Responding to the COVID-19 Unemployment Crisis and Meeting the Future of Work Challenge

Authors: Marcus Courtney and Adam Bobrow


Due to technology’s disruptive force in society and on the labor force, voices representing business and state governments have recently emphasized the need to revisit the social contract among firms, employees, governments, and citizens. This need has only intensified with the COVID-19 pandemic. The economic emergency associated with the pandemic has left 21.5 million workers unemployed and an additional 11.5 million workers with reduced pay to date. Today’s unemployment numbers are far worse than during the 2008 Great Recession. Underscoring the racial disparity seen in this economic crisis, Black and Latinx workers are currently experiencing higher rates of unemployment than white workers.

The next president should immediately sign two Executive Orders (EOs) to address the current crisis in work and the urgent economic emergency that has left Americans evicted, unable to pay bills, make rent, or put food on the table. The first EO would modernize unemployment insurance nationwide by boosting state unemployment insurance programs. The second would establish a U.S. Future of Work Commission tasked with developing a new model of work that addresses the key challenges the Fourth Industrial Revolution presents to American workers today.

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About the Authors

Marcus Courtney is an independent public affairs consultant based in Seattle, WA. He recently served on the Washington State Future of Work Task Force and started the first union for tech workers in the United States, WashTech/CWA, while a temporary worker at Microsoft. Marcus also was the head of department for the telecommunications and technology sector at UNI Global Union an international trade union federation based in Switzerland.

Adam Bobrow is the CEO of Foresight Resilience Strategies, a consultancy focused on developing new solutions for organizations facing cybersecurity uncertainty. Adam also currently serves as a Fellow (non-resident) at the German Marshall Fund of the United States Digital Innovation and Democracy Initiative. Previously, Adam served in the Obama Administration’s White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and in the Department of Commerce working on cybersecurity, privacy, and U.S.-China relations.