By Jose Rodriguez
As we look back on the Labor Day weekend, take a moment and consider the many workers who put their lives on the line day in and day out for the rest of us. When we face disaster we often discover the hidden heroes within our community. The essential workers.
The grocery clerks, merchandisers and farmworkers allow us to feed our families. The letter carriers and postal workers deliver essential items. The teachers spend hours every day working to ensure our children receive an education. The construction workers put in overtime throughout this pandemic. The childcare providers have become part-time teachers out of necessity. The first responders, nurses and doctors are dealing with this pandemic on the front lines.
We also learn how much our society values, or doesn’t value, our heroes.
National City is home to a large portion of San Diego County’s essential and frontline workers. We have more low-income households than many other parts of the county, and we are seeing data that outlines how zip codes are determinants of health. It’s not a coincidence that many of our community heroes work in fields that don’t offer the luxury of working from home. As a result, our essential workers have no choice but to continue exposing themselves and their families amidst the pandemic. Many of these everyday heroes and their families have received little to no relief.
We are a first-generation city, a living breathing example of the American dream. Our community members are building and living their lives here — raising families, educating their kids, caring for aging parents. We struggle, and most of us are working class. Not only does the Latino community account for more than half of National City’s population, but our community has been hit harder by coronavirus than any other demographic. We have not received the kind of assistance a city with disproportionately high infection rates should.
National politics have local consequences.
We’re seeing a stall in unemployment benefits and a lack of hazard pay due to partisan politics in Washington. In addition, many large corporations operating in National City have not provided their fair share of adequate compensation under the current circumstances.
Because we haven’t demanded these corporations provide essential workers with the hazard pay they deserve.
Hazard pay was designed for circumstances that cause extreme physical discomfort and distress when there is no protective device available. The possibility of ending up on a ventilator for months sounds like it certainly qualifies as extreme physical discomfort.
Essential workers risk the health of ourselves and our families, because we don’t have a choice. It’s becoming increasingly clear we have to rethink the way people work. While we will continue to get through this we must confront the fact that this isn’t going away anytime soon.
As we think about Labor Day we need to reflect and demonstrate how we value our workforce. It’s long past time we sit down with our city’s biggest employers and community leaders and look for ways we can help our everyday heroes. We need to work collaboratively on how we can help in ways that we haven’t before. We must prioritize the needs of our workforce. They are our neighbors, friends, and family.
Jose Rodriguez is a candidate for City Council in National City.
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