Jul 27, 2020
Last week the C.D.C. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), under pressure from President Trump, reversed itself by issuing a statement backing the Trump administration’s rush to reopen schools. It falsely described children as being at low risk for contracting or spreading the COVID-19 virus. Studies have shown that children 10 or older can contract and spread the virus as easily as adults.
The C.D.C. is absolutely correct when it says that children do better when in school, with regular social contact with other kids and with their teachers.
Staying home indefinitely is clearly not an answer, and every parent knows this. The question is HOW to open schools. The C.D.C. suggests “resources and tools” for schools to reopen. These guidelines were actually useful, recommending masking for everyone, smaller class sizes for social distancing, and using outdoor spaces whenever possible. They also recommended regular cleaning and testing, with contact tracing for anyone testing positive.
So, the C.D.C. knows full well what is needed—but their push to reopen schools pretends that it’s not necessary! The message seems to be, “it’s better to get students and staff in schools—no matter what the risk.”
A real solution is actually very clear: enact ALL of the C.D.C. guidelines and more, BEFORE a single child or adult steps into a school. It can be done NOW, to prepare for the next school year. It’s not rocket science: hire more teachers. Open more classrooms and schools, so that students can be in smaller groups. Hire and retrain the unemployed to be custodial staff, healthcare staff and counseling staff, to keep schools clean and test and trace everyone regularly. Keep the schools stocked with the supplies–both cleaning and medical–to make all of this possible.
No, that’s not hard at all. And in fact, it’s what educators have argued for decades, long before COVID-19 became a threat. All it takes is money. And the money is there to do all of this, to transform every single school district in the country into one that teaches all of its kids well, AND safely. But what have we seen instead? For decades, we’ve watched as school budgets have been slashed—even as corporations have paid less and less in taxes while their profits have gone through the roof.
True, some parents have other options. Parents with money can choose to send their kids to private schools. The private schools that will open full time in the fall have large enough campuses, where their students can spread out. They are buying equipment to test regularly and ensure students’ safety, such as thermal scanners to measure students’ and school workers’ temperatures. And they are hiring more campus workers to make sure the health and safety measures they are taking can be carried out.
AND, these private schools are making sure they have enough teachers to keep class sizes small, typically around 12—that’s about one-third the number of students public schools have typically been cramming into one classroom in working-class neighborhoods!
Republicans have largely backed Trump on opening schools quickly, while Democrats have spoken much more cautiously about opening more slowly and more partially. But neither party is talking about releasing the tidal wave of funds necessary to be able to reopen quickly AND safely for everyone. This is absolutely necessary for working class parents—but absolutely unthinkable for the politicians and the wealthy class they serve.
Working people have the power to do something about that, to insist that the wealth of this society—the wealth that WE create—goes to actually benefit ALL the people in society.
It will take a big fight. But the working class has the power to make that fight, and the next generation’s future depends on it. And, to quote one orange president, “What do we have to lose?”
Our lives, and our children’s lives, are at stake.
Jul 27, 2020
In the same week, C.T. Vivian, John Lewis and Charles Evers died. It marks the passing of two generations in the struggle for civil rights waged by the black population from World War II up to the mid-1960s. That struggle shows how very much a population can accomplish when it has thrown itself without reservation into a struggle to reform the existing capitalist system. But it also shows the limits that restrict its accomplishments when that system is left in place.
C.T. Vivian and Charles Evers were of the older generation, that generation that served in the military in World War II and then in the Korean War. Coming back from the wars, many of the black soldiers who had risked and seen their comrades give up their lives, supposedly to defend “democracy” abroad, would no longer settle for the demeaning and circumscribed lives that the system known as “Jim Crow” had imposed on the black population for almost a century. It was slavery by another name.
At the same time, their military training had given them the organizational discipline they needed to take on the violence that imposed Jim Crow, north and south. They were no longer going to sit back while “night-riders” lynched black men, something Charles Evers and his brother Medgar had physically witnessed when Charles was only 10 years old, and Medgar seven.
They knew that fleeing North was not an answer. If the North was somewhat more “liberal,” there were still large parts of the North, Michigan and Indiana, for example, where the Ku Klux Klan carried out terror to prevent the black population simply from exercising the rights that everyone in this country expected were theirs.
John Lewis was of the generation that entered their teens just as the first big struggles were breaking out in the South. They had witnessed their elders—people like C.T. Vivian—taking part in “sit-ins,” demanding service in “whites-only” establishments, sit-ins that broke out first in the North in places like southern Illinois. They witnessed what had already become a growing mobilization of the black population to boycott segregated facilities: especially buses in Southern cities like Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1953 and, then, Montgomery, Alabama in 1955.
The black population itself was beginning to tear down all the obscene rules which circumscribed the daily lives of black people: sit in the back of the bus, don’t drink from this water fountain, don’t go in the front entrance, pick up your take-out food at the back door where the restaurant throws out its garbage, get out of town before nightfall.
Eager to take part as they were, John Lewis and his generation also knew what they faced. They had engraved in their memories the lynching of Emmett Till in 1955. When Emmett Till was killed for stepping over one of the unwritten rules of the segregated South, John Lewis was his same age, 14.
John Lewis was of the generation that picked up the baton, and carried the fight down into the most dangerous parts of the rural South. His first important struggle had come in Nashville, Tennessee, when he and others took seats in “white only” restaurants—restaurants owned by big name companies like Kresge’s and Woolworth’s. Trained in the discipline of “non-violence” by C.T. Vivian and his generation, they endured not only racists screaming at them, spitting on them, dumping hot coffee on their laps, they also endured cigarette butts being put out on their bare arms. They demonstrated their commitment under the most difficult circumstances.
John Lewis became one of the original “Freedom Riders,” 13 people, black and white, who took interstate buses from Northern cities into the very deepest part of the South. Their first courageous action inspired hundreds more activists, black and white, to make the same trip. On every ride, the Freedom Riders faced not only beatings, but also the firebombing of buses when they were inside.
By their own commitment to “passive disobedience,” they intended to force the federal government to enforce court rulings that supposedly had torn down the segregated rules on interstate travel.
The fight aimed at much more than tearing down the indignity of segregation laws. They mobilized to obtain the right to vote, the most basic of rights in what was supposed to be a “democracy.” In fact, the freed black (male) population had supposedly gained the right to vote in 1870, with the 15th Amendment to the Constitution. But that right had been removed in practice by all the Jim Crow laws and practices whose simple aim was to prevent black people from ever setting foot in a voting booth.
One of the founding members of the Student Non-Violent Co-ordinating Committee, John Lewis was part of those teams of young people throughout the deep South who worked to bring people in to register to vote. Turned away, beaten, sometimes killed for their temerity in daring to try to register, all those ordinary people, many of them sharecroppers, ultimately changed the rural South forever.
John Lewis put himself in the first line of a march calling for a federal voting law in 1965. The march was met by Alabama state troopers, who beat many of the participants, including Lewis, nearly senseless. The beatings that flashed around the world on TV stoked the outrage that gave the final push for the “voting rights act,” which sped through Congress and was signed only five months later.
Lewis, and the many hundreds or even thousands more like him, were part of that movement that believed that by moral example they could change the behavior of racists who despised them.
They may not have changed the despicable racism that had infected whole generations of whites, but their determination, courage and unwillingness to give up eventually brought large numbers of black people into the struggle, all through the South. And that is what drove the racists back.
Their struggle did not overcome the overt racism that always runs just below the surface in this society, and sometimes sits right on top. Above all, it did not get rid of the institutional racism that still condemns the mass of the black population to more joblessness, to jobs with lower income, to less access to real education, less access to decent medical care, to more imprisonment—and what could only come out of that, to a greater number of people killed by cops—a racism built into the very functioning of capitalism itself.
The problem was, that movement left the system in place. The vote was able to put people like John Lewis in Congress, pushing aside people who openly bragged about their membership in the Ku Klux Klan. That already was momentous.
Charles Evers, who came back South when his brother Medgar was assassinated in 1963 by racists, was elected mayor of a small town in Mississippi by “hands that once picked cotton”—the first black person to be elected in Mississippi since the end of Reconstruction. His election in the deepest of the Deep South, opened the way for hundreds, then thousands of small towns to be run by black officials put in place by the vote of those once denied it.
Charles Evers was also a wealthy businessman, someone held up as an example for the black population to emulate.
Those symbols were important for many people. But the politicians still functioned within a capitalist society that expected its political class to respect the needs of capital, including its ability to exploit the laboring population, and that means the large majority of the black population. The businessmen themselves were able to survive only if they carried out exploitation of their workers, whoever they were, black or white.
The roads laid out by the new class of black politicians and the expanded class of black businessmen did not lead the black population out of the trap of capitalist society.
Looking at the situation today, it may be easy for some people who have never really engaged themselves in a wide struggle of the population to believe that what activists like John Lewis accomplished wasn’t worth much. They couldn’t be more wrong.
The generation that John Lewis came to speak for and symbolize was fighting for a reform of the capitalist system that organizes this country. It was this commitment to “reform” that set the limit of what could be accomplished.
But the massive struggle that Lewis symbolizes changed the face not only of the South, but of this country, forever. It got rid of the indignity of Jim Crow laws. It put the vote into “hands that had picked cotton.” It put black labor into the position it has today, at the very center of the working class.
We might have wished that the massive struggle as it unfolded would have seen the system they were trying to reform for what it was—the major impediment that condemns the black population to continuing unequal treatment. We might have wished that this massive struggle took upon itself the goal to overthrow capitalism.
It did not. But those who in the future will fight to do exactly that will know that they owe an enormous debt to what the generation of Lewis did do—to engage a whole population in the struggle that rooted out Jim Crow, slavery by another name.
Jul 27, 2020
Gary Walkowicz laid out the main lines of the Working Class Party 2020 election campaign in this speech at the WCP convention. It first appeared on the website, https://www.workingclassfight.com.
As the Working Class Party prepares to run candidates this fall, we will have much to say. Because the working class today is facing major crises in every aspect of our lives.
There is an economic crisis, with millions of people out of work. Yes, it was the COVID pandemic which first shut down parts of the economy. But as things open back up, there is no reason that everybody who had a job can’t get their jobs back. But that is not happening because the vultures of capitalism, only caring about their profits, are already at work, using the pandemic as a reason to eliminate jobs, adding to all the people who didn’t have a full-time job, or any job, before the pandemic.
The Wall Street hedge funds, who control much of the retail business sector, are putting companies into bankruptcy or closing down thousands of stores, like Penny’s. The major banks are putting the squeeze on thousands of small businesses, like restaurants, forcing them out of business. This was already happening before the pandemic, and now it’s accelerating.
People still need to eat, people still need to buy retail goods, people who work in these stores and restaurants need their jobs. But the banks and vulture capitalists have decided they can make a bigger profit by taking money out of these businesses and putting more money into speculation. And so these greedy billionaires will steal the livelihoods of millions of workers and their families so that they can get even richer.
Businesses that stayed open are also cutting jobs, even in hospitals, in the middle of a pandemic! It’s not rational. It’s insanity! But that is the normal functioning of capitalism today.
The working class today is also facing the health care crisis of COVID-19. This coronavirus emerged from nature. But it wasn’t inevitable that so many people would die. Hundreds of thousands of people are needlessly dying from COVID, only due to the normal functioning of capitalism.
This country spends more money on health care than any country in the world, but much of this money does not go to keeping people healthy, but instead goes into the pockets of insurance companies, hospital corporations and drug companies to increase their profits. Today, five months into the pandemic, there is still not enough testing, not enough protective medical equipment, not enough contact tracing—all the things needed to save lives. While nurses and hospital workers are dying trying to care for patients, the capitalist health care companies, in pursuit of profit, are making the situation worse.
The essential workers everywhere, in meat-packing, grocery stores, trucking, the post office, agricultural workers—all are at risk without proper safeguards and they are dying from COVID at a higher rate.
Many people are also dying from COVID because of health conditions that put them at risk, because they lack basic health care; they lack health insurance, or they lost health insurance when they lost their jobs. And the black population, the most exploited part of the working class, is hit the hardest. Under capitalism, what should be a human right, is only available if you have enough money.
And then, just as sickening, is the response of the politicians whose only purpose in their slimy lives is to serve themselves and their capitalist masters.
You have lying Donald Trump who denies science and now attacks the medical experts, like Dr. Fauci. Trump, this smirking monster-without-a-mask, is telling people that there is no problem; he’s lying for the sole purpose of trying to get himself re-elected.
Then there are the governors and other politicians who denied the importance of masks and who opened their economies without adequate safeguards and, in doing so, recklessly exposed their populations to raging COVID infections. Politicians in states like Florida and Texas had several months to learn the problems that hit New York and Michigan. But they chose to ignore it, and now the population in these states is suffering from COVID out-of-control. And even in the states that did better, politicians pushed to let business reopen, and those states are now seeing a new surge.
The richest country in the world; the country with the most free-market, capitalistic health care system in the world, the U.S. today has the most COVID deaths in the world, by far the most. What could be more of an indictment that this system does not work for working people.
The working class faces a crisis in our schools. Parents and their children soon will be facing a terrible choice—go to schools that put children at risk of getting COVID and spreading it to family members. Or lose the education and social enrichment that in-person schooling provides. But there shouldn’t have to be a choice. The money is there to make schools safe. But that money is in the pockets of the one percent—the banks, corporations and wealthy in this society—and they want to keep it only for themselves and for THEIR children.
And then there is the crisis of racism, a crisis which has existed since the first slave was stolen from his home in Africa and brought to this country. Black people have suffered murders at the hands of the police thousands of times. But this time, the horrifying execution of George Floyd forced a reckoning, as people across the country, black and white, came into the streets to protest.
But yet, even in the midst of these demonstrations, while some police forces prudently took a step back for the time being, other cops continued their racist attacks and more black people were killed by the cops, like Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta. Why do these murders continue?
The fool who resides in the White House, when he was asked about the police killing black people, Trump said it’s not a problem because more white people are killed by the police. Which is true only in the total number of people killed. It’s not true by the percentage of the population. But still, the racist Trump, while trying to defend the cops killing black people, unintentionally laid bare another ugly fact of racism. When the white population tolerates the police murdering black people, some of this police violence ends up coming back on them.
We should be asking, why do we need a militarized police force, armed to the teeth, ready to shoot to kill? We are told that they are here to stop crime. But that lie goes against everything we see. The more cops that are added, and the more weapons the cops are given, the more crime continues. The police don’t stop crime. They’re not here to stop crime.
The police are here for one reason only. They are an armed force that exists to control the population; to control the working class that is being exploited by the capitalists. The police are there to support the exploitation basic to capitalism. How many times in the past did we see the police go against striking workers? How many times have the police been used to attack civil rights protesters? The police do whatever their capitalist bosses want them to. They brutalize the exploited working class, and they especially brutalize the most exploited part of the working class, the black population.
Economic crisis, health crisis, school crisis, racism, they are all part and parcel of capitalism. Within this system, there is no way out for the working class, no matter how many protests we have.
But there is a way forward for the working class. When the working class brings all its forces together; when the working class decides to fight, it can go up against all the forces of capitalism. The working class has answers to all the crises caused by capitalism.
It starts with the fight for jobs and a decent wage for all. Throughout history, the labor of all working people, including those enslaved, created wealth that could and should be used for all; wealth that could provide a decent life for all. This wealth offers the possibility that everyone who wants a job can have a job. If there is not as much work needed, then divide up the work, everyone work fewer hours, and everyone can still be paid a decent wage. The money is there. The wealth is there. The only thing standing in the way is the capitalist bosses.
This is what the Working Class Party has to say. This is what we will be saying in the election campaign this year.
We know that elections don’t change things. We know only a fight by the working class will change things. But the election campaign gives us an opportunity to say these things to more people; to put these ideas in the hands of more workers. It gives more workers the chance to say what they believe. The working class has an answer to the crises we face.
Jul 27, 2020
Excerpted from a statement by Sam Johnson, first posted on the Working Class Fight website, https://www.workingclassfight.com.
Some people watching the cops kill George Floyd yelled, “Get up off him.” And he said himself, “I can’t breathe.”
Those four cops were doing something to harm him and didn’t care what happened. One guy didn’t put him on the ground, they all were involved in that, all went along with killing him.
You wouldn’t do that. Why do the cops act that way? They are trying to send a message to other black people, letting us know, “If you don’t watch it, it’s going to happen to you.”
They attack us, black people, to reinforce the divisions among the working class. It’s been like that, since slavery, and it’s still that way.
Last hired, first fired, pay us less for what we do. Pay us less, keeps that division.
This upper class, this one percent needs division to keep working people divided, so they can keep their profits going. They’re looking at their profits, that’s what’s behind this, and they are trying to take back everything black people won, everything all working people won.
How did we get all of this we have today, everything they are trying to take back? It’s the fight black people made. Over time. Young people need to know that to have what they need in their life, it will take them making a fight. They need that history so they can continue the fight, and not get stuck.
We can’t leave it where it was left in the 60s. We have to understand, and get a bigger picture than what people had in the 1960s. We have to get an understanding of history to see what has to be done.
How did we get what we got? We fought. We fought in the streets, in the neighborhoods, together with everyone we knew, along with our families. Black workers fought in the factories, bringing after us people we didn’t know, white workers, immigrant workers.
Once we had people stand up together and fight, we got things we needed. We got more money. Cities like Detroit got black mayors and black politicians and black cops. But not enough people understood that the fight couldn’t just stop there. And so everything started going back in the 70s.
Working people have the power to stop what’s happening today. Our force makes this whole country run. Working people made this country turn, black and white. We can make it stop turning until we get what we need.
The main thing we all need is a decent paying job. Everyone of us. With decent paying stable jobs, we can have decent housing, decent neighborhoods, decent schools for our kids.
Why do cops act like they do today? Why are they violent? To keep us from fighting for what we need. But that’s what we have to do. That’s how we can bring the decent cops along with us.
For that we need a direction for our fight. We should all be fighting to spread out the work that exists, fight for decent wages for everyone, no matter what job they have.
Fight for what we need now—knowing that to really get it and keep it, we will have to fight to get rid of this whole system, and the police along with it.
More of us have to understand that. We won’t have the current situation of not knowing what to fight for or fighting in a way that is going to cause a bigger problem. We need more people who know where to direct the fight that’s happening today, the bigger fights that will break out tomorrow. When struggles break out, we need people who know where to direct the fight.
Jul 27, 2020
The following article was the editorial in SPARK workplace newsletters of July 20.
With the filing of 1.2 million new unemployment claims just in this past week, the total number of unemployed workers currently drawing benefits has reached a staggering 32 million! New unemployment claims have been over one million a week for 17 weeks in a row! This is not all the unemployed. It is estimated that the real unemployment may be one in every four workers.
So why are we seeing this record surge in unemployment?
First of all, there is the virus. It continues to spread, rocketing throughout the southeast and southwest and reaching record numbers of new infections. One state alone, Florida, has more new COVID-19 cases than all of Europe combined. And, deaths are also now on a steady upturn.
Businesses that were pushed to reopen before it was safe are again closing. Small businesses may not survive this downturn.
But the big increase in unemployment has another cause. The biggest employers are laying off workers as well. And why? Because their profit margins are off. Some of them simply shut down if they are unable to take a certain rate of profit. Others continue to produce, but push many fewer workers to turn out the same amount of work.
That’s what’s happening right now in the big for-profit hospital chains. Right at the point more people are needed to provide care, some of the biggest hospitals are laying off. How can we be lacking in nurses, nurses’ aides, sanitary workers, in janitors and maintenance people, when there are people who could do the work?
Something similar is happening in public services. Running big deficits, cities and states are cutting workers instead of cutting out gifts they give to the big companies.
What kind of system lays off hospital workers, in the middle of a pandemic crisis? What kind of system decides that public services, including public health, will be shut down at the very moment they are most needed?
When the pandemic began, we suffered through the outrage of unavailable ventilators and masks and personal protective equipment. Well states like Texas, Florida, Arizona, South Carolina, Georgia and California are stuck in that same situation again. How is that possible with all the unemployed workers available who could have been making this equipment? Companies didn’t rush to make this equipment because there wasn’t enough profit in it.
How can there be talk of opening schools when there are no plans to hire more people to make the schools safe? In the midst of a pandemic, the schools need many more teachers and other workers to make and keep them safe, not fewer.
There are millions of unemployed people who could be hired to do this work. They aren’t hired because the bosses don’t want to take out of their profit to organize essential work safely.
Workers should refuse to listen to all this drivel about lack of money! The billions in profits that have been squeezed out of workers’ labor for years, are being supplemented by continued new transfers of money away from workers’ income and into the pockets of the rich!
The money is there to do what is needed, in the banks. Their banks. Banks run by the capitalist class. If workers don’t mobilize to take some of this wealth back and impose a different functioning, we may well be the ones lying under the rubble of a collapsed capitalist system.
Working people could organize a totally different system—one that would benefit the majority of the population, not the tiny minority of super rich. One that would direct workers and resources to where they are needed. One that would share out the work that needs to be done among all the people who want a job, and organize it safely.
The working class has the ability to do all that. We work, we know what is needed, we know what is possible, we could use the wealth to make sure everyone has a safe job with decent income.
Jul 27, 2020
As of early May, 27 million Americans had lost health care coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an estimate by the Kaiser Family Foundation. This number represents mostly people who got laid off, plus their family members. Considering that nearly 30 million people were already uninsured at the beginning of the pandemic, close to 60 million people, or one in five Americans, were without health insurance in early May.
Kaiser Family Foundation says that many of these unemployed workers will either qualify for Medicaid, or for a subsidy to buy an individual plan in the ACA marketplace. But of course that means millions more people will be stuck with plans with much worse coverage and much higher out-of-pocket costs than what they had before.
As for those millions of people who have ended up without any coverage, it may mean complete financial ruin for a family in this pandemic. If somebody in the family is hospitalized with COVID-19 for a lengthy period of time, the bills can easily run into tens, and even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Also, when there are people without health coverage during a pandemic, that makes all of us less safe, because people with no insurance—or with a plan that has high deductibles and co-pays—tend to avoid going to the doctor when they are sick, and spread the disease.
What’s the purpose of health insurance if one out of five people in the country can’t even have it during a pandemic? To big capitalists, health insurance, or health care in general, is just another way to make big profits. But that means, under this capitalist system, even fewer of us have access to health care, exactly when we—ALL of us—need it more than ever.
Jul 27, 2020
United Airlines announced big cuts, furloughing up to 36,000 workers—close to half of their workforce. American Airlines is cutting 25,000—more than a quarter of their total workforce.
This comes after these airlines accepted 25 billion in government grants and loans, as part of the first CARES Act this spring. That bailout came with the restriction: no layoffs until October. With October now a couple months away, the companies are back at it, crying broke, and threatening their workers again.
Over the last decade, the major airlines racked up billions in profits off of the sweat of their workers. They gave most of this money back to their shareholders, by using it to buy up their own stock, inflating their stock price. Worker wages and benefits still haven’t recovered to where they were twenty years ago, before 9/11, followed by the 2008 recession.
Air traffic is down as much as 75% so far in July. Workers created all that wealth that kept the airlines flush in the decade before this crisis—that money should by rights go toward meeting their needs. Workers need to stay on, with their pay—and the remaining work divided amongst them.
Jul 27, 2020
The state of Maryland is pressing ahead with plans for a private company to make big profit from public highways. Governor Hogan proposes to authorize a company such as Transurban to spend 10 billion dollars to partially rebuild and add toll lanes to highways 495 and 270 outside Washington, D.C., and then use tolls and fees to repay the costs and make profit.
Transurban consistently pays its investors between one third and one half of its revenue each year as dividends and distributions. To pay out these huge profits, the company raises tolls and borrows more and more. In seven years its debt has quadrupled while its revenue has tripled. Every new highway project lets Transurban pay bigger dividends by borrowing more money, while commuters pay and pay.
Transurban already operates two toll highways in Virginia outside Washington where tolls have spiked as high as 64 dollars. Now Transurban wants to bring its profits road show across the river. Only under capitalism does vital transportation become just another way for big businesses and banks to scam the population!
Jul 27, 2020
Rapid coronavirus testing paired with rapid contact tracing (warning everyone who has been exposed)—has worked in multiple countries to slow the spread of COVID-19. A 24-hour turnaround time on test results works best, according to a new study in The Lancet Public Health journal.
As dozens of states are on fire with new virus cases, a 24-hour turnaround on tests has become nearly impossible. Why? The need for testing outstrips capacity. It is taking 2 weeks and more for many to get their test results.
The U.S. went from testing hundreds per day in March to doing 700,000 tests a day in July, but testing capacity can’t keep up with the need.
According to a public health advocate at the Kaiser Family Foundation, “There’s the testing capacity you need to get to the place of opening up, then there’s the testing capacity you need to be open.”
Enormous numbers of people are getting swabbed, but shortages of processing supplies, of machines, and of workers—means laboratories can’t keep up.
New York Times reporters have interviewed lab workers in multiple states who say they are exhausted. Some are regularly working 12-hour days and weekends.
While some COVID-19 tests are done by a rapid, cartridge-based method—often used for hospitalized patients—most tests are done by commercial labs.
Similar to what happened in other sectors of this capitalist economy in recent decades, groups of Wall Street investors created two giant U.S. laboratory corporations—Quest Diagnostics and Lab Corps. Many labs and lab supply companies were intentionally closed to cut costs and boost profits along the way.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said on MSNBC that testing lags will make it significantly harder to stop transmission of the virus. For months, public health experts have been warning that more widespread testing must happen.
Valuable time was wasted. No ramping up of testing happened among those must vulnerable to this illness. The elderly, front line workers, and Black, Latino and Native American communities have suffered the most fatalities because of this atrocious lack of action.
Researchers are now worried that the coming flu season will exacerbate shortages. Already, hospital labs have had to cut corners. “Every resource is going toward COVID,” said one official.
The workers, scientists and public health experts who do the work know full well what needs to be done to bring COVID-19 under control. If workers were running the economy in the interest of humanity, these problems would have been solved months ago with no valuable time wasted.
Jul 27, 2020
In May, when 2 dams broke in central Michigan, thousands of homes and many businesses were flooded.
MidMichigan Health in Midland brought in about 200 workers to clean up their hospital buildings. Most of them were legal immigrants, who were coming from Florida and Texas.
When these workers arrived, the COVID-19 virus was still raging in Michigan. But these workers were put to work in the hospital, including in a morgue with bodies and body parts, without full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Some had to work without masks. They weren’t allowed social distancing on the job. And these workers were housed in hotel rooms, two people sharing each bed. All this while being paid about $12 an hour.
After about a week working in the hospital, about 50 workers had developed COVID symptoms and many of them tested positive.
The director of an organization that advocates for workers who do cleanup work rightly said “these are subhuman conditions….they were treated as disposable.”
But these “subhuman” conditions didn’t seem to bother the companies and bosses they worked for.
MidMichigan Health is part of the University of Michigan (U-M) Health System, one of the most prominent and wealthiest health care groups in the country. When a reporter asked the U-M Health System about what happened to these workers, they were blown off and told to ask MidMichigan Health.
When the reporter asked MidMichigan Health, they got no answer either, other than saying that they had contracted the cleanup work to another company, Servpro.
When Servpro was contacted, they denied any blame, and said they had subcontracted the work to another company—BTN.
And when BTN was contacted, they refused to answer.
None of the companies would take responsibility for what they did. So which boss was really responsible for the “deplorable” conditions the workers faced? In truth, they ALL were.
What these cleanup workers faced is what many workers across the whole economy are facing. The capitalists outsource work, again and again, in order to reduce wages to below poverty level. The capitalists ignore health and safety, putting workers in harm’s way and putting their lives at risk. And the capitalists refuse to take any responsibility for their actions.
This is why the working class has every reason to get rid of a system that treats workers as disposable. The working class has the power and has every reason to take the responsibility itself over how society is run; to take the responsibility to build a society that benefits all, not just a wealthy few.