And on Sunday night, the HBO host focused much of his attention not on President Trump’s terrible response to the COVID-19 crisis but on what we call “essential workers,” who are in dire straits given how, as the comic put it, “For many people losing their jobs, they then lose their health insurance, and this is, to put it mildly, a very bad time for that to be happening. So it’s frankly no wonder many who can work feel that they have to even if that means enduring a dangerous work environment.”
“Companies who employ ‘essential workers’ have openly waxed poetic about how much they value them—few in more glowing terms than Amazon,” added Oliver, before airing Amazon’s cringe-inducing “Thank You” ad shouting-out its “heroes” working in the warehouses and delivering items to people. (Amazon owner Jeff Bezos is worth $124.7 billion and climbing; he is also earning approximately $215 million a day.)
“It’s hard to say what I like least about that. Maybe it’s the schmaltzy piano music, maybe it’s Amazon patronizingly claiming they care about the well-being of their ‘heroes,’ or maybe it’s just the fact that, out of context, the Amazon smile logo is a quick sketch of an uncircumcised dick,” cracked Oliver.
And yes, Amazon alleges it’s keeping its “essential workers” safe by supplying them with masks and sanitizer but workers have said this is baloney, accusing the company of not maintaining social distancing guidelines for its workers, not providing them adequate protective gear or hand sanitizer, and not giving them enough time to wash their hands.
The situation got so bad that Chris Smalls, an employee at Amazon’s Staten Island facility, organized a walkout—and was fired two hours later.
“According to Amazon, he was let go for ‘putting the health and safety of others at risk’ by ‘violating social distancing guidelines’ and ‘orders of quarantine.’ But leaked notes from an internal meeting days later, in which Bezos himself was present, showed the company’s leadership discussing plans to make Smalls the ‘face of the entire union/organizing movement’ since ‘he’s not smart or articulate,’” Oliver explained.
“Holy shit,” Oliver continued. “That is so racist I can’t even point out how smart and articulate Smalls is without also sounding racist.”
Which led him to his broader point: “Look, Congress absolutely needs to mandate all businesses provide paid sick leave in their next coronavirus bill on a permanent basis, as well as require they provide significant hazard pay for any worker being asked to risk their lives—because that risk is very, very real. Grocery workers are dying of this disease right now and so far, we’ve lost 41 transit workers in New York City alone.”
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