A century ago, on the heels of another deadly pandemic, an estimated 10,000 coal workers in West Virginia banded together to march in protest against the cruelty and injustice they experienced working in the mines. It was America’s largest labor uprising and was unusual for that segregated time in uniting Black, white and immigrant workers behind one cause. The forces of business and government combined to crush their rebellion, but not the spirit behind it, which eventually led to many of the protections we take for granted today, like the 40-hour week and minimum wage.
Today we have new versions of the struggle between the coal barons and suffering miners in various forms across the global economy. The weak regulations and eroding labor protections of the globalized economy have contributed to grotesque inequality and concentration of wealth and the mass migrations of people desperate for economic security. Around the world, the working poor are as vulnerable as ever. If there is going to be a new Progressive Era, it needs to start with the world’s informal workers.
Informal work is the essential service that billions of people give to a world that barely notices. These are workers who survive outside the social and labor protections that employees in the mainstream economy enjoy, doing countless invisible jobs. They clean homes and care for children. They sweep streets and collect trash and recyclables. They make and sell clothing, electronic goods and food. They perform manual labor. Their workplaces are inside homes or out on the streets and sidewalks; they are everywhere and yet they are overlooked, forgotten, ignored.
Source:: Time – Business