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In Seattle and beyond, students, faculty, workers and activists are centering labor as they respond to the COVID-19 crisis.

This page, maintained by the staff of the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies, is meant to provide a resource for information and news about labor-related efforts for reference by faculty, students and the general public.

While we will make every effort to update this page throughout spring quarter (March 30-June 5, 2020), this page is not intended to be comprehensive or up-to-the-minute.

For up-to-date official information on the University of Washington's response to COVID-19, including closures and policies, visit www.washington.edu/coronavirus/

 

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Statement from the Harry Bridges Center

"No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance."

- Martin Luther King, Jr.

The truth of these words has been revealed in the response to COVID-19. Only a few weeks ago, workers in supermarkets, delivery drivers, factory workers, custodians, cleaners and many more were called ‘low-skilled.’ Today, along with health workers at every level, they are the ones holding things together for us all during this crisis.

The spread of COVID-19 has initiated a unique crisis across the globe. Travel restrictions, business closures, remote schooling, and all other attempts at social distancing have drastically altered our daily lives -- revealing how unequipped our global system is to address the material needs of workers, students, people of color, folks with disabilities, people who are houseless or housing-insecure, and more. Pre-existing gaps in social services and the social safety net have magnified, leaving many without work or a means to support themselves and their families.

At the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies, like many students and faculty at the University of Washington, we are privileged to have the ability to work, teach and learn from home with only some disruption. Our scholarship season will proceed as planned, our courses continue to be offered, and we are working to move our workshares and other events on-line.  

But as this crisis continues through the spring, the Bridges Center will strive to center the labor, formal and informal, that enables us all to survive and thrive. We will investigate how that labor is unfairly distributed and highlight how COVID-19 worsens inequalities between workers, along lines of race, gender, and country. And we will share how students and workers can come together, and how students are workers too, who also face unemployment, poor safety conditions, and other challenges.

We recognize that this is an especially difficult time for working people. For those whose jobs have grown all the more exhausting - healthcare workers, pharmacists, grocery workers, sanitation workers, domestic workers, warehouse workers, delivery drivers and more - we recognize that your labor is indispensable.  We therefore hope to support local efforts to obtain greater benefits during this time, and build worker power stronger into the future. We also thank local unions and worker organizations for their critical mobilizations.

For those who have found themselves out of work due to the virus outbreak, our aim is to support the efforts of mutual aid and resource pools, both institutional and grassroots. Throughout spring quarter, we will be posting resources to our webpage and encourage all to visit and share these in their networks, and volunteer if you are able.

We believe, if anything good can come out of this crisis, it will be a new social commitment to transforming and strengthening the rights and conditions of workers everywhere.

In solidarity,

The Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies - Andrew, Emma, Farheen, Kim, Quinn and Yasmin

 

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Small Grants Available for Student Projects on Labor Issues Related to COVID-19

In response to our current crisis, the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies is soliciting inquiries from undergraduate and graduate students who wish to study the impact of COVID-19 on workers or other labor-related issues. The Bridges Center is making available a small amount of money for research projects on these topics.

For project ideas, one place to start to look is a list of research questions recently developed by Labor Studies Faculty Associate Amy Hagopian and her colleague Nora Kenworthy.  Their labor-related questions include:   

  • What are the employment-related experiences of workers (including health care workers, transit workers, grocery store workers, among others) around access to personal protective equipment, staffing hours/time off, paid sick leave, covering their child care, and union/management relations?
  • What is the effect on employment in communities hit hard by the epidemic?
  • What kinds of health worker claims are being received by the workers compensation system during the pandemic?

Interested? Please send a short description of the research question you would like to pursue to hbcls@uw.edu . Bridges Center staff will work with you to develop a full proposal, including research methods, grant expenses, and final products.

 

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News from Labor Studies Faculty and Students

Bridges Center Associate Faculty Diana Pearce on why "more women are losing jobs than men amid coronavirus crisis." 

Following a recent study which showed that nearly 60% of Americans who have lost their job due to the pandemic are women, Pearce (School of Social Work and Director for the Center for Women's Welfare, UW) spoke with King 5 News about why this might be the case. 

Faculty from the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences reveal how "Federal Agencies are Failing to Protect Essential Workers."

Writing for the Seattle Times, Nancy J. Simcox (lecturer in the UW Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences and Bridges Center Associate Faculty) and Michael Yost (Professor and Chair of the UW Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences) expose the federal agencies neglect of essential workers and propose the steps needed to be taken in order to ensure their health and safety during the pandemic.

UW Center for Health Workforce Studies asks, "How many health care workers are at risk of being sacrificed to COVID-19 in the US?"

Bianca Frogner, director of the University of Washington's Center for Health Workforce Studies, estimates one in six health care workers are at risk of testing positive for COVID-19 and up to 380,000 may die if we emulate Italy's scenario. Frogner produced these estimates along with several scenarios based on testing and case fatality rates for COVID-19 in the US and abroad from March 30, 2020. In a blog post, Dr. Frogner discusses how we can reduce these numbers by ensuring proper protection for workers.

Follow the UW Center for Health Workforce Studies for on-going discussions of the role healthcare workers play in responding to COVID-19, and the protections and safe working conditions they need.

Bridges Center Associate Faculty Dan Berger on why incarcerated peoples should be freed to stop the virus spreading. 

Talking to the University of Washington Magazine, Berger, who is co-curator of the Washington Prison History Project, explains how the pandemic is threatening the lives and health of incarcerated peoples and urges local authorities to consider release. 

Labor Studies Student Provides Worker Perspectives from China

Labor Studies student Yingyi Wang, a PhD candidate in Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies, is currently conducting research in China and awaiting the lifting of travel restrictions. On the subject of how COVID-19 has impacted workers in that country, Wang suggested the following articles:

Wang also shared the reflections of Chinese labor activist Xiangzi. Just released from detention, Xiangzi wrote on social media about how the pandemic has impacted China's poor:

February 27, 2020

The situations of sanitation workers in Hong Kong seems more worse than counterparts in Guangzhou. How can HK community ignore them? In Mainland across the country (Guangzhou, Beijing, Shenzhen, Fuzhou, Shanghai, Chengdu, Zhuhai etc), during the outbreak of COVID-19, many high school/college students standing out and voice out for the wellness of sanitation workers since they are in the real frontline of anti-virus campaign. It is very influential and attract a lot public attention.
As far as I know, many HK sanitation workers not just facing the extreme potential threat from the outbreak in the community, but also are trapped in a extremely exploitative structure that compose of outsourcing, overloading, risk, discrimination, lower income, and un-unionized etc. But how can HK community put a focus on them too? And change it?

March 10, 2020

My older brother told me today, “I cannot even make a living in these days, and now I have to buy three additional phones for kids for the online courses, how can it possible?”

From March, due to the lack of conditions for on-site teaching, the schools in Guangdong Province, China and other places continues to close. Therefore, students in primary and middle schools have to take online courses from screening at home.

It’s the policy. That says, every student have to self-fund a electric device in order to catch the class from today. But what happen if you do not have the conditions, phones or the internet? I think the policy did not care about this. For many of the disadvantaged families, they already paid a lot for the living expense more during the outbreak of COVID19, and they even try to save money from using less data through shared internet or by non-smart phone, how can them afford to purchase for several new phones like my brother’s family and the additional internet data fees?

A vicious circle. Life is already hard for working people because of work stoppages or workplace partially closed, but not just this...

Millions of US workers at risk of infections on the job, UW researchers calculate

A group of University of Washington researchers calculates that 14.4 million workers face exposure to infection once a week and 26.7 million at least once a month in the workplace, pointing to an important population needing protection as the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, continues to break out across the U.S. The study was conducted by Marissa Baker, Labor Studies student Trevor Peckham, and Labor Studies Faculty Associate Noah Seixas, UW Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences, School of Public Health.

“Our findings serve as an important reminder that the workplace should be a focus for public health intervention, especially during disease outbreaks such as COVID-19,” Baker said. Estimating the burden of U.S. workers exposed to infection or disease is a key factor in containing risk of COVID-19 infection.

Worker Memorial Day Speeches

Read faculty speeches by Marissa Baker and Bianca Frogner from our Worker Memorial Day programme that took place on April 27th, 2020. 

Michael Honey, UW Tacoma professor of Ethnic, Gender and Labor Studies writes about Coronavirus and America's working-class struggles

"African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, recent immigrants doing low-wage work with few benefits, the incarcerated, people in immigrant detention centers, the homeless, and people in nursing homes get hit the hardest."

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News from Labor Organizations at the University of Washington

University of Washington's labor unions and staff and faculty associations have been actively addressing COVID-19, providing regular updates and resources.

If you see a University of Washington workers' organization missing from this list, please notify us at hbcls@uw.edu.

 

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News from the Greater Labor Community

Labor and community groups have played a critical role in the social response to COVID-19. Below are several worth following for news and calls-to-action.

  • Sign-up for the AFL-CIO's COVID-19 Pandemic Daily Brief for the latest information from organized labor across the United States.
  • Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO published a guide to protecting Asian American and Pacific Islander workers from racism and discrimination in the workplace.
  • Got Green, the Seattle area environmental justice organization, issued a call-to-action and provides an excellent list of community resources.
  • La Resistencia on Instagram posts up-to-date news and calls-to-action regarding COVID-19 conditions at the Northwest Immigrant Detention Center in Tacoma, WA.
  • Labor Notes, a foremost source for labor news in the United States and byeond, is reporting on worker organizing during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Pacific Rim Solidarity Network (Parisol), a Seattle-based Chinese/Chinese-diaspora organization devoted to building international solidarity, published this editorial: "Racist coronavirus response needs healing through solidarity"
  • The Stand, the daily publication of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, provides up-to-the-minutes updates from organized labor. Be sure to sign up for their daily email newsletter.
  • Worker Memorial Day speech by April Sims, read here

 

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Resources for Workers and Vulnerable Communities

Need help? Looking for an opportunity to volunteer or donate? Here are a few online resources dedicated to helping workers and vulnerable communities impacted by COVID-19.

 

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