A record 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment the week of March 21 and economists at the St. Louis Federal Reserve office predicted that as many as 47 million Americans might lose their jobs before the coronavirus crisis is over. Meanwhile, a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia has decimated oil companies — right as demand for oil and gas dropped because Americans are driving a lot less. Many businesses are still open and some — like grocery stores and e-commerce delivery companies like Amazon — have become more essential than ever.
While the economy is teetering on the verge of collapse, the left seems determined to push it over the edge.
Unions have demanded Amazon close its warehouses, ostensibly to help workers by sanitizing them. Yet one of the leaders of an Amazon strike actually violated the company’s orders. Having been exposed to someone who tested positive for the coronavirus, he decided to return to work and lead a strike, potentially exposing his co-workers! This despite the fact that Amazon had offered to pay him during his quarantine.
A broad array of unions banded together to pressure Amazon to temporarily shut down, right when millions of Americans — and those in other countries — are dependent on the company to deliver food and other goods as Americans and others are ordered to stay at home to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Unions are taking advantage of the situation, attempting to bring this extremely necessary remnant of business to a halt.
As the economy is ravaged by the coronavirus, President Donald Trump extended an olive branch to oil companies by loosening Obama-era restrictions on fuel economy. Former President Barack Obama slammed Trump’s move as “climate denial,” comparing it to delays in responding to the coronavirus pandemic.
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats held up the $2 trillion stimulus bill to allow House Democrats to put forth their alternate version — jam-packed with liberal pet projects. Perhaps the worst of these involved a mandate for airlines receiving assistance to “fully offset the annual carbon emissions of such air carriers for domestic flights beginning in 2025.” The provision also mandated that air carriers will have to present passengers with “information regarding greenhouse gas emissions resulting from each individual flight” by January 1, 2023.
This information would have to be “customized to account for such emissions associated with each aircraft and the flight route of such aircraft” and it must be “made available on the first display of any website selling any ticket for such flight.” This onerous burden would strain air carriers and may convince Americans to avoid flying altogether — which is likely the goal. In other words, the funds for airliners would be a poison pill, designed to kill them long term.
That Democratic bill also mandated that any company receiving coronavirus stimulus aid would have to pay employees $15 per hour — effectively raising the minimum wage, which disrupts the economy and leads businesses to hire fewer workers.
One of the Democrats’ priorities actually made it into the bill, and this provision will make it harder for the few companies that are actually hiring during this crisis to find willing employees.
Right before the $2 trillion stimulus bill passed the Senate, Republicans warned that adding an extra $600 per week to unemployment checks would create a perverse incentive.
“The American people do not think you should get paid more money to not work than to work, and the American people understand the stated purposes of this bill are to maintain the employer-employee relationship,” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) insisted. “If we do something now that says the new baseline American assumption is the government should say … we want people to get more money to not work than to work, the American people do not want that to happen.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) condemned Sasse’s fears as “anti-worker.” Many Democrats seem to assume that anyone laid off during the crisis should not have to find another job.
Yet Marketwatch has tallied 440,000 job openings in the crisis. Businesses that are essential in the crisis such as Walmart, Amazon, CVS Health, Albertsons, Kroger, and Trader Joes are hiring, as are pizza delivery companies and some tech companies. These companies need more employees to keep up with increasing demand, and many of them are increasing pay and providing bonuses during the crisis.
When there are hundreds of thousands of jobs that need to be filled, Democrats just defended a measure that disincentivizes employment.
Americans are struggling in the midst of a crisis that brought the economy to an effective standstill. Now is not the time for unions to be making demands, for essential delivery workers to be going on strike, for Democrats to be pushing job-killing climate regulations, or for furloughed workers to make more money than re-hired employees. Let’s put politics aside and get Americans back to work.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.