The Impact of COVID-19 on Essential Workers
Speaker: Natalia Deeb-Sossa
Professor, Chicano/a Studies, UC Davis
The workplace has emerged as a central place of COVID-19 infection transmission. Since March 2020, reports of infection outbreaks in essential workplaces have been exacerbated in California by uneven or wholly absent measures to ensure worker safety (Huang et al. 2020). As a result, the COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately impacting the Latinx/a/o population in California in terms of cases and deaths. Based on interview data of 80 Latina/o essential workers Deeb-Sossa explores how the “essential worker” is being constituted and how essential workers themselves experience compounding vulnerabilities (Fortun, et al. 2020). In this presentation Deeb-Sosa will be presenting 3 case studies to elaborate on the experiences of local “essential workers.” Some of the findings are that these workers consider themselves “essential” but are treated as disposable. In addition, these workers are highly disconcerted by the huge variation in employers’ commitment to a safe workplace and provision of PPE. The workers also feel great levels of anxiety due to the loss of household income (i.e., no paid leave, no child care, no health care insurance) as well as elevated stress, anxiety, and depression due to the pandemic and having limited access to resources to deal with self-isolation or to deal with the grief of those they have lost. Finally these workers have great concern about bringing the virus home, infecting family, co-workers and loved ones.