Coronavirus is a danger for essential workers — but also an opportunity

Why it might be time for a general strike

A protester.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Getty Images, iStock)

The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare a lot of perversities in American society. But one of the most glaring is this: Many of the workers deemed "essential" in this crisis are also among the most poorly paid and poorly treated in our economy. Food workers typically bring home no more than $12 an hour; nursing home staff often make even less. Grocery store clerks, child care and eldercare providers, trash collectors, shipping, delivery and warehouse workers — they're all out there right now, risking their safety to keep the basic organs of the U.S. social body functioning, despite compensation in normal times that treats them as implicitly valueless and disposable.

But if the coronavirus is a moment of danger and exploitation for essential workers, it is also one of great opportunity. It's a harsh thing to state bluntly, but one great piece of bargaining power everyday employees have is their ability to simply stop working when their employers — when society — need them to keep doing their jobs.

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