• February 2, 2023

Low wages are just the start of the problems for millions of U.S. workers during COVID-19 — here’s why

A common dilemma for applicants is balancing salary with working conditions and labor violations.

New research suggests that low-paying jobs are also more likely to have poorer working conditions, compounding problems for U.S. workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

That came from an article circulated this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research by Ioana Marinescu, a University of Pennsylvania economics professor, Aaron Sojourner, a University of Minnesota economics professor, and Temple University finance professor Yue Qiu has been.


A 10% increase in the average wage is associated with a 4% reduction in the fines per dollar.

– Ioana Marinescu, Professor of Economics at the University of Pennsylvania and co-author of a new study on working conditions related to pay

The three researchers analyzed labor violations reported to a federal agency from 2000 to 2019 and published in a database compiled by Good Jobs First, a nonprofit organization. They also use data from the US Census Bureau to analyze the number of workers in a given industry and pay.

Researchers estimate that within the local industry, “a 10% increase in median wages is associated with a 0.15% decrease in the number of violations per employee and a 4% decrease in fines per dollar of wages”.

This also suggests that unionized workers with collective bargaining power and workers in highly competitive industries are more likely to receive higher wages and better working conditions.

There is one big problem, however. A large number of US workers are not union members. A little over 10% of wage and salary workers are union members. according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That is a decrease of 10 percentage points compared to 1983, the first year in which comparable statistics became available, the agency said.

This ranges from the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, which only allows “union shops” if a majority of workers have voted for the idea, to globalization – which sent factory jobs – to state “right to work” laws, prevent unions from collecting fees from non-union workers who are covered by their contracts.

COVID-19 has not helped workers’ rights

This latest finding is important as it suggests that previous research on wage inequality “underestimates the true extent of inequality because workers who are paid less are more likely to violate their rights,” Marinescu told MarketWatch.

This is especially true during the pandemic Low-wage workers have been infected with coronavirus at disproportionately high rates than higher paid workers, according to research published in September by Brookings, a left-wing think tank.

With key workers remaining at risk of COVID-19 exposure at work, a third of grocery store workers say their employer did not take the right steps to keep employees safe during the pandemic. according to this survey, surveying 2,000 frontline employees across a range of industries in the US, UK and Australia.


A third of grocery store workers say their employer hasn’t taken the right steps to keep employees safe during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, a survey of more than 21,200 nurses was conducted in July 2020 National Nurses United The union found that only 24% of nurses believed their employer was a safe place to work, and 87% of hospital nurses said they had reused at least one form of disposable personal protective equipment.

Marinescu does not see these problems changing in the short term. With high unemployment, employers are not forced to offer better working conditions to attract workers, she added.

Additionally, raising the federal minimum wage to $ 15 an hour, a move supported by many Democratic lawmakers, will not necessarily translate into better working conditions based on her research, she said.

The wage increases she examined were primarily due to conditions in the industry, namely increased demand for workers with specific skills, rather than labor regulations. Gig workers’ rights also complicate the picture.

Employees who drive and deliver for Uber Technologies Inc.
UBER, + 0.58%
With the Dash
DASH, + 1.57%
Instacart and other app-based platform companies may enjoy some schedule flexibility, but gig staff are indebted to secret algorithms that determine where and how often they get gigs, how much they get paid, and more.

Data rights are labor rights, especially when it comes to the gig economy,“Said the Mozilla Foundation in their report published last month, This includes, for the first time, a focus on gig work, which has been identified as one of three major threats to internet health. According to Mozilla, 50 million people work at concerts worldwide.

During the COVID-19, the health and safety authority, which is tasked with ensuring safe working conditions, issued guidelines for employers Preparing the workplaces for COVID-19 and safe return to physical workplaces.

It also instructs companies to consult Guidelines for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Employees can file a confidential complaint and request a workplace inspection if they believe their employer is not complying with OSHA standards or there is a serious workplace hazard. OSHA says.

(Meera Jagannathan, Levi Sumagaysay, and Andrew Keshner contributed to this story.)

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