North Texas Daily

COVID-19 should make us rethink the place of labor

COVID-19 should make us rethink the place of labor

COVID-19 should make us rethink the place of labor
August 07
19:22 2020

Earlier in March, Walmart, Olive Garden and Apple updated their companies’ sick leave policies in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and their workers are better off for it. Walmart employees are no longer penalized for calling in sick and those diagnosed with the virus will not be forced to use their paid leave. Instead, they are provided with up to two weeks of pay. But why were Walmart’s workers penalized for calling in sick in the first place?

There are two important lessons to takeaway during this pandemic. One, if you’re sick, it’s best you stay home. Two, service workers are necessary for society to function. The pandemic has proven that low-wage workers are some of our most essential workers.

As the economy reopens, those who haven’t been laid off are clocking into work. Workers still have rent to pay. If we lived in a country with a decent social safety net, it’s reasonable to think many would not take these risks. However, even with benefits, some would still have to work. Previous shelter-in-place orders in Dallas County excluded all businesses deemed “essential.”

Three obvious necessities COVID-19 brings to light are food, sanitation and health care, all of which are recognized as essential. So if these businesses are “essential” for a functioning society, shouldn’t those who actually labor in these sectors be entitled to much greater benefits, especially in light of the risks they now take?

Before the pandemic, we still needed sanitation workers, otherwise, our garbage would remain in a pile next to our house in a gross unsanitary display. Retail workers were necessary to buy our food and clothes. Those in the medical industry vaccinated our children and kept us healthy. No doubt, they’re heroes for risking their lives in the new conditions they face.

COVID-19 did not make them essential, because they always were. Yet these workers are in some of the lowest-paid occupations in the United States. Therefore, the value workers create is not represented in their wages.

Predictably, the stock market has taken several dips during the crisis, including the largest one-day plunge in history. Some argue the crash would have occurred in one form or another, regardless of the panic over coronavirus. Even after the Federal Reserve pumped $1.5 trillion into Wall Street, stocks continued to fall. It should be noted that only about 54 percent of Americans own stocks, and are mostly older and wealthy. However, with another stimulus package in the works, stocks have begun to rise again.

In the weeks before the economy reopened, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said that he and other senior citizens would be willing to sacrifice their health for the economy. He urged younger generations to return to work. Former Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein made similar comments, advising those with low-risk of contracting COVID-19, i.e. young people, to go back to work within a few weeks.

These comments are rather revealing. It shows that these members of the upper-class are willing to throw away the lives of millions in order for the endless growth of capitalism to continue. More importantly, it reveals the true position of the working class in the economy. Capitalists need the workforce to create the value that is hypothetically represented by the stock market. Towards that end, we should seriously consider how necessary the capitalists are.

We should not let the lessons of COVID-19 go to waste. The crisis has only revealed the role these workers play in society, not changed it. In a world after coronavirus, we will still need people to stock our shelves, mob our floors, and vaccinate us against future illnesses. We should not only demand they keep their benefits, but fight for much more.

Featured Illustration: Austin Banzon

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Miller Devanney

Miller Devanney

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1 Comment

  1. Poo Digger
    Poo Digger August 08, 08:13

    Socialist point of view. Anyone with good sense would have already done their homework and know that Socialism does not work. I don’t know what this writer is drinking or what planet he/she came from. Maybe a quick trip to a Socialist country would open the eyes.

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