Working class Americans seem to be victimized thrice over by COVID-19. From states reopening prematurely to unsafe working conditions that have led essential workers to strike, the damage is almost tangible.
the bottom line
As essential workers prioritize mental health, big businesses and public officials seem to be prioritizing bottom lines. In Georgia, “public health officials reported over 1,000 new Covid-19 cases on Friday [April 24],” wrote Kayla Goggin for Courthouse News. This was after Georgia's Governor, Brian Kemp, re-opened the state, a controversial move.
In response to the re-opening, Kevin Powell wrote an opinion piece for BET.com where he said, "This is outrageous. It is inhumane, dangerous, and dancing with death."
He later added, “This is Georgia...where insane racism blends with sheer stupidity and White nationalism at the expense of the rest of us.” Powell was among many who found Kemp's actions discriminatory.
Writing for News One, Royce Dunmore noted that, “Black people are suffering gravely from the coronavirus pandemic [so] people are calling [Kemp] out even more for his disregard for Black life.”
Yet, Kemp is not the only politician to draw public ire for his response to the virus.
Chicago's Mayor Lori Lightfoot caught flak when she told stay-at-home violators, “You are going to jail. Period.” According to the New York Times, Cook County Department of Corrections is a"hotbed" of the virus among U.S. jails.
So, threatening to jail violators is threatening to expose them to the virus, wrote blogger Stephanie Greene on Twitter. "These mfs love to kill ppl and call it the law," she tweeted.
Really, the damage of this current pandemic is heightened by its preexisting conditions: lack of care for Black people that perpetuates lack of care for Black essential workers.
the picket line
“In the United States, the face of our essential workforce is overwhelmingly black with research showing that black folks are more likely to be considered essential workers than their racial and ethnic counterparts,” wrote Jessica Moulite, a video producer for The Root.
In a visual story for outlet, Moulite interviewed three Black essential workers from L.A. about their experiences. “I was very fearful of contracting the virus in the very beginning, especially when I found out that two co-workers had tested positive in the store...I thought that they didn’t take our health into consideration,” said Pam Hill, a cashier at a Los Angeles grocery store.
Having worked in a grocery store at the height of the crisis, I would argue that there is more to be done to protect Black essential workers who are battling the lovechild of racism and capitalism.
"Employers are not required to provide health insurance to employees that work, on average, less than 30 hours per week," says Amazon's health marketplace tool. This is because these employees are only considered part time.
Yet, for Amazon's fulfillment associates, part time roles are the ones most readily available, with minimum working hours being fifteen hours a month. This is an incentive for college students who need a low stress job to do with school (which is how I started).
When I finished school and began transitioning careers, the stakes changed. I realized that they were not being thoughtful by allowing me to work just four hours a month to keep my job. Instead, Amazon was easily getting away with not protecting its workers health; I had this epiphany during the pandemic.
Every day, we came in to new rules, and then they started sending out text messages about confirmed cases. The working conditions became so strenuous on my mental health that I was hospitalized. Then, my first day out, I got a text about another confirmed case - and this one was on the site that I frequently worked at. Add that with the lack of healthcare should I have contracted the virus, and you now have the conditions to quit.
Much of the essential workforce remains unprotected in the middle of a global pandemic, and they have taken a stand. If we cannot get basic rights, customers will not get their groceries, and that's the bottom line. Big businesses have constantly shown us their bottom line, and this time, we responded with ours. ~ℝ
Javanna plummer, RWebel in Chief
Javanna is the editor of "Rwebel Magazine," the architect behind "Rwebel Radio," and the pioneering force of "Xscape." Through her words, Javanna hopes to inspire creativity, passion and forward-thinking.
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