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Who We Deem Essential

Grocery store, factory workers and nurses are all working hard to save our country

Brian Young's picture
Mar 20, 2020

From New York to California, states are shutting down and telling companies that only essential personnel should report to work. As in every emergency, whether it is a pandemic or a natural disaster this is when we see who really runs the economy.

In this state of emergency, it is notable that the low wage workers and the workers who are often overlooked are the ones who are being deemed essential. While companies are laying off workers, supermarkets are hiring. While the New York Stock Exchange is closed to humans, supermarket workers are working 24-7 to clean and restock their shelves and keep Americans fed. Companies like Kroger, the third-largest retailor in the country, have announced that they will hire 10,000 workers to keep their stores stocked and to give their current workforce the ability to take some time off. Other businesses like gas stations and convenience stores like 7-11 have also been deemed essential.

In hospitals, nurses are leading the way to take care of sick patients. For years unions like the National Nurses Union (NNU) and SEIU have been fighting for hospitals to hire more nurses. Now a pandemic has hit, and hospital executives and politicians are realizing that they simply don’t have enough. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo has been forced to ask retired nurses and doctors to come back to help with the crisis. Like good Americans, many have answered the call, even as they are putting themselves at risk for getting sick. These nurses and other healthcare professionals are even more at risk because hospitals have failed to acquire enough protective equipment to stop the spread of the virus.

"Nurses are working with inadequate protections, and that ranges from head coverings, respirators, appropriate gowns, covers for their legs and their feet," Bonnie Castillo, President of NNU said. "Instead, [they] are being given a surgical mask, a paper gown and a pair of surgical gloves. That is not going to protect the nurse and it's not going to protect anyone else."

Grocery store workers are facing similar health risks as they are forced to interact with customers with little to no protective equipment. With a lack of PPE, factory workers at 3M’s plant in Aberdeen, South Dakota are working overtime to double the plant's production of masks.

Construction has also been deemed an essential service as many sites are staying open and continuing to build, even as the developers are forced to work from home. While this is likely in anticipation of needing these workers to construct makeshift hospitals in the hardest-hit areas, many are questioning the decision to force these workers to continue to work on commercial projects.

Of course, we can’t forget the workers like police, fire, EMS, and utility workers who are always deemed essential during a crisis. No matter the crisis they always respond when called upon.

This crisis has shown us that the essential workers aren’t the executives who sit in offices all day figuring out how they can reduce costs to pay bigger dividends to investors, but rather the men and women who are manufacturing the products, who are helping the customers, and who are taking care of the sick patients. These are the people we rely on the most when the world is turned upside down and the executives take their money and run and hide in the Hamptons.

We want to hear what your thoughts are on who is essential. Leave us a comment on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with who you think are essential workers.

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