May Day 2020

(Content note: a version of this first appeared on my Instagram feed on 1 May, 2020.)

May Day / International Workers Day. An image includes a raised fist, a wrench, cog, and hard hat.

My original plan was a celebratory Beltane image, but, well, I may start my own Beltane Fire tonight by burning my list of plans for 2020. LOL (sort of).

One lesson of COVID-19 is abundantly clear. We need to do some collective soul searching because WE CANNOT GO BACK TO BUSINESS AS USUAL.

Business as usual has once again normalized inhumane working conditions so that we can have everything from clothes to food, fast and cheap.

Business as usual means that meat processing plants are hotbeds of COVID-19 infections–virtually at the same level of infection as prisons. Business as usual means that workers at Amazon warehouses have to wear diapers because they can’t take bathroom breaks or they won’t meet impossible quotas. The stress and lack of support for their physical safety mean they get sick and die. All so we can get our merchandise cheap without having to get off our asses and go to a store.

And on that subject, business as usual has killed neighborhood stores. The book stores and small corner groceries and boutiques that knitted our communities together were killed off because bloated chain stores could use their buying power to undercut Mom and Pop stores. Business as usual has created an overly car-centric culture, where walkable living areas with shops and cafeĀ“s close by are fewer and farther between. Business as usual is a disease that chokes us to death with poisonous air and water and food.

Business as usual means workers often have to choose between taking care of sick children or parents or being able to keep a roof over their family’s head and food on the table because workplace policies don’t take family care into consideration. BUSINESS AS USUAL MEANS PEOPLE GO TO WORK WHEN THEY’RE SICK because workplaces offer inadequate sick leave.

Business as usual has widened the chasm between the rich and the rest of us. Business as usual means so many full-time workers still have to rely on public assistance to feed themselves and their families while their company’s billionaire chairmen and millionaire CEOs take in more money than they can possibly spend in a lifetime. Business as usual has made more people around the world food and housing insecure. And business as usual delivers the cruelest blow, denying health care when workers get sick because they can’t afford health insurance, or the insurance they do have has such a high deductible they can’t afford to see a doctor.

We all pay a steep price for business as usual, whether we realize it or not. Maybe you’re not the one having to calculate these awful bargains on a day-to-day basis, but you pay for it when you catch the flu from a co-worker or a barista or store employee. Or you pay for it when you have to throw food out because there’s a recall on it for e-coli or listeria or foreign objects got into the food. Or you pay for it when you develop COPD or your kid has asthma because the air is filthy.

We have a chance to change business as usual, to make more conscious choices. Let’s not go back to a broken and deadly paradigm. Let’s move forward toward a society that lifts all of us.

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