Letter to the Phoenix: Losing My Job and Health Insurance in the Wake of COVID-19

J. Thallman is a worker out of New Jersey who regularly contributes to the Red Phoenix. If you would like to send in a letter to the Red Phoenix on your COVID-19 story, please email a submission to aplinfobureau@gmail.com

On Friday morning I received a distressing email at work. My company would be reducing its staff due to the economic crisis brought on by COVID-19. An hour later I was called into the office and told I would be temporarily laid off. When I asked if I would get my job back after the crisis I was told there was no guarantee. My employment status is now completely up in the air. I have no idea if and when I will receive a call from my former employer, assuming the company even recovers from the crisis.

My situation is similar to what countless Americans are dealing with right now. The New York Times reported that 1,200 airport workers were laid off in the New York City area. There have been mass layoffs in other states such as California, Washington, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and many more. A poll conducted by Fishbowl – a social network of professional workers – found that 54% of professionals polled said they feared layoffs were coming to their workplace. According to their poll of 17,000 workers, those most concerned about layoffs were working in San Francisco, New York City and Atlanta.

I cannot speak for everyone affected by this crisis. I can only speak for my own situation. This layoff has been a tremendous source of stress. Other members of my household depend on me to provide, and if I cannot do so, we could all lose our home. This crisis makes it all the more clear that workers should not have to rely on the whims of the stock market to afford a roof over their heads. Why should workers be at a risk for homelessness at a time when everyone should be staying indoors? A freeze on rent and mortgage payments should be an obvious response to such a crisis. But we must go beyond that and dismantle this system in which people’s right to housing is determined by the predatory behavior of banks and landlords.

Another shock that comes with losing my job is the fact that I no longer have health insurance. Now if I catch the virus, I won’t be able to afford treatment. How many Americans will lose their jobs from the crisis and then get sick? The number of uninsured Americans is likely to skyrocket just at a time when healthcare is needed the most. In one outrageous case, an uninsured American was charged $34,927 for COVID-19 treatment. How many Americans will contract the virus and then stay home?

What we are seeing is confirmation that capitalism is not suited for dealing with crises. In fact, economic crises like the one we are seeing are inextricably bound to capitalism. Even without a virus, the stock market is bound to crash periodically due to the contradictions inherent in capitalism. And even among the capitalist nations, the United States is perhaps the least ready to deal with such a crisis due to its lack of a social safety net.

For now, I have no idea what the future holds for me, my family, the American people or the people of the world. All I can do is hope that this moment serves as a wake-up call. We must acknowledge that the cruel free market system allowed this to happen. We are all forced to rely on capitalists for food, shelter and medicine. As soon as customers and workers stay home, the system goes into chaos and we are denied these basic human rights. We need something different. My family needs something different. We need a planned economy based on the needs of human beings and not the chaos of the free market.

Categories: U.S. News

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