Supporting Frontline Workers Beyond Healthcare

All month, for the Local Goodness Project, we’ve been rallying support for local businesses, grassroots organizations and creatives affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Of course, it’s healthcare workers who have been battling the pandemic in close quarters ever single day and yesterday we devoted a post to them. Today, as we near the end of our project, we’re drawing attention to all of the other frontline workers who have kept us and Edmonton going.

Workers in dozens of professions, from water technicians to mail delivery people, from grocery store stockers to hotel staff, have made it possible for all the important parts of daily living to continue while those with the privilege could socially isolate, quarantine or just spend more time at home with our friends and family “bubble.”

Here are some ways to use your time, money and voice to support essential frontline workers:

Supporting frontline workers with your time

Front and centre is a call to get educated on the impact of COVID on frontline essential workers, including outside of the health sector, like retail, food production and delivery work. There are some further readings that you can do to be more aware of what’s going on:

Once you have a better sense of some of the issues and challenges, get local and connect with the frontline and essential workers among your friends, family and community. Talk to front line workers in your life and get their perspective. Ask what they need that you could help with. Maybe simply send a text to friends and family members who are still required to work during this time. If they’re working long shifts, they may not have the time to respond quickly, but will appreciate knowing that you care. 

When you can talk to them directly, be a sympathetic ear. Many workers are dealing with high levels of stress, which can be alleviated with emotional support. Check in regularly with loved ones on the front lines. Perhaps consider making food for them and dropping it off safely or ordering them delivery. Here are some easy recipes if you need inspiration.

Be sure to protect frontline and essential workers in your life by closely following the rules and guidelines to prevent COVID-19 spread. Follow social distancing, stay home if you can, and make only essential trips. Make use of curbside retail and services when it’s available to limit contact with workers. Protect them as much as you can when you go into businesses by correctly wearing masks.

Supporting frontline workers with your money

Show your support by tipping generously when you can. In addition to providing a sense of gratitude at this challenging time, this may also help workers offset additional costs associated with working at this time to protect their personal safety. The risk factors associated with many essential jobs have suddenly skyrocketed. Many workers are not receiving hazard pay and even those who are getting a few dollars extra an hour temporarily are probably not being paid a wage that reflects the current risk. Keep in mind that tipping is an option to express thanks to delivery drivers, grocery store cashiers, mail carriers.

Some workers, like migrant farm workers, are being especially impacted by virus spread and are also not eligible for many government supports due to their temporary status. Organizations like Migrante Alberta are helping in these sectors and could use your donation dollars.

While federal and provincial governments, with the capability to borrow and go into year-over-year deficits can step in to support all sorts of individuals and groups during the pandemic, the municipal government and local utilities do not have this capability. They need to raise taxes or utility bills, or undertake service cuts and staff layoffs to compensate for lost revenues. If you are financially able you can help municipal and utility workers just by paying utility bills and taxes on time; you can also lobby your provincial and federal representatives for more municipal funding to help the revenue crunch on local government services that are so vital to Edmontonians every day. 

Speak up for frontline workers

Share your messages for frontline workers online, on air, or even better in person. The #EdmontonCares hashtag has caught on over the past few months if you wnat to share a message of solidarity with frontline workers on social media. More directly, say thank you when you’re at the checkout or waving at a delivery person through the door.

More formally, you can pledge your support through union organizations for essential workers, such as the United Food & Commercial Workers. Lobby for more support for essential workers— such as better pay and benefits even after COVID-19– by connecting with their employers directly by email or through your social media. 

Some local organizations relevant to today’s theme

Small things matter
A simple act of kindness can change a person’s whole day. For example, recently, a delivery man in China was brought to tears by a small, unexpected gift. Be kind and reach out to anyone who looks troubled because one small act of kindness can save lives.