Listen Now

Andrea Hsu

Andrea Hsu is NPR's labor and workplace correspondent.

Hsu first joined NPR in 2002 and spent nearly two decades as a producer for All Things Considered. Through interviews and in-depth series, she's covered topics ranging from America's opioid epidemic to emerging research at the intersection of music and the brain. She led the award-winning NPR team that happened to be in Sichuan Province, China, when a massive earthquake struck in 2008. In the coronavirus pandemic, she reported a series of stories on the pandemic's uneven toll on women, capturing the angst that women and especially mothers were experiencing across the country, alone. Hsu came to NPR via National Geographic, the BBC, and the long-shuttered Jumping Cow Coffee House.

Studying the brains of fruit flies is not the kind of work that you can easily do from home. You need special microscopes and something called a fly-ball tracker, which neuroscientist Vivek Jayaraman likens to a treadmill. A very tiny treadmill.

"We position them on a little ball. The fly walks on the ball. It's in a virtual reality space," explains Jayaraman in his lab at the Janelia Research Campus, part of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Fifteen months into the pandemic, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued a mandatory workplace safety rule aimed at protecting workers from COVID-19. But it only applies to health care settings, a setback for unions and worker safety advocates who had called for much broader requirements.

On a walk outside his office in downtown Washington, D.C., Greg Meyer stops to peer in through the glass windows of a fast-casual lunch spot called Leon. The exposed brick interior gives it a cozy coffeehouse vibe. But the lunch crowd is nowhere to be seen. The whole place is dark.

"The pandemic put them out of business," says Meyer, region head for Brookfield Properties, which owns almost all the buildings on this block and hundreds more around the country.

Updated June 4, 2021 at 1:43 PM ET

On the day in April 2020 that Valerie Mekki lost her job, she was scared to share the bad news with her children. So she hid in her room for 45 minutes.

"I just didn't want to face them," says Mekki, who worked in fashion merchandising for more than 18 years and was the sole provider of health insurance for her family. "I had the shame and the guilt."

But her teenagers surprised her with their optimism.

On the sidewalk outside Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams in Alexandria, Va., Rhea and Mark Woodcock wait for their turn to go inside for their weekly ice cream treat — a scoop of Texas Sheet Cake for her, a scoop of Gooey Butter Cake for him.

The Woodcocks are vaccinated, and they're also wearing masks, abiding by the MASKS MANDATORY signs plastered all over the doors.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

In 2014, when Thea Lee was a top official with the AFL-CIO, she posed a provocative question at an economics conference about what America's trade objectives should be. Was the point to lower barriers and increase the level of trade, or was it to use American leverage to create good jobs and protect worker rights?

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

What should you do if you witness harassment, or worse, an assault?

That question came into sharp focus this week following an attack on a 65-year old Filipino immigrant outside an apartment building in Midtown Manhattan.

President Biden's push for a $15 federal minimum wage appears to be on hold for now.

As part of a marathon session of voting on amendments to Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, the Senate late Thursday approved by voice vote a measure prohibiting an increase of the federal minimum wage during the global pandemic.

It may only be weeks until a COVID-19 vaccine is approved for use in the U.S. Pfizer and its partner BioNTech asked the Food and Drug Administration to grant an emergency use authorization for their vaccine a week ago, and Moderna is expected to follow suit in coming days.

Just a few months into the coronavirus pandemic, Holly Smith had already made up her mind. She was not going to reopen her restaurant to diners until there was a vaccine. She just didn't think it was safe. When she shared the decision with her staff, they asked: Would the vaccine be mandatory?

Yes, she said. It would be.

Norah Perez's children had been going to day care since they were four months old. That came to an abrupt end this spring when the coronavirus hit and their day care closed.

Like many parents, Perez initially thought it might last a few weeks. Turns out, that was wishful thinking. Now, she could lose some of the money she set aside from her paycheck, pre-tax, to pay for day care. She has $2,200 stuck in what's called a dependent-care flexible spending account, money that is "use it or lose it" unless Congress or the IRS act.

When news broke that Florida voters had approved a ballot measure raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, Terrence Wise celebrated from 1,000 miles away.

"If we can get it in the Deep South, you know, down there in Florida, it's bringing all workers closer to $15 an hour minimum wage on a national level," says Wise, a McDonald's worker in Kansas City, Mo., and a leading voice of the Fight for $15 movement.

Zachary Austrew is still trying to come to terms with what it means to be the sole breadwinner in his household.

"We're not that family where I go to work, and she stays home and cleans the house, and I expect dinner when I return," he says. "That's not how we operate."

And yet, with two young children stuck at home and Austrew's project management job deemed essential, they more or less are — for now. This summer, his wife Ashley quit her full-time job in marketing and is now homeschooling the kids.

Pages