Forcing workers back to unlivable wages

July 4, 2021

From the July-August 2021 issue of News & Letters

Kansas City, Mo.—Missouri is one of 25 states on track to reject by July the $300 a week federal supplemental unemployment insurance. The payments issued to shore up the economy in response to the pandemic, and in fear of unrest that unemployment levels unseen since the Great Depression of the 1930s might create, were not scheduled to end until September.

You would normally expect even the most anti-worker politicians to fear backlash from these workers whose pockets are being picked, including at the ballot box. This just proves how much Republican legislators are counting on voter suppression to avoid paying a political price from workers who rightly have multiple concerns with returning to work before workplaces can be made safe.

Workers in restaurants and healthcare can look for jobs with higher wages, the way European peasants who survived the Great Plague returned to work with improved wages and conditions. Taking away unemployment benefits is the modern version of the vagrancy laws by which English workers were forced into the clutches of the factories at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

While Gov. Mike Parson has moved full steam ahead to push workers back on the job, he is making political capital out of displaying his indifference to the continued incarceration of provably innocent prisoner Kevin Strickland. He said there were 30,000 appeals for clemency that he would review before even considering an end to Strickland’s injustice after 45 years. The Jackson County District Attorney has vowed to be in court at 9:00 a.m. on August 28, the first moment she is allowed to intervene without the Governor’s action—but every added day compounds this miscarriage of justice.

—Warehouse worker

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