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Dr. Daniel Schneider, UC Berkeley, Assistant Professor of Sociology
Title: Essential and Unprotected? Service Sector Work in a time of COVID19
Abstract: Service sector workers are now heralded as essential workers, critical to the national effort to fight COVID19. However, service sector workers contended with precarious jobs before the COVID19 crisis and also bore the brunt of the first economic shocks of the COVID19 pandemic. I draw on data from the Shift Project to describe the reality of working conditions for America's retail, food service, grocery, pharmacy, and fulfillment workers, before and during the COVID19 pandemic. I focus on two key responses to the COVID19 shock for service sector workers. For workers who remained employed, COVID19 exposed the pronounced lack of paid sick leave. While federal policy did not mandate the expansion of PSL coverage for workers at large firms, some service sector firms did so under public pressure. I use these corporate expansions in paid sick leave during COVID19 to estimate the effects of PSL on worker outcomes. For workers who were laid off or furloughed, the unemployment insurance system should have provided a crucial safety net. I estimate the effectiveness of the UI system in protecting unemployed service sector workers from economic hardship and declines in wellbeing.