ESSENTIAL – or not!

by Torben Riise, CFO at GUIDEN65

Originally posted at LinkedIn:

The current crisis has given us a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see ourselves and our country in the plainest of views, revealing more deeply the unjust and inhumane systems that have persisted for a long time.

We have rarely, perhaps never, in our lives had the opportunity to see what would happen if the world almost stopped – like right now. We should take advantage of that opportunity to ask some very hard questions.

Like, how much do we care for one another?

Right now, caring exists at the grass-root level, among the millions of individuals whom we call “essential” employees, the ones who keep the wheels turning, the ones that allow the rest of us, while staying comfortably out of harm’s way, to get what we want and when we want it.

That’s an interesting shift. Because in normal times – remember those days? – those employees were considered, and treated, as non-essential.

These new-essentials are:

  • largely, non-white women!
  • the workers who work while sick, whose physical presence is required despite risking their health
  • people without any or barely adequate health insurance, which makes sick leave is an impossible luxury
  • among the lowest-paid people in the country (some even below the legal minimum).

They are the service supply and logistics troops who keep the frontline forces, such as warehouse workers, shelf-stockers, Instacart shoppers, supermarket cashiers, UPS drivers, long-haul delivery truckers, those who grow, sort, pack, and deliver our vegetables, meat factory workers, hospital staffers, ER and ICU nurses, home health aides, hotel maids . . . and all the volunteers who assist in the process.

We praise these new-essentials for their heroic contributions; applaud them from our balconies or street corners; celebrities blow kisses from their comfortable estate homes; TV anchors wish them to be safe; politicians give heart-warming speeches about getting through this together; banks, car dealers, stockbrokers, even power companies and cable providers assure us of their support “in these difficult times.”

They say: We are together in the same boat in this crisis!

But they got that wrong! We are not in the same boat together! We are in the same storm together!

That’s a huge difference. The new-essential workers have little or no boats. The rest of us have bigger and better boats, and some have much bigger and much better boats, call them yachts. It has always been that way. But the hypocrisy is infuriating.

The big question is, therefore: How much do we care for these essential workers?

A leading politician said last week: “We ought to consider a temporary pay raise for all the essential workers!” Those were the exact words. WOW! That was nice, progressive, even . . . but the keyword is: Temporary! What does that tell us?

It tells us that when this crisis is over, those heroic workers go right back to where they ‘came from:’ They will no longer be essential!

And the rest of us? We will be so busy getting back to normal that we do not have the time to care for everyone else. Right? We’ve gotta live, gotta catch up, gotta get our lives back together. That takes time. We don’t have the time – at least for right now, we excuse ourselves. Later!

BUT: We will never have enough time. Time is not something we have. Time is something we take (some would say make).

The acid test for our caring for all the people who are oh, so essential right now is: How much time will we take to make sure that when times become normal,

  • these people will be paid a decent minimum pay,
  • these people will get sufficient health insurance so they can stay home when they are sick
  • women will finally get paid equally and not at 80% of what men make

None of this is hard. It’s a mindset! We may have to accept higher prices on products and services . . . but that’s where the caring comes in.

If we after the crisis is over go back to “business as usual,” we have not learned ANYTHING!

Torben Riise, PhD, MBAa native of Denmark – has held C-level positions in large, international biotech companies for more than two decades where he was responsible for global R&D and strategic business development. In 1991, Torben established his own consulting business, specializing in all aspects of high-tech start-up businesses. Torben is a prolific writer and speaker on issues like the ethics of new technologies and futurism and participates in several international think tanks.  He has lived in Anthem, Arizona since Nov. 2013.