Amazon, Whole Foods, Walmart, FedEx, Instacart, Shipt, and Target essential workers protest companies’ responses to COVID-19

On Friday, May 1, essential workers across the US called in sick in protest of Amazon, Instacart, Whole Foods, Shipt and Target’s response to COVID-19. The protests took place in: Staten Island, the California Bay Area, Los Angeles, Ohio, Kentucky, New York, Chicago, and Minnesota.

Organizers were asking for an increase in pay, expanded sick leave policies, and frequent professional cleaning. They also were asking for increased hazard pay, stricter social distancing measures, and transparency from companies on the number of workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 according to BusinessInsider.com

Many of these businesses are claiming that they have done their part in protecting their workers from the coronavirus. Shipt publicly claimed to have increased pay by 30 percent and that they provided protective gear. However, according to Wired.com, Willy Solis, organizer of that strike, said he had not received a mask from the company and the increase in pay was instead an increase in the amount of work he had to do. 

Amazon claims to have expanded their sick leave policies, but this was a temporary decision and only lasted until the end of April. Amazon also says that the majority of their essential workers disagree that the company isn’t doing enough to ensure their workers’ safety, as the majority would come into work May 1st. While this may be true, according to Wired.com, a large portion of essential workers were unaware that it was happening or were in disbelief that protesting would change the companies responses. 

It seems the disbelieving workers may be right, seeing as protests have not stopped or even slowed down business for companies according to Vox.com. In fact, business has only increased with the shelter-in-home orders, as many turn to online shopping and delivery so as to not risk contracting the virus from in-person stores. 

That being said, the worker’s strike has caught the attention and approval of various political figures including: Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and State Attorney General Letitia James. 

We have not seen any further action taken by these companies in response to the strikes, but hopefully, with these political figures backing up essential workers, there will be more pressure on them to act, and in turn, the companies will greatly improve the working conditions for essential workers. 

LGBTQ+ misrepresentation in the media and how it harms people

LGBTQ+ representation in the media is much more frequent nowadays than it was even ten years ago. However, more representation means more chances for misrepresentation, which more often than not is the case in media with LGBTQ+ characters and relationships. 

Harmful stereotypes of members of the LGBTQ+ community are a huge part of this. One of the most popular stereotypes is the extremely feminine gay man. While obviously there are many people like this, and it is in no way a bad thing, the sheer amount of characters written in this way reinforces the harmful stereotype that being attracted to men “makes you” incredibly feminine. In the same way, lesbians are frequently portrayed as more masculine by having short hair, wearing what is considered traditionally men’s clothing, etc. 

Forcing gay and lesbian characters to fall into these categories can cause mental health issues and emotional struggles amongst people in the LGBTQ+ community. For example, LGBTQ+ people might not fit in with who they’re “supposed” to be/how they’re “supposed” to act in accordance with their sexuality. From here can stem extreme feelings of loneliness and isolation, as described in the article “Is Chronic Loneliness Real?” as people who don’t fall into these categories would not feel like they belong anywhere, even within the LGBTQ+ community, which of all the places should be the most safe and accepting space for all its members. 

Often times gay characters that fall into the stereotype category are overly sexualized as well and they overly sexualize all other attractive people of the same gender that they come into contact with in a way that is more often than not inappropriate and borderline harassment. The existence of this trope greatly harms the public perception of the LGBTQ+ community. It reinforces the idea that LGBTQ+ relationships are solely sexual and thus people involved in them are “sexual deviants,” which was and is an argument used against same-sex marriage and relationships. 

According to the LGBT foundation, the misrepresentation that follows the trans and non-binary community often damages the public’s perception of them. Anti-transgender hate crimes doubled in 2018 from the previous numbers in 2015-2016. This strongly indicates a surge on anti-trans attitudes, that can be credited to misrepresentation on who these people are.

Another way LGBTQ+ people are misrepresented is in the form of queerbaiting. Queerbaiting according to PinkNews is a way that companies and producers try to lure people from an LGBTQ+ viewer base that are connecting with a character that is heavily implied to be part of the community but ultimately ends up either unconfirmed or being heterosexual. This is thought to be a way to satisfy, and or appeal to the media’s LGBTQ+ community fanbase and not lose their main/straight audience. This seems to do more harm than good though as it insinuates that the LGBTQ+ audience is a 2nd thought to them, or less important. It also suggests that queer relationships are less valuable.

The misrepresentation of LGBTQ+ people in the media is abundant and harmful. In the end, it hurts the very people the media is trying to represent. The problem is that all companies that don’t take the time to hire LGBTQ+ writers and editors want the most amount of people to be interested in whatever it is they are producing, instead of wanting for all people to be represented in media. Because of this, these companies become lazy in writing media with LGBTQ+ people and instead write whatever they think will appeal to the LGBTQ+ community by playing into stereotypes used by other sources of media. This cycle repeats itself over and over again for years. 

So, how can we address and solve these issues? Well, for starters, media creators heavily rely on the audience’s response to their product. Without viewers the creators make no money, so they’re almost always willing to adapt to whatever their audience wants (although this isn’t always the case). If there’s a big problem with the product, cause an uproar. Make people notice the problem. Once the issue is addressed, people will start to react and hopefully the producers will too. From there we can show these companies how to show LGBTQ+ characters in a way that doesn’t harm the community. There is hope for improvement in the representation of LGBTQ+ people in media, all we have to do is act.

Should schools require vaccinations without religious or philosophical exemption?

Little child have a vaccination shot in studio. Image taken from: https://thrivingschools.kaiserpermanente.org/5-reasons-to-get-kids-vaccinated/

In Minnesota, vaccinations are required by law before enrolling your child in school, whether it be public school or private school. However, it is legal for people to get a religious or philosophical exemption from getting their vaccinations. Should such a thing be allowed if it puts other people’s and children’s health at risk? 

Parents choose not to vaccinate their children for a number of reasons. While in general, there are no restrictions on vaccinations in any major religions according to History of Vaccines.org, there are a few smaller denominations of religions that do, such as Christian Scientists or the Dutch Reformed Church, denominations of the Christian church. There is also a number of muslim people who claim that they cannot use vaccines made from pork (gelatin), as it is against Islam to consume pork, but the refusal of vaccines is not agreed upon throughout the whole religion. Additionally, both of these religions support the morals behind vaccines, them being to prevent children (and adults) from suffering. 

So, it’s a very controversial topic even within one religion. Can the excuse that vaccines are against one’s religion be used even if it is unclear whether the religion as a whole opposes this idea or not?

Another reason parents do not vaccinate their children is the fear of vaccines, specifically the vaccine for mumps, measles, and rubella (MMR), possibly causing autism. According to historyofvaccines.org this is most often thought to be because the rate of a child born with autism is increasing while we are getting more advanced medically and using more vaccinations to defend against diseases. Not only that, but the spread of misinformation in the media and in person can be a great reinforcer of this idea.

According to ncbi.gov, widespread exemption from vaccines undermines the benefits of herd immunity. Herd immunity is when a large group of a population has a strong resistance to a type of disease. This helps not only people but also people with weaker immune systems such as babies or young children.

Parents who don’t vaccinate their children contribute to outbreaks of diseases that could have been preventable by vaccines, such as measles or whooping cough, according to the University of Michigan Health Lab. It keeps these diseases alive. For example, according to The Hospitalist, measles, which the USA had been declared clean of by the CDC, has started to make a comeback because people refuse to vaccinate either themselves or their children. 

The graph below, which can be found on the CDC website, shows the number of measles cases recorded in each year. 

As you can see, between the years 2015 and 2017 the number of measles cases were generally small, staying in the low hundred. However in 2018 there was a spike in outbreaks which brought the numbers up to 375 and even higher in 2019 at 1282 cases.

This brings us to the million dollar question. Should vaccines be completely required for every student, regardless of religious or philosophical beliefs?

The practical answer would be yes. They prevent diseases that could be fatal amongst children and without them these preventable diseases keep coming back. Thus, without question, requiring vaccines would turn out for the better.

However, would we be violating the religous freedom of those who are against vaccines? Religious freedom is an incredibly important part of what makes our country so diverse and something we have fought so very hard to keep.

The real question is does it matter what the religious or philosophical beliefs of one person is when it comes to the well-being of all the children around them?