While a relatively small number of covidiots have been able to stage media-friendly events for various outlets, what’s getting a lot less attention are around the one hundred and ninety strikes and worker actions taking place within the United States due to COVID-19, and how some businesses are failing to react responsibly to ensure the health and safety of their employees.
PayDay Report has been tracking these activities, which includes worker absentee actions at a Tyson Meats processing plant in Wallula, Washington; employees refusing to show at the re-opening of operations at the Boeing commercial aircraft manufacturing facility in Renton, Washington; and employees on strike at the Mondelēz-Nabisco facility in Portland, Oregon.
They are tracking the number of meatpackers who have fallen ill under substandard working conditions at the best of times – over 4,400 and counting.
With Donald Trump determined to use the Defense Production Act to keep meatpacking plants open, Republican Governors threatening to end unemployment benefits for any employee that refuses to return to work after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted within their state, and recalcitrant employees likely to be fired from their jobs as a result, we can expect the number of sick and dead meatpackers to rise substantially over the coming months.
They are also noticing such outlandish actions as firing en masse striking contract trash haulers in New Orleans and replacing them with prisoners, how hospital workers are organizing in the midst of both COVID-19 and union busting techniques, and how Mexican immigrants making Personal Protective Equipment at LSL Healthcare in the northwest Chicago suburb of Niles walked off the job, demanding paid time off to go into quarantine after a worker died of COVID-19.
One of PayDay Report’s two beating hearts are Kat Callahan, who until recently was the Asia Correspondent at Jalopnik and LGBT Editor at Jezebel, and who presently also writes articles for Kinja.
The other is Mike Elk, a protege of the late William Greider who has covered the drug war in Brasil, spent years covering union organizing in the South for the Guardian, and marched one hundred and ten miles with striking teachers across the state of Oklahoma. Together, one of their most viral efforts has been this excellent piece in March regarding Nissan employees being forced to work in dangerous conditions for potential infections of COVID-19 at a facility in Canton, Mississippi, where operations were eventually suspended.)
Esquire, NPR’s On the Media and Vice magazine has provided some visibility toward PayDay Report’s efforts, and we are proud to do the same.
We hope publishers, editors, and reporters at other media outlets will dedicate more resources to chronicle the daily suffering of those who help provide for our daily needs and less for those who use fear and hatred to push toxic agendas.
It is just criminal that frontline workers are being asked to continue to come in to work without adequate PPE. We need to get this situation under control. But without competent federal leadership, how will we do that?