps the nation, and our state, many workers are deeply concerned about putting themselves at greater risk of catching COVID. While vaccinated people without a suppressed immune system are unlikely to suffer a severe case should they catch COVID, there is still a lot that we don’t know about the long term effects of the virus.

Industries other than healthcare are also scrambling to find employees. Even as pandemic unemployment ceases, and people receiving benefits are once again required to apply for jobs, a worker shortage remains. Perhaps it is, at least in part, because people have experienced how a strike can improve work conditions. The fact that COVID still rages on is most certainly a factor, and how businesses respond to the need to get employees vaccinated is likely seen as a bargaining chip.

Some labor unions have taken the unfortunate stance of opposing mandatory vaccination in the workplace. Meanwhile, there are members of labor unions who wish that these organizations would do more to encourage vaccination. After all, vaccination is as much about keeping workers safe as requiring hard hats be worn at certain work sites.

Once again, it is time for our government to act in the interest of the American people by making vaccination mandatory. If politicians are serious about getting America back to work, this is something they should support. This is the only way we achieve herd immunity.

One thing we all should agree with is safety for our workforce. If you are concerned about product scarcity and long wait times everywhere, then you can clearly see that we must get people back to work. To do this, we must ensure that all workers are granted a safe work environment and a living wage. We are so close to reaching that goal.