Essential Worker

Attention employers: We will not meditate our way out of this pandemic.

From London, ON

Sun May 09 2021


Throughout the pandemic, I have become increasingly disgusted by my employer's lack of initiative throughout the pandemic. The near constant "business as usual" attitude is disgraceful but more importantly, it is discriminatory. Workers who were put on emergency leave at the start of the pandemic were mostly women, under-employed and lower waged and also women of colour. Those who have the privilege of working from home are overwhelmingly white and salaried. Those being told they need to come to work regardless of the conditions or harm are overwhelmingly underpaid women who work for overpaid men who work at home. These men will beam in on zoom from their rec rooms in their socks, checking in on the ladies, and recommending they all get home for a "glass of vino" at the end of the day to help with their nerves. It is enraging but there is no one willing to hear the rage. When you do raise the issue of inequality you are told to "be positive" "stop bringing down the team." Being a man in charge at this corporation means getting to skip around with your fingers in your ears, mostly in your rec room and in your socks.

Solutions to the building resentment, mental health challenges, and frustration have been wellness videos and lunchtime meditation(s). There was talk of giving everyone a sweatshirt or water bottle too but that seemed to fall through because "whatever would we put on the sweatshirt/water bottle?"

As a working single mother trying to keep my child engaged in online learning during the day, a lunchtime meditation is the furthest thing from "help" to me. It is instead a disgusting reinforcement of the inequities that are so significant in my workplace. Those who benefit from mini ted talks released by the organization on sleep, what to do if your husband has an affair because you are working too much (seriously that is one of the delightful videos), and how to organize your desk clutter to be more effective at work cause me heartburn. These videos are so out of touch, and so outrageously offensive given the real challenges our workers face every day. The trivia nights, and zoom games and cries for "wine o'clock" are such trite nonsense in this ongoing hell. These "solutions" render the true inequities faced in our workplace as frivolous. The solutions brainstormed by our best and brightest were so limited, so silly and so senseless. Watching these goofy solutions emerge from this group of seemingly intelligent people, who are paid so significantly, changed something in me. I realized the Emporer has no clothes.

So what should employers do in this pandemic? Pay their workers, acknowledge that some of us will not recover from the mistreatment and will need good reference letters ready for better employers. Employers should involve single mothers and marginalized workers who are most likely to be affected by the pain in management decisions, waive performance reviews this year and replace them with a check-in, boost mental health funding, give workers who have to come into the workplace hazard pay they deserve (because you know those of us who work at home are saving big money) and listen to those who have reasonable suggestions. For my employer, let this be known, when this starts to end, we will remember those of you who felt trivia night and crystal bowl meditations would suffice for us. We will remember those of you hiding in your rec rooms while the rest of us toiled in dangerous spaces, and we will remember what happened when we tried to tell you about what hurt us. It is unlikely that we will forgive you, but we will be better positioned after all the work we have done, to replace you and I promise you, we will do so much better.

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