Essential Workers as a Legal Category
Who is an "essential" worker? Since the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic, the concept of "essential worker" has been broadened from doctors and emergency responders to include a range of work and care. But does the term "essential worker" have any legal significance? If not, how could we imagine a legal category of "essential" work that would adequately value the care work that essential workers perform? This is especially important given that many of today's essential workers, such as grocery clerks, farmworkers, and childcare providers, lack basic labor protections and job security, even as they are publicly lauded for their service and sacrifice. This panel discussion will examine where the idea of "essential workers" fits into local and international law, in order to understand why our most valued workers are too often the most vulnerable.