Like me, most people are getting frustrated with the social distancing/stay at home order that most governors have imposed on their states.
Like me, most people are so frightened of getting sick with Covid-19 that we are willing to continue staying at home.
As we look at states reopening there will be a tension between the desire to stay home so you don’t get sick and potentially affect a family member, and going to work. The tension is explicitly being aggravated in some states, Iowa for certain, with the concern that if a business opens and an employee chooses not to risk his or her health by reporting for work, that that will be seen as a voluntary quit and the worker will lose his or her right to unemployment benefits. In Iowa, the governor expressly made that pronouncement and many workers are going to have a very serious problem. There are people with damaged immune systems who are not only likely to get sick, but likely to get very sick and, perhaps, die.
Although I do not practice employment law on any kind of regular basis, it seems to me that in Oregon people should be able to avoid losing their unemployment benefits if they are at too great a risk to return to work early.
As a practical matter, I have the distinct impression that our governor is not going to reopen businesses without very strict social distancing in place until we have adequate testing and we are able to trace those who become ill so that the folks they have been in contact with can be quarantined.
Given my perspective from representing injured workers for as many years as I have, it has long been my feeling that working people everywhere are not only critical to making the economy run, but that they are used as pawns by big business.
I have been through trickle down tax cuts on three occasions (Reagan, George W. Bush, and now Donald Trump administrations) and the reality is it has never worked. Trickle down tax cuts do not benefit workers, they benefit the wealthy people who actually get the tax cut.
We know from the New Deal that trickle up economics works very well. When you put money in the hands of the poor and middle class, they spend it. That spending causes economic activity to ramp up and it gets people back to work.
My concern here, however, is that the working people are going to be used as the canary in the coal mine to determine whether and when it is safe to open up the economy.
Sadly, many of those people will get sick and some will actually die. While small business owners frequently have to be present at the workplace (think of somebody who owns and runs a restaurant), some do not and they can continue practicing social distancing and keeping themselves safe. I think the dynamic here is to watch for when the business owners who don’t need to be present at the workplace actually go out into the economy and the workplace. At that point, we can be fairly certain that it is actually safe to go out.