6 May 2020

Linguist Zachary Jaggers questions the use of the term ‘essential workers’: “By this point in the coronavirus pandemic, you’ve probably heard a lot about ‘essential workers.’ They’re the people working in hospitals and grocery stores, on farms and in plants. They’re keeping public transit, shipping and utilities running. But is ‘essential’ describing the workers themselves? Or only the work they do? Right now, many don’t feel like they’re being treated like they’re essential, and workers at Amazon, Walmart and other companies have organized strikes to protest unsafe working conditions. There seems to be a disconnect between how some low-wage workers are being described and what they’re experiencing on the ground. … It makes you wonder whether some of these workers are considered all that essential. Might ‘expendable’ be a more fitting term? … Other workers are questioning why their work is even being described as ‘essential.’ … They feel their work is really only ‘essential’ to their employers to ‘help them make money,’ as one Walgreens worker put it.” Consider Scott Morrison’s claim that “Everyone who has a job in this economy is an essential worker”, and remember, as he bullies the States into putting people at risk of a second wave of infection, that he cares about money first and people only as a means to keep the money moving,