The pandemic did not change rising economic inequality in the United States—go figure. We’ve seen again and again how existing inequalities instead were exacerbated as people who could work remotely did so and stayed relatively safe while others had to put their health and safety on the line to keep scraping by, as women have been forced out of the workforce, as racial inequalities were heightened both in the economy and in the question of who was likeliest to get sick and to die.
And the pandemic did not disrupt the growing gulf between CEO pay and average worker pay, a preliminary analysis by the Economic Policy Institute finds. According to early data from 281 firms, “The offer by CEOs to forgo salary increases during the pandemic was largely symbolic. Salaries were stable, but many CEOs pocketed a windfall by cashing in stock options and obtaining vested stock awards, compounding income inequalities laid bare during the past year,” Lawrence Mishel and Jori Kandra report. “CEO compensation, including realized stock options and vested stock awards, rose 15.9% from 2019 to 2020 among early reporting firms. Growth in CEO compensation was slightly faster than last year’s strong growth—14.0% between 2018 and 2019—while the annual compensation of the average worker increased just 1.8% in 2020.”
According to BLS data, strikes increased significantly in 2018 and 2019—after a long decline—before returning to historic lows in 2020. But we cannot know for certain how accurate a picture this is, since the BLS excludes a sizable amount of strike activity by only capturing big strikes. Even the ongoing strike by the Massachusetts Nurses Association at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester—owned by Tenet Healthcare, one of the country’s largest for-profit hospital chains—is left out of the BLS data, because the strike involves just 800 nurses.
Researchers from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations have created the ILR Labor Action Tracker to fill this gap.
● Workers at Darigold milk processing plants in Washington State voted to authorize a strike with their contract on the brink of expiration.
● More than 50 Cambridge, Massachusetts, teachers are refusing to proctor the state’s high-stakes MCAS test:
Concerns about MCAS were clearly articulated in a letter to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education on March 26. It concludes: “Ultimately, there is no valid purpose for administering MCAS this spring to our students that we are able to present to you – other than the administration of the test will fulfill a perfunctory compliance task that is disruptive and stealing our valuable time away from efforts toward a healthy return, recovery and acceleration of learning for all.”
The punchline is that the letter quoted was written by 18 urban school superintendents.
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