Labor to the front in the battle against COVID-19

By Labor Commission, FRSO

As of December 1, 2020, the coronavirus pandemic is in an uncontrollable spread in 49 out of 50 states. Our country has over 10 million confirmed cases and over 270,000 deaths. With more than 100,000 new cases a day, hospitalizations and deaths will grow exponentially. Today over 1000 deaths are happening each day. The death rate, even with improved treatments since March, will likely grow significantly as hospitals and health care workers are already becoming overwhelmed. That is the best-case scenario in the large cities. Rural areas are entirely unprepared, lacking equipment and knowledge of the most up-to-date treatment protocols. Our country’s political and economic system has failed, and it has failed working people the most. While the wealthy and powerful ride stock market gains, secure in country homes and in the knowledge that they will be able to buy access to ICUs and limited and expensive experimental medications.

The working class of the United States, particularly women and oppressed nationality (African American, Chicano and Latino, Asian Americans and indigenous) folks, are bearing the greatest suffering during this time. Alongside the unacceptable loss of life, tens of millions of workers are without work and millions of families are wondering how they will continue to feed themselves and keep a roof over their heads. We are living amid the deepest economic crisis in our lifetimes.

The demands of working people are precise.

Only the truly essential workers need to put their lives on the line now; all others need to be allowed to stay home and prevent the rampant spread of the coronavirus.

All workers sent home must have their immediate needs met – including the cost of housing, health care, food and utilities – and guaranteed employment when they return to work.

All workers who lost their jobs because the pandemic must have their needs fully met, including unemployment benefits, rent and mortgage freezes, debt relief and health care coverage.

The COVID-19 vaccines are promising, but they will take a long time to get out to everybody. The priority for distribution must be for the most vulnerable and for frontline healthcare workers. When the COVID-19 vaccine is made available for mass consumption, it must be provided free of charge to every person in the country. Health care is a fundamental human right and vaccines, along with quality care, should be provided to all. Profit cannot factor into the salvation of this country.

We have a new administration entering the White House. President-elect Biden promises to “listen to the scientists” when it comes to tackling the pandemic. Some of his advisors have floated the idea of a nationwide lockdown. This must happen, but it cannot take place without a guarantee of immediate relief to all workers forced to stay home. Resolving the pandemic cannot be separated from resolving the economic devastation it has brought down on working people.

The Labor Commission of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization recognizes that workers are the protagonists in the fight against coronavirus, and they too must lead the fight to defend their livelihoods. We call on the labor movement to take up the demands of all working people in the coming period. All forces of the working class should fight for the Senate’s passage of the HEROES Act as a minimum demand, and go beyond that. We must do all that we can to seize the initiative from the ruling class that led us into this mess. Workers will save the world, and the world is what they deserve.