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“Working through crisis” – The K-shaped recovery

Economic conditions both predating and overlapping with the pandemic have exacerbated workforce shortages in rural Washington. This is what the Wire heard from union leaders and health care workers in Cowlitz and Skamania Counties.

We traveled to these two counties hugging Washington’s southern border to get a sense of how work was impacted by the pandemic, and how the state’s rural workforce is faring in the K-shaped recovery. In our series on the K-shaped recovery, yesterday the Wire looked into what it is like for small business owners managing through crisis.

Today, we are publishing new reporting on how Washingtonians are working through crisis.

In Cowlitz County, labor leaders trace the area’s economic conditions to decades-long economic trends, many of which were set in motion through decisions made by policymakers and regulators. The area even smells different, according to Mike Bridges. Growing up in Southwest Washington, Bridges, who represents electrical workers in IBEW Local 48, says the area no longer bears the pungency that comes with industrial activity.

Those economic conditions laid the groundwork for a workforce shortage during the COVID-19 pandemic. The story of a limited labor supply getting worse during the pandemic is also the story about 100 miles east of Cowlitz County along the Columbia River in Skamania County. NorthShore Medical Group, a family practice clinic in White Salmon, felt a workforce strain pick up alongside vaccine distribution.

But workforce issues exist everywhere, and they can also be impacted by personal circumstance. We spoke to one King County small business owner who is living this reality.

See the video above, or click this link.

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