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The New Great Depression Is Coming. Will There Be a New New Deal?

But cultural shifts pave the way for political reform. “When little children are making signs that say, ‘Thank You,’ and taping them up in the window for the mail carriers and UPS delivery folks, the world has changed,” Elizabeth Warren told me. (Disclosure: my husband consulted on Warren’s presidential campaign.)

Warren and [US Rep. Ro] Khanna recently released a proposal for what they’re calling an “Essential Workers Bill of Rights,” which folds many longtime progressive labor priorities into a plan to address our current emergency. The proposal includes a mandate for free adequate personal protective equipment, hazard pay, universal paid sick leave and paid family leave, a crackdown on employers that misclassify full-time employees as independent contractors, and protections for union organizing.

That last part is important, because Warren believes we’re on the cusp of a new wave of labor mobilization. There have already been strikes, walkouts and other demonstrations across the country by workers forced to expose themselves to potential infection, including bus drivers, Amazon warehouse workers and employees at fast-food restaurants. Nurses have taken to the streets. “Whether it is slog-it-out bargaining over safety measures or bold legislative moves, unions see their coronavirus activism as the beginning of a new era for the labor movement,” said a Los Angeles Times article.

If so, it will echo what happened during the Great Depression. “This is what shocked everyone,” Warren said. “All of the economists thought the Great Depression in the 1930s would be the end of unions because so many people were unemployed and there was such a large labor supply, and unionization was going down during the 1920s. But that’s not what happened. In a time of great stress, more workers decided their only chance of survival was to come together and exercise their power through a union.”

Read entire article at New York Times