The COVID-19 pandemic was merciless. So many of us lost our health, our jobs and savings, and loved ones. In addition, COVID laid bare widespread inequities, which meant some of us struggled and lost more, in systemically unfair and disproportionate ways.
Some of us were more likely to get COVID, more likely not to have sick days, more likely not to have health insurance, more likely to lose our jobs, and more likely not to receive a stimulus check or other federal aid. Who were these people? “Essential workers.” People who take care of our children, elderly, infirm and disabled loved ones. People who grow, prepare, and deliver our food. People who fulfill our online orders and drop them off on our doorsteps.
The pandemic showed us that essential work, which is work that makes all other work possible, is low-wage, precarious and unsafe. Essential workers are mainly women, people of color, immigrants and undocumented people. They are working poor. They work multiple jobs to make ends meet, and survive because they’re supplementing their income with government aid. Meanwhile, many are excluded from basic workplace laws and protections like paid sick leave.
Now that the worst of the pandemic is over, and we're entering the rebuilding phase, this is our once-in-a-generation opportunity to be bold and to dare to imagine something new: workplaces that are fair and equitable. It’s time to take long-lasting action on behalf of these workers. It’s time to ensure that essential workers can have good, quality jobs where their work is valued, they are treated with respect and dignity, and paid a living wage.
These three grantees from our Economic Security and Dignity portfolio are reimagining the future of work—and workers. Child Care Law Center, California Domestic Workers Coalition and PowerSwitch Action are catalyzing worker-lead movements for good jobs, fair wages, labor standards and improved working conditions. In different, brilliant ways, they are building a pro-worker economy where low-wage workers, women workers, immigrants and people of color who work in industries where they have been historically devalued are finally recognized, protected and can thrive.
We are honored to support their organizing and systems change work at this crucial moment. And we recognize that this work will take a long time. Reversing centuries of inequity is hard and painstaking work.
We echo what Kimberly Alvarenga, executive director of California Domestic Workers Coalition, told us when we spoke with her: “We have to see things in a long arc of justice. We're not defined by a single legislative loss or win, which is simply words on a piece of paper. Our work is to make those rights real for the worker, while caring for each other as we do the work.”
We invite you to read our stories about these three visionary grantees.