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Why Do Essential Workers Need Unions in the Fight against COVID-19?

One of the most adverse effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is the downfall of the global economy. The outbreak of novel coronavirus has increased the unemployment rate (above 10%) since April 2020. This largest global economic collapse has increased many labor market challenges and long-term structural problems. Although the economic disruption has been worldwide, the burden of this major downfall has not been borne evenly. For instance, the work-from-home facility to avoid the virus is not a privilege available to all workers. According to reports, low-wage workers, nonwhite workers, less-educated workers, or workers in service occupations are less likely to be able to work from home to stay safe from the virus. Workers who went to work, who are now called as ‘Essential’ and ‘Frontline’ workers, have played a key role in keeping the global economy running. So, if they have concerns regarding workplace safety, where do these workers complain? This raises an important question regarding the union representation of these workers. This article highlights the reasons why essential workers need unions in the fight against COVID-19.

As one of the leading bulk PPE suppliers in the USA, we have been constantly protecting these essential workers from the virus with our continuous PPE supplies, helping them feel more confident and stay safe while they do their daily chores at their workplaces. Here in this blog, we have discussed the importance of labor unions, workplace safety, and the role of personal protective equipment in the fight against COVID-19.

Why There’s Need for Labor Unions and Workplace Safety for Essential Workers

Protests by healthcare workers, waste collectors, transit workers, grocery store staff, and delivery people have drawn attention to the risks and dangers faced by front-line workers of the coronavirus pandemic. The essential and front-line workers deserve the best protection against the virus, and this demands listening to their workplace grievances and COVID-19 safety issues, so that they work without any fear and maintain their health and safety, and those of their customers and staff. As legislation stands and essential workers face consequences of raising their voices for such concerns, it is quite evident that the essential workers need unions in the fight against COVID-19.

During the current crisis, we have repeatedly seen instances where frontline workers were forced to perform their jobs without using personal protective equipment or COVID-19 safety procedures. For instance, in California, nurses who demanded wearing N-95 masks while treating COVID-19 patients were suspended from their jobs. By protecting their right to work and act collectively, we can ensure that these workers are not forced to choose between their livelihood and health.

Researches have revealed that members of a union are more likely to use internal and external ways to address workplace complaints and issues than nonunion members. Additionally, unionized workplaces are 30% more likely to face an investigation for a health and safety violation by employers.

As one of the trusted PPE manufacturers, we believe that the continuous supply of personal protective equipment at workplaces can instill confidence and assuredness within workers about their health and safety while performing their daily tasks at their workplaces. We encourage employers to take good care of their workers and support them during times of crisis.

Why Do Essential Workers Lack Union Representation?

Like most Americans, there are many frontline workers who are not represented by unions. This confines their power and voice in the workplace. There are various reasons why essential workers lack union representation, including changes in labor law, sectoral shifts in the economy, higher resistance to unions by employers, increased job suspension rates, and certain public policy decisions, for e.g., right-to-work laws.

According to researches, only 1 in 10 frontline workers are covered by a union contract. While some industries like emergency services and the energy sector have relatively high union density rates, they represent comparatively small industries as a share of total employment. On the other hand, the larger essential sectors have much lower union density rates; only 8% of workers in the food and agriculture sector while 10% of healthcare workers are protected by a labor union contract.


The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted the U.S economy in 2020. The novel coronavirus has caused several unique challenges for workers and companies on how to resume their business work during the pandemic. While some essential workers have been able to switch to work from home online jobs, others are still continuing to go to their workplaces.

Since the outbreak of the global pandemic, many essential workers have been compelled to work under unsafe conditions leading to an increased number of workplace safety complaints in recent months. Although many PPE manufactures were trying to reduce the shortage of essential personal protective equipment, especially at healthcare facilities, many workers were forced to work without wearing masks, gloves, or other PPE items.

Today, although some of the challenges that workers are facing are new and COVID-19-specific, many challenges are the results of the decades-long weakened workers’ power. Since 90% of frontline workers are not represented by unions, they have only a limited ability to ensure workplace safety.

As one of the renowned bulk PPE suppliers in the USA, and more as an essential worker, we understand the importance of union representation for frontline workers. We believe that without strengthening labor laws and imposing them on all industries, we cannot ensure essential workers have the power to keep themselves healthy and safe at their workplaces. However, by empowering workers, there is a possibility to defeat COVID-19 and the economic crisis. Taking the example of the Great Depression, we now have a public interest in giving essential workers a voice. As we all prepare to celebrate Labor Day in the USA, we must think of ways to provide these essential workers with more of a voice at workplaces, both during and post-COVID-19 days.

If you’re looking to source PPE from PPE manufacturers in the USA for your workplace, you can trust us for placing your bulk PPE orders. Co-Defend is one of the most trusted bulk PPE suppliers in the USA that offers a wide range of PPE and medical devices for people to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Contact us to get a quote for your order today!

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