Anyone with a dozen functioning brain cells knew this a long time ago, but the heroes in this society have never been CEOs, entrepreneurs, people in the financial industry, landlords, or even the military. It’s the people who bring us our food (grocery store employees, truck drivers, farmers, food delivery, restaurants, etc.), the people who teach our children, postal workers, utility workers, sanitation workers, and the people who provide medical care. Because it turns out people in that first group could stop what they’re doing and it barely makes a damn bit of difference. But our survival, and the survival of our society depends on the second group of people.
And yet most of those people are barely able to make ends meet financially, while the first group (low-pay-scale soldiers aside) live a life of security & luxury. Half of these jobs are called “low-skilled”, which is so offensive as to border on being a slur. One good thing to come out of the current crisis is the the perception of these people is beginning to change, as reported in this article:
Minnesota, Michigan, and Vermont have all classified grocery store employees as emergency workers, making them eligible for childcare and other services. Stop & Shop workers have received a 10 percent pay increase and two additional weeks of paid sick leave. Safeway, Target, and Whole Foods workers won a $2-per-hour increase. And unionized workers at Kroger in Washington state have been given hazard pay, a demand taken up by many grocery and other frontline workers across the country.
The work being done by these people is essential. It was just as essential two months ago. And now their job has become, in the face of this virus, dangerous as well.
There’s nothing heroic about billionaires, who are ineffectual narcissists. Bloomberg could have fixed the water in Flint for a fraction of what he spent on his vanity campaign. Jeff Bezos, Elon Muskrat, Fuckerberg, any one of them could fund the manufacture of ventilators and surgical masks without putting a wrinkle in their off-shore bank accounts. Hell, people might even like them more. But even with the means to do something meaningful, billionaires can’t think of anything better to do with their money than waste it. CEOs can’t think of anything better to do with their money than invest it in their own company, or stash it where it can’t be taxed.
This doesn’t mean you need to tell your cashier, “Thank you for your service” next time you see them–an empty phrase, even when you say it to a soldier (hint: if you’re pro-war, or “pro-illegal American military intervention” to be specific, or vote for a political party that consistently cuts veterans’ benefits [another hint: it’s the party that starts with an R], then you aren’t doing shit for the troops). Just remember, when you see these workers organizing for a living wage, or radical socialist ideas like health care and paid sick leave, that you can show your thanks by supporting them, and by advocating for them any way you can. Whenever you hear of a group on strike, you can call your government officials, call their employers, and refuse to ever, ever cross a picket line. We owe our lives to these people. Be ready, when the time comes, to repay our debt.
You can start by calling the city of Pittsburgh on behalf of these guys.