Welcome back to Axios @Work. Today's edition focuses on how the coronavirus pandemic has upended the 63% of U.S. jobs that cannot be done from home.
Situational awareness: Twitter announced today that it will allow its employees to work from home forever. That's after both Google and Facebook extended remote work policies through the end of 2020. (Look for tech giants, which were among the first companies to send employees home in March, to lead the way in turning remote work into the new norm after the pandemic.)
I've got 1,463 words for you this evening — a 5.5-minute read. First up...
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Millions of Americans are risking their lives to feed us and bring meals, toiletries and new clothes to our doorsteps — but their pay, benefits and working conditions do not reflect the dangers they face at work.
Why it matters: People who stock grocery shelves and deliver packages never expected to be on the front lines of a national crisis, and now they're playing a vital, but undervalued, role. "These are viewed as essential jobs done by disposable workers," says John Logan, a U.S. labor historian at San Francisco State University.
What's happening: Some companies, including Amazon and Walmart, increased hourly pay or distributed cash bonuses to low-wage workers when the pandemic began — in recognition of the hazards involved — but many of those pay bumps are expiring as employers worry about how much longer the pandemic will last.
Many low-wage essential workers have been laboring in unsafe environments. Companies waited weeks to install plexiglass shields and sanitization stations in stores, and states were late to mandate masks in essential workplaces beyond hospitals. As a result, various grocery stores, warehouses and food-processing plants have become hotspots of infection.
Between the lines: On safety, there's a disconnect between what CEOs are saying and what workers are reporting from the ground level, Vox's Anna North writes.
Benefits for grocery and delivery workers are among the worst in the nation. More than half such workers lacked paid sick days before the pandemic struck — giving them the strong incentive to come to work even if ill, reports CNN Business.
The bottom line: The coronavirus crisis is exposing the ugly ways in which low-wage workers are treated — by employers and customers alike. "But for the first time, the workplace conditions of low-wage workers are directly relevant to the whole country," says Sharon Block, executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School.
Protesting for higher pay outside of a Boston Whole Foods. Photo: Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Although some companies have temporarily raised wages as a form of hazard pay for essential workers, the majority have not.
By the numbers: Those offering hazard pay include 46% of grocers and other essential retailers and 29% of health-related employers, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Why it matters: The argument for hazard pay is simple: Compensation should account for risks taken at work. "In the investment world, the more risk you take, the more money you make," says UFCW's Perrone. "In this case, we have workers taking more risks and being more productive."
What's happening: Some lawmakers have proposed including hazard pay for essential workers as part of the next coronavirus relief package.
The bottom line: Without federal action, pay for low-wage essential workers will dwindle back to pre-pandemic levels, as more and more firms follow Kroger's example.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Restaurant and retail workers who can't do their jobs remotely were the first to lose their incomes to the pandemic — and, for many of them, those temporary hardships will turn into lasting ones.
By the numbers: Economists at the University of Chicago project that 42% of the layoffs from the pandemic will be permanent.
The bottom line: The silver lining in last week's jobs report — the worst in U.S. history, with 20.5 million jobs shed in April — was that around 18 million of those lost jobs were just temporary layoffs. But the outlook could turn worse in the coming weeks and months.
Out for delivery in Manhattan. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images
As every sector sheds jobs, grocery chains and delivery companies are bucking the trend and hiring by the hundreds of thousands.
The big picture: While much of America stays home, a big portion of the jobs lost in the retail and restaurant sectors are being reallocated to the delivery economy.
Postings for grocery and delivery workers haven't dwindled, Pollak says.
Yes, but: The quality of these jobs hasn't changed despite the demand. The pay being offered for jobs like delivery driver and grocery picker hasn't risen above pre-pandemic levels. And around 10% of the ZipRecruiter postings are explicitly for temporary gigs, compared to less than 2% before the crisis, Pollak says.
What to watch: It's likely that some of this temporary swelling in the grocery and delivery sectors will outlast the coronavirus as consumers' habits change.
The bottom line: "In the end, the companies that are supporting stay-at-home economies will probably need a workforce that is bigger than it was before the pandemic, but smaller than it gets to at the height of the pandemic," Jed Kolko, Indeed's chief economist, tells Axios.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
How the coronavirus pandemic will transform teaching (Axios)
Battling coronavirus in an Iowa meat plant (New York Times)
The newly minted grads on the front lines (New Yorker)
The pandemic's economic impacts are disproportionately hitting women and people of color (Vox)
My family's graduate. Photo: Muna Joshi (aka Mom).
High schools around the country are doing their best to make graduation-amid-a-pandemic special for America's 3.7 million seniors.
Maia Pandey, my sister (pictured above) is a senior at Buckingham Browne & Nichols in Cambridge, Massachusetts. And her high school sent every senior signs to put on their lawns.
Some other creative ideas...