Our Voices

Honor, don’t denigrate, the dignity of front-line workers

New York’s new mayor has recently twice diminished the dignity of workers who for years now have been on the front lines and otherwise lauded — rightly so – as essential.

Arguing that businesses need to remain open so service establishments can be patronized, the Mayor said, “My low-skilled workers, my cooks, my dishwashers, my messengers, my shoe-shine people, those who work at Dunkin’ Donuts—they don’t have the academic skills to sit in the corner office.” He said much the same to CNN.

Putting aside the odd use of the “my” possessive, labeling a presumably non-exhaustive list of service industry workers as “low-skilled” ignores the talents, grit and unique know-how that they bring to their crafts. As our friends at the United Farmworkers of America aptly put it, “Anyone in a corner office can come try our ‘low skill’ work anytime.”

These workers put themselves on the line every day (sometimes while working other jobs or in school), often risking their health and safety. Rather than denigrate them, we should honor their dignity and commitment, which helps businesses thrive and many of us push through each day.

Jeffrey Siminoff

Senior Vice President, Workplace Dignity

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights