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Upending “Coronavirus Capitalism”

NLF Highlights for April

The whiplashing, inept national response to the coronavirus pandemic puts on full view our threadbare national social safety net and slim worker protections. In 2018, 45 percent of working-age adults, or 87 million people, confronted illness with insufficient health coverage or none at all for at least part of the year. The piecemeal U.S. unemployment system, erected in the 1930s to keep the jobless masses from communist alignment, is insufficient even during periods of low unemployment, but wholly inadequate to the current task of responding to the massive shuttering of businesses. At the outset of the pandemic, about a quarter of U.S. workers got no paid sick leave, and could be fired at will for nearly any reason, including calling in sick. A majority of these workers are made doubly vulnerable by their low wages that force them to live paycheck to paycheck. And it also turns out that many of them happen to be “essential workers,” in the idiom of today’s pandemic, who harvest crops, stock supermarket shelves, and ship prized staples like toilet paper from Amazon warehouses.
Progressive activists, policy makers, and intellectuals have begun to propose organizing and policy solutions to the underlying injustices made especially apparent by the coronavirus pandemic. Among the scholar-activists engaged in this effort are New Labor Forum consulting editors and faculty at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies, publisher of the journal. With this newsletter, we offer a selection of their recent writings on the crisis. And we end with a virtual talk by Naomi Klein, discussing how to resist “disaster capitalism” in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
Table of Contents
  1. If this is war, here’s what to do / Josh Freeman and Marc Kagan, New York Daily News
  2. It Didn’t Have to be Like This / Stephanie Luce, Labor Notes
  3. Three Truths and a Lie: A Version for Organizers / Deepak Bhargarva and Dorian Warren, The Nation
  4. Video: Naomi Klein Presents: Coronavirus Capitalism – and How to Beat it / Naomi Klein

If this is war, here’s what to do
By Josh Freeman and Marc Kagan, New York Daily News

Confronting the coronavirus virus is “like a war,” former Vice President Joe Biden declared on Sunday, echoing previous statements by Sen. Bernie Sanders, Mayor de Blasio, and others. With the CDC projecting a COVID-19 death toll that could surpass that of some U.S. wars, now is a time to learn from the homefront experience of past conflicts.
Read the full article here

It Didn’t Have to be Like This 
By Stephanie Luce, Labor Notes
 We have been forced to choose between two terrible options:
1. Lock ourselves down to prevent the spread of the virus, resulting in massive job loss—while many vulnerable workers are still forced to work in unsafe conditions, or
2. Maintain some business as usual, stemming the economic impact but putting tens of millions of people at risk.
It didn’t have to be like this.
Read the full article here

Three Truths and a Lie: A Version for Organizers
By Deepak Bhargarva and Dorian Warren, The Nation
In the current crisis, two post-neoliberal futures are blinking into view like holograms: one catastrophically vicious, miserable and authoritarian; the other more just, caring, and democratic. This is the political fork in the road we find ourselves confronting, and the decisions we make now will shape the next several decades of life in the United States and around the world. Which version of the future materializes very much depends on how progressives show up in these next months and years.
Read the full article here

Video: Naomi Klein Presents: Coronavirus Capitalism – and How to Beat it
By Naomi Klein
An online teach-in with – world famous activist and author Naomi Klein amongst others – held on March 26, 2020 On Thursday, over 14,000 viewers from across the globe tuned into an online teach-in featuring left-wing activists and authors Naomi Klein, Astra Taylor and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor who discussed how to resist disaster capitalism in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
Watch the full teach-in here

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Do you subscribe to New Labor Forum, our publication for labor and its allies to test and debate new ideas? In this new year, consider giving your favorite friends and colleagues a subscription too. Three times a year scholars, journalists, labor leaders and activists explore topics like the global economy’s impact on work and labor; new union organizing and political strategies; labor’s new constituencies and their relationship to organized labor’s traditional institutions; internal union reform and new structural models for the labor movement; alternative economic and social policies; and the role of culture in a new, revitalized labor movement. It is required reading for anyone who is concerned with issues of work, workers, and social change.  Subscribe now to get each issue of New Labor Forum.

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