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Kimberly Kao / Spoon

Hazard Pay is Essential for Employees During COVID-19

This has been a very hard time for everyone as many people are getting laid off from their jobs due to COVID-19 and are trying to figure out how to cope financially. Our economy has never seen anything like this before, where we actually can’t work or leave our houses. The working classes are the ones struggling the most in this situation where some live paycheck to paycheck and unemployment doesn’t pay a livable amount to rely on. When I got laid off from both of my jobs I knew I had two options: file for unemployment or find an “essential duty job.”

I chose to find a job working at a grocery store. In the first few days of working, I felt really grateful to have a job when so many people out there needed one or were trying to find one. A few days later I started to feel less grateful (although still grateful) but more scared. I was on the front lines of the pandemic and my risk of getting it was at an all-time high. I was scared for my health and my family’s. I was also scared of getting sick and not being able to work. 

face mask prevention
Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

Aside from worrying about my health, a co-worker had mentioned to me that they had emailed corporate insisting we get “hazard pay.” I hadn’t even heard of hazard pay so I asked my co-worker and found out many essential duty jobs are getting compensation pay for having to work in dangerous circumstances. Some hazard employees are getting an extra few hundred on their checks or a few dollars an hour added to their hourly wage. 

I then too was curious as to why the hell we are not getting hazard pay when we are coming to work every day and risking our health. Sadly, I was not surprised by this because I feel as if corporations and government officials do not have the working class’s best intentions. They seem to care more about their company and themselves than their employees or citizens. 

It makes me angry to think so many working people out there are forced to work because they financially don’t have another choice or can just stay home safe with their families. A lot of these workers are also really scared for their health and their family’s health as if they contract anything their family will be exposed to it as well. 

a woman stands in front of the health juice/kombucha shelves at a grocery store
kc0uvb | Pixabay

All of these corporations and stores that are still open during COVID-19 absolutely need to be paying their employees hazard pay. I can guarantee every company that is open during this time can afford to pay their employees a few more dollars an hour to compensate for their sacrifice to be showing up at work during such dangerous circumstances. 

These employees need to be being thought of and taken care of during these times whether they work at a grocery store, are an amazon delivery person, or a restaurant take-out employee. Not only does each and every employee need hazard pay but if they are coming into work and are putting in a certain amount of hours they should also be taken care of health insurance wise.

These are not “extreme” beliefs, these are things that need to happen. The working class needs to start being supported and taken care of. Anyone who is risking their health during these times needs hazard pay, it is as essential as the job itself. If you are privileged enough to not work or stay home during these times, do what you can to help. Tip your take out restaurant employee or even just don’t give grocery store employees a hard time for something they can’t control. We all need to come together in solidarity during these hard times and have each others’ back instead of just our own. 

I am an English major studying at the University of Utah. In my free time I enjoy writing poetry, reading, yoga and coffee!
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