Essential Workers Are At The Heart Of A Diversifying Working-Class America

Essential Workers Are At The Heart Of A Diversifying Working-Class America

By Wendy Feliz, Immigration Impact

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the importance of essential workers in keeping America up and running.

First-responders, medical staff, meat packers, and domestic, hospitality, and transportation workers have been feeding, caring for, and moving us forward for years. It’s time for the working class in America to be recognized and rewarded for their labor.

Yet, who makes up the working class in the United States today?

We often think of the working class as the “white, male manufacturing archetype.” However, today’s working class is largely made up of immigrants, women, and people of color. It is far more diverse than the working class of the past.

People in the working class not only look different than previous generations, but the nature of their work has changed too. The working class of today are more likely to be “serving and caring” for people than to be “making stuff.”

Members of the working class are also more likely to be women, immigrants, and people of color, so they unfortunately are also more likely to be marginalized and suffer a variety of inequities.

It’s time we fused the mutual struggles of all working people in America. All of these essential workers deserve a standard of living that respect their daily contributions to the nation.

And the immigration movement’s support for the working class should not stop with immigrants. Activists must recognize and care that the working class is also comprised of many U.S.-born workers who work alongside the foreign-born. All of these workers are keeping us safe and fed. All of these workers deserve dignity.

The meatpackers across America who arrive through refugee programs need healthcare and childcare so they can work. The Latino farmworkers in California and the white factory workers making personal protective equipment all need healthcare and childcare so they can work.

These people are all part of the same working-class America. They are the essential workers we all now praise. They are getting us through COVID-19 because they have always worked to get us through our struggles.

This pandemic has definitively shown us that every member of our society is linked. We are only as healthy as the sickest and only as prosperous as the poorest among us.

One person’s vulnerability leads to our own. Our fates are inextricably linked.

Now we must act to ensure everyone in our nation, regardless of race, class, or immigration status is healthy, fed, cared for, and supported as they move their lives forward. We owe it to every worker in America.

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