Remember all the talk about how much we loved essential workers in the early days of COVID? How we were “saluting” them?
Rightfully so, as they worked jobs where there was no work-from-home option. The jobs are often underpaid, so the pay for the risk was not great. Suddenly, a senior working in a grocery store, a teenager working at a fast-food place, etc. were performing a hazardous, life-threatening job.
However, like many things in America, our words were rather hollow and our collective actions did not back up what we said. These essential workers were often forced to work without enough personal protection, as apparently, those companies had enough in their marketing budgets for “we salute our essential workers” than they did for PPE.
Once we got a vaccine and things got somewhat better as far as COVID goes (the pandemic is not over), stories about people attacking the Beloved Essential Workers became regular news fodder. At first, it was loonies attacking mask displays and screaming when asked to wear a mask. It seemed to then spread to general lunacy, with flight attendants, Walmart employees, fast-food workers, and delivery drivers among the types of public-facing employees being attacked.
Service workers have always had one of the more dangerous workplaces. But that seems to be increasing as people are more and more acting very weird, so much so, that major cable news figures have podcast episodes about it.
I have noticed over the years that people seem to view jobs that are physically taxing as simple, and with that, a fair amount of contempt for these workers. “Flipping burgers” is a term spoken in derision as a job for lazy simpletons, but these types of jobs deserve our respect if nothing for the fact there are humans performing them. And that lack of respect is part of the reason why these jobs are often so difficult.
There are some very simple things we can do to make their work lives better. Perhaps, on this Labor Day, we make a few resolutions.
– We are awfully quick to complain but often not as quick to praise. We can tell their managers when they do something good, write positive online reviews when earned, and tell them directly that they did a good job.
– If we see someone get yelled at by an angry customer, if we are next in line we can tell the clerk that the person was wrong, and that you appreciate them and their work. Of course, it might be also a good idea to try to find a manager.
– Understand that people make mistakes, things often are not instant, and any problem likely is due to a faulty system than any one person.
– Also understand that these folks are working in spots that are often understaffed, so they have to work even harder. And save the “people no longer want to work anymore” because that’s something people have said for more than 100 years. If you take more than a million people out of your population, introduce a new long-term dehabilitating condition, and add in some basic labor market forces, you have a situation like this. Imagine that! In fact, the very people who declare “NO ONE WANTS TO WORK ANYMORE” and treat Essential Workers like garbage are likely the reason why people do not want to work in service jobs.
So, on this Labor Day, perhaps resolve to be nice every day to the people who are serving your food, helping you find things on the shelves at Walmart, cutting your grass, ringing up your groceries, delivering your pizza, etc. It’s not that hard, really.
The last word goes to those Fighters for the Common Good, The Clash.