schools reopening in pindostan

The ruling-class conspiracy to reopen schools: Profit versus science
Genevieve Leigh, WSWS, Aug 12 2020

A deadly catastrophe is brewing in schools throughout Pindostan. Hundreds of thousands of children and teachers are being sent back to schools for in-person learning each week, despite a growing body of scientific evidence that children both spread the virus and are susceptible to falling ill themselves. A spreadsheet published in Education Weekly lists data on reopening plans for 382 school districts, representing approximately 3% of all the districts in Pindostan, shows that 200k students are already back in classrooms and over 2.7m will be back in school full-time by the end of August. If the data is extrapolated to include all of the nearly 14k districts in Pindostan, tens of millions of students, teachers and staff will be back in school over the next several weeks. New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo has already given the green light to open the state’s schools, including in NYC, the nation’s largest school district, with over one million students and 135k teachers and support staff. Reports are emerging daily of teachers writing out their wills and obituaries before the semester starts. Students and parents are being forced to sign waivers to exempt schools from liability in the event that students get infected with the coronavirus when they return to schools and college campuses. The drive to reopen schools has been justified by Trump and various right-wing governors with the claim that children are largely unaffected by the virus. The introductory paragraph of the revised CDC guidelines, produced under political pressure from the White House, falsely states:

Children are unlikely to be major drivers of the spread of the virus.

At a White House press conference Monday, President Trump dismissed reports of spreading infections among children, declaring:

I think for the most part they don’t get very sick. It’s also a case where there’s a tiny fraction of death, tiny fraction, and they get better very quickly.

For their part, the Demagog Party-aligned teacher unions, the Pindo Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) are doing everything they can to suppress popular opposition to the reckless reopening of the schools and have joined the chorus of corporate and political voices who falsely claim that schools can be reopened safely. The claim that young people are “unaffected” by the virus is a blatant lie. Recent data shows a drastic surge of infections among small children and adolescents:

  • A new report from the Pindo Academy of Pediatrics released Sunday found that nearly 100k children tested positive for the coronavirus in the last two weeks of July, a 40% increase from the previous two weeks. Out of almost 5m reported COVID-19 cases in Pindostan, more than 338k were children.
  • A new CDC report released Friday found that between March and late July hospitalization rates for children increased steadily. About 1 in 3 hospitalized children needed to be admitted to an intensive care unit, a rate similar to the ICU admittance rate for hospitalized adults with the coronavirus.
  • Another JAMA study released recently found that babies and young children infected with COVID-19 can carry high viral loads in their throats and airways, up to 100 times the amount of adults.

The science is clear: the reopening of schools while the pandemic continues to rage will lead to countless deaths among students, parents, teachers and other school workers. In countries where schools have been opened, the consequences have been dire. Israel is now suffering one of the world’s highest per-capita rates of new infections, with many experts blaming the reckless reopening of schools as a major factor. The experience in Georgia high schools earlier this week shows the futility of the limited social distancing measures that districts cite to justify reopening. Students at North Paulding High School, defying the school administration’s ban on photos and social media postings, leaked photos of packed hallways of unmasked kids at their school in the first few days of classes. Leaked videos reveal a conspiracy of the district Board of Education to get around a department of health regulation that schools classify anyone who has been within six feet of a COVID-19 sufferer for 15 minutes or more as a close contact. In the leaked video clip, a member of the board suggests that students change seats every 14 minutes to get around this regulation. Dozens of new cases have been confirmed at Paulding High School and surrounding schools since the leaked photos went viral, proving that the situation in Georgia is not the exception, but the rule.

Demagogs & Thugs alike claim that they are solely motivated by concerns about the academic and emotional needs of children. On Monday, Florida’s Thug Governor Ron DeSantis used this spurious claim when he rejected the plan by the state’s third-largest school district to hold online-only classes for the first month of the semester and instead demanded that 223k Tampa-area students attend in-person lessons on Aug 24. The supposed concern for the well-being of children never stopped any of the politicians from both corporate-backed parties from slashing funding from public education, closing schools and gutting vital services. Furthermore, none of them dares speak about the permanent psychological damage that will be inflicted on children who lose a teacher, parent or grandparent to the virus, or how they will be affected socially and emotionally when they are told day after day that socializing, hugging and playing on playgrounds (being a child) is against the rules. The sole reason the Demagogs & Thugs want to herd children back into the schools is so that their parents can return to work and restart the flow of corporate profits needed to finance the massive bailout of Wall Street and major corporations. For this homicidal return-to-work campaign to be accomplished, the virus must be normalized, along with the death that will come with it. Or as President Trump so crudely said about the rising death toll, “it is what it is.”

This is the policy of the ruling classes around the globe. Although there are currently more than 1,000 new coronavirus infections per day in Germany, all of the country’s state governments are ruthlessly enforcing school openings after the summer break. Schools in at least 20 countries are planning to open for in-person learning in the coming month, including in Brazil, where record cases and deaths are being reported almost daily. Educators, students, parents and workers everywhere will not, and cannot, accept this implicit death sentence. In the face of this corporate and political conspiracy only the independent intervention of the working class can and will save lives. There is growing opposition mounting among students, parents, teachers, and broader sections of the working class. Over the past month, an explosion of opposition to the unsafe reopening of schools in the US and around the world with protests across the US and strikes by teachers in Colombia, Argentina, Haiti and other countries. Dozens of Facebook groups have emerged globally, from Rhode Island to Texas, to South Africa, Great Britain, and many other countries, with a combined membership of well over 300k.

This resistance must be organized and directed. The Socialist Equality Party urges educators and every section of workers to build rank-and-file safety committees, independent of the trade unions and both big-business parties, to prepare for a general strike to halt the reopening of schools, stop the spread of the pandemic and prevent millions more infections and deaths. We demand that all schools remain closed until the virus is eradicated. Funding must be made available for public education and online instruction. High-speed internet access, food distribution, mental health care, special education support and all other resources needed to provide the best quality remote learning must be guaranteed to every student and educator. At the same time, full income must be provided to parents who have to remain home with their children. The SEP and its youth movement, the International Youth and Students for Social Equality, are leading this fight. We urge teachers to contact us for assistance in organizing your struggle. We call on students and youth to support this struggle and join the IYSSE. Teachers, educations staff, and parents: sign up for the WSWS Educators Newsletter for updates on this fight.

Analysis shows 54k “excess deaths” in Pindostan, pointing to coronavirus death toll of 200.7k
Kate Randall, WSWS, Aug 12 2020

More than 165k Pindos have now died from the coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Pindostan passed the grim statistic of 5m cases of COVID-19 earlier this month. As horrifying as these figures are, a new analysis shows that the number of deaths from the coronavirus likely has been significantly undercounted. Data from the CDC analyzed by the NYT have revealed that 200.7k people died from Mar 15, when the pandemic took hold, to Jul 25. This is 54k higher than the confirmed death toll, averaged, for the same time period in the previous three years. Excess deaths in the analysis are rounded to the nearest hundred. These 54k “excess deaths” are defined by the CDC as “the difference between the observed numbers of deaths in specific time periods and expected numbers of deaths in the same time periods.” The analysis strongly indicates that these excess deaths have been caused by the virus itself or by conditions triggered by the upheaval resulting from the pandemic.

The NYT looked at CDC figures for deaths from all causes, adjusting current death records to account for typical reporting lags. This allows for comparisons that don’t rely on the availability of COVID-19 tests in a given place or on the accuracy of cause-of-death reporting. Epidemiologists generally agree that assessing excess deaths is the best way to assess the impact of the pandemic. Higher than normal death rates are widespread for the vast majority of Pindo states. Only Alaska, Hawaii, Maine and West Virginia have death counts that look similar to recent years. Through Jul 25, the NYT analysis shows that there were about 37% more excess deaths in Pindostan than the official coronavirus fatality count. NYC, the early epicenter of the outbreak, has suffered the most dramatic increase in deaths. During the peak of the outbreak in the city, deaths surged to seven times the usual number. Overall, NYC had 27.2k excess deaths during the period analyzed. In addition to NYC, four states recorded deaths at least 10% higher than the normal level. New Jersey saw 18k deaths from May to July. NY State, excluding NYC, recorded 14.2k excess deaths. Texas had 13.5k excess deaths; California had 13.4k. While the states with the highest rates of excess deaths were in the north-east and the west, other states in the west as well as states in the south began to show higher numbers in July, adding to their overall count. These include Florida, with 9.7k excess deaths during the study period; Arizona, with 6.1k; and South Carolina, with 3.2k.

The NYT analysis shows that the pandemic’s toll cannot be attributed simply to the virus killing vulnerable people who would have died anyway. Most of the excess deaths revealed by the analysis could be attributed to the virus itself, but it is also likely that deaths from other causes have also risen due to hospitals being overwhelmed by COVID patients. People suffering from conditions that should be survivable have not sought care out of fear of contracting the virus. Such conditions include heart attack and stroke. In addition, people who have died at home have had their cause of death listed as pneumonia or other conditions that were likely caused by COVID-19. The lack of a coordinated nationwide testing system, which would identify coronavirus cases, has contributed to an undercounting of deaths from the virus. While the death toll rises, coronavirus testing is dropping significantly. According to the COVID Tracking Project, the average number of daily tests conducted in Pindostan fell from 809.2k in the week ending Jul 26 to 712,112 last week. As the WSWS has reported, there is no systematic testing for workers. There is also a lag in testing results that renders testing virtually useless for contact-tracing. The ruling elite has little interest in identifying COVID cases. Rather, it is laser-focused on forcing workers back on the job and sending children back to school. The decline in testing is part of the ruling class’ policy of “malign neglect.” The NYT analysis of CDC data shows that the devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic is even more devastating than the official figures indicate.

After White House, Congress cut aid to unemployed, evictions and food lines spread across Pindostan
Jacob Crosse, WSWS, Aug 12 2020

People wait to speak with representatives from the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission
about unemployment claims, Thursday Jul 9 2020. (Photo: Sue Ogrocki/AP)

Less than two weeks after the White House and congressional Demagogs allowed the $600/wk federal unemployment supplement to expire, slashing the income of some 30m unemployed workers by 60% to 80%, evictions are already on the rise and food lines are growing by leaps and bounds across Pindostan. In signing four executive actions on Saturday, Trump claimed that he had intervened to temporarily resume the unemployment benefit, although at a sharply reduced rate of $300/wk to $400/wk. He also said his unilateral action, bypassing Congress, would prevent a wave of evictions following the expiration of a partial moratorium at the end of July. But it will be weeks or even months before jobless workers receive any of the promised money. Moreover, Trump’s executive memorandum on rent failed to extend the expired ban on evictions or provide any rental assistance, setting the stage for a rapid growth in the ranks of the homeless. A senior White House official confirmed to CBS News on Tuesday that there are currently no plans for congressional Demagog leaders, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, and White House negotiators, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and White Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, to meet this week to discuss a fifth coronavirus relief bill. In fact, Meadows has already left Faschingstein “for an unspecified amount of time,” according to a WaPo report Tuesday. Under Trump’s legally dubious executive orders, the states already slashing budgets and furloughing workers in an attempt to make up for massive deficits incurred as a result of the pandemic are being asked to contribute an additional $100/wk on top of whatever meager state unemployment benefit is being paid out. The federal government would then add a further $300/wk. In a letter released Monday in response to Trump’s executive actions, the National Governors Association registered its “concern” over “the significant administrative burdens and costs this latest action would place on the states.” The letter requests that Congress and the administration “get back to the negotiating table and come up with a workable solution.”

Meanwhile, early data from across the country indicate that evictions have already begun en masse. In Florida, Thug Governor Ron DeSantis postured as a protector of renters when he announced he was extending the state moratorium on evictions for a month. However, the text of the order bars only “final actions” in eviction proceedings, and only if the tenant can prove that non-payment of rent is due to the coronavirus. In Duval County, Florida, court records for the first week of August show 219 eviction filings, the first full week since the federal moratorium expired. In California, data collated by CalMatters show that more than 1,600 households have been evicted since Mar 4, when Demagog Governor Gavin Newsom first declared a state of emergency. The report notes that this figure is likely a drastic undercount, due to the fact that sheriffs’ departments in “14 counties did not respond to data requests,” including LA County, which includes more than 10m residents. A recent report by the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy estimated that up to 365k LA County renters could be facing eviction in the next month. This coincides with a separate study conducted by UCLA, which found that as many as 120k households in LA County, including up to 184k children, will become homeless as evictions resume. Food lines continue to stretch for miles in major cities across the country. On Tuesday, there were reports of 2k people lining up at a food bank in Queens, New York. In Dallas, nearly 8k people lined up at dawn to collect donated food. The first people in line arrived three hours before the distribution began. Speaking to local NBC television affiliate WMBF, Pauletta Johnson said:

I wanted to get there early because it helps feed the grand-kids. I don’t really have the money. I’m on a fixed income and I don’t have the money to buy some of the things that I need to get. So that’s why I’m here this morning.

According to Feeding Pindostan, a national nonprofit food bank network, food banks distributed over 1.9m meals from the beginning of March through the end of June. In March, food banks gave out 20% more food than average. In addition to mass homelessness and growing hunger, the double-digit unemployment rate means that millions are now without health insurance. A new study by Zippia found that in the state of Michigan nearly 222k workers have lost their insurance since the start of the pandemic. Nearly 100k people, or 11% of New Hampshire’s adult population, are now uninsured, according to a recent report from the National Center for Coverage Innovation. The same report found that the increase in uninsured Pindos nationally surpassed any previously recorded annual increase.

The two big-business parties and the social class they represent are more than willing to sit back and let the working class bear the full brunt of the pandemic, as long as the stock market remains at near-record levels. Even after a dip at closing on Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended up at 27,791.44, only 1.3k points down from its mid-February high. Since the passage in late March of the CARES Act multitrillion-dollar bailout of Wall Street, the Dow has risen by more than 30%. The supposed “partisan gridlock” that has prevented the passage of a new stimulus bill and extension of the federal unemployment supplement is a fraud. The slashing or elimination of the financial lifeline for millions of working-class families, along with the reckless rush to reopen the schools, is part of the strategy of the ruling class to force workers back to work even as the pandemic rages out of control. It is a bipartisan strategy. When it came to passing legislation to hand over trillions to the financial oligarchy, both parties joined hands and passed the CARES Act in record time, and by a near-unanimous vote. When Trump then launched the back-to-work campaign, Demagog governors and mayors complied and announced plans to reopen businesses and public venues, despite the failure to contain the pandemic and the absence of adequate testing and contact tracing. Now Demagog boxtops in states and cities across the country are working to reopen the schools despite the rise in infections and deaths that will inevitably follow. But when it comes to a measly $600 to enable laid-off workers to pay rent and put food on the table, the entire political system comes to a grinding halt. There is no mystery here: both parties are beholden to the oligarchy that rules Pindostan and do its bidding.

Oklahoma Schools reopen amid growing opposition from teachers
Mitch Marcus, Phyllis Steele, WSWS, Aug 12 2020

Many Oklahoma school districts are set to begin their fall semesters this week with in-person instruction. Statewide, there have been at least 43,962 cases and 605 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, according to a NYT database. Teachers across the state have reacted with disgust and anger at the re-opening of schools, which threatens to produce an explosion of new infections and deaths. Many are opting for retirement, rather than risking the illness and possible death caused by the inevitable spread of the virus with schools opening. Districts throughout the state, concerned with the growing danger of a rank-and-file rebellion, are threatening teachers for speaking out. One such warning states:

Not telling anyone what they can and can’t say but want to remind you, if you’re on social media, anything said about the school that’s not good is bad. I assure you that we are doing everything humanly possible to keep everyone safe.

Oklahoma teachers rank second from the bottom nationwide in pay, with the conditions in rural parts of the state particularly bad. Oklahoma, like much of rural Pindostan, was hard hit by the 2008 Great Recession. This led to widespread job losses and desperation, leading directly to a surge in methamphetamine addiction and other social ills. This immense crisis impelled teachers to launch a 10-day statewide strike in Apr 2018 to demand improvements in teacher pay and school funding, one of the major early episodes of a strike wave that began that year among public school teachers. However, as in other states, the unions, including the Oklahoma Education Association and the Oklahoma City Pindo Federation of Teachers, shut the struggle down and cut a deal with the state’s Thug governor and state legislature, leaving teacher pay and per-pupil funding levels near the bottom nationally. Larry, a veteran Oklahoma City teacher who participated in the strike, explained:

We need better control of the virus before we go back to work. We are starting virtually for the first nine weeks and then things will be reassessed. My virtual teaching has to be from my classroom. So I will be in school, but without students for the first nine weeks. I have considered what I would do if they send us back. Even the alternate schedule they are suggesting for some districts is troubling. I have been arguing that teachers are the ones on the front lines doing the teaching, we need to be the ones making the decisions about when and how we go back to work. We should have had a nationwide strike in 2018 instead of all the different strikes in different states. A nationwide strike would be brilliant right now. It’s what we need!

Another teacher named Rebecca explained:

Oklahoma is first in the nation for the number of students, almost a third, who come to school with what counselors call ‘adverse childhood experiences.’ This means that their parents are in jail, they are on drugs, or have to work two or three jobs and can’t spend time with their children. The pandemic has just made Pindostan see what people looked away from before. As teachers, we couldn’t look away. It came through our doors every day.

In May, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, the former CEO of Gateway Mortgage Group, signed into law the second-lowest Oklahoma state budget this century when adjusted for inflation and population growth, according to the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Both the Demagogs & Thugs have long showered local industry with tax breaks and other incentives, in particular providing huge tax abatements to the oil industry. Oklahoma, the country’s fourth-largest oil-producing state and which hosts the corporate headquarters for Devon Energy, Chesapeake and other major production companies, is heavily dependent on the oil industry for state revenues. But the industry is reeling from a steep decline in oil prices, and predictably the budget includes no new taxes on oil producers. In the current budget, Stitt allotted more money for charter and private schools than public schools. He also sought to increase the Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship Tax Credit, a voucher program supported by Trump, from $25m to $30m. Tyrone, a teacher who works in a rural area with a student population of 1.2k, said:

This is like the Battle of the Alamo. This is where we are drawing the line. Public institutions, and public education, this is it. We have power, let’s use it. I think a general strike would send the proper message. What I’m seeing close at home here is that suddenly what had been traditionally solid jobs, people are being laid off and you don’t necessarily anticipate that happening. We are not essential, we are sacrificial. Why are we treated like this? It messes with our heads. About 350k to 773k people in Oklahoma applied for unemployment, but only 185k got approved. The superintendent knows to the penny what teachers will put up with, their enforcers, the muscle are the principals. My superintendent invoked God and said to the whole audience of teachers that everything was going to be okay regarding COVID-19, because she had ‘prayed for us.’ She mustered up tears. This cold, calloused individual, she’s really a numbers lady, she had very little empathy. A research study in Texas on the reproductive rate of the virus says that if two people enter a district the size of mine it would take approximately five days unchecked to cover 80% of the population. Face masks are not mandatory, so it’s going to happen. Everything is optional. Until we learn everything we can about this infectious disease, we’re going back in before we get a handle on this. For what? Who benefits? Why? It doesn’t add up. I see in the reflection of our school leaders the agenda of corporate Pindostan. They don’t give a hoot. They don’t care, and that’s what scares me. If that’s what’s happening in my small town, I can only imagine about the big cities. This is our story. In the end it’s about the dollars.

College football season in doubt after Big Ten and Pac-12 postpone fall sports
Andy Thompson, WSWS, Aug 12 2020

The Big Ten and Pac-12 announced Tuesday afternoon that they would cancel all fall 2020 games due to the coronavirus, in a major reversal which places this fall’s college football season in doubt. Until this week all signals pointed to most major college football programs going forward with plans to play at least abbreviated schedules this season, in some cases in front of large audiences. While hundreds of smaller schools had already cancelled all fall sports, the University of Connecticut had been the only school at the sport’s highest level, the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, to cancel its season. The Big Ten, which had already released its 2020 fall football schedule, said it would postpone to the spring when another attempt at the season will be made. The immediate context for the decision to postpone the season were signs of rapidly growing opposition among college players. Significantly, this found its most organized expression among players in the Big Ten and Pac-12, indicating that this was likely a major, if not decisive, reason behind the conferences’ sudden reversals.

Players from both conferences have circulated a list of demands for the season. This includes the ability to opt out without fear of losing their scholarships or other reprisals from coaches, regular testing, including before and after games, hazard pay and the right to form a union, effectively ending their bogus “student-athlete” status, which has allowed universities to make billions of dollars through their uncompensated labor. Over the weekend, several of sport’s top stars met online to discuss a list of demands for the entire “Power Five,” which largely coincide with these demands. The other three of the so-called Power Five conferences which dominate the sport have yet to announce if they will follow the Big Ten and Pac-12 and cancel their games. The Atlantic Coast Conference remains persistent in its plans to begin games in September. On Tuesday Dr Cameron Wolfe, the chair of the ACC medical advisory group, told reporters:

We believe we can mitigate the risk of bringing COVID onto the football field or into the training room at a level that’s no different than living as a student on campus.

This outrageous statement from an infectious disease researcher is hardly reassuring, given the high potential for infection in cramped university dormitories and shared living spaces. The risks associated with opening universities in the fall semester are immense. Moreover, Dr Wolfe’s impartiality is suspect. According to his Duke University bio page, Wolfe was the lead investigator in clinical trials of Remdesivir in COVID-19 patients, for which he received grant money from pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences. Remdesivir is the “miracle drug” falsely promoted by Trump in late April as a breakthrough, as the president escalated his campaign against state lockdowns. Duke has two current biochemistry professors who are Nobel Laureates, and the ACC contains several of the most prestigious medical schools in the country aside from Duke. The fact that Wolfe, a relatively young associate professor with ties to a drug promoted by Trump, chairs the ACC’s medical advisory group, suggests the group has been engineered by the ACC to rubber-stamp the conference’s return to play this fall. By Monday morning it was already being widely reported that the Big Ten and the Pac-12 would postpone their seasons. This sparked a wave of indignation from several politicians, including President Trump, who denounced it on Fox Sports Radio as a “tragic mistake.” On Monday, Trump tweeted:

The student-athletes have been working too hard for their season to be cancelled. #WeWantToPlay … Play College Football!

Florida Governor Ron Desantis joined the president in calling for the season to continue, saying:

If the south-eastern Conference decides to have a fall season, I’m happy to help out with the effort.

One of the more despicable comments came from ESPN commentator and former Notre Dame head coach Lou Holtz, who implied in a Fox News interview that it was the players’ patriotic duty to risk infection and death by playing football:

Let’s move on with our life! When they stormed Normandy, they knew there were going to be casualties, there were going to be risks.

The move is a political blow to the back-to-school drive spearheaded by Trump but backed by both major parties. If major college football programs, which until last week were preparing to sacrifice the safety of players and students to preserve the billions of dollars of revenues generated by college football, now acknowledge that conditions are too dangerous to play, then clearly they are too dangerous to reopen universities and public schools. After these statements and other high-profile opposition to canceling football were raised, the Big Ten and Pac-12 were quick to clarify that they had not yet officially canceled the season but only postponed it to the spring. There are doubtless financial considerations behind this, for example, the possibility that in-person attendance will be more viable early next year. However, it remains to be seen what the conditions of the pandemic will be like in the spring. If there is no season at all, losses to the schools’ revenues will be in the billions of dollars.

Ford Chicago Assembly workers launch Rank-and-File Safety Committee to save lives
Ford Chicago Assembly Rank-and-File Safety Committee, WSWS, Aug 12 2020

The WSWS Autoworker Newsletter stands ready to assist autoworkers and other workers in establishing safety committees at their own workplaces. Email the WSWS Autoworker Newsletter at autoworkers@wsws.org to learn more.

Brothers and sisters at Ford Chicago Assembly Plant: We are faced with a life-and-death situation each day that we work on the assembly lines. Workers are being infected with COVID-19 at the plant, and Ford management along with the United Auto Workers union is trying to cover it up. Our coworkers are falling ill and even dying, but management and the union refuse to tell us the truth about how many have been exposed to or become infected with COVID-19. Illinois Demagog Governor Pritzker is moving full steam ahead with his economic reopening plan, even though daily case counts, deaths and test positivity rates have increased over the past month in Illinois and north-west Indiana. There have been 196,948 total confirmed infections and 7,657 fatalities in Illinois, with terrible consequences for the families affected. We are being forced to work under unsafe conditions to make profits and pay off Ford’s multi-billion dollar corporate debt, or given the “choice” of unemployment, evictions and hunger. We are given flimsy masks to wear that break and fall off and are difficult to breathe in. We are working elbow-to-elbow with each other on assembly and subassembly lines and are packed in on meal breaks, bathroom breaks and shift changes when it is impossible to maintain a safe social distance.

Workers are having panic attacks. We have to be near one another, always hyper-vigilant, questioning if we’ll be safe, if this or that person could have the virus, if we’ll be taking it home to our families and friends. We know it’s in the plant, and it’s coming for us, until we come together to fight against the conditions that are causing it to spread. We all know that the so-called “safety measures” put in place by the company with the blessings of the union are a joke. Symptom questionnaires and temperature checks are not enough. We know that these measures do not rule out asymptomatic cases. We are told to clean our own workstations, but are not given enough time to clean or even wash our hands. Safety problems that existed at the plant before COVID-19 have not been addressed. We are still breathing in weld dust and fumes. Rats and bugs still crawl over the factory floors and in the cafeteria. We still lack proper ventilation and air conditioning to keep us cool. We are not given enough water to stay hydrated on hot days. Even machinery is not maintained until something breaks down. We know that the UAW will not stand up for us. That is why we, the rank-and-file workers at CAP, must take matters into our own hands to organize the fight for our right to a safe and comfortable workplace. We put forth the following demands:

  1. All workers must be notified of any cases of COVID-19 and what areas have been affected. This information must not be kept hidden from workers.
  2. When there’s a case confirmed, the factory should be closed for at least 24 hours for deep cleaning, not just the affected area, but the whole plant. Preventative maintenance and daily sanitizing is vital to ensure a safe and comfortable working environment.
  3. All areas of the plant must be sanitized regularly and all equipment must be cleaned on breaks by a designated cleaning crew trained in the proper procedures. The areas of the plant where we work must be properly ventilated and cooled for our safety.
  4. Social distancing must be implemented at all times: when entering and leaving the plant and during bathroom, lunch and other break times. Disinfectant and cleaning equipment must remain readily available and stocked for workers to use as they see fit.
  5. We demand all lines be stopped for at least 10 minutes every hour for workers to take off their masks, stay hydrated and cool down. Our health and lives are far more important than Ford’s profits. We have the right to stop and begin work as we see fit based on safety conditions.
  6. We must have access to universal daily testing with rapid results and the highest-quality health care if either one of us or our family members becomes ill, all paid for by Ford. Daily, high quality testing in addition to contact tracing are the only ways proven to effectively control the spread of the pandemic.
  7. We will not accept that workers face any retaliation in the form of write ups, harassment, layoffs or other types of intimidation if they get tested for the virus or get sick. Workers who feel ill or have to quarantine must receive full pay and not be penalized for staying home.
  8. Stop misusing and abusing temp workers to fill in production shifts when workers regularly scheduled stay home for their own health and safety. All workers in the plant deserve the right to a safe and comfortable workplace and the best health care possible. All workers must receive adequate paid time off benefits regardless of full time or part time status or seniority.
  9. The inhumane working hours and schedules must stop. We cannot stay healthy if we are fatigued. We demand a return to a fully-paid eight hour day, with adequate breaks, with at least two days off per week for rest and leisure.
  10. Whenever conditions are not safe, we have the right to refuse to work without any threat of retaliation by management or the union.

If you work at CAP and agree to these demands, join us, and join the movement which was started by our brothers and sisters at Fiat Chrysler Jefferson North, Sterling Heights, Toledo Jeep and Ford Dearborn Truck. We, the rank-and-file workers, are the only ones who will fight for our safety. Everybody knows the UAW won’t fight for them. Neither will the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or the National Labor Relations Board, or the Democratic or Republican Parties. Autoworkers everywhere are suffering from the same problems at the same time. We do have rights, and we don’t have to stand for these injustices. If you work at another plant, form a rank-and-file safety committee to link up with ours. This is our fight, we the workers are the only force that can stop the virus and save lives worldwide!

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