Record editorial: Essential workers deserve more than a simple ‘thank you’
There’s nothing like the worst pandemic in a century to remind us of what’s truly important.
For many, the coronavirus has been a wake-up call not to take good health for granted. People have also found themselves grateful for the simple dignity of bringing home a hard-earned paycheck.
Nearly all of us, meanwhile, are united in having a renewed appreciation for something else the pandemic has put into perspective: the workers who make our community — and our country — tick, many of whom have gone too long without their due.
They powered our community before the pandemic and have continued to do so during the crisis. And though we began referring to them as “essential” after the stay-at-home order was put in place in March, it’s important to recognize that they’ve never been anything but.
They stock store shelves, providing us with easy access to groceries and other necessities. They drive our buses, transporting people who may have no other way to get around. They deliver mail and packages, ensuring a vital lifeline to the outside world remains functional.
That’s only a small sample of the functions they perform. And over the last several weeks, many have done their jobs while risking their own health.
Our community offers its thanks, along with an acknowledgment that, while the effects of the pandemic have been brutal, we’d collectively be in much worse shape if not for our essential workers.
At the same time, a “thank you” is not enough. While some workers classified as essential receive compensation commensurate with their contributions, others do not. Many don’t earn a living wage and some lack basic benefits like health insurance and paid time off.
The problem, of course, goes beyond our community. As a society, we must rectify those shortcomings.
Federal legislation passed in response to the pandemic has guaranteed some of those benefits to workers on a limited basis through the end of the year. That’s not good enough. When the pandemic ends, all of us must press lawmakers to grant workers those rights on a permanent basis, as well as support legislation to increase the federal minimum wage.
It shouldn’t have taken a pandemic for society to see the value of essential workers. But now that their importance has been made plain, let’s make sure we — and people in power — never forget it.
Shouldn’t “essential” workers be treated as such?
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Our view: Knowing the most vulnerable among us have — or are close to receiving — protection from this terrible, deadly disease is cause for celebration.