The next generation is stepping into the forefront of the fight to protect essential employees in the coronavirus pandemic.
College students Yolian Ogbu and Victory Nwabufo have teamed up with the National Children’s Campaign to launch a movement demanding universal hazard pay and personal protective equipment for all coronavirus essential employees. And it’s all happening virtually under #YourWorkersMyFamily.
The US Department of Labor defines hazard pay as “additional pay for performing hazardous duty or work” that is “not adequately alleviated by protective devices.” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed last week that hazard pay for frontline workers be included in a federal stimulus plan.
Ogbu and Nwabufo said their effort has garnered support from essential workers, their families, unions and organizations. It will take the form of online story sharing and digital strikes that tweet-bomb decisionmakers calling for paid sick leave, hazard pay and PPE. The campaign will culminate on Friday, International Workers’ Day, when many organizations are planning strikes of their own, they said.
An effort like this should take place on social media, they said, because it can reach more people without putting workers at even more risk by gathering in large groups for physical strikes. And though they aren’t always the ones on the jobs, they say it is especially important to get young people involved in this campaign.
“A lot of the times when we think about essential workers or social justices issues, we aren’t thinking about young people even though it affected us,” Nwabufo said. “Young people have always been, and will always be, at the forefront of political change and the charge for social justice and #YourWorkersMyFamily is no exception.”
“For many young people, we don’t see essential workers as just workers or as just labor but literally as our parents, our siblings, our aunts and uncles,” Ogbu said.
Ogbu and Nwabufo are among those young people who are personally intertwined with this issue.
The two are friends from the University of North Texas and were sharing their frustrations over the dangers their parents were in as essential workers. They felt helpless and looked to Ogbu’s mother’s recent success launching a strike for hazard pay at the nursing home where she works.
Ogbu shared her mother’s story on Twitter and within hours, it had reached six million people.
“We realize that this is a conversation that should have started a long time ago,” Nwabufo said.
And just like the issue of employee rights predates the pandemic, the pair would like to see it extend beyond.
“#YourWorkersMyFamily is a campaign that we hope transcends beyond May 1st and Covid-19,” Nwabufo said.
“We will continue to organize around better working conditions of working-class people in this country and the world so that they can ensure a brighter future for their kids, for us,” Ogbu said.