On March 31, a group of worker centers, unions, community groups and policy organizations in Illinois officially formed a new coalition, Stable Jobs Now, that aims to dramatically shift the power balance between workers and bosses by eliminating “at-will” employment — the practice that allows employers to fire their employees on a whim. In most of the rest of the world, workers are protected by the “just cause” principle, which says they can only be terminated for legitimate, documented reasons connected to poor job performance. But in the United States, the at-will doctrine allows bosses to arbitrarily fire employees for any reason or no reason whatsoever, with the burden of proving it was an unlawful dismissal placed on the worker.
The people whose disposability is on the widest display are those who work in immediate-risk industries. The financially precarious service workers out with the epidemiological wolves so the rest of society can buy groceries. The health care workers plastered on the news, who labor in a profession that tasks minority and women nurses, physician assistants, and technicians with what sociologist Adia Harvey Wingfield calls “equity work .” labor that makes health institutions more available to marginalized groups.