When it comes to accepting the adjustments most of us have made to keep ourselves and others safe and healthy, there is a phrase which seems to have become part of the daily lexicon: “the new normal.” Continuing most of the health precautions recommended by the CDC now and in the future can make for a safer world. Other changes in how we treat “essential workers” aren’t as clearly beneficial and may be counterproductive.

Whereas celebrations of front-line health workers are common, it seems like lip service when compared with how management treats them even during this crisis.

When a worker is on a “standby status,” they cannot leave town or engage in any activity which would make them “unavailable” or not “readily available.” This is especially true for this period of pandemic as a maintenance person (for example), is not likely to be called in to work while on standby unless it’s urgent (like a leak or electrical malfunction).

Sanitation workers for a City of New Orleans subcontractor, Metro, have stopped working until they are properly protected and compensated. They have been replaced by prisoners from Livingston Prison. This should not be the “new normal.”

I think anyone who is asked to work (usually because they are considered “essential”), should receive the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and more than their regular compensation — call it “hazard pay.” Certainly, there is such a distinction in military service when soldiers are engaged in combat.

Military terms are often invoked when referring to our efforts to combat the consequences of COVID-19. Why are the “warriors” on the front lines, who take the risk of being infected and possibly dying while doing their jobs, not being paid appropriately?

If the response to the pandemic is truly a “war,” why aren’t the bosses acting like it is?

Don Cavellini