If you are like me, you are spending a lot more time at home practicing “social distancing” It’s a term that describes my high school days, but now has new meaning.
I want to share some things to think about this week, and also share some news with you.
- Teachers are the Largely Unsung Heroes of the Pandemic
In just a few days teachers revised the system of instruction, replacing face-to-face teaching with on-line and distance learning. In doing so, they have demonstrated not only their skills, but also their ability to work in teams and collaborate.
Rewriting the entire curriculum delivery including methods to engage students in their learning is a significant feat in its own right. What is even more impressive is the speed with which it was accomplished. Lessons are now on line, classes are being run with video, chat rooms, and discussion boards, and teachers have set up virtual help sessions. Real learning is taking place, and the development process is continuing as the uncertainty about schools reopening grows.
Looking ahead, students will have the opportunity to finish the curriculum for this year and be prepared to move on to the next class in the fall. They have accomplished all of this without the support or suggestions from the U.S. Department of Education.
One additional side benefit is also emerging. Parents who are now responsible for keeping their students on track are developing a new appreciation for teachers, their skills, and their patience.
Bear in mind that, in most cases, teachers have developed all the new material and methodology on their own time with no additional compensation. They have freely shared their material, methods, and ideas with colleagues in their schools and other districts around the country.
That’s what happens when teachers don’t have to worry about teaching to standardized tests!
- Stick to the Science
Have you heard that if you can take a deep breath and hold your breath for more than 10 seconds without coughing or discomfort, you are not infected with the Corona virus? How about advice that you should take a few sips of water at least every 15 minutes as this will wash the virus down through your throat and into the stomach? Once there, your stomach acid will kill all the virus. Maybe you’ve heard that gargling with salt water will eliminate the Coronavirus?
These three examples have one thing in common – they are completely false.
Misinformation such as this can hurt people if it deludes them into thinking they do not need to avoid the virus or get tested. Clinging to simple solutions or what we would like to be true can be harmful.
In recent years scientists have been discredited when their research is not in line with political views or current fads. Some people ignore scientific evidence and cling to the opinions of a celebrity or rock star with no training in the field. Recently, we are hearing that vaccines will be available quickly (they won’t), there will be plenty of test kits available this week (there aren’t), or a vaccine for one disease will mysteriously work on the Coronavirus (possible, but not likely). Each of these was planned to distract people from the facts and build false hope. Although medical professionals and scientists point out they are false, much of the public clings to them because of who spread the message.
The implications from all of this for our workplaces is the danger they present in trying to limit the scope of the disease and getting people back to work. Workplace health and safety is not a labor or management responsibility, it is in the best interest of both to improve these areas. By sticking to the facts, objective evidence, and quality scientific research we can be better at solving problems.
- Remember the Workers
From the pandemic we again see evidence of how our leadership values (or doesn’t value) workers. Examples of this include:
Efforts to provide paid family leave for workers. This issue has divided our politicians along party lines. Even in our current situation, family leave provisions were weakened in the legislation as it made its way through Congress. Extended leave will not be available for people who are sick with COVID-19. Those workers would only be able to take 10 days of paid sick leave, but only if they work at a company with fewer than 500 employees. Also, companies with fewer than 50 workers can apply for hardship relief and get out of providing both sick and family leave.
Companies have used a variety of techniques to avoid responsibility for family leave. Employees of a major grocery chain with over 400,000 employees reportedly told the political newsletter Popular Information that due to that policy, they wouldn’t be paid for work they missed due to illness ― which all but ensures they’d go to work sick. The company would, however, provide every associate with a $25 gift card to “show how much [the company] appreciates and acknowledges you.”
On the other hand, the cuts to worker leave can help fund the huge bailouts coming to the airline, travel, and hospitality industries.
Long term impact on the economy. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin warned that without government intervention, the unemployment rate could rise to nearly 20%. Tens of thousands of workers have already lost their jobs with more added each day. First-time unemployment claims increased by 33% in the last week. Mass layoffs can mean loss of health coverage in the middle of a pandemic.
How does the government respond to the news? The Trump administration’s Labor Department sent an email to state officials this week asking them to report new unemployment claims only in “generalities” to avoid spooking financial markets, The New York Times reported.
Out of sight, out of mind?
Keep an eye on corporate response to this crisis to gauge their level of corporate responsibility. The results can be surprising.
The New York Post reports video game retail giant GameStop called itself “essential retail” in a memo to employees, instructing them to keep stores open — despite local governments nationwide issuing lockdowns amid the coronavirus crisis. Employees reported wishing the stores would close to protect themselves and their families.
In the past we have been critical of rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft for their treatment of their drivers. I want to commend them this week, as they have announced plans to provide funds for drivers affected by coronavirus. According to The Hill, an Uber spokesperson stated the rideshare company will make funds available to drivers infected or quarantined due to the virus to make up for up to 14 days of lost revenue. Lyft stated that it would provide similar compensation to its drivers, and DoorDash and Instacart are also reportedly considering providing funds to their drivers. This will be particularly helpful to drivers, as in most states
unemployment insurance programs are not available for gig workers or part-time workers who lose their jobs.
The most important message today is practice social distancing and remember the needs of workers who are either laid off or are working under even more stressful conditions than normal. Also, be sure to remember the dedication shown by teachers in revising the entire system of instruction for their students.
I’ll close this topic with a quote from Isle of Palms, SC, Mayor Jimmy Carroll. “People need to prepare but they don’t need to be crazy.”
Some quick notes about CALMC, our response to the pandemic, and new online postings.
This week, we made the decision to close the CALMC office until at least April 6. This is being done out of an abundance of concern for Meredith and myself as well our families and our clients.
Even though the office is closed, we are still working. You can still reach us by email (preferred) and phone. Contact information is available on our website. We will reassess our reopening date in advance of April 6.
In the meantime, we want to increase the learning opportunities we offer in our on-line libraries. We posted a new Quick Takes video, the second part of our look at Frequently Asked Questions about consensus decision making. This video and the others in the series are available from the On-Demand tab on our website.
We also added a new podcast, the fourth part in our series about the life and career of Eugene Brundige, a labor leader, agency manager, and neutral. This segment covers his career as an arbitrator and a neutral. You can also find our podcasts on the On-Demand tab of the website.
A couple of weeks ago we told you about our CALMC Membership Meeting that focused on an upcoming project, A Soldier’s Journey Home. If you missed it, we encourage you to go back and learn more about this great effort to help a wounded veteran.
This week, we added photos from the meeting to our Facebook page. You can view the photo library by clicking on the link.
Thanks for reading, and stay safe.