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How it feels being an Essential Worker

BenchMade Knives Factory in Oregon City. Photo by Elvis Lopez.

The COVID-19 epidemic has managed to affect everyone in one way or another, but as the government issues everyone to stay at home, we rely on essential workers to keep the economy running. 

Since the epidemic many have been forced to stay at home, unemployed due to safety concerns from companies. But those who still work in these difficult times to give the necessary services are called essential workers. While many would have been fine working during these times there are a few essential workers who voiced their frustrations on how their employers have handled the situation so far. 

Elvis Lopez, who works as part of the assembly crew at Benchmade Knives, a knife manufacturing company in Oregon City, said, “it’s been very difficult to keep working there. I don’t feel essential, it’s honestly a waste of time.”

Lopez also went on to mention how new safety guidelines have made the work much more difficult to meet requirements. Lopez said, “[We] have tiles of walls in between each station, which makes it pretty uncomfortable to move and to get around certain areas. Especially when you’re trying to leave for an exit or an entrance.” 

Although Lopez has some frustrations with his employers’ handling of the pandemic, there are other essential workers who feel fortunate to still have work.

George Arceo works as a retail employee at BiMart, working in a retail store requires frequent interactions with customers. When asked how his work is dealing with the situation Arceo said, “we wear masks and we have to keep a six feet distance from customers and other co-workers, and we also clean the bathrooms every 30 minutes, sanitize the registers and pin pads”. 

While Arceo still has employment, the threat of COVID-19 continuously puts him and other essential workers at risk. 

Arceo revealed that there was a coworker who’s been diagnosed with the virus. Arceo said, “Yeah, one of my coworkers was infected about a week ago. She was an elderly lady, and management sent out an email about it, saying that someone was infected and to be extra careful in the workplace.”

When asked about how his workplace handled the situation Arceo said, “management sent out an email about it, saying that someone was infected and to be extra careful in the workplace. And a clean crew came to the store and disinfected the whole store, all the registers, all the bathrooms you know, every corner, cleaned it.”

Even though Arceo’s workplace has been affected by COVID-19 it has not deterred his motivation to work. 

Many have been left unemployed due to COVID-19, but Arceo is grateful to still have his source of income. “I feel pretty lucky that I still have a job unlike other workers who were unfortunate and lost their jobs” said Arceo. 

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