This October, over 100,000 workers in industries as varied as manufacturing, health care, and filmmaking have authorized strikes. Many have tied the worker revolts to a COVID-induced labor shortage. But in truth, workers are taking direct action to improve their job quality due to a much more longstanding problem than the pandemic: the shortage of good jobs in the country.
The COVID economy has exposed and exacerbated longstanding trends of stagnant wages and poor working conditions—even as many companies generate near-record profits and executives pull down ever-increasing compensation. These trends have been particularly evident during the pandemic; workers risk their lives to produce goods and serve customers and yet are thanked with dramatically increased workloads and little to no increase in pay. The shortage of good jobs—those offering adequate pay and benefits—has also indirectly contributed to these strikes: Poor job quality coupled with the pandemic has shrunk the labor force, which in turn gives the remaining workers some leverage. Tight labor markets afford workers more power to push for improvements.
The above excerpt was originally published in Newsweek.
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