Work during the 1918–20 Influenza Pandemic in the United States

Benjamin Schneider, Oslo Metropolitan University

The 1918–20 influenza outbreak is the deadliest pandemic in American history, but it has been neglected by labor historians, caught between the First World War and the developments of the 1920s. This paper takes a broad view on working conditions and labor during the pandemic, examining the development of incomes, working time, occupational risks, and qualitative aspects of jobs. It also incorporates evidence on paternalistic corporate responses to the “Spanish flu”, the pandemic’s impact on labor regulation, and industrial action. The conclusion contrasts the findings with the US experience of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020–22, suggesting that the absence of sustained, aggressive non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) may explain the absence of a durable change to working practices after 1918.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 77. Carework, Health, and Labor