The Death of an Essential Worker.

Photo courtesy of the Jackson Family

All across America essential employees are dying. In meat processing plants and manufacturing facilities all across this nation our most necessary resources of hard working Americans are dying. For the most part they are dying alone in hospitals. Dying alone without contact from their loved ones. Dying alone in fear. Dying all across America from complications due to the covid-19 virus. The standard definition for an essential employee is someone that performs work involving the safety and the protection of human life. However most of America’s deemed essential employees aren’t doing work that details either of those two previously stated duties.

This is the story of Mike Jackson. Mike was born on April 14th, 1975 all those that knew and loved him affectionately knew him as Big Mike. For the past year and a half Mr. Jackson was a member of the united steel workers local union 2-232 and employed as an assembler for Briggs & Stratton at their Burleigh headquarters located in Wauwatosa, WI. Micheal Jackson was a hard working husband and father of eight who was determined to lead and provide for his family by any means necessary. Micheal, along with his co workers worked within close confines on the assembly line in the Briggs & Stratton generator department.  Throughout the pending pandemic Micheal and his co workers were asked to work more hours at an exhausting rate to help keep product pumping out the door for Briggs & Stratton, a company that produces small engine lawn mowers and pressure washers. Mike, along with his co workers were extremely upset that they were deemed as essential workers during the pandemic when the product that they produce is not at all essential to public health and safety.

Sometime in late April Mike began to experience subtle symptoms of sickness. For weeks continuing into May he continued to come to work although he had not been feeling well at all. The policy for Briggs & Stratton employees who may feel they need to take time off for Covid-19 contact reasons is a process called voluntary self quarantine.  An easy process, but a process that requires the employee to voluntarily take time off for two weeks at a rate of $375.00 per week. For most Briggs employees, including Mike, this was too much to ask being the bread winner for the family. He simply couldn’t afford to take the time off from work even if it meant risking his life. On Thursday May 14th after weeks of enduring pain and suffering from coping with the pressures of being sick and working, Mike took a half day off from work to regain his strength and composure. Previous to Mike getting sick other Briggs & Stratton employees had already been put on voluntary self quarantine for believing to either have had or have had contact with people with the the covid-19 virus. Although these cases were widely known by the company there was no requirement for routine employee testing and proper contact tracing to see who had all been exposed to those individuals. On Saturday May 16th Mike returned to work after taking a day and a half off to come in for mandatory overtime. During his Saturday overtime shift Mike struggled to work often times having to take breaks to sit down in order to catch his breath and gain strength to continue on with his work. After only a few hours of working that Saturday Mike collapsed on the job. He was sent home by his supervisors. Mike spent that Sunday at home with is family once again attempting to regain some strength. He was not advised to go get tested for covid-19 from his employer nor was he informed that any of the other employees may have had contacted the virus. Monday May 18th Mike returned to work at Briggs & Stratton for only a few hours. After struggling to get through his work while battling fits of fever and cough Mike was approached by the medical personnel at Briggs & Stratton. After determining that Mike was apparently too sick to be at work he was wheeled away on the back of a service cart later to be picked up by his wife. He was rolled out of the Briggs & Stratton facility in a wheel chair. After leaving work Mike was taken to St Micheal’s hospital. After arriving at the hospital Mike was tested for Covid-19. His test results came back positive. That day one of the last messages to his friends and family was a Facebook post asking to keep him in their prayers as he goes into quarantine for covid-19.  Thursday, April 28th, ten days after being admitted into the hospital Mike Jackson passed away.

Rest in Peace Micheal Donnell Jackson

Artwork courtesy of John Fleissner

Author: Armstrong Ransome

I break bread, ribs and hundred dollar bills.

One thought

  1. This breaks my heart. It’s why I always advocate for people to be their own doctor. Don’t let some authority tell you about yourself or how you feel or what you have. When it comes to your own life, how you feel matters above all else. We’re looking to leadership to tell us something, anything, what to do to stay safe. But leadership is on vacation, too busy giving corporations a pass on the sacrifice of their own workers. Yes, Trump has used The Defense Production Act to let corporations know that if keeping their businesses open kill their own workers, it’s ok. They don’t have to pay. They get a pass. He could’ve used it to ensure that proper protections were put into place to protect workers if they had to work during this time, but he doesn’t care about you or I. WE MUST CARE FOR OURSELVES!


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