The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Cleaning Up and Catching COVID in Midland

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.