The Devaluing of Ontario's Essential Workers
Fri Jun 18 2021
I work in a grocery store chain, the only one of it's chain in the L9T postal code. And I've seen the utter devastation the government has abandoned us in, in so many different ways that are almost appalling to believe actually happened here in Ontario. The first was priority vaccination. When the doses were scarce, grocery store workers were not considered "essential workers". Apparently, seeing hundreds of Ontarians a day and providing essential items like food, personal care, infant consumables, etc. is not essential enough to Ontario to prioritize vaccination for us as essential workers. I emailed the premier, and my MPP, and got nothing from them. Empty canned responses and reiterations of their framework I already knew. They never followed up with me, and they never made any changes. I posted online on all my social platforms - begging for someone to take notice of such a large group of people being horribly neglected by our government's policy. The only reason I was vaccinated was because it was already mid-May and vaccines were finally coming into Ontario large-scale. But when we really needed them, and there were few, the Ontario government decided myself and my coworkers didn't matter. When it came to paid sick leave, even just 7 days, which is not even enough for 1 sick day a month, the government pushed back and undervalued us. The "essential workers" they paid lip service to every day in the news were slaughtered in their stubbornness and policy. We had numerous positive cases among workers in our store. And I was scared every single time. No protection from the business, from the government, or anyone. All we had was ourselves - all you could do was try to "stay the course", double mask, and wear gloves - even if it would kill you.
In April when they announced non-essentials in big box stores could not be sold, I have never experienced such a level of hostility and aggression from people. Every day I spent hours being yelled at by people for things out of my control. People cussed me out and called me slurs because they couldn't buy printer ink or socks. The emotional trauma of being the punching bag for that many people's anger is not something I'll be able to forget any time soon.
Ontario's essential workers deserve better. Both from the government and from the citizens of Ontario. Covid showed me some of the ugliest things in our province - and I don't want to move forward in this world until we begin to address the shortcomings our province doesn't want to face.