This Labor Day, Let’s Honor the Essential Workers Who Keep Us Going

by Vonda McDaniel
President, Central Labor Council of Nashville/Middle TN AFL-CIO

It has now been a month since President Donald Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell cut the incomes of 30

by Vonda McDaniel
President, Central Labor Council of Nashville/Middle TN AFL-CIO

million Americans and continued the economic freefall. Nearly 40 percent who lost their job in the pandemic say they don’t have a month’s worth of savings. Debt, evictions and hunger are starting to increase following after Trump and McConnell ended federal unemployment benefits.

This year, Labor Day looks a lot different. Most parades are postponed and get-togethers with loved ones are spaced six feet apart, Labor Day should be about celebrating the contributions of America’s working people–especially the essential workers who have kept our country going through the COVID-19 pandemic.

From the heroes of the United States Psotal Service making sure our mail is safely delivered to grocery store clerks working overtime to ensure we have food to put on the table, millions of America’s working people have stepped up, risking our lives and livelihoods, to continuously go to work since the onset of COVID-19.

The familiar slogan “We’re all in this together” has become a rallying cry during the coronavirus pandemic. While it is true that COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way, the magnitude and nature of the impact has been anything but universal. Evidence to date suggests that black and Hispanic workers face much more economic and health insecurity from COVID-19 than white workers.

Although the current strain of the coronavirus is one that humans have never experienced before, the disparate racial impact of the virus is deeply rooted in historic and ongoing social and economic injustices. Persistent racial disparities in health status, access to health care, wealth, employment, wages, housing, income, and poverty all contribute to greater susceptibility to the virus — both economically and physically.

Though Black communities share many of the experiences that make them more susceptible, there are also important differences between these communities that need to be understood in order to effectively combat the adverse economic and health effects of the virus.

On Labor Day, we honor our brothers, sisters and friends who have fallen to COVID-19, especially those who became infected while on the job. No one should have to choose between risking their life or losing a paycheck. In this unprecedented moment, we must continue the fight for safe working conditions, hazard pay and paid sick leave and the support that workers need.

This Labor Day, let’s celebrate all of the working people/essential workers who got us here and will keep us going.