Jeramey Jannene

Milwaukeeans To Be Thankful For in 2020

Milwaukee is a better -- and safer -- place because of these people.

By - Nov 26th, 2020 10:13 am
Essential workers in 2020. Images from the Department of Public Works, MCTS and Jeramey Jannene.

Essential workers in 2020. Images from the Department of Public Works, MCTS and Jeramey Jannene.

This was to be my fourth annual Thanksgiving column. In a normal year I would highlight five Milwaukeeans making a difference in the city. But 2020 broke the mold.

While most of us retreated to our homes after the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Milwaukee in March, thousands of anonymous workers continued to report in person for jobs that most of us wouldn’t want even on their easiest day.

Garbage truck and bus drivers kept the city moving, even as it was unclear how exactly the disease was spreading. Grocery store workers stocked and restocked shelves as plexiglass dividers were hastily erected to attempt to protect checkout clerks. In Milwaukee alone over 100 slaughterhouse workers contracted COVID-19. Warehouse workers kept an increasingly e-commerce-reliant economy moving. Poll workers showed up to work an April election in various forms of improvised personal protective equipment, uncertain what type of spread would result from the largest gathering in weeks.

Most importantly, healthcare workers, most notably nurses, continued to go to work, often being the only in-person contact COVID-19 positive patients would receive.

While we retreated, they plowed forward.

As things stabilized over the summer, the frontline moved. A sense of camaraderie was lost as many traded yard signs honoring essential workers for those touting political candidates. Hazard pay was cut off for most service industry workers. People struggled to access unemployment funding. A movement for racial equity seemed to bring unity across our majority-minority city before it became a polarizing national topic.

Restaurants and bars reopened, with workers wearing masks that protected patrons even if patrons wouldn’t wear masks that protected workers.

Schools reopened in the fall, resulting in teachers, professors and support staff accepting a health risk to be in-person or make do with hastily-assembled virtual platforms. I’ve watched my wife, a speech pathologist, struggle to lead virtual lessons, while hearing stories from my mother of imperfect rules and regulations regarding in-person teaching.

Then came October. The last month and a half has been difficult to watch. Report after report shows that things are as bad as they ever have been for hospitals and healthcare workers. City health inspectors tasked with simply ensuring the safety of others face death threats. Decisions on whether to close or open businesses are based on economics due to federal inaction, not the health of those working.

We are afforded the luxury of staying home to watch Netflix or have virtual happy hours because thousands of underappreciated Milwaukeeans keep our city functioning. The least we can do to thank them is wear a mask in public, avoid gatherings even with extended family, say thank you and tip generously. This year hasn’t been easy for any of us, but we don’t have to make it harder.

To essential workers, we say thank you. And Happy Thanksgiving.

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More about the Thanksgiving Series

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6 thoughts on “Milwaukeeans To Be Thankful For in 2020”

  1. Keith Prochnow says:

    Hear, hear and Bravo, Jeramey!!

  2. Jeffjay60 says:

    Well said, my friend.

  3. Jkilmer says:

    Well said Jeramey! Much gratitude to all those mentioned and many more. 😷

  4. Bjorn Nasett says:

    Thanks for this reminder that there is and always will be good in Milwaukee. They deserve our respect, admiration AND our thanks.

  5. Thomas Williams says:

    And let’s not forget the folk who allow us to know about the issues, the challenges- not to stroke your ego too much but without journalism we would simply not be aware of so much! Thanks to all of you who search out and describe our community!

  6. just1paul says:

    Excellent Jeramey! I am thankful for those people even before this pandemic.

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