Is $25,000 enough? Why essential workers deserve more than hazard pay
Those of us who’ve worked so-called “unskilled-labor” understand the physical and emotional toll those jobs can have on our well-being.
Foodservice workers, transportation workers, postal workers, cleaning service employees and all the essential workers that have ALWAYS kept our society running, have for far too long heard that their work is not valued enough for higher wages.
The Coronavirus has proven that society cannot function without these workers, hence the “essential” label. So while we applaud the healthcare workers, including doctors and nurses, it’s important to recognize and applaud the employees deemed to perform “unskilled-labor.”
It’s time we back them up when it comes to advocating for livable wages and conditions for them.
Minimum Wage is a Joke
The federal minimum wage, which was originally legislated to be a livable wage (for a family of four on one salary) has not been raised in decades. In fact, while considering inflation, it has stayed the same since the 80s, and we all know that living expenses are far higher now than back then.
And now when those who are struggling with unsustainable wages are on the front lines of a deadly pandemic we can truly recognize who keeps our lives and our society functioning.
From the front lines
Jobs so many looked down on like cashiers and bus drivers are now some of the only jobs keeping our lives functioning properly. And they’re not only paid so little, but they’re also dying for it.
Transit workers have been hard hit with nearly 100 and more deaths due to a lack of proper protection against the life taking virus. And many more have gotten dangerously ill.
One of the most famous videos circulating on the internet is the one of Detroit bus driver Jason Hargrove who frustratingly expressed how commuters continued to go out while visibly sick and coughing all around him. He died 11 days after posting the video from COVID-19.
What a tragedy.
Detroit bus driver, Jason Hargrove, complained on March 21 on FB about a woman who coughed without covering her mouth as world is in middle of pandemic. "That let's me know that some folks don't care."
4 days later he felt sick.
Last Thursday he died of Corona. https://t.co/7aQ5zIpOTj
— Jenan Moussa (@jenanmoussa) April 4, 2020
Amazon workers also staged a walk-out due to a lack of protective gear amid pandemic concerns. Amazon later fired several employees critical of warehouse conditions.
Amazon workers in NYC went on strike to demand their warehouse be cleaned after someone tested positive for #coronavirus. At least 19 Amazon warehouses have positive cases.
A worker who organized the NYC protest has been fired — Amazon says for violating safety guidelines. pic.twitter.com/gws5OGGBRK
— AJ+ (@ajplus) March 31, 2020
Amid our boredom and complaints of pandemic struggles (which are still valid), we should consider the struggles of those that are making our precious comfort possible. And that’s not enough we need to fight for them the way they constantly fight for our own way of life.
There are two main ways you can do this.
The Every Day
Making their jobs easier now and in the future
This should be true now when it matters most but also in the future. Don’t go outside unless absolutely necessary. You’re keeping everyone safe by limiting contact, especially those who have no other choice but to go outside.
Don’t leave messes for service workers to clean. Don’t blow up at the cashier for long lines. Don’t yell at the bus driver for being late. Don’t insult a food service worker, ever really.
If you’re yelling or giving an essential worker a hard time, try doing their job yourself or shut the fuck up honestly.
The Big Picture
Support politicians who actually support the working class
Support policy and politicians who have a record and a plan to improve working-class lives. This doesn’t mean you have to wait for every presidential election to pick the lesser of two evils.
Go out and vote in local elections, for your council members, assembly members, judges, state legislators, federal representatives.
And if you did and you haven’t seen enough action, call your representatives. Tell them you care about the wellbeing, financial health, and safety net of working-class people. Better yet, if you don’t see the change you want, become the leader you want to look to.
Just like so many countless new representatives have done.
We don’t need to live in a society that treats its most essential workers as lesser deserving citizens. There is a better system for us all if we dare to try. Keep your fingers crossed in hopes that Congress approves the $25,000 hazard pay proposal.