Ordinary Workers Matter More Than Ever in This Crisis, They Always Did.
Far too often, our society has emphasized the rich and the famous as well as the brilliant men in Silicon Valley we call “innovators.” What have we to show for it? Well, the coronavirus is exposing just that. The wealthy are running for bailouts because their companies are collapsing even though they spent the majority of their profits on stock buybacks, celebrities are confined to their homes just like everyone else but can get test kits and the brilliant Silicon Valley bros are nowhere to be found. But as a collective society, we have chosen to prioritize the rich and the famous, subsequently letting them get away with paying lower taxes and asserting more influence on our government such that we are the only developed nation without a universal health care system and federally mandated paid leave. We, as a society, have allowed for the very few to profit off of our diseases, debts, incarcerated fellow citizens, and allowed greed to be rewarded.
The maintainers are workers whose work goes unappreciated but are necessary every day, especially in the crisis we are in. The mailmen, the supermarket cashiers, the sanitary workers, domestic workers, teachers, the plumbers, the warehouse workers, and so many other skilled laborers are the ones who do the less glamorous work that facilitates innovation. What is also understated is how as a society we have perpetuated the myth of the innovator who did it all, when in actuality they benefited from government services that are paid and provided by the “maintainers.” The bailouts that Airlines are about to get will come from taxpayer money. The research that pharmaceutical companies do to come up with new drugs is facilitated by the government.
The coronavirus is forcing us all to change the way we think about how we want to approach and maintain our society in a fundamental way. Will we continue to perpetuate an economic system that profits off the most vulnerable people in society? will we continue to idealize the wealthy and scorn the plight of the poor? And most importantly, are we ready to seize the moment to institute change for the betterment of all people? The sad reality is that this virus is not giving us any choice. It is exposing how critical labor is to our economy. For so many years, we put off improving America for the vast majority of Americans for the wealthy and their corporations. If the time is not now, when will it ever be?