Healthcare and service workers in the United States are woefully underpaid and under-appreciated and have been for a long time, but it's becoming clearer than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic. Essential workers who provide necessary care are not receiving the support they need and deserve from their employers.
And one strong woman decided to do something about it. Yolian Ogbu is a college student and activist whose immigrant mother works in a nursing home. Yolian's mom and her coworkers were not receiving hazard pay for having to work during the pandemic, and for her, that wasn't acceptable.
In a viral Twitter thread, Yolian explains how her mom fought for herself and for her team, which is mostly made up of immigrants like herself. They were being taken advantage of, and they deserved hazard pay for their efforts.
Their boss had the nerve to laugh at her and offer one day of free lunch, which is extremely insulting. The infuriating thing is, these poor people probably aren't in a unique situation.
I'm sure there are care workers and custodians and grocery store workers and others all over the country who are still forced to go to work because their job has finally been recognized as essential, yet they are not receiving raises or hazard pay.
Since Yolian's mother's boss wouldn't even entertain her request for hazard pay, she took the matter into her own hands and called out "sick" one day. She was intent on showing her employer just how essential she is.
And her entire team did the same. I'm not sure if they coordinated or if everyone was equally as fed up, but what matters is that her entire team of nursing home employees called out all at once, throwing a huge wrench in the day-to-day operations of the place. Her boss, of couse, lost it.
Her boss was freaking out because she finally had to deal with the fact that Yolian's mother and her team are essential to making sure the nursing home runs smoothly. She finally had to reckon with how poorly she was treating the people who are the backbone of her organization.
The regional director got involved and had to beg Yolian's mom to return to work. She stood her ground, though. She advocated for herself and her team, and it worked.
Their employers eventually offered them hazard pay on top of their hourly wage to come back to work. People like Yolian's mom have always had essential jobs, but before a pandemic that shifted our perspective, it was easier for employers to undervalue these employees and claim that they were disposable.
Now that it's become clear who in our society is an "essential worker," it should lead to higher wages, paid time off policy implementation, and hazard pay. If employers are unwilling to make changes like that, now is the time to strike, to organize, and to really show them what "essential" means.
In a couple of last tweets, Yolian encourages people to join organizing efforts, even if they may not be in an "essential" job themselves. She writes, "All this to say....join the organizing efforts of @corona_strike, @CooperationJXN, and @BlackSocialists calling for a national strike. Imagine if we all stepped up and reminded these companies that they are nothing without their workers."