This Labour Day, remember the workers who died because of Donald Trump's deadly pandemic response

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca in its summer fundraiser today for as little as $5 per month!

Image: frankie cordoba/Unsplash

From windows and rooftops through the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions around the world cheered essential workers on the front lines who daily risked contracting this highly contagious disease. Janitors, grocery store workers, drivers, warehouse workers, letter carriers, food delivery people, teachers and transit workers, along with the doctors, nurses, and hospital staff caring for patients, all became heroes as the worst pandemic in a century swept the planet. Thousands of these front-line workers died.

As we celebrate Labour Day, traditionally marked by cookouts and beaches followed by the return to school, we should honor these fallen heroes -- by wearing masks, social distancing, and fighting for a science-driven course correction to this country's catastrophic pandemic response. President Donald Trump must invoke the Defense Production Act, making hundreds of millions of free masks and tests available, coupled with contact tracing, isolation and quarantine.

Kaiser Health News and The Guardian built a regularly updated database of front-line U.S. health-care workers who died of COVID-19; as of this week, 1,079 were on that list.

Among them, 39-year-old Adiel Montgomery, a security guard at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in Brooklyn. In late March, he lost his sense of taste and smell and had flu-like symptoms. Two weeks later, he suffered acute chest pain and died suddenly. He had complained about the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), which eventually arrived, just not in time to save him.

In Arizona, Cheryl and Corinna Thinn, sisters from the Navajo Nation, both worked at Tuba City Regional Health Care as an administrator and a social worker, respectively. Before they both became ill around March 20, each, without facemasks, had interacted with patients, and had expressed concerns about the PPE shortage. Cheryl succumbed to COVID-19 on April 11, Corinna on April 29. The Navajo Nation's per capita coronavirus infection rate is among the highest in the United States, with over 500 deaths at last count.

Meat-packing workers toil shoulder-to-shoulder, exacerbating the risk of infection. At a JBS plant in Greeley, Colorado, an ongoing COVID-19 outbreak has infected close to 300 out of 3,000 workers, killing six of them -- all immigrants. Tin Aye, 60 years old, fled Burma and lived in a refugee camp in Thailand before making it to the U.S. The day after she became a grandmother in late March, she was put on a ventilator. She died on May 17.

Stories like these dot the nation, as the number of COVID-19 deaths nears 200,000 with no signs of slowing. The true number of essential workers who have died will never be known, as they are not tracked by any federal agency. Trump has consistently downplayed the numbers of cases and victims, pushing false cures and conspiracy theories instead of leading a coordinated response.

Around the country, thousands of meatpacking plant workers have become infected; scores have died. UFCW, the United Food and Commercial Workers union, criticizes the failure to compel corporations that employ its members to report COVID-19 deaths: meat processors JBS, Tyson Foods, Cargill, and Smithfield Foods, and retailers like Walmart, grocery chains like Albertsons and Kroger, and many more.

Front-line, essential workers are disproportionately people of colour, with many sectors staffed predominantly by immigrants. They drive the economy, grow and deliver food, clean and care for the elderly and provide child care. Few have the luxury to decide to work from home. They don't have sick days, or access to affordable health care. Medical workers still report PPE shortages.

The United States, the wealthiest nation in history, has just over four per cent of the world's population but over 20 per cent of the recorded COVID-19 deaths. Trump's abdication of responsibility, rushing to reopen the economy while downplaying the pandemic as an election year strategy, has been stunning, deadly and potentially criminal.

Worker resistance to Trump's lethal pandemic response is growing. Teachers around the country have been pushing back against plans to reopen schools quickly without plans and equipment in place to protect them, their students or staff, in a number of cases threatening to strike.

In Detroit, 1,600 nursing home workers represented by the Service Employees International Union, SEIU, are threatening to strike as well, demanding a living wage, PPE, and better staffing levels to properly handle the threat of the coronavirus to nursing home residents and staff.

As you celebrate this Labour Day, also commit to solidarity with our essential workers. The shouts of support for them from the windows and rooftops may have diminished as the pandemic drags on, but the risks they face every day have not.

Amy Goodman is the host of Democracy Now!, a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,300 stations. She is the co-author, with Denis Moynihan, of The Silenced Majority, a New York Times bestseller. This column originally appeared on Democracy Now!

Image: frankie cordoba/Unsplash

Related Items

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.