THE PANDEMIC CAN EMPOWER US TO DEMAND CHANGE

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

I am a firm believer that every experience provides a lesson – or an affirmation of a lesson learned.

As COVID-19 takes the world by storm and has changed life as we knew it, what have we learned or affirmed?

Many of us have affirmed that our mothers were right when they said:  wash your hands; cover your cough or sneeze; stay home when you’re not feeling well; avoid close contact with people who are sick; clean and disinfect.

We have learned that grocery and convenience store workers, custodians and housekeepers, fast food workers, gas station workers, home care and child care workers, etc. are considered “essential” workforce.

I find it not only disgraceful, but immoral, that these workers don’t make a living wage.

There is something terribly wrong when we expect “valuable” workers to stand on the front line during this pandemic but fail to pay them wages that support the dignity of a decent lifestyle. Sure, some of the large corporations who employ some of these workers have committed to a TEMPORARY hourly increase of a few dollars (still not enough to qualify as a living wage) that will disappear soon – outrageous!

(They can manage to pay their CEOs astounding sums while still recording multi-billion-dollar profits; but they continue to elbow their underpaid workers toward government assistance offices and food banks and clinics for food and health care, rather than pay them a living wage).

Even the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package will not provide the “relief” that is needed for underpaid essential workers. While the boost from a relief check or an additional unemployment insurance benefit is welcome, let’s be honest: It’s temporary and insufficient!

The promised (lest we forget many are struggling to get state unemployment benefits) $600 extra weekly unemployment benefit  is equivalent to a $15 hourly wage minimum — but to collect it, you have to be laid off.

And the stimulus package doesn’t mandate a comparable wage floor for workers who are still on the job – still on the front line (does this even make sense?).

Policymakers have always been slow to address an unjust economic system that increasingly widens the gap between the “haves” and the “have nots”.

The truth is that the federal minimum wage stands at $7.25 and hasn’t been increased since 2009 and policymakers never seem to be interested in what is best for the neediest Americans. News flash: Times of economic hardship have always increased the unequal standing of the most vulnerable Americans.

If we can learn to rapidly and drastically transform the way we live, work, and travel amid this pandemic, we surely can create a system of requiring a fair wage for all American workers – especially our underpaid “essential” workers — so that they have the freedom to live decent, independent, dignified lives.

As we experience shelter in place, lockdown, and quarantine and rediscover the absolute importance of underpaid essential workers, take time to put into perspective their value, related to hedge funders, investment bankers, and billionaire owners of multinational corporations (who have escaped to their bunkers).

Could it be that this pandemic is an occasion to revise the economic reward that each gets from society and to revisit issues like the distribution of wealth, fair taxation, and increased welfare (a social effort to promote the physical and material well-being of people in need)?

Could it be that this pandemic can empower us to demand a much-needed transformation of systems that are in crisis?

Posted in Associate Blog, News

11 responses to “THE PANDEMIC CAN EMPOWER US TO DEMAND CHANGE

  1. Thank you, Collette,
    I agree with you, and am glad that so many people are praying for doctors, nurses, garbage collectors, nurse aides, hospital laundry personnel, house keepers etc. who are all so important to the work of trying to contain this virus. Yes, I do hope that that this exposes what is happening to our lowest paid and vulnerable people in our country and in the world. Thank you for using your writing gifts for all of us.
    Our capitalistic practices need to be tweaked so that everyone shares in the well being of our country.

  2. Thank you all for your affirmation and support. Today, I saw headlines about the increasing number of underpaid essential workers who are dying from COVID-19. These workers are actually putting their lives on the line for much less than a living wage. I’m not trying to argue capitalism -vs- socialism. I’m talking about doing what’s right for people who are considered “essential” but are treated as if they are “expendable” — not getting proper protection and not being compensated justly. These are my brothers and sisters and I will give them voice as long as I breathe and God gives me strength.

  3. Thank you Colette.!!
    A good idea, and indeed our world will be different after this epidemic. At least closer to our Lord, I hope.

    The capitalist system, which is fragile in our country., in my opinion. Example: most big business’s have left because they cannot survive here, they are top heavy .. and yes the salary at the top is great… I believe in this system, although changes are necessary.

    The economic conditions for workers you have mentioned has been, like this for centuries, not only here, but worldwide. It is the human social system, even in Jesus’s time it was similar. Remember the vineyard worker, going out at the last hour to work.

    All countries have these issues, but it does not make it right, anymore than our high taxes… these Ensure that our children are in debt at birth.

    Prayer, and support of change and promoting change WITHOUT socialism taking over, is our best option here.

    Sidebar thought;

    Myself I was appalled by the news today. We are to wear masks in Public. Okay good idea., maybe. This is the suggestion of our federal government, and then further instructions where given, at least in Michigan, that we should not use a medical mask… so if that is the only type of mask one, has it Really is not acceptable.

    Now I went up to the store with my medical mask, in that is the safest thing I have. It was purchased by my dad, when my mom was ill. He bought a box.
    But message, at least in Michigan, is about fashion, designer mask… ? Now I am glad others had a mask, but competition of the type of mask or face handkerchief is not really what this all about.

    Praying daily , lay dominican

  4. Well said, Colette. You really put the terrible facts out there of the grave injustices we harbor in this country and throughout the world.

  5. Thank you for this blog, Colette.
    You have put into words what has been playing on my mind and heart for the past several weeks as this pandemic unfolds. I believe that God can bring good out of everything, even this terrible pandemic. I pray that your last two paragraphs will come to fulfillment in its aftermath.
    –Amy OP

  6. Well stated Collette! I cannot agree more. Families, friends and neighbors are reaching out to help as they can, but will our local, state and federal governments, as well as the richest corporations do likewise? This inequality has gone on too long, for too many generations. Now is another opportunity for systemic transformation. Can we do less for the majority of people? If we live to see the complete breakdown of the “haves” and “have nots”, we may finally get it — and God may finally sigh with relief.

  7. Thank you, Colette, Spoken as a genuine Preacher of Truth to Power. This should be published in every newspaper and then sent to every member of Congress.

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