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The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has thrown America’s deeply dysfunctional system of caregiving into sharp relief: overcrowded and understaffed nursing homes account for a third of all COVID-19 deaths in the US. ICUs have been stretched to capacity while nurses, doctors, and other healthcare professionals—already beset by a nursing shortage prior to the pandemic—face high levels of burnout. And, of course, last year’s school and daycare closures put severe strains on many parents, particularly women, who have had to navigate 24/7 childcare while simultaneously trying to work their jobs, either remotely or in-person. Add to this the fact that care work has been the fastest-growing labor sector in the US, and it’s clear that any labor movement that is serious about building working-class power must be committed to organizing and fighting for care workers. But what does such a movement look like in practice? And how can we merge the struggles of care workers today with those of workers in other labor sectors.

As part of a special collaboration with Jacobin magazine, TRNN Editor-in-Chief Maximillian Alvarez joined hosts of The Jacobin Show Jen Pan and Paul Prescod for an extended episode examining the past, present, and future of the American labor movement. In this segment from the show, Pan explores the unique and varied struggles care workers face today, the importance of building a labor movement that includes care workers, and the ongoing fights by care workers in places like Worcester, Massachusetts, where 800 nurses at St. Vincent Hospital have been on strike since early March. We are sharing this segment with our TRNN audience with permission from Jacobin.

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Jen Pan is a co-host of The Jacobin Show and has written for the New Republic, Dissent, the Nation, and other publications.

Paul Prescod is a co-host of The Jacobin Show, a high school social studies teacher, and member of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

Ten years ago, I was working 12-hour days as a warehouse temp in Southern California while my family, like millions of others, struggled to stay afloat in the wake of the Great Recession. Eventually, we lost everything, including the house I grew up in. It was in the years that followed, when hope seemed irrevocably lost and help from above seemed impossibly absent, that I realized the life-saving importance of everyday workers coming together, sharing our stories, showing our scars, and reminding one another that we are not alone. Since then, from starting the podcast Working People—where I interview workers about their lives, jobs, dreams, and struggles—to working as Associate Editor at the Chronicle Review and now as Editor-in-Chief at The Real News Network, I have dedicated my life to lifting up the voices and honoring the humanity of our fellow workers.
Follow: @maximillian_alv