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On Employment & Work ‘After The Pause’ - A Labor Perspective From Western New York AFL-CIO Area Labor Federation President Richard Lipsitz

Published Monday, May 11, 2020
by WNYALF President Richard Lipsitz
On Employment & Work ‘After The Pause’ - A Labor Perspective From Western New York AFL-CIO Area Labor Federation President Richard Lipsitz Editor’s Note: Richard Lipsitz (Pictured Above) is President of the Western New York AFL-CIO Area Labor Federation (WNYALF), whose Regional Labor Federation’s 140 affiliated Local Unions combine to represent 145,000 Union Workers in the Public and Private Sectors and the Building Trades.


It is safe to say that the overwhelming majority of Working Class People are fervently awaiting the end of the pause.

We are all eagerly anticipating the return to work for those laid off and a return to a more normal work schedule for those who have been employed throughout the COVID-19 emergency.

We want a living wage, health care, retirement security and a safe workplace returned to those who have had these conditions and expanded to those who have not.

The real question is how and under what conditions will this desire become reality?

Unfortunately, the leadership of our national government has decided on a path filled with reckless assumptions and dangerous implications.

It is clear that for the Trump Administration, the continued and accelerated death toll is a price worth paying for what they think will be a healthy stock market and lowered unemployment.

Just listen to some of the political leaders in states that are taking their marching orders from the Trump propaganda machine: Nursing homes are “God’s waiting room;” The old and the sick must die so that the economy will flourish, and the country should let the virus “wash over” the population so that “herd immunity” will develop and we can once again go to the ball games and the movies.

This is what we have become under Trump, a society ruled by the push for maximum profits for the 1% - and Working People be damned in a social Darwinist hell.

Just take a look at the use of national emergency orders by the President.

While he wouldn’t invoke a national emergency to force the production of masks, ventilators and other forms of PPE (Personal Protection Equipment), Trump came down hard on the meat processing industry where COVID-19 is running rampant, forcing that workforce into a terrible choice between risking their lives or forfeiting their livelihood.

This is an unspeakable game being played with the lives of countless Working-Class People.

It isn’t Trump, his allies and front people who will risk their lives.

They are committed to pursuing profits and to continuing their lifestyle - even if the rest of us must die in large numbers.

But there is a better way.

We can help flatten the curve and reduce the incidence of the virus.

We can continue social distancing and we can practice conscientious personal hygiene.

We can maintain vigilance and look out for each other.

We can work with state and local government and with employers for the safest and most thoughtful methods in the reopening of the economy.

All this we can - and must do.

However, this in itself is not enough.

This crisis opens the way to building a much different economy with much different practical priorities and solutions.

The crisis has exposed the ugly underbelly of the economics of the present day.

Too much wealth has been hoarded by a very small percentage of the population.

The lack of a functioning health care system for millions of people is a reality.

The health and safety of the workplace is under attack for being “too regulated”.

Finally, too many Workers are without an organized voice.

It is time to address these and other vexing problems.

It is time to replace superstition with science and to do so as part of an international community.

The world has been beset by horrors even worse than COVID-19 in the past.

Let us work together and use this time of uncertainty to solve problems that are decades in the making.


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