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Workplace Transformation Will Affect Everyone, Even Labor Unions

Op-Eds and Articles

The Labor Day holiday dates to the early 20th century, and envisioned as a public celebration of “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” of the community.

This year’s commemoration may seem strained with social distancing and much uncertainty about the future of jobs and opportunity, but the situation is less dire than feared at the start of the COVID-19 crisis. Americans are resilient and are finding ways to cope. We should all take pride in that. It’s also possible the disruption will have some positive side effects, like shaking up the status quo regarding labor unions.

It is unlikely work life will revert to the way it was before the COVID-19 crisis. Many workers have learned to clock-in from home — and found they prefer it. Big companies are rethinking large offices now that they know workers can do things remotely. Service-oriented businesses like restaurants have switched over to delivery as the primary means of reaching customers. City populations will thin if offices go empty, and the ancillary businesses that relied on the white-collar workers — like dry cleaners, delis and parking lots — will thin out as well.

Parents who hadn’t considered homeschooling have been forced to try it or other alternate education models. Some parents will prefer the alternatives, meaning smaller classes and fewer teachers at traditional schools. Doctors learned how to practice telemedicine, when possible, limiting their need for offices and support staff. And so on, across the economy.

That’s “creative destruction,” and it’s a necessary if sometimes painful sort of change. We must cope and adjust. Instead of being clustered together in a workplace, more of us will be independent actors, providing valuable services from home. One of the great banes of workers — commuting — will decline as a concern. Fewer people will need to leave their home, and those who must will find streets less crowded. Parents who once saw their children for only a few hours a day will now be more often present.

Read the full article at The Detroit News.