How COVID-19 has revealed what’s wrong with our economy and what working people are doing to fix it
The COVID-19 pandemic brings out the angels and demons of human nature. We’re witness to daily moments of cruelty and heroism, fear and resilience, despair and hope. For all of the challenges, a reckoning like this can lead to positive change. COVID-19 is forcing us to confront uncomfortable realities and is uniting workers to demand their rightful share of the American promise.
This report aims to be a small part of that conversation by identifying some of the roots of the injustices on display in this moment and by connecting the power that working people possess today to previous generations’ struggles for a more humane society.
The report examines why many people of color, women, and the worst-paid North Carolinians are suffering the greatest harm during COVID-19. The report presents data about the current state of working in N.C. amid the COVID-19 crisis, much of which reveals the widening fissures already running through our economy.
The report, “Curing What Ails Us: How COVID-19 reveals what’s wrong with our economy and what working people are doing to fix it”, also puts current events in a historical context that includes unions, slavery, the Industrial Revolution, the Great Depression, and how wealth has continued to concentrate in the hands of the few up to this moment while many workers struggle to survive. As COVID-19 highlights and worsens those struggles, case studies and interviews in the report show workers are stepping up organizing efforts to demand a renewed social and economic contract where the dignity of work is respected, workers are protected, and everyone — Black, brown, and white — can prosper.
Among the highlights of the report:
- How people of color, women, and the lowest-paid North Carolinians are both more likely to have lost their jobs and disproportionately are working on the front lines of the COVID-19 outbreak.
- How some of the largest corporations operating in North Carolina are recording record profits during COVID-19 and why those economic windfalls will largely benefit wealthy white shareholders that are primarily members of the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers.
- The role of unions in both the past and during COVID-19, where working people have organized collectively to build power, oppose white supremacy, and create a more inclusive economy.
- The role of slavery in shaping the economic foundations of the United States and how business practices born on plantations continue to shape how large companies operate to this day.
- How the crisis of the Great Depression led to significant gains for working people who were white, while most working people of color at the time were prevented from benefitting from the New Deal – legacies that remain enshrined in law today.
- Case studies of tools that working people are using to build power and interviews with organizers using those tools in the time of COVID-19.
Individual chapters of the 2020 State of Working North Carolina report
- PROFIT FROM PAIN? Some corporations are booming during the COVID-19 pandemic, but working people are suffering (PDF)
- GENERATIONS OF WORK: North Carolina’s working people stand ready to fix the problems that the pandemic has so starkly revealed (PDF)
- ROOTED IN RACISM: The economic turmoil of the pandemic has been fed by a capitalism based on slavery and white supremacy (PDF)
- POWER FOR CHANGE: Union protections and higher wages could have helped workers weather the COVID-19 economic collapse (PDF)
- RACE AS A WEAPON: In a culture of white supremacy, government and business are fighting workers’ efforts to join forces across all races (PDF)
Previous State of Working NC reports
- 2019: Equity in Employment: Embracing systems that connect people to good jobs and eliminating barriers helps all of N.C. thrive.
- 2018: How public works can boost North Carolina’s work force and connect rural N.C.
- 2017: How the Recession and a Changed Labor Market Will Affect Millennials in North Carolina for Years to Come
- 2016: Don’t Call It a Carolina Comeback
- 2015: The Future of Work
- 2014: North Carolina’s Tomorrow – Seeking Good, Quality Jobs to Build an Economy that Works for All
- 2013: Lagging recovery highlights need for quality job creation, investments in workers
- 2012: A barometer of the economic recovery in our state
- 2011: Support NC Workers, Strengthen the Economy, Share Prosperity