We are in the middle of an epic and escalating pandemic in the U.S. There are 200,000 new cases almost daily, and deaths are accelerating.
We all know this. What’s missing is how to at least slow, if not stop, the tragic losses that are hitting hardest the people in poverty, communities of color, people who are disabled, seniors, LGBTQ2S+ people, and anyone marginalized in accessing health care.
As we the ordinary working people face the crisis, what is Big Business doing?
Making more money than ever by cancelling hazard pay, refusing to supply PPE or virus tests to workers, docking workers’ pay for time lost in quarantine and illness – and pushing off blame for the spreading illness onto workers.
A Nov. 27 Guardian article reported a Kaiser Health News study showing a deliberate pattern by business owners of refusing to take responsibility for preventing workplace transmission, in part by not reporting COVID infections in their companies. (tinyurl.com/yxcq8jqt)
“Lost on the Frontline” investigated over 240 deaths in tracking 1,413 frontline health workers. The report found “employers did not report more than one-third of them to a state or federal OSHA office, many based on internal decisions that the deaths were not work-related – conclusions that were not independently reviewed.” (tinyurl.com/y393ndr2)
The report noted: “In California, public health officials have documented about 200 healthcare worker deaths. Yet the state’s OSHA office received only 75 fatality reports at healthcare facilities through Oct. 26.”
Health care bosses refuse to report deaths, despite the certainty that frontline health care workers are more likely to contract COVID-19 at work.
Meanwhile, according to Axios, “a vast majority of health care companies are reporting profits that many people assumed would not have been possible as the pandemic raged on.” (tinyurl.com/yxolpjfg)
Actually, Marxist economists and communists could have predicted this spike in profits, as capitalists are legendary for their ruthlessness in using crisis conditions – like war or pandemic – as opportunities to make even more money out of people dying.
Of course, the capitalist tendency to sacrifice workers’ lives for the bottom line occurs across all industries, not just healthcare workers.
For example, a retired autoworker told WW that autoworkers still on the job report that their companies attribute plant cases to “community transmission” – even though close contact between thousands of workers must be spiking infection.
But workers everywhere are mobilizing against the murderous neglect and deliberate sacrifice of their lives by Big Business.
In Puget Sound, Wash., a group of 200 doctors and nurse practitioners went on strike Nov. 23, for the first time, against increasing caseloads without proper PPE. (Pay Day Report, Nov. 24)
On the same day in Oaklawn, Ill., and 11 other locations across that state, 700certified nursing assistants, aides, housekeepers and other workers struck over unsafe working conditions and the cancellation of COVID hazard pay.
In rural Austinburg, Ohio, 200 warehouse workers walked off the job on Nov. 20 because of safety and pay issues relating to the company’s COVID-19 policies, including workers being docked hundreds of dollars for time missed due to quarantine.
And at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., workers filed notice with the National Labor Relations Board of their plans to unionize the 1,500 full and part-time employees there. One of Amazon’s newer warehouses, it has ramped up business during the pandemic shopping surge, adding to the company’s record-setting profits – and setting up even more potential for COVID infection at the workplace. (tinyurl.com/y2z76aa3, NPR, Nov. 25)
The workers’ “Why a Union?” statement on bamazonunion.org said: “With a union contract, we can form a worker safety committee, and negotiate the highest safety standards and protocols for our workplace.”
Big Business is out to make profit from workers’ lives – and deaths. Marxist economics explains why this will always happen – unless workers resist.
And during this pandemic emergency, workers are striking back!