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Class war in the making? Coronavirus quarantines pit well-off hermits against serfs who supply them

14 0 11
23.03.2020

Coronavirus untouchables

New York warehouse workers at FreshDirect and Amazon – the two e-commerce giants emerging as the economic winners in the coronavirus epidemic for their near-monopoly on groceries and, well, everything else – tested positive for coronavirus last week, bringing into sharp focus the high-risk nature of their jobs. Along with gig economy workers – rideshare drivers, couriers, and food-service delivery people – and grocery clerks, the warehouse employees handling the surge in deliveries to pandemic shut-ins represent the “have-nots” of the new coronavirus caste system.

No job security, scant health insurance, and high likelihood of exposure to the virus – these jobs don’t come with much to recommend them, but employers can squash any rebellion by dropping a hint that workers are lucky to have a job at all. With so many newly-unemployed ex-bartenders, ex-waiters, and ex-retail workers trying to sign up for benefits that state websites are crashing, no one wants to join the ranks of the newly jobless – ranks that the Trump administration hinted earlier this week could swell to 20 percent of the labor force by the time the pandemic subsides.

Delivery and rideshare companies have been slammed for not providing their workers with basic personal protection supplies like hand sanitizer, masks, and disinfectant wipes, let alone bare-minimum benefits like paid sick leave. Some companies have grudgingly adopted a limited form of the latter – Amazon/Whole Foods, Postmates, and Uber are giving coronavirus-stricken workers two weeks’ paid leave – but only if........

© RT.com