Collage of black labor leaders

Black labor leaders address the question: How can we make the recovery more equitable--and improve conditions for Black workers before the next crisis hits? (Image: Institute for Policy Studies/

Black Labor Leaders and Worker Advocates Reflect on This Pandemic and What Comes Next

"This moment is key for us to rebuild the kind of world we need in order to thrive," says Allison Julian of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

As our second pandemic Labor Day approaches, Black worker leaders are determined to never again bear the brunt of a national crisis as they have under Covid.

The latest horror: four employees have now been killed as they tried to enforce mask mandates -- all of them Black essential workers. Countless others have had to contend with anti-maskers' racist slurs and other abuse -- on top of their high risks of Covid exposure.

Black workers who lost their jobs during the crisis have also had a rocky return to employment. As of July, the Black unemployment rate was 8.2 percent, compared to 4.8 percent for white workers.

How can we make the recovery more equitable -- and improve conditions for Black workers before the next crisis hits? We asked nine leading Black labor organizers and policy advocates for their views.

Many were hopeful about efforts to strengthen collective bargaining rights. This goal became even more urgent in a year when Amazon crushed a Black-led organizing drive in Alabama and pay for virtually all-white CEOs soared while frontline workers suffered.

These leaders pointed to many other opportunities for advancing racial economic justice, including supporting quality jobs in sectors where Black workers are disproportionately represented, from home care to restaurants to the Postal Service. The Democrats' federal budget proposal includes significant investments in good care jobs while restaurant industry staffing challenges have increased leverage for a long overdue increase in the federal minimum wage for tipped workers.

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