Essential Workers to be inducted into United States Labor Hall of Honor
WASHINGTON, D.C. (WILX) - On Thursday, Sept. 1, essential workers who were on the job during the coronavirus pandemic will be honored by the United States of America by being inducted into the Department of Labor’s Hall of Honor.
“The Labor Hall of Honor posthumously honors those Americans whose distinctive contributions to the field of labor have enhanced the quality of life of millions yesterday, today and for generations to come,” Department officials wrote. “The honorees are inducted to the Hall of Honor during a formal ceremony conducted at the department’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., or during special events across the country.”
In January of 2020, COVID-19 was just entering public consciousness in the United States. No one was certain how it was being spread, only that it was spreading fast and it was killing people.
For several weeks the United States went into lockdown, but eventually it became clear work had to be done that couldn’t wait for a vaccine to be developed.
Those who the country couldn’t function without were deemed ‘essential workers,’ and the world discovered that many of the people who were paid least were needed most.
Essential workers were called on to stock shelves, transport goods, maintain equipment, enforce the laws, heal the sick and cover every other task that the United States relied on. And, as a study by the National Library of Medicine pointed out in the first months of the pandemic, they were risking their lives to get the work done.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has vividly highlighted how much society depends upon essential workers,” NLM officials wrote. “But those same workers are often left unprotected by governments and systems that have failed to supply them with enough personal protective equipment (PPE), supplies and resources to do their jobs.”
More than 1 million Americans have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began, with a disproportionate amount of the losses being taken by essential workers. The losses are still mounting, with a 51-year-old corrections officer in Michigan dying from the disease as recently as 2022.
Tuesday, officials from the United States Department of Labor said essential workers will be recognized for their sacrifice. They’ll join previous honorees like the rescue workers of Sept. 11, the Chinese Railroad Workers, Rev. Addie Wyatt, John L. Lewis and the Pioneers of the Farm Worker Movement.
Department officials wrote, “To recognize their sacrifices and ceaseless efforts to support their communities and keep our country moving forward amid the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. Department of Labor will induct the Essential Workers of the Coronavirus Pandemic into the department’s Hall of Honor.”
An employee at a The Village Dentist in Canton, Michigan wrote the Department of Labor in one example of the efforts made by those who had to endure the pandemic’s worst moments.
“[Dr. Van Hook] made sure we would be compliant with the new protocols and any patient who walked through our doors was safe,” they wrote. “He never abandoned our patients, and saw emergencies throughout the lockdown.”
In the May 2020 paper, the National Library of Medicine researchers looked forward to the ‘end’ of the pandemic, or at least to a time when the United States would be in a place to address the shortcomings COVID-19 exposed.
“When this pandemic has ended, we cannot allow a return to the status quo ante,” they wrote. “We must ensure that essential workers can do their jobs safely, and that they have adequate health care and paid sick leave to safeguard their health beyond extraordinary pandemics.”
The induction ceremony will be streamed live on Thursday, Sept. 1, from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.
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