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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

2020 Census: Counting Critical Workers Is Essential To Our Recovery Efforts

By Ebony Miranda
Chair, Black Lives Matter of Seattle/King County

May 1 is International Day of the Worker. In the U.S., workers hit hardest by COVID-19 are Black and other People of Color; thousands descend from immigrants or came to America on their own.

Farm workers. Grocery store clerks. Bus drivers. Child care providers. Nurses. Home healthcare workers. Artists. Creatives. Writers. Carpenters. Custodians. Cooks. Servers. Migrant workers. Delivery drivers. Gig workers.

These workers are the people the country will rely on to survive and recover from COVID-19. Yet, it’s workers and their families who need support and resources, right now and in the future. We can’t just survive the pandemic, we have to thrive, because we are the backbone of this nation.

All workers deserve a living wage. They deserve healthcare. They deserve to work without jeopardizing their health or safety or the health and safety of their families.

Recovering from COVID-19 for Washington state and everyone living here is directly tied to a complete count- that means everyone, especially essential workers, first responders and immigrant and migrant workers.

We have a deep history in organizing for the rights of Black workers. This wasn’t just about fair pay, but the quality of the working conditions and overall lives of the African American workforce, and as a result, the quality of lives of their families and communities.

We often look to A. Philip Randolph’s work to organize and lead the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1925.

In 1869 the nation’s unions served the working White middle class. The focused on securing crew jobs and making money for their members. If negotiations ever went south and those workers went on strike, Black workers had the opportunity for something they desperately needed: work. One of the downsides of course, was crossing picket lines- union members or not.

The Colored National Labor Union formed that year to help organize and protect the rights of workers nationwide. In fighting for fair pay and the safety of workers, the CNLU was at the forefront of calling out and tackling civil rights issues that disproportionately hurt our communities today; environmental protection at home and work, ongoing worker training, safe equipment and protective gear.

COVID-19 has reminded us of more than just how important these workers are, it’s reminded us of just how vulnerable they are in times of crisis- like right now. Economic recovery for Washington state and everyone living here is directly tied to a complete count- that means everyone, especially essential workers, first responders and immigrant and migrant workers must be counted in the census.

Historically these critical workers represent people who are undercounted in every census, which means already, they aren’t getting the resources and funding they need or deserve. It’s going to take time to understand the full impact of COVID-19 on our lives, and it’s going to take time to recover. The 2020 Census is more important than ever. Federal dollars and resources are distributed based on the census. If workers are not counted, their families and communities won’t get the full benefit of the resources and support needed to recover.

The Federal government gives funding to states based on data from the census, and data from the census comes from the people.

This is part of our power. Use it today to help protect workers and their families tomorrow. Be counted now.



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