Labor activist Mary Harris “Mother” Jones once said, “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.” Those words resonate today, just as they did at the turn of the 20th Century. Even before the novel coronavirus pandemic, her words rang true to the current state of our democracy. We live in a world where poor and working-class people are still sacrificed for the sake of capitalism and the almighty dollar. This pandemic has highlighted how willing the elite class is to surrender us for their gains and how important it is for us to unite to save our own lives.

Poor and working-class people in America do not stand a chance unless we organize. Mother Jones saw the devastation of class warfare during the industrial and post-industrial years in this country. She dedicated her life to bringing the disenfranchised together to fight for themselves against the tyranny of the elites. A lot has changed in the decades since Mother Jones fought alongside working people and their families, but a great deal remains the same. The elite class still rules without regard for the health, safety, and lives of the workers that generate their wealth. This pandemic shows just how fragile a system the elite have built.

We cannot allow ourselves to go back to the status quo when this pandemic is over. We cannot continue to allow the ruling class to sacrifice our health, safety, and lives so they can continue to gain unimaginable wealth and leave us breadcrumbs. Are you not tired of fighting your neighbors for breadcrumbs? I certainly am. I am tired of being forced into low-wage, unsustainable work that barely allows me to hang on. I am sick of seeing my friends, family, and neighbors tremble in fear when unexpected expenses arise that could financially ruin them.

I am sick of seeing people like Donald Trump and Dr. Oz openly talk about sacrificing poor and working-class people to “save the economy”. This isn’t about saving the economy. Let’s be real, this is about saving their personal wealth. It’s about profit over people, the same mantra of the coal and railroad companies Mother Jones fought against 100 years ago. Are you ok with your family being sacrificed in the name of capitalism? I’m not. I do not owe the elite class or our capitalist society a damn thing, certainly not the lives of myself and my family. As a member of the working-class, I’ve given them enough.

The question remains, what are the poor and working-class supposed to do to help themselves when a system of institutionalized disenfranchisement has been built specifically to keep us down? Organize. There is power in numbers. There is power in a collective voice. We have seen a rise in essential workers taking charge of their rights and organizing to demand hazard pay, protective gear, better sanitation practices, and increased social distancing inside of stores during the pandemic. Poor and working-class people must keep this momentum going once this pandemic is over.

We must stand up for our rights as the workforce that produces the wealth for those in the elite class. We must stop the elite in their tracks and not allow them to pit us against one another when we all have the same struggles and we are more alike then they would ever want us to realize. They have spent hundreds of years working to divide us by convincing us that we are each other’s enemy. We aren’t enemies, we are comrades that must organize and use our collective voice against the real enemy, the elite class. 

Don’t be afraid. Don’t allow them to make you live in fear of fighting for your rights as a worker. It is your right in this country to organize and demand safer working conditions, increased pay, and better benefits. Working class people are not expendable, we are essential to the production of wealth in this country and should be able to share in it. Reach out to local unions and talk to them about your rights. Talk to them about your ability to organize. Talk to your co-workers about what you want to see change in your workplace. You have more power than you think. The elite class has convinced us that we are powerless, let’s prove them otherwise. You’re living, fight like hell for yourselves.