I wish I could stop being surprised at the sheer contempt that some folks feel entitled to towards people who are not like them. Today’s bigot is one Sussex County Councilman Sam Wilson.
“Sussex County Councilman Sam Wilson said he thinks the increase in testing at poultry plants will hurt staffing levels and could mean those facilities have to close. It’s already meant that millions of chickens must be killed, he said.
“Where did the governor get the bright idea to … test the poultry workers?” Wilson asked during council’s teleconference meeting on Tuesday. “They’re losing millions of dollars because of this dumb idea.””
This is a government official in the State of Delaware advocating for poultry workers to be treated as disposable workers. You can see that Councilman Wilson is more concerned about the fate of the chickens than he is about the fate of workers who are not working in safe conditions. Here, the poultry workers are predominantly Hispanic and some African and Caribbean workers. These workers are people who show up to process food for us, to support their families, pay Delaware taxes and help these plant owners stay open and profitable.
Councilman Wilson dips into some of the right wing feverishness around COVID-19 when he complains about testing. Starting with the President, there has been a real reluctance even divisiveness about a robust testing regime. If you test a lot of people, you will get a better picture of the extent of the infections and your problem — and the right does not want to know how badly their government had failed all of us.
But he inadvertently sheds some light on why the farm industry has a hard time getting employees. The pool of workers you can get to work that hard, for so little money, under conditions that refuse to treat them as human is pretty small. And it is a failure of government at every level to continue to tolerate the long term mistreatment and devaluing of these workers.
Shame on Councilman Wilson. None of us are disposable. None of us.