Why Essential Workers Are Striking Today + How to Help

Lead Photo: Art by Alan Lopez for Remezcla
Art by Alan Lopez for Remezcla
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This May Day, the stakes are high. Millions of lives are at risk as they do the work to keep families fed and healthy through the crisis. Thousands of essential workers are striking today to demand safe working conditions, proper supplies (protective gear and cleaning supplies), hazard pay, paid sick leave and more.

Our idea of what and who is “essential” and most valuable in our nation’s workforce has shifted. Frontline healthcare workers such as doctors and nurses are recognized for their work on a daily basis through balcony clapping and fluff statements by President Trump, yet horror stories of improper working conditions are ignored by the government. The same goes for farmworkers and essential store employees.

Latinos make up a significant part of the United States workforce and the essential worker slice of it, specifically.

“The people who are cooking the food we are eating don’t have enough to eat themselves,” Cristina Jiménez of United We Dream told The New York Times. “This is why you saw overwhelming support in the Latino community for Senator Sanders—we need sick days, we need insurance.”

Earlier this week, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer proposed a “Heroes Fund” that would give up to $25,000 to those who fall under the frontline workers umbrella—including, but not limited to, grocery workers, delivery drivers and of course, those caring for folks in hospitals and ensuring their run as needed. The latter includes not only doctors but also janitors, patient care technicians, cooks and more. Hazard pay was also thrown around as a possibility; but Congress has yet to approve or formally acknowledge the demand.

Meanwhile, grocery workers and delivery service providers are quite literally fueling the nation. Many have complained about the working conditions prior and staged peaceful protests leading up to International Workers’ Day. Yet, their requests have not been taken seriously, and many have gotten sick or died as a result.

Currently, loopholes in the system mean millions of grocery workers and nearly a third of healthcare personnel don’t even have sick leave, according to the Washington Post. Though the stakes are high, many depend on the work for their livelihoods.

In April, an elderly couple died of coronavirus complications two days apart. Sandra Kunz was a cashier at Walmart and continued to work despite a lung condition because she “needed to get her paycheck,” according to the local Colorado station who got in touch with her sister, Paula Spellman.

I wish she had taken leave,” Spellman said.

Employees at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Amazon, Instacart, Target, Walmart and FedEx are amongst those taking a stand for their rights today. They plan to call out sick en-mass or walkout, according to NPR.

An easy way to help is to show solidarity, not cross the picket line and, if you’re able, donate to a worthy cause instead. There are several fundraising events happening over the course of the week including a concert and fashion show.