Just in time for Labor Day, a major new report from the NC Justice Center 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.

“After a reckoning like COVID-19 we have to rebuild stronger,” said Patrick McHugh, Research Manager at the Budget & Tax Center and the primary author of the report, “This crisis is forcing us to confront uncomfortable realities and uniting working people to demand their rightful share of the American promise.”

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.

“COVID-19 is showing that people are the economy,” said Alexandra Sirota, Director of the Budget & Tax Center and contributor to the report, “and unless our policymakers put people and workers first, our recovery won’t be just or nearly as successful at delivering the well-being we all deserve.”


If you would like to be put in touch with the people interviewed in the report or possibly people organizing in your coverage area, contact Ana Pardo, Workers’ Rights Policy Advocate at the NC Justice Center, at ana.pardo@ncjustice.org.

For more info, contact: Patrick McHugh, Research Manager, patrick.mchugh@ncjustice.org; Alexandra F. Sirota, Budget & Tax Center Director, 919-861-1468 or Alexandra@ncjustice.org; or Mel Umbarger, Budget & Tax Center Senior Communications Specialist, mel@ncjustice.org.

The NC Justice Center is a nonpartisan organization that works to eliminate poverty in North Carolina by ensuring that every household in the state has access to the resources, services and fair treatment it needs to achieve economic security.