Workers' Stories in the COVID-19 Era

The COVID-19 pandemic has irrevocably changed the world of work. Workers’ hours are more erratic, their duties have increased, and the barrier between work-life and home-life is increasingly obscured. In addition, many “essential” workers find themselves at higher risk of getting exposed to COVID. Research, in fact, shows that essential workers were infected with COVID at higher rates compared to others (see here, here, and here).

Workers' Stories in the COVID-19 Era is a dialogue series aimed at building a collection of worker narratives during the COVID-19 pandemic. The project is led by GLRC Executive Ethel Tungohan (Associate Professor & Canada Research Chair, Politics), with a team of undergraduate and graduate students at York University: Christina Love (Undergraduate Student, Indigenous Studies and French), Tinu Koithara Mathew (PhD Candidate, Human Resources Management), and Suzanne Spiteri (PhD Candidate, Sociology).

May Day Video

Reflections on Workers' Stories in the COVID-19 Era

For May Day 2022, we present our research assistants' reflections on the Workers' Stories series. Watch here.

Installment #18

“People Suck” and Other Perspectives from an Electrical Field Worker

An electrical store retail worker discusses the lack of safety precautions from employers, hostile interactions with customers, and increased anxiety about spreading COVID. Read more.

Installment #17

Much Ado About Unions: Teaching During the Pandemic

A teacher in British Columbia highlights the importance of having a strong union and the need for paid sick days for all workers. Read more.

Installment #16

“Just See Us”: Reflections from a Filipina Barista Working During the Pandemic

A Filipina barista/supervisor at Tim Hortons stresses the importance of compartmentalizing the abuse she faces at work in order to keep moving forward and support her family back home. Read more.

Installment #15

From the Inside Out: A Mental Health Assistant’s Perspective on the Pandemic

A former administrative assistant at a Toronto mental health clinic speaks about long waitlists to access services and their concerns about the Canada Summer Jobs program. Read more.

Installment #14

Play that Funky Music, Contract Musician

A musician in the Toronto area and self-described “workaholic” talks about the instability of being a musician and music teacher during the pandemic. Read more.

Installment #13

“Kindness is Free”: Serving in the 6ix During the Pandemic

A server and supervisor at a bar/restaurant in downtown Toronto discusses how the responsibility for reopening the economy has disproportionately and unreasonably fallen on our most vulnerable workers. Read more.

Installment #12

Please, Sir, I Want Some Rights

A seasonal factory worker in the GTA describes working in a food production job during the pandemic and highlights the precarity and lack of worker supports. Read more.

Installment #11

At the Flip of a Switch: A Worker’s Perspective on Getting Hired and Laid off During the Pandemic

A former retail employee describes the disillusionment many student workers felt during the pandemic. Read more.

Installment #10

Frustration on the Frontlines

A senior nurse in the GTA shares their experiences as a worker on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the mismanagement of pandemic protocol by the government and hospital administration. Read more.

Installment #9

Living Traditionally During a Pandemic that Has Exacerbated Colonialism and Injustice

A small-scale commercial fisherman in the Republic of Malta discuses how neo-colonialism and neo-liberalism further exacerbate the effects of this global health crisis. Read more.

Installment #8

Quitting after a Thousand Blows: Retail Work While Navigating a Chronic Illness During the Pandemic

A former cashier explains her feelings of not being safe and managers' lack of accountability, especially regarding her chronic illnesses. Read more.

Installment #7

COVID-19 and its Impact on Sub-Saharan Africa: Voices of Ghana

Three workers from Ghana in the educational sector, public utility sector, and healthcare sector discuss government intervention, socio-economic impacts, and the role of unions in bolstering employment rights. Read more.

Installment #6

When Job-Hunting Becomes a Matter of Survival: COVID-19 and Changing Careers

A former veterinary assistant discusses needing to get out of their field, and how hard doing that has become during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more.

Installment #5

“I Wish That They Had Let Me Go, Too”: A Line Cook’s Experiences Working Through COVID-19

A line cook describes how management's shift to reducing labour costs during the pandemic drastically increased employees' responsibilities. Read more.

Installment #4

Medical Research(ers), Burnout, and Doing What You Can in the Wake of COVID-19

A medical researcher at a Canadian hospital reveals details of the increased workload and burnout that they are experiencing due to the pandemic. Read more.

Installment #3

“I'm just here to make my $14 an hour”: The Trials and Tribulations of Ontario’s Front-Line Retail Staff

A former front-line cashier supervisor describes her experiences dealing with employers and customers and her experiences of mistreatment and exploitation. Read more.

Installment #2

Show Up and See What We Can Do: An Educational Assistant’s Experiences Teaching Through Covid-19

An Educational Assistant working with students with unique learning needs shares her experiences teaching in-school and online, while juggling her own family at home. Read more.

Installment #1

“You Begin To Feel Less than Human”: Student-Workers Discuss Work and "Blurring the Lines" During COVID-19

Three Canadian student-workers share their working experiences during the pandemic. Read more.