The people working in retail and store positions along with healthcare professions play a vital role in keeping our society functioning, but they don’t always get the credit and recognition that they deserve. These important people have only recently begun to be appreciated in the way that they should be. When COVID-19 hit it was made clear just how important these people really are.
The essential workers who have been recognized the most are those working in hospitals and clinics where they have a high chance of being around others who have COVID-19. I applaud and appreciate their hard work, but I’d also like to shed light on what it’s like to be an essential worker that isn’t in a hospital or doctor’s office. Store workers are often overlooked when it comes to getting accolades and praises for doing their jobs during this difficult time.
I’ve recently become one of these important people. About a month ago, I started working part-time for Dollar Tree. I’m a cashier and come in constant contact with others which puts the health of me and those I come in contact with at risk. Working in a store, especially as a cashier, isn’t the easiest task, but doing so in a pandemic is even more difficult. Being cautious and COVID-free is a challenge when interacting with so many people. To deal with customers who can sometimes be rude, keeping a positive attitude despite those rude customers, and trying your best to stay healthy is one of the greatest challenges I’ve dealt with. To make matters worse, the pay for essential workers in stores is usually minimum wage. No hazard pay or bonuses for working in the middle of a pandemic.
The fact that people need things from stores doesn’t change even though we’re in a pandemic. That just means that workers like me have to keep doing their jobs no matter how dangerous things become. In many cases, I have to work lots of hours in the run of a week along with other employees so that we have a sufficient amount of staff to support the large numbers of people that come into our store. The more I go to work, the more I’m putting myself at risk of getting or spreading COVID-19 and it’s a scary thing to think about and I don’t think people really reflect on it as much as they should.
I feel like there should be regulations that require all essential workers to have a raise in pay due to how dangerous their jobs are. I’m not saying this because I’m an essential worker either. I’ve held the same stance before I started working. I’m saying this because everyone that leaves their home to go to work every day, whether it be in a dollar store or a hospital, is running the risk of coming in contact with someone that may have the virus. I can’t tell you how many people come into my job without masks on in the run of a day. Simple jobs have become dangerous and hazardous, and the people working these jobs that are keeping the country afloat have very little pay to show for it.
Whenever you encounter someone that’s an essential worker, thank them for the dangerous work that they do that makes it possible for you to get the things that you need. If you’re an essential worker of any kind, thank you for going to work every day and doing your job despite the state that the world is in right now.
By Cierra Lemott, Freshman, Columbia College Chicago
Instagram & Snapchat: @cece.kodak