We’ve spent the past five weeks trying to make sense of this moment.
The inequalities of our society have been suddenly set in high relief by the pandemic, the economic fallout, skyrocketing unemployment and protests against police brutality. In that time, you all have written in with a bunch of questions big and small. Today, we’re going to cap off this pop-up season by answering a few of them.
Questions like: What would chicken cost if plant workers earned higher wages and better benefits? You might be surprised by how little labor is reflected in the final price you pay for chicken.
We’ll also look at what policies there are to help meat processing workers if they contract COVID-19 on the job, and how health insurance became tied to employment in the first place. Plus, we’ll check in with Candace, the aspiring sex-toy entrepreneur in Georgia who was having trouble getting her unemployment benefits.
Finally, we’ll end our season by looking back through history one more time. We’ll explore two very clear moments, both after pandemics, when economic inequality started to fall dramatically.
When historians look back at 2020 someday, will they see a population that seized the moment and changed history’s course? Or will they see merely a continuation — or even an acceleration — of trends toward economic inequality, the concentration of wealth and the subordination of vulnerable groups?
We don’t know yet. But for now, we want to thank everyone who’s joined us this season, subscribed, told a friend or sent in a question. We’ll be back later this year with a whole new season, and in the meantime, we recommend checking out our first three seasons, too.
Here’s some further reading and material we used in our research:
- The Massachusetts Institute of Technology living wage calculator
- “Missouri Pork Plant Workers Say They Can’t Cover Mouths to Cough” from the New York Times
- Oxfam’s“Lives on the Line” project
- “What Happens If Workers Cutting Up the Nation’s Meat Get Sick?” from ProPublica
- “The Real Reason the U.S. Has Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance” from the New York Times
- “From Black Death to fatal flu, past pandemics show why people on the margins suffer most” from Science Magazine
- “Why the Wealthy Fear Pandemics” from the New York Times Opinion
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This season of “The Uncertain Hour” tells the unheard stories of real people affected by this thing we once knew as “employment.”
Stories like these are seldom in the limelight. It takes extensive time and resources to do this type of investigative journalism… to help you understand the complexity of our economy and to hold the powerful to account.
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