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Stories about Labor and Economics.
Thinking on its feet, the district administration culled data from the family’s phones and from CCTV cameras in the area. Based on that, it developed a detailed flow chart of all of the exact locations visited by the patients along with approximate dates and times. The flow chart was then widely circulated on social media along with a hotline for those who may have come into contact with the family. The hundreds of calls the administration received in the days that followed helped it plug the gaps in the flow chart.
Such epic contact tracing initiatives, though tedious, have been at the heart of the state’s “people-intensive” pandemic response. People who are identified in contact tracing are — depending on their situation — sent for testing and kept in hospital isolation wards or monitored at home for 28 days.
However, there are people who have been anticipating a moment like this for decades. If we are willing now to listen and learn from post-growth thinkers, the crisis and its aftermath can be a process of adaptation that leaves us more locally resilient, happier, and more connected.
With millions of people put out of work, analysts across the political spectrum have proclaimed that the time has come for an Unconditional Basic Income. But this safety net won’t be enough unless we take on the biggest problem we face — an economic model based on high rents and high personal debts.
The British writer R. H. Tawney once described capitalist management of the workplace as “autocracy checked by insurgency.” And, indeed, a kind of insurgency takes place when workers band together to form unions. Worker unions are a key working class organization because of the potential power workers gain from collective resistance but also because of the potential role of unions in social transformation.
Unionism in USA has not grown in a gradual way but in cycles that are tied to working class insurgency. The two greatest periods of union growth came in large strike waves — in the World War 1 era and again in the early 1930s.From 1909 to 1921 union membership doubled through a vast insurgency that saw thousands of strikes every year. Nearly a million workers organized themselves into industrial unions outside the AFL. The hardest edge of the new unionism was the Industrial Workers of the World. But the IWW was just the tip of the iceberg.
De-growth must be started immediately and urgently planned to combat the ecological crisis. We must produce less and better. The manufacture of certain products vital to the well-being of the population must increase (construction and renovation of decent housing, public transport, health centres and hospitals, drinking water supply and sewage treatment, schools, etc.) but many other productions must radically decline (personal cars) or disappear (arms manufacturing). Greenhouse gas emissions must be drastically and abruptly reduced. A whole range of industries and agricultural activities need to be converted. A large part, and in some cases all, of the public debt must be cancelled.
The failures of the labor movement in the US are legion over the past 40 years. It’s not needed to repeat the failures nor the efforts to revitalize the labor movement, most of the latter which have been unsuccessful to date.
As we enter the second decade of the new century, signs of crisis are all around us. Climate change, rising economic inequality, assaults on workers’ rights and wages, unchecked corporate power, financialization, entrenched racism, misogyny, and xenophobia, and emboldened neo-fascism and right-wing populism, to name a few. The entwined crises we face share a deep-rooted common cause: the undemocratic, inequitable, and extractive nature of our economic system. Despite the veneer of a prosperous recovery from the great financial crisis a decade ago many people rightly feel the economy no longer works for them and this is contributing to a deep popular disenchantment and realignment that is reconfiguring our politics and societies.