What Workers Want

Published 06/14/2021
 
No. 1. Workers want and need child-care options
 
Many parents don't have full-time schooling options and paying for child care can be very expensive so for some, “there's a calculation that financially, it makes more sense for them to to stay home with their kid, even if they have access to part-time schooling,” Rosenberg said.
 
This point, like the others on the list, is anecdotal because “there's a substantial lag between what's happening now and the official data analysis,” he said.
 
 
Lockdowns may have eased, but child care can be prohibitively expensive. The cost hit an all-time high in 2020, rising 2.2 percent as the economy cratered, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
 
Costs rose due to the safety hazards of gathering in person during a pandemic, as well as a provider workforce that plunged 36 percent in the early days of the crisis and remains reduced.
 
No. 2. Workers want a nimble safety net and consistency
 
After this week's story published, Rosenberg talked to a California restaurant owner who had been reaching out to former employees to ask what it would take to get them back to work.
 
The man said his former employees weren't “lazy” or trying to “milk the system” but had faced so many issues trying to enroll in unemployment benefits that they were wary of returning to workplaces that could easily be shut down again because of another outbreak or lockdown. 
 
State agencies that administer unemployment benefits have had huge delays, Rosenberg said. And like employees told the business owner: Why risk getting off employment when, six weeks from now, dining restrictions could return and suddenly they're trying to get back on the unemployment system again?
 
No. 3. Workers want more of a say
 
Before the pandemic, there was “increased momentum” in labor organizing, Rosenberg said. That didn't translate into substantial enrollment for the nation's unions during the pandemic, but it meant that people were more aware of workers’ asks for safety and greater income equality. 
 
The climate is ripe to be covering this stuff, he said. The national conversation has changed and consumers are more apt to be thinking about workers’ rights when they decide to order groceries on a platform with a gig model, when they tip a waiter or when they hire domestic help.
 
He pointed to organizing efforts by white-collar tech workers as an example of this shift. 
 
If unions really are the drag on productivity that their critics say they are, their presence could have long-term negative effects on the economic power of U.S. tech giants. Some tech workers are concerned that companies such as Google, which prided itself on having an open culture, will become even less transparent if employees are represented by a union.
 
But even if unionization efforts don’t take hold among the majority of tech workers, the fact that the conversation is happening marks a real change of attitude in Silicon Valley. The debate over how much power the workers should have to influence decisions at their companies, who gets fired or hired, and whether the widespread use of contractors should continue is far from over.
 
Whether employees are debating their company’s mission statement, a decision to work with the Chinese government or just calling for more action on climate change, workers feel an urgency to act and speak up. 
 
“We live in a world with a lot of problems and I think people are looking at organizing as a way to address those,” Rosenberg said.