Greetings! I hope we continue to stay safe in this crisis.
May First was May Day, AKA International Worker’s Day, a day honoring working men and women throughout the world. It has been celebrated all over the world, except in the United States, due to the Cold war and the association of May Day to the Stalinist regime in Moscow. (Of course, people in power will associate any challenge to their regime with Communism, thus having an excuse for repressions.)
This year, amidst the COVID-19 crisis our nation faces (no thanks to trump’s willful incompetence), May Day takes a special meaning to workers. Due to the Corona-virus, workers had to be put out of work through no fault of their own, and are trying to attain Unemployment benefits through their states. Congress has allocated trillions of dollars for small business relief, but that money has would up in the hands of multi-million dollar corporations, including the ones with the “trump” name on them.
Workers who have been particularly hard hit have been those at Amazon and Whole Foods, “essential” businesses that need to stay open. On May Day, workers in those two companies-along with workers at Target, Walmart, Instacart, FedEx, and Shipt went out on strike over their managements’ failure and refusal to provide safety measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, while these same companies have made enormous profits. (https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/884w3a/amazon-instacart-target-whole-foods-fedex-workers-explain-why-theyre-striking-may-day)
Christian Smalls, a worker in the Amazon distribution center in Staten Island, led a walkout at the facility over COVID-19 safety, and he urged company leadership to sanitize the building and seriously deal with the pandemic among employees. For this, Smalls was fired and subjected to a company-sponsored slander campaign. (https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/5dm8bx/leaked-amazon-memo-details-plan-to-smear-fired-warehouse-organizer-hes-not-smart-or-articulate) That has always been a tactic of corporations, to smear workers who stand up for themselves.
Amazon is a particularly serious example of profiteering during the pandemic, since people can’t go to stores and go have to order their goods online. Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos, already the richest human being on the planet worth $113 BILLION, and now, with the pandemic, his profits have risen, and he has thus added $24 BILLION to his bank account. With the trillions of dollars of stimulus from the federal government-call it the “rich man’s welfare,” as it is-corporate leaders are feeling confident again of a recovery for their own selves, still engaging in stock buybacks, which take stocks out of the market and thus raise (artificially) their value, thus raising the profits from them. (https://fortune.com/2020/04/14/jeff-bezos-net-worth-2020-billionaires-amzn-amazon-stock/)
State governments are not necessarily the friend of workers. In Iowa, the state government has ordered furloughed workers to resume work, with no regard for the continuing presence of the CIVD-19, or else lose forever their unemployment benefits. (https://www.businessinsider.com/iowa-tells-workers-return-to-work-or-lose-unemployment-benefits-2020-4?fbclid=IwAR1_Mr0j4_0M6GlmOYk5iBjOC8Cx6nI0Ej0Avcq64Yi8lsAGTMLSriQ3qeI) Wisconsin Chief Justice Patience D. Roggensack was hearing a case around Governor Tony Evers’s stay-at-home order related to the JBS Packerland meat-packing plant in Brown Country, which had close to 800 COVID cases; the learned chief justice’s comment was, “These were due to the meatpacking, though, that’s where Brown County got the flare. It wasn’t the regular folks in Brown County.” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/05/07/meatpacking-workers-wisconsin-coronavirus/) Does this mean that the meat workers were NOT part of the community, that they were alien, from another planet perhaps?
The meat-packing industry has particularly shown itself to be abusing to its workers, many of who are immigrants and of color; trump, who has not utilized the Defense Production Act to order manufacturers to turn out masks and ventilators, has invoked the act to order meat-processing workers back to their job sites, which have been hotbeds for the COVID. The Smithfield pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, was found to have 853 workers test positive for the virus. Tyson shut down its pork processing plant in Waterloo, Iowa due to the pandemic. (https://kstp.com/coronavirus/tyson-foods-suspends-operations-largest-pork-plant-amid-iowa-outbreak/5707704/) (https://kstp.com/coronavirus/smithfield-tyson-react-to-trump-executive-order-keeping-meat-packing-facilities-open/5714501/) trump’s order would demand these workers risk their lives from the virus-for what? The profits of the board of directors over the next quarter, which none of the workers will benefit from?
Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced plans to end the stay-at-home order in his state; over a phone call with legislators, he admitted that would be a health threat to people in his state: “Listen, the fact of the matter is pretty much every scientific and medical report shows that whenever you have a reopening—whether you want to call it a reopening of businesses or of just a reopening of society—in the aftermath of something like this, it actually will lead to an increase and spread. It’s almost ipso facto,” knowing full well the danger to the public was real. (https://www.thedailybeast.com/texas-governor-greg-abbott-admits-dangers-of-reopening-state-on-private-call-with-lawmakers/?via=twitter_page) (https://www.rawstory.com/2020/05/texas-governor-slammed-after-being-caught-on-hot-mic-admitting-his-reopen-order-will-worsen-the-pandemic/)
The COVID-19 crisis has laid bare many of the ills of American society-inaccessibility to healthcare; government focused on aiding the already- rich and powerful at the expense, and to the detriment, of working and low-income people; racial disparities in health care; and class privilege flaunted brazenly in our faces, as when Mike Pence strolled through the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota without a face mask, as is policy in the clinic to do, and stating afterwards that he has gotten regular tests, while regular people have to line up for hours, if they’re lucky, to get one; does he think that the rules we follow don’t apply to him? (https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/28/politics/mike-pence-mayo-clinic-mask/index.html)
Our vote is our weapon, and we must use it to restore our government for working and low-income people. We deserve, and must attain, leaders who will operate the government for the benefit of all, not just for a gang of con artists, pseudo-science cranks, upper-class twits, and Wall Street gamblers. In Pennsylvania, the primary election is June 2, and the general election is November 3. PLEASE, for the sake of the nation, for the sake of your communities, for the sake of future generations, get out there and VOTE!
Stay safe, stay strong, and stay together-Bye!