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Labor Perspective From WNY AFL-CIO Area Labor Federation President Emeritus Richard Lipsitz: COVID-19 & The Working-Class Movement

Published Sunday, June 6, 2021
by WNYALF President Emeritus Richard Lipsitz
Labor Perspective From WNY AFL-CIO Area Labor Federation President Emeritus Richard Lipsitz: COVID-19 & The Working-Class Movement

The COVID-19 Pandemic has already changed the world.

Many millions of cases have led to millions of deaths.

The world economy has contracted and the disruption of markets has become a serious problem for recovery.

In short, we cannot be completely sure of where resources should be applied, who should make the investments and what the outcome will be.

Nonetheless, as in past disruptions, new avenues for economic development will inevitably present themselves.

One way COVID-19 has impacted our world is in the analysis of the class make up of society.

It is in this realm of discussion that we should turn our attention.

The pandemic has made certain truths quite evident.

The understanding of essential work and workers has been brought to the fore.

The question of self-sacrifice of various sectors of the Working Class has never been quite so clear.

For example, before the pandemic, Workers Memorial Day was dedicated, as it was designed, for those who died in the performance of their work responsibilities.

Most of those honored were killed on construction sites, in truck or warehouse accidents, and in general industrial incidents.

COVID-19 changed our approach to this question.

Literally thousands of Union and Non-Union Workers died from the disease while performing essential work.

This included Health Care Workers, Teachers, Civil Servants of all varieties, Bus Drivers, Postal Workers, Ambulance Workers, Grocery Store Employees, and those already mentioned like Construction and Industrial Workers.

Now, one could ask, why the delay in our understanding of workplace fatalities?

The answer is deceptively simple - we have never encountered a problem as devastating as this pandemic.

In 1918, the Spanish Flu was equally devastating but, the world was a very different place.

There were few Unions and most of them were in the construction and manufacturing sectors.

Today, that is not the case, since the Union Movement is both broader and more numerous as an international proposition.

But, something even more profound has taken place.

There is a growing realization that Working People are defined by their relationship to the productive work of society.

We are all in this together as one class.

We have the same aspirations, goals and desires as a class of people.

COVID-19 brought this out in stark relief.

We joined together and demanded proper protective equipment and we stood strong against the Right-Wing Republican/Anti-Science offensive.

Furthermore, our Membership was clear-eyed about the duties and responsibilities they had to the country and the world.

Now that we are nearing the end of the initial struggle against the pandemic, please continue to advocate the use of the vaccine.

Please continue to use caution around those who have not received the vaccine.

Above all, let us recognize the universal truth that it is Working People who prove decisive in battles such as COVID-19.

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