Working-Class Perspectives

WCP: Essential Work: The 2020 WCSA Awards

July 13th, 2020

At the center of all the chaos and turmoil of 2020 has been the essential worker on the front lines—from healthcare workers treating those infected with COVID-19 to service workers of all kinds who have kept us fed, supplied, and safe while putting their own safety at risk, all too often in jobs which are precarious and underpaid. Working-class life, experience, and precarity have has perhaps not been more central or important in recent memory.

WCP: The Downwardly Mobile: How Some People Lose Class Privilege

June 30th, 2020

In the U.S., the expectation of upward mobility has begun to seem like magical thinking. Few Americans move up the social class ladder, and quite a few fall a few rungs down from the status their parents achieved. In Working-Class Perspectives this week, sociologist Jessi Streib looks at some of the factors that contribute to downward mobility.

WCP: Universal Basic Income and Working-Class Futures

June 22nd, 2020

There have been few good things to come out of COVID-19. We’ve seen a genuine sense of community spirit emerge along with greater respect for blue-collar workers in the front line. In the UK, we’ve seen another less obvious shift: an emerging commitment to the idea that all citizens within a country should enjoy a basic minimum income.

WCP: Deindustrialization as a Template for COVID-19

May 18th, 2020

As we wrote in Steeltown USA: Work and Memory in Youngstown, Youngstown’s story is America’s story. That’s true now as we try to imagine American life after the pandemic. No doubt, coronavirus is a natural disaster that is more contagious, widespread, and deadly than the economic disaster of deindustrialization.

WCP: “People Ain’t Gonna Come to Work if They Don’t Feel Safe”

May 11th, 2020

For many essential workers, the coronavirus pandemic presents an impossible choice: earn a living by risking your life or stay healthy but lose your income. In this week’s Working-Class Perspectives, Christopher R. Martin shares the view from Iowa, where meatpacking plants have high rates of infection.

WCP: Fishing Industry Workers Struggle to Beat Long Odds

May 4th, 2020

In recent weeks, we’ve heard increasing concerns about how the pandemic is affecting the workers who feed us, from farmers to grocery clerks. But we’ve heard very little about the fishing industry or its workers. Usually, reports on fishing focus on tons of catch, not the workers who bring it to market.

WCP: May Day 2020: Workers in the Pandemic Time

April 27th, 2020

In most years, workers around the world celebrate May Day with marches, usually led by labor unions and the political parties and allies that support them.  But as Wade Rathke writes in this week’s Working-Class Perspectives, May Day 2020 probably won’t be remembered for marches but for the struggle and sacrifice of workers, many newly understood to be essential, others newly unemployed. The fragility of work in an unequal global economy has been laid bare in this season of the pandemic, but workers are also organizing and winning both greater respect and, in some cases, better treatment.

WCP: COVID-19 Is a Perfect Storm for Women Workers

April 20th, 2020

Women have long held the most precarious jobs, made less money than men, and done most of the paid and unpaid caregiving. As Lane Windham writes in this week’s Working-Class Perspectives, the coronavirus exacerbates these inequalities. While men appear to have a greater chance of dying from COVID-19, the underlying condition of gender inequality makes women particularly vulnerable to economic disaster in the months and years to come.

WCP: The Crime of the Century: Remembering Sacco and Vanzetti 100 Years Later

April 13th, 2020

April 15th marks the 100th anniversary of the crime that propelled Italian immigrant anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti into the international media spotlight. As Michele Fazio writes in this week’s Working-Class Perspectives (new window), while their story is not widely commemorated in the U.S., it reflects tensions around class, race, and politics that still reverberate in today’s discussions of politics, protest, and how we remember and teach about activism and social justice.

WCP: The Challenges of Organizing “Gig” Workers

April 30th, 2019

When we think about organizing precarious “gig” workers, the task seems biblical. The workers may be ready, or not, but the spirit and the flesh are weak. We all bemoan the rise of gig workers. Low pay, few hours, no benefits are some of them, worsened by the uncertainty of a position where you can only work to deliver something being demanded by consumers at a premium you are powerless to control.

Notre Dame Cathedral and Questions from a Worker Who Reads (after Bertolt Brecht)

April 23rd, 2019

Public reaction to the Notre Dame Cathedral fire raises several questions in the mind of this week’s contributor to Working Class Perspectives, Sarah Attfield, regarding the biases present in reporting, public sympathy, and colonizers’ mentality. Left out of the telling of Notre Dame’s history are the workers who laid its stones hundreds of years ago, all while looking to the workers who must soon lay stones for the Cathedral again.