Revolt of the Essential Workers

Chona Kasinger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

When “two weeks to flatten the curve” began, the workforce was split in two: Some were defined as “essential” workers, and others as “nonessential.” The “nonessential” ordered delivery from home while farmhands harvested crops, workers in meatpacking plants processed and packaged products, truckers shipped food across the country, cooks prepared dishes, Doordash “dashers” dropped off takeout on doorstops, and sanitation workers picked up the trash. This division allowed the professional class to be protected from exposure to the virus and set the stage for a two-tier society. These tiers are now upheld by medieval protocols that require service workers to remain masked while patrons show their bare faces, and by vaccine pass systems that disproportionately impact and exclude poor and working-class people, especially people of color.

In conjunction with this sharp class division, government assistance has often benefited the wealthy. In total, eligible Americans got $3,200 through three stimulus checks. However, the first stimulus bill, the CARES Act, provided 43,000 millionaires with $1.7 million each through a tax break, and the second stimulus bill included a $200 billion giveaway for the rich. The CARES Act also bailed out many corporations with few strings attached. In the case of the airline industry, for example, executives used taxpayer money to give themselves bonuses while laying off tens of thousands of employees.

This imbalance is part of what has fueled the ongoing worker revolt.

Revolt of the Essential Workers – Tablet Magazine

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