“Essential” Means Underpaid and Unprotected
What we owe the people we rely on during the pandemic
If someone tells you that you’re “essential,” you’re going to want to run the other way. Because “essential” now means underpaid, unappreciated, sacrificial, and there to serve everyone else.
In the future, definitions in the dictionary are going to need to include what “essential worker” came to mean during the Covid-19 crisis. You were essential, but your health, your income, your life, your safety net, and your well being turns out are “not as essential.”
Keeping America’s steaks and Big Macs was essential to Trump as he called meat packing plants essential before they could retrofit so as to not become blazing hot spots. You show who’s essential by who you protect and who you don’t.
Asking people to go to work to keep America moving is nothing new to people who get up early in the morning to pick crops, drive trucks, move boxes, stock shelves, ring the register and bring things to our doors.
However, other countries like Italy drew much harder lines and asked for much more sacrifice than we did. Shopping only on certain days of the week. Better isolation. More short-term pain for all for quicker long-term gain instead of luxury for some on the shoulders of others.
A crisis shows our truest colors. The U.S. put the needs of the well-off first, asking for relatively-speaking minor sacrifice (other than learning Zoom angles and teaching math to our kids, which is actually no small thing). But “essential” workers have it different.
Essential workers sleep on couches to reduce family spread, beg for masks, take public transport and of course, interact with “non essential” people who refuse to wear masks or socially distance. This just scratches the surface of the indignities of being “essential.”
Black communities not only have been getting disproportionately sicker from Covid-19 but are disproportionately asked to work to support the rest of the country. Wonder if there’s any correlation…
How grateful are we as a nation to the essential? Well, we decided that as of May, if people couldn’t work for health reasons, they wouldn’t get unemployment in most states —…