Coronavirus may have upended all of our lives, but the economic effects of social distancing have had a particularly strong impact on some workers already vulnerable to the worst cruelties of the American economic order.
Even before the pandemic, the situation was already dire — a survey from the American Payroll Association found last year that nearly three-fourths of American workers would find it either somewhat or very difficult to meet their financial obligations should their paychecks be delayed by just a week. And about 40 percent of Americans, the Federal Reserve says, “would have difficulty handling an emergency expense as small as $400.” The moment is even more concerning for people especially vulnerable to the health effects of COVID-19.
Fortunately, there are plenty of people rising to meet the challenge of these times. Many communities are turning towards mutual aid to take care of themselves and each other. To this end, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and longtime organizer and prison abolitionist Mariame Kaba held a digital meeting to discuss efforts around community solidarity while social distancing. They encouraged others to share their mutual aid ideas using the hashtag #WeGotOurBlock.
Many of our longtime allies have also been organizing since day one to help amid some of these inequalities. From restaurant workers to caregivers, there are plenty of places you can direct your energies to help people taking an economic hit during the pandemic.
Our allies at the National Domestic Workers Alliance have started a relief fund for domestic workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Domestic workers are being forced to navigate this crisis alone and without a safety net. Donations to the Coronavirus Care Fund will provide emergency assistance to nannies, house cleaners, and home care workers who need help right now, giving them the stability they need to stay home and be a part of the solution to this crisis,” said National Domestic Workers Alliance executive director Ai-jen Poo.
“Care is a shared responsibility. Our own health depends on the health of the person next to us, and the person next to them. Times like these remind us how connected we all are. We believe people will appreciate the opportunity to show care for the people who care for us.“
Our friends at the Restaurant Opportunities Center and the One Fair Wage campaign both make tipped workers the focus of their work. Tipped workers are already excluded from general minimum wage protections — federal regulations say employers only need to pay them $2.13 an hour, though plenty of cities and states have either higher requirements or have ended the carveout altogether.
Both the Restaurant Opportunities Center and One Fair Wage have created disaster relief funds targeted towards tipped workers and service industry professionals. Restaurant workers, car service drivers, nail salon workers, and many other tipped workers don’t have the ability to work from home. And the economic crisis and social distancing have been particularly hard on small businesses like local restaurants, leaving many workers unemployed.
And if you’re looking for another way to get involved, our friends at Jobs With Justice have launched a Unified Action Team. Join to learn more about ways to get involved, either by digitally organizing to engaging directly in your community.
We’ll be sure to share more information about the organizations providing bold ideas and needed relief in the coming weeks. In the meantime, please stay safe!