by Kenneth Cooper

Yeah, that’s it. Go home. Vote. Elect a black president, a liberal congress, a liberal mayor, a liberal city council, even have a black AG appointed as the nation’s top prosecutor. After that, everything will be alright. You’ll be able to ride, run, walk up the street assured that you’ll be treated as a citizen equal to all others, and if not, those who violate your right will be met with the swiftest of justice. 

Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Alton Sterling, Trayvon Martin – 6 murders, 0 justice.

Maybe try other methods. Try getting a job, fashioning yourself as a presentable negro. But one day you’re out for a ride with your girl and her kid, you get pulled over, you simply try to tell the officer that you’re exercising your right to carry a gun, and next thing you know — bam. Seven bullets are unloaded in your chest.  Two of them hit you right in the heart. You’re left there, bleeding to death in the passenger seat, while the child screams behind you. All your girl can think to do is frantically record your last breath on her cell phone, hoping it’ll make a difference. 

“Your, Honor, he was a black man with a gun. I feared for my life. What else was I supposed to do? 🤷‍♂️”

No justice. You try breaking the peace. You riot. You loot. You burn buildings to the ground. Probably because there’s no other outlet for your frustration. People call you an animal, a thug. Hardly anybody in power addresses the root of the problem, how systematically throwing black people in jail and under-investing in our communities has produced generations of disillusioned, poor people trying to live the American dream by any means necessary

Nope, they’ll be no tears or any form of reparations for you, just escalating forms of resistance and violence when you protest in outrage (blockades, negative media coverage, curfews, police armed with militarized weapons).

What’s the solution? A race war is out of the question. Black people are outnumbered, out-gunned, and out-organized. 10 cops swinging batons and firing rubber bullets can scatter a hundred unorganized protesters.

Last Monday, 3 police officers pinned a 46 year-old black man to the ground then proceeded to suffocate him until he cried for his mama. They only decided to take their knees off his neck and back after he stopped breathing for 2 minutes and 53 seconds. 1 officer stood by. A crowd just watched and recorded as he slowly died.

“Before we go any further, we’re asking you to be patient, while we proceed in due diligence to ascertain all the facts of the case and not make a rush to judgment – you know, basically give these guys the fairness and consideration they didn’t give to the man they just killed.”

We watch them die. We watched George Floyd die. We watched Eric Garner die. We watched Alton Sterling die. We heard Trayvon Martin fight for his life until a gun went off. “Racism is not getting worse, it’s getting filmed.” – Wil Smith

Many feel the problem is that too many police look like this (👮‍♂‍)while the citizens they often harass and murder look like this (🧑🏽‍🦱). Often those complaints are met with a simple🖕🏻in reply. Black people’s pleas to be treated equally have been met with that type of dismissiveness since the day we were dragged here in chains. 

“I don’t wanna be a slave on this plantation.” 

“🖕🏻”

“I just wanna be treated like any other free man.”

“🖕🏻”

“I just want the right to vote and the same civil rights as any other citizen.”

“🖕🏻”

“Black lives matter.”

“🖕🏻”

“I’m going to call the police and tell them that an African American man is threatening me.” 

No, those aren’t the words that got Emmett Till killed. Those are the words of a white woman, who earlier this month threatened to weaponize the police against a black man for having the audacity to tell her to put a leash on her dog as the park rules required. Clearly she recognized historical precedent.

A word from the president on how the police should apprehend suspects:

“Please don’t be nice.”

What are we to do?

“We’ve tried black faces in high places. Too often our black politicians, professional class, middle class become too accommodated to the capitalist economy, too accommodated to a militarized nation-state…You’ve got a neoliberal wing of the Democratic Party that is now in the driver’s seat…and they really don’t know what to do.” – Cornel West

Nobody knows what to do. Slavery ended 155 years ago. Yet the mentality hasn’t.

How many more will lose their breath, waiting for change?

By Oliver Thomas

Ever since the formation of law enforcement and the criminal justice system the public has been encouraged to “Come Forward” and be a witness. Stand for justice and help make your community safe.  Throughout American history, we the people have been led to believe that safe communities and true justice requires citizens coming forward standing with law enforcement against an evil criminal element trying to destroy our communities and even take our lives.

Because our lives matter. Well what we know centuries later is that this decree was never meant for true justice.  It never really applied to law enforcement.  Protect and serve was really to protect them from us.  Black and brown communities have always been seen as the threat.  Do I need to name names? How far should I go back?

Well one name equals all names these days. George Floyd!!  George Floyd could never breathe. Not in an America that smothered him his entire life – that saw his blackness as a menace, needing to be destroyed.  Fairness, decency, opportunity, equality, and certainly justice were never truly an option for him. But George Floyd couldn’t breathe not just because there was knee on his neck. He couldn’t breathe because centuries of brutality and cruelty clogged up his airways the moment he took his first breath here in America.

He had crying souls in his lungs and long suffering ghosts who prayed for an America where being a black man was no longer only seen as a threat. Instead black men would be recognized for the contributions to building this great nation.  George Floyd deserved that honor and respect for all that was lost and taken away solely because of the color of his skin.

Millions more of us can’t breathe. We have learned to live without the fullness of breath, and without what we’re owed. Yet like all of us, George is a man.  We know that your denial of his manhood, of our very humanity, gives you cover. For had it not been for my sacrifice you would not be able to rest your knee on my neck and enjoy wealth on my peoples back! One day we will learn we can breathe and don’t need your air.

 It’s polluting. Our planet is creating germs and viruses that no man control. Ironically, the time has come for us to realize we need each other. So anyone who has ever been silent or whispered just how unfortunate or bad those incidents are must now speak loudly.  It’s time for you to call out these murderous cops. The hatred in this injustice system is now bad for you. It even frightens you.

When George Lloyd said he couldn’t breathe he wasn’t speaking for himself -he was speaking for everyone.  Your silence is the knee.  Get your knees off his neck. Your privileges are no longer safe. Or none of us may be able to breathe.

Now is the time to take a deep breathe, come forward and be a witness.

ARE ESSENTIAL WORKERS BEING USED AS CHARMS IN A MONOPOLY GAME?

by CC Campbell Rock

When the Coronavirus came to America, news reporters lauded doctors, nurses, and EMTs for the essential workers they are, but, as the coronavirus death count continues to rise, it’s clear that grocery store employees, delivery drivers, police, fireman, postal workers, nursing home aides,  janitors, meat packing plant workers, and sanitation workers are also essential workers.

At last count, 68 grocery workers have died from the novel coronavirus. Almost 12,000 meatpacking and food plant workers have reportedly contracted COVID-19; 48 have died, and 28,100 residents and workers have died from the coronavirus at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, according to a New York Times database.

Providing adequate PPE and health benefits for these workers is essential to the overall public health of the nation. Without them on the front lines,  the economy would tank, public health would become an even bigger catastrophe, and the odds of stopping the spread of this deadly pandemic would be horribly diminished.

And what we can’t do is to believe that the coronavirus is going to disappear and reappear. COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere soon. We must learn to live with it and that starts with stopping the spread among frontline workers, who may be asymptomatic and bringing the virus home.

On May Day essential workers walked off their jobs, nationwide, to demand safer working conditions and hazard pay. “Rolling job actions have popped up across the limping economy, including by Pittsburgh sanitation workers who walked off their jobs and fast-food employees in California who left restaurants to perform socially distant protests in their car,” according to an ABC news report. Picket lines went up in  New York, Washington, Los Angeles, and other cities.

In New Orleans, several sanitation workers (hoppers) walked out of the Metro Services Company work yard on May 5, to protest a lack of adequate PPE and to demand $15 per hour and $150 per week in hazard pay,  health insurance, and sick leave benefits.

Although brothers Jimmie and Glen Woods, the owners of Metro, the city’s first African-American owned waste disposal contractor, hired a staffing company, PeopleReady, to recruit, hire, and manage the hoppers’ payroll, the Woods’ decided it was in everyone’s best interest to meet directly with the hoppers to find a resolution.

A Metro spokesperson said the hoppers turned down the invitation to meet with Councilperson-at-Large Jason Williams, who agreed to mediate the dispute between the owners and the hoppers, because they people helping them form a new union, the City Waste Union, prohibited them from meeting with officials and Williams, while the unionization process is ongoing.

There’s no doubt that unionizing is a savvy move for the hoppers. But sources, who asked to remain anonymous, have pointed out what may be a nefarious move by IV Waste, a Metro competitor, whose owners, Sidney Torres, IV and his father, Sidney Torres, III, are allegedly bankrolling the white operatives who are representing the hoppers.

If the allegations are true, then what we have here are black workers pitted against a black-owned firm by whites, who want to snatch the city contract from the black-owned firm in a city that is 60 percent black. If true, the striking hoppers are at the epicenter of a conspiracy to overthrow a 38-year-old black owned business. IV Waste has been in business since 2016 and contracts with Kenner and St. Bernard Parish. Is IV Waste playing monopoly and using the hoppers as the charms?

That the hoppers want to unionize is a good thing. Their lives are on the line. If it weren’t for sanitation workers, there would be a public health crisis here that would make the coronavirus look like a picnic outing. But while they’re striking and putting together their own union, Metro must find workers to fill their positions.

In the interim, there has been talk about raising the sanitation fee by $1 per household to raise the capital needed to meet the hoppers’ demands and the possibility of the city increasing Metro’s contract amount. Reverend Gregory Manning, the co-coordinator of Justice & Beyond, a civil rights and social justice coalition, crunched the numbers and determined that if Metro eliminated PeopleReady, they could meet the hoppers’ demands and still have a $3 million profit margin.

Surely, all low-wage essential workers deserve a living wage, hazard pay, health insurance, sick leave, and fresh PPE on the daily. They are, after all, our front line public health protectors. But would it make more sense, for expediency sake, the public’s health, and their own financial well-being, for the hoppers to come to the table and find common ground, first?

Sit Still Sit Quiet: An Increasingly Unfocused Screed About A Nightmare That We’re All Having

by Jordan Rock
Part 4

Every morning I get out of bed (not wake up, mind you, just, you know, get out of bed), and prepare myself for whatever horror the news cycle is going to throw in my face. Since bad news keeps on rolling in, it’s the especially egregious bits that become the most memorable.

 Usually it’s about the growing pandemic. Today it’s about Trump threatening legislative action to prevent Twitter from fact-checking the bile and bullshit that he vomits onto his feed every day. 

It’s astonishing: How can a man throw two trillion dollars at companies that have been “troubled” by the ongoing pandemic, without disclosing all of the recipients to the public, mind you, and fail entirely to even feign interest in lending that kind of support to the American people…and then turn around a couple of weeks later screeching about how Twitter won’t let him spread blatant political lies about his ‘perceived enemies,’ (like the cable news host and former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough, whom Trump says should be investigated for ‘murder’ of an aide who accidently hit her head on a desk and died) and ‘massive’ voter fraud, because he cares more about getting re-elected than lifting a finger in the interest of dealing with COVID-19? Pretty evident where his energy is going right now.

I haven’t had a chance to say it in written words until now, so I’m taking my shot here; racist white folks across America were so pissed at the very idea of a black president that they rallied behind a man who made a career for himself as a blatant swindler, so that he could swindle the entire country, and all because he’s a crusty old white man like back in the good ole’ days.

Now the administration is caught in this endless game of Russian Roulette where somehow Trump gets to pass on each of his turns.


Oh, I’m sorry, did you think I was going to finish talking about life in contemporary America without talking smack about Trump?  Please.

Trump is, at the very least, the perfect poster boy for the modern G.O.P. That is to say, he is a white supremacist ghoul, who belongs in a maximum security retirement home.

At least watching this failed Orwellian Kickstarter that he calls an administration gets a bitter laugh out of me now and then.


Where was I? Right, life in plague world.

In review, I’d like to say that the way America has handled this pandemic is a train wreck, but that would imply that the train was ever on the tracks in the first place. In truth, our present circumstances are the ultimate result of the bluster of Trump and his administration’s failure, and that tweet from this morning is a flawless example. The most powerful nation in the world is being led by a man who wants to shakedown Twitter in an alleyway for fact-checking him, when he could be doing something, ANYTHING, to help America recover from this virus.

We get to watch the rest of the world recover from their quarantine because they took this virus seriously from the jump. Compared to every other developed nation in the world; our hospitals are understaffed, our healthcare workers are overworked, our citizens can barely afford to make rent, let alone go and get checked, let alone further taking preventative measures or getting treated if they are infected.

And meanwhile? The rich get richer. Because our current administration is being run like every Trump enterprise thus far; a business intended to fail. That’s the takeaway here; like every business that Trump has defaulted on and subsequently declared bankrupt, the last four years have just been one long con to line his own pockets and the pockets of anyone lacking in enough scruples to profit off the misery of the American people.

So, before I sign off, there’s something I’d like to say. There’s been a lot of talk about being productive during quarantine, which I think is bunk. There’s been responses to that rhetoric about how millions of us are showing tell-tale signs of depression and PTSD due to this ongoing catastrophe that we are all limping through. There’s been people rioting in the streets with assault rifles over being told to stay indoors to police indifference, and there’s been peaceful protests over the deaths of people that look like me that have naturally been met with tear gas and pepper spray. This is the America I know. I wanted to say to you, whoever it is that’s reading this, that you deserve better.

America deserves better than this.

So, here’s what I want you to do. Survive. Do whatever it is you can to make ends meet, to push through this calamity.


And while you’re at it, make sure that you allow yourself to live. Really live. Not by the standards of our late capitalistic society, but by your own. You don’t have to reinvent yourself while you’re sitting still and quiet in quarantine. You don’t have to be exercising, or changing your diet or working, working, working. All you need to do is survive. Because the world we live in right now is so beyond horrifying, the only thing we can control, that we can rely on in any capacity, is ourselves.

So survive. First and foremost, survive. And while you’re doing that, demand better. Rest assured; this is a fight for your own survival. The government won’t help you. There are going to be people out there determined to pretend nothing is wrong, but you and I know better.

Wear your mask. Only go out if you have no other choice. Work if you absolutely must but survive. And when it comes time to vote, do us all a favor, and vote that great blubbering windbag out of office and straight into court for all that he’s done. These are desperate times, and no man is more desperate than a shyster who knows when his time is running out. This long, obvious con is coming to an end, and most people want this man out of office, at least so that we don’t have to listen to him squawk anymore. Don’t let a loud-mouth minority sabotage this country again. Don’t let this man cheat his way into another term.

Demand better, America. Because if you don’t, whatever comes next will make this pandemic seem like a dream and the Trump-dominated nightmare we’re in will never end.

We can survive this. But only if we stand together.

Sit Still Sit Quiet

by Jordan Rock
Part 3

Let me take this opportunity to talk about the bizarre experience of living during a global pandemic, and about how it relates to work.
I know how silly that sounds; we are literally ALL living through a global pandemic right now, we Know how it feels.
But, well, these types of things can be hard to express, and perhaps the strangeness of this situation hasn’t quite set in for you yet. After all, I didn’t start thinking about all of this in terms of posterity until my job evaporated.
 Do you still have a job during this crisis? How does that make you feel?
For the vast majority of Americans, it is our modus operandi to be worked into the ground in order to make ends meet.


We work to earn the right to work some more.


When you’re working your fingers to the bone, it’s easy to focus on the aches and pains rather than the society that led you to them.
Even as I write this, it’s amazing to me how badly I want to get back to work.
Not because I liked my job, but because without the anchor of a regular schedule, I can feel my grip on time pulling away from me.
Because I’ve been made to sit still, only venturing out for essential survival materials, my main contact with the rest of the world is being funneled through social media, and the news cycle.
I want to do something, but all I Can do is watch this horror show play out.
For me, this anxiety is familiar ground.


Hurricane Katrina

Downtown New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina


This situation bears a striking resemblance to another major disaster that had a direct effect on my life. That of Hurricane Katrina. Since you’re here, on this website, I assume you’re familiar with it.
Even after my family escaped from New Orleans in the wake of the hurricane, we kept up with the news cycle just to see what had become of our city. We watched along with the rest of America as the devastation played out.


I was twelve years old at the time and let me tell you; that was the first time I experienced true horror. We had heard the warnings, and we had prepared, but nothing can get you ready mentally

 Twelve years old is far too early to lose any and all faith in the society you live in, I think. It has been the longest heartbreak of my life.
But, more to the point, that horror was visceral and personal to me. I could look at my streets and see the devastation wrought by the wind and the rain and the failing infrastructure. This virus is different. It doesn’t destroy cities; not directly. It destroys lives. It is at once a distant threat and one that surrounds me at all times. This disaster looks completely different from the last one. I can’t run away from it, because nowhere in America is safe from it.

Today, I stand at the window and think about how oddly beautiful the streets are when they are so damn empty and quiet. I hold back tears when I talk to my friends, who have been given the illustrious title of “Essential Worker” at social gunpoint so that they can risk their lives for someone else’s bottom line. I watch the so-called leadership of America downplay this pandemic and expect us all to play along. This disaster is so much bigger than the one from my youth, and we had so much less warning. This time, the flood waters, as it were, have yet to recede. We’re standing waist deep in this crisis, watching people drown, and still we’re all being told to get back to work.


I explained last time that the United States has proven itself the best at being the worst at handling this world-wide viral pandemic. The death toll climbs by the hour, and even as we hear pyrrhic news about how people that recover from the virus become immune to it, or how a vaccine is in development, they are like fireflies in the void of space. Distant stars, too far to reach.

I’m amazed at how angry I am this time around. Whenever something vile has happened to American people in the last four years of our current administration, its been wrapped up with a neat little bow in the 24 hour news cycle, trotted around for ratings and then tossed under the stampede of fresh horrors running in. There is no solidarity or mourning for this crisis, for the thousands dead and dying. There is only the constant knowledge of it as thousands more shuffle off to risk their lives for a paycheck that doesn’t justify their peril.


I read the other day that the United States is the only country that has not agreed to make the vaccine free and available for its people when it is completed. All I can think when I hear this is that the cure for this plague is going to become a luxury item, and suddenly this virus consuming the world will be written off by the great and the good as a poor person’s disease.


This is growing incoherent. But that’s the thing; our reality makes less and less sense the longer we sit still. We’ve all grown so numb to the horrors of these times, able to stumble through our days as long as we can have a distraction to motivates to slough through all of the nonsense. But now, for so many of us, the constant cycle of work, sleep eat has been disrupted, and all we have is to sit. And those of us that can sit and wait for this to blow over are the lucky ones. And yet, it feels like being held down with our eyes taped open. When you aren’t going to work, you lose track of time. If you don’t set your own schedule, monitor yourself, you lose control. All there is for those stuck inside is to watch as their country mishandles every step of the battle against the virus. From that perspective, it almost makes sense how many people furiously reject the idea of staying inside right now. I can almost sympathize with the desire to ignore the virus and try desperately to live normally.

 I understand how hard it is to sit still.

 I’m a busy body. My ADHD-addled brain frequently zips through associations and ideas at a breakneck pace, like the world’s least sensical game of synaptic ping-pong, and while that makes me a fantastic idea man, it also means I must be a relentless note-taker with a restless mind.
Add on top of that the trauma of our shared situation, and you get a lot of sleepless nights.
Since this lockdown started, I can’t remember the last time I slept all the way through the night.
And now, with the virus only ramping up, with the death toll climbing higher and higher, with lunatics running around without masks claiming that it is their civil right to put everyone around them at risk of infection, we’re being told that now is the time for shops to reopen, for us to go back out and sweat and bleed for the economy?


I want to be shocked. I really do, but then I think about it.
Americans have been so socialized, so hammered by the idea that the only purpose we have in life is to go to work, consume products, breed and make more consumers that will also go to work, all to line the pockets of the rich and powerful, its almost seductive to wiggle our jobs in front of our faces during a pandemic.

Group of teenagers friends wearing medical masks to protect from infections and diseases – coronavirus virus quarantine.


I have a friend in the Bay Area who happens to be an EMT, and listening to the routine he has to go through of undressing on the porch, disinfecting his clothes and then trying to sanitize himself before touching anything inside his house makes my hands shake. When you go through a crisis, you come out on the other side shaken, with the knowledge that your world has changed. You would think that America itself, so rattled by this nightmare would at least acknowledge the horror of it all, that our current administration would be able to pretend for a moment that it cares for its people.


We need work, because a single check from the government is not going to be enough to pay our inflating rents. Hell, for many, it wasn’t enough to pay one month of rent. We need work, because the pittance we received for our previous work has already been spent just trying to survive.


Just what in the world Is an essential worker, anyway?
Far as I can see, it’s someone that has a choice; you can get out there and work, or you can starve. Either feed the beast of the economy with your labor or feed it with your life.


They are the life support plugged into a failed economic experiment; a feed bag strapped to the face of our broken system. A bare neck for our vampiric oligarchy to bite into.


We are as essential as pigs are to a butcher.


No wonder I’m so mad. I’m not mad at the virus, or mad that I’m stuck inside. I’m mad, because when disaster struck me at twelve years old, I got to watch the Bush administration put on a show of caring about my poor, destroyed city. This time, at twenty-seven, I get to watch the Trump administration bail out a bunch of major corporations with one hand and use the other to root around in my pockets for loose change.

Opening Up America Again Logo Opening Up America Again

President Trump has unveiled Guidelines for Opening Up America Again, a three-phased approach based on the advice of public health experts. These steps will help state and local officials when reopening their economies, getting people back to work, and continuing to protect American lives.

Overview

CriteriaThe data-driven conditions each region or state should satisfy before proceeding to a phased opening.PreparednessWhat States should do to meet the challenges ahead.Phase GuidelinesResponsibilities of individuals and employers during all phases, and in each specific phase of the opening.

Criteria

Proposed State or Regional Gating Criteria

Satisfy Before Proceeding to Phased Comeback

SYMPTOMS

Downward trajectory of influenza-like illnesses (ILI) reported within a 14-day period

AND

Downward trajectory of covid-like syndromic cases reported within a 14-day period

CASES

Downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period

OR

Downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period (flat or increasing volume of tests)

HOSPITALS

Treat all patients without crisis care

AND

Robust testing program in place for at-risk healthcare workers, including emerging antibody testing

State and local officials may need to tailor the application of these criteria to local circumstances (e.g., metropolitan areas that have suffered severe COVID outbreaks, rural and suburban areas where outbreaks have not occurred or have been mild). Additionally, where appropriate, Governors should work on a regional basis to satisfy these criteria and to progress through the phases outlined below.

Core State Preparedness Responsibilities

TESTING & CONTACT TRACING

HEALTHCARE SYSTEM CAPACITY

PLANS

Proposed Phased Approach

BASED ON UP-TO-DATE DATA AND READINESS

MITIGATES RISK OF RESURGENCE

PROTECTS THE MOST VULNERABLE

IMPLEMENTABLE ON STATEWIDE OR COUNTY-BY-COUNTY BASIS AT GOVERNORS’ DISCRETION

Guidelines for All Phases Individuals

Continue to adhere to State and local guidance as well as complementary CDC guidance, particularly with respect to face coverings.

CONTINUE TO PRACTICE GOOD HYGIENE


PEOPLE WHO FEEL SICK SHOULD STAY HOME

Guidelines for All Phases Employers

Develop and implement appropriate policies, in accordance with Federal, State, and local regulations and guidance, and informed by industry best practices, regarding:


Monitor workforce for indicative symptoms. Do not allow symptomatic people to physically return to work until cleared by a medical provider.


Develop and implement policies and procedures for workforce contact tracing following employee COVID+ test.

Phase One

For States and Regions that satisfy the gating criteria

INDIVIDUALS

ALL VULNERABLE INDIVIDUALS should continue to shelter in place. Members of households with vulnerable residents should be aware that by returning to work or other environments where distancing is not practical, they could carry the virus back home. Precautions should be taken to isolate from vulnerable residents.

All individuals, WHEN IN PUBLIC (e.g., parks, outdoor recreation areas, shopping areas), should maximize physical distance from others. Social settings of more than 10 people, where appropriate distancing may not be practical, should be avoided unless precautionary measures are observed.

Avoid SOCIALIZING in groups of more than 10 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing (e.g., receptions, trade shows)

MINIMIZE NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL and adhere to CDC guidelines regarding isolation following travel.

EMPLOYERS

Continue to ENCOURAGE TELEWORK, whenever possible and feasible with business operations.

If possible, RETURN TO WORK IN PHASES.

Close COMMON AREAS where personnel are likely to congregate and interact, or enforce strict social distancing protocols.

Minimize NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL and adhere to CDC guidelines regarding isolation following travel.

Strongly consider SPECIAL ACCOMMODATIONS for personnel who are members of a VULNERABLE POPULATION.

SPECIFIC TYPES OF EMPLOYERS

SCHOOLS AND ORGANIZED YOUTH ACTIVITIES (e.g., daycare, camp) that are currently closed should remain closed.

VISITS TO SENIOR LIVING FACILITIES AND HOSPITALS should be prohibited. Those who do interact with residents and patients must adhere to strict protocols regarding hygiene.

LARGE VENUES (e.g., sit-down dining, movie theaters, sporting venues, places of worship) can operate under strict physical distancing protocols.

ELECTIVE SURGERIES can resume, as clinically appropriate, on an outpatient basis at facilities that adhere to CMS guidelines.

GYMS can open if they adhere to strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols.

BARS should remain closed.

Phase Two

For States and Regions with no evidence of a rebound and that satisfy the gating criteria a second time

INDIVIDUALS

ALL VULNERABLE INDIVIDUALS should continue to shelter in place. Members of households with vulnerable residents should be aware that by returning to work or other environments where distancing is not practical, they could carry the virus back home. Precautions should be taken to isolate from vulnerable residents.

All individuals, WHEN IN PUBLIC (e.g., parks, outdoor recreation areas, shopping areas), should maximize physical distance from others. Social settings of more than 50 people, where appropriate distancing may not be practical, should be avoided unless precautionary measures are observed.

NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL can resume.

EMPLOYERS

Continue to ENCOURAGE TELEWORK, whenever possible and feasible with business operations.

Close COMMON AREAS where personnel are likely to congregate and interact, or enforce moderate social distancing protocols.

Strongly consider SPECIAL ACCOMMODATIONS for personnel who are members of a VULNERABLE POPULATION.

SPECIFIC TYPES OF EMPLOYERS

SCHOOLS AND ORGANIZED YOUTH ACTIVITIES (e.g., daycare, camp) can reopen.

VISITS TO SENIOR CARE FACILITIES AND HOSPITALS should be prohibited. Those who do interact with residents and patients must adhere to strict protocols regarding hygiene.

LARGE VENUES (e.g., sit-down dining, movie theaters, sporting venues, places of worship) can operate under moderate physical distancing protocols.

ELECTIVE SURGERIES can resume, as clinically appropriate, on an outpatient and in-patient basis at facilities that adhere to CMS guidelines.

GYMS can remain open if they adhere to strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols.

BARS may operate with diminished standing-room occupancy, where applicable and appropriate.

Phase Three

For States and Regions with no evidence of a rebound and that satisfy the gating criteria a third time

INDIVIDUALS

VULNERABLE INDIVIDUALS can resume public interactions, but should practice physical distancing, minimizing exposure to social settings where distancing may not be practical, unless precautionary measures are observed.

LOW-RISK POPULATIONS should consider minimizing time spent in crowded environments.

EMPLOYERS

Resume UNRESTRICTED STAFFING of worksites.

SPECIFIC TYPES OF EMPLOYERS

VISITS TO SENIOR CARE FACILITIES AND HOSPITALS can resume. Those who interact with residents and patients must be diligent regarding hygiene.

LARGE VENUES (e.g., sit-down dining, movie theaters, sporting venues, places of worship) can operate under limited physical distancing protocols.

GYMS can remain open if they adhere to standard sanitation protocols.

BARS may operate with increased standing room occupancy, where applicable.

Appendix

Appendix Vulnerable Individuals

1. Elderly individuals.

2. Individuals with serious underlying health conditions, including high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, and those whose immune system is compromised such as by chemotherapy for cancer and other conditions requiring such therapy.

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By C.C. Campbell-Rock

On his second trip to Memphis to support striking sanitation workers, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  lost his life on the frontlines in the fight for fair wages, better work conditions, and the respect and dignity demanded by the workers on the signs they carried: “I Am a Man.”

Fifty-two years later, sanitation workers in New Orleans are carrying the same signs, demanding the same benefits, with several caveats. In addition to a living wage and better working conditions, striking sanitation workers employed by PeopleReady, a subcontractor with the Metro Service Group, are also calling for $15 per hour, inclusive of hazard pay and the personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary to avoid contracting the coronavirus.

Entering the second week of their strike, at least 16 hoppers are on the picket line. “We gotten no hazard pay, no health insurance. We’re sure that’s not right,” Shone Gray, a 15-year sanitation worker, told members of Justice and Beyond during a Zoom Conference.  “I guess Metro is helping the drivers, not the hoppers. We don’t have any type of benefits or insurance, none of that.”

Ironically, the sanitation workers’ dispute is pitting a black owned company against some of their black workers.

Metro Services Group (MSG) is a black-owned corporation co-founded by brothers Jimmie M. Woods and Glenn H. Woods. Headquartered in New Orleans, the company directly employs 250 people and 76 contract laborers. The firm provides sanitation, construction/demolition, disaster recovery and industrial and environmental services to municipalities in Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Texas, Tennessee, Florida, and Philadelphia. MSG also have contracts with federal agencies. The firm generates $19.9 million in sales annually, according to Dun & Bradstreet.

A press release MSG’s website disputes what it calls “scurrilous and baseless claims” by contracted hoppers who allege that Metro hasn’t provided the personal protective equipment needed for the hoppers’ safety.

“When COVID-19 unfolded, prior to the protest, Metro bought 15,000 KN95 masks, surgical masks, bandanas, 2000 pairs of various gloves and hand sanitizer.” Metro also routinely sanitizes its vehicles, facilities and equipment and the company denies allegations that their vehicles are prone to breakdowns.  Its current fleet is comprised of 2017 vehicles, which undergo regularly scheduled maintenance.

 “I only got a mask one time. A week or two after corona, they only us a pair of gloves, once a week. If you don’t show up between 34:00 am and 3:30 am, you don’t get the PPE,” Gray adds. Sanitation trucks roll out at 3:45 am, says Gray.

However, Metro’s publicist Virginia Miller says the PPE shortage allegation is false.

“The hoppers are direct employees of PeopleReady. PeopleReady also provides their own PPE to employees they assign to work for Metro,” and “Metro has been assured by all its contractors that no one working on behalf of Metro is being paid less than the current living wage of $11.19/hour,” the current Living Wage under the City’s Living Wage Ordinance.,” according to a Metro Fact Sheet.

 “They’re paying us $10.25 an hour and we’re asking for $15 per hour. The temp service has come in here and pay us what they want to pay us,” Gray told Justice & Beyond members.

Pay dispute aside, $11.19 per hour is still below the federal poverty threshold for a family of four.

 The hoppers want a benefit package that includes hazard pay, health insurance, a living wage, and sick leave. To that end, the striking workers have joined the City Waste Union.

“We have no workers comp, no health insurance, no benefits,” says Gray, who says he works at least 12 hours a day. The hopper says workers can easily get hurt on what he calls a dangerous job. “I broke my leg on the job, but I have to pay for it out my pocket. I had to go to the hospital on my own.”  When asked if Metro is testing employees for the coronavirus, Gray says, “They said they would start test but they (tests) still haven’t come in yet.”

“He (Jimmy Woods) should see the world through the view of his workers; pay a living wage, hazard pay and benefits. These young men know what they’re fighting for. If you can afford to pay PeopleReady $16.75 an hour for each hopper, why not do your own in-house human resources?” Malcolm Suber, an organizer with the NOLA Workers Group, which is helping to garner support for the hoppers, asks.

“The Metro Service Group fully supports hazard pay for sanitation workers and others on the front line in this challenging Covid-19 environment.  As our letter of May 1st to Congressman Richmond demonstrates, our position in this regard has been clear since before this demand was made by some of our contract “hoppers”. Without any doubt, our employees and contractors and others in the sanitation field deserve hazard pay.

“Metro has welcomed an opportunity for a dialog with the strikers presented by Councilman Jason Williams. While there are existing differences of opinion, these are very real and complex issues that deserve to be addressed in fact based, solution-driven dialog,” according to the company’s fact sheet.

In a May 12 press release, Metro denied any contact or conversations with the strikers prior to the labor stoppage on May 5. “Rather than address any concerns in a meaningful  and productive way, they chose to make news with the ongoing and active support of a national group, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).”

The DSA is indeed supporting the striking hoppers. The organization has posted a Go Fund Me link for the sanitation workers and some DSA members are on the picket line with them.

However, Justice & Beyond, a multi-group coalition of civil rights and social justice advocates, and Loyola Law Professor Bill Quigley are also standing up for the hoppers. The executive director of the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center, Quigley has authored numerous legal analyses about fair wages, the need for minimum wage increases and workers’ rights. He also teaches social justice law at Loyola, among other subjects.

“That’s Senator Bernie Sanders people,” Quigley says of the DSA. “He has millions of followers, they’re here in New Orleans and nationwide.”

“The city, Metro, PeopleReady, every one of those contractors should do the right thing. It’s a question of fairness and justice. It’s a common tactic for business to avoid accountability,” Quigley explains regarding Metro’s insistence that PeopleReady is the employer of the striking hoppers. “The city hired Metro and Metro hired PeopleReady. You can’t avoid your responsibility by subcontracting it out.”

Reverend Gregory Manning, the co-coordinator of Justice and Beyond and Pastor of the Broadmoor Community Church, affirmed J&B’s support for the hoppers in a recent letter to Mayor LaToya Cantrell.  He first expressed the group’s gratitude for Metro’s 38-year history as a highly reputable black-owned company in the city of New Orleans.

”Indeed, they have a set an example of success that many should strive for. I would like to personally thank Mr. Jimmy Woods for his employment of young African-American men and women throughout the city.”

“With that said, I would also like to make it clear that Justice and Beyond stands in solidarity with the striking workers of the City Waste Union. We believe that these workers should be supplied with proper PPE so that they may be protected from COVID-19 . This should be a standard distribution of new PPE daily for each worker. This PPE should be from head to toe. We also believe that each worker should be given hazard pay, sick leave, insurance and at least $19 an hour; the housing wage for New Orleans.”

Metro documents indicate that there are ongoing conversations to find a resolution to the workers’ demands. U.S. Representative Cedric Richmond is being asked to include sanitation workers in the House’s Hero Act and Mayor Cantrell and Councilperson-at-Large Jason Williams are being consulted. Metro Attorney David Davillier told a news reporter that one option could be an increase the city’s sanitation fees.

The hoppers are not alone in their fight for hazard pay and $15 per hour, and benefits. Essential workers nationwide, who continue to risk their lives to work during the coronavirus pandemic, are demanding the same benefits as unionized workers. Health experts say the coronavirus will continue to circulate for months.

Sanitation workers are essential to maintaining public health. Without them, the exposure to a plethora of illnesses caused by bacteria and other life-threatening organisms would make the coronavirus threat a walk in the park.

“Everybody needs to change. The world has changed,” Quigley adds, regarding the need for justice, fairness, better pay and a higher quality of life for everyone.

The best companies adapt and change too.