Outside Reading — Essential edition

meat packers

Legalize All Essential Workers by Alfredo Corchado

Don’t Blame Econ 101 for the Plight of Essential Workers by Annie Lowery

 Tuition-Free College For Workers by Michelle Miller-Adams

A UW System crisis a decade in the making by Nicholas Fleisher and Donald Moynihan

This week, there’s a through line to all of the articles I’ve decided to share, so I’ll group them together rather than reflect on them individually. It has been, to put it bluntly, very rough this week watching selfish idiots do their level best to undo the public health gains made during the weeks of lockdown. We are on the merge of a major social failure. The sacrifice made was meant to buy the federal government time to develop a plan, and the marauders in the White House didn’t basically nothing except frantically try to shore up their image, treating the preventable deaths of tens of thousands in the U.S. as nothing more than a public relations crisis. By now, there should be plans for testing, tracking, containment, and continuing fiscal support of workers and systems. Executive branch officials instead hold up their bloodied hands and gloat about red is one of the most prominent colors on the nation’s flag, so aren’t they great.

I remain convinced — because I must, or the anger and depression will be overwhelming — that we can emerge from this a better, stronger country, recognizing the economic and social structure flaws exposed by the pandemic and working to fix them. We can insist on better treatment — in wages, in benefits, in personal safety, in job protection, in respect — for the workers who now have the word “essential” tagged onto them. As Michelle Miller-Adams argues in the article noted above, we can create the modern equivalent of the G.I. Bill, of the greatest drivers of individual and national economic prosperity in the nation’s history, which in turn would go a long way towards repairing the unconscionable damage inflicted on higher education by Republicans who want nothing more than to keep poor people poor and therefore dependent on the stingy and strategically withheld benevolence of the rich.

There are people in this country who work hard. And there are people in this country who benefit immensely. It’s time to shift our paradigm to make those groups one and the same. They deserve it.


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