While the COVID-19 pandemic brought to the forefront the need to uplift and protect essential service workers, the spotlight for workers was short lived and inadequate. Many employers took advantage of the crisis by prioritizing profits over people and endangering and sacrificing workers' bodies and health. Our history of racial capitalism has reflected many of these exploits which expanded and evolved over the last three years: just in time scheduling, independent contract labor, temp work, and almost no job security, worker protections, or health and safety standards.
Today, even with mass uprisings of workers organizing across sectors, more and more industries are finding ways to evolve racial capitalism to make every part of supply chains a charged commodity and a site of worker exploitation. How we understand “work” is being reshaped in real time. Considering the experience of The LIFT Fund’s grantees and the political analysis that we’re building at NFG’s Funders for a Just Economy (FJE), we know that this is an old story with a new language, technology, and set of challenges. Worker organizations and the institutions that support them need to increase our understanding and to take urgent action.
In this event, The LIFT Fund and FJE will highlight a case study of how employers in the food system and tourism industries are evolving to evade worker standards and worker organizing. The tourism industry - with women of color workers as the backbone - were hit hard by COVID and have not yet fully recovered. Ghost kitchens and industrial kitchens became more popular as restaurants and hotels looked for ways to cut costs, but these environments result in conditions ripe for worker exploitation and unsafe working environments, particularly in the context of the ongoing pandemic. Workers organizing in these industries are learning what it takes to build broad and deep power, take care of each other, and hold employers accountable, even as industry continues to try to resist worker protection standards.
- Kate O'Hara, Executive Director, EBASE
- Yulisa Elenes, Vice President, North and East Bay, UNITE HERE! Local 2
- Ankush Ganapathy, Organizer, UNITE HERE! Local 2
- Jennifer Epps, Executive Director, The Lift Fund
- Marjona Jones, Director of Program and Strategy, The Lift Fund
This issue is multi-layered and complex. While it might be considered easier to tackle one-off policy issues such as health and safety or misclassification to address these problems, worker exploitation, particularly in the food preparation and tourism service sectors, is a systemic issue that requires deeply understanding the ever-changing nature of capitalism, resourcing worker organizing and strong community-labor partnerships, and institutionalizing labor standards enforcement through worksite organizing and local government. Together, these powerful strategies can counter the onslaught of companies who seek greed, power, and new ways to erode worker protections.
Nov 16, 2022
10:00 am - 11:00 am PT