Giving Compass' Take:

• The Economic Opportunities Program explores how to appreciate and reinvent low-wage work, which is becoming more important as COVID-19 significantly impacts essential workers. 

• How can donors better support essential workers during this time and where are there opportunities to acknowledge and support the economic and social achievement of America's working class? 

• Read more about ensuring protections for essential workers during the pandemic

Did it seem like we would ever reach Labor Day 2020? As we mark this annual milestone, it’s an important time to consider and honor our “persons of the year”—essential workers everywhere. While a tiny virus upended both global systems and our daily lives, essential workers continued despite the risks and burdens to do their work in grocery stores and hospitals, in delivery vans and food production. We know them—perhaps now more than ever—precisely because without them our essential needs are unmet.

As all that is true, why don’t we all demand changes? They deserve better. And we can do better. As we pause for a much-needed break, let’s reflect why on we’ve made choices such that tens of millions of hard-working people receive so little in return for their labor. Let’s also look for lessons from the many labor and business leaders, policymakers and social changes agents, and analysts and activists who rise to the challenge and innovate to boost job quality for essential and other workers—to benefit all of us.

At the Economic Opportunities Program, exploring ideas to reinvent low wage work is and long has been our focus. We need many strategies to encourage better jobs. And as we focus on improving the quality of work, we need to have better measures for assessing progress. Our year kicked off with economist and CEO of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, Heather Boushey, who discussed how to realign measures of economic success with societal well-being. The session laid bare the enormous costs of our yawning economic divides that can only be cured through building shared prosperity. Metrics at the level of individual businesses can guide public and private purchasing decisions and encourage better jobs. And we continue to profile business leaders that see good jobs as good for their businesses. We believe metrics matter and that we can do better in choosing which metrics guide us.

Read the full article about essential workers during COVID-19 by Maureen Conway at The Aspen Institute.