News & Commentary

January 6, 2021

Leigh Thomas

Leigh Thomas is a student at Harvard Law School.

All eyes are on the Georgia Senate run-off race. Democrat Raphael Warnock won his race against Republican Kelly Loeffler. The race between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican David Perdue remains close.

The nationwide rollout of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is not moving fast enough. State officials are pointing the finger at multiple targets: the federal government, hospital inefficiencies, and mistrust of the vaccine among intended recipients. Even as states have moved forward with vaccinating thousands of health care workers, some are finding vaccines difficult to access due to their employment status. According to NPR, nurses and nursing assistants who are employed by a staffing agency, rather than directly by a health care facility, have been unable to receive a vaccine. Health care workers who work in private practice, rather than at a hospital, have also struggled to access vaccinations.

School is back in session after winter break, bringing with it Covid risks picked up during holiday travel. Teachers’ unions continue to lead the fight for safety standards in schools. From Connecticut to West Virginia to Tennessee, teachers’ unions are questioning plans to reopen in-person learning during January, citing concerns over spikes in Covid cases. In Florida, a group of teachers’ unions signed a letter demanding Governor DeSantis amend his executive order that placed residents 65 and up ahead of teachers and other front line workers in line for vaccinations.

In Los Angeles, where Covid cases have spiked dramatically and ICU bed availability is dangerously low, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors is considering mandating “hero pay” for grocery and retail drugstore employees. According to The Los Angeles Times, if the Board approves the measure, workers could see a pay increase of $5/hour. The motion passed by the Board yesterday calls on the County Counsel to draft an ordinance requiring the pay increase, which will be voted on at a meeting on January 26th. While groups representing grocery stores call the measure “irresponsible” and claim it will cause stores to raise prices, the motion’s supporters cited to a Brookings Institution report indicating national grocery chains saw massive profits over 2020, little of which was passed on to workers.

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