I Dreamt I Donated My Heart | -19,’20 | Issue No. 24

If novel times call for revolutionary measures, then the American workforce is answering the call. Amazon, InstaCart and Chipotle employees who have put their lives on the line to serve the covid-striken city, now risk their livelihood in the name of hazard pay, sick leave, and protective equipment. The federal fight over billions and trillions in relief, that never comes, or does in acronyms and checks. Checks that wouldn’t cover rent for the average New Yorker, and checks that won’t arrive for our undocumented neighbors. Recession can be opportunity if you can afford it, and a cold you caught at work can be a killer, if you can’t. And as workers organize, walk out and stop work for fair treatment, and unemployment rates climb towards all time heights, a labor-lead momentum is moving the country toward the only logical conclusion of centuries of greed. A systematic breakdown, and the chance to rebuild.

This week, we’re washing the invisible hand.

“La Colmena ”
by Shirin Barghi

As the coronavirus continues to spread throughout New York, no group finds itself in a more difficult situation than the undocumented and immigrant community. Many have lost their jobs and aren’t getting government checks despite paying taxes, and despite being at higher risk of infection and death from the coronavirus. La Colmena is a community-based organization working with day laborers, domestic workers, and other low-wage immigrant workers through organizing, education, culture, and equitable economic development. We speak to Executive Director Yesenia Mata about the financial impact of the coronavirus crisis on the community amid ongoing ICE raids, and how families are fighting back.

“With Those Who Have Less”
by Ross Tuttle

A member of the NYPD offers a glimpse into how the city is dealing with the pandemic. 
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the following message are those of an individual member of the NYPD and are not an official statement from or on behalf of the New York Police Department.


“Lining Up For Scones”
by Ross Tuttle and Sachar Mathias

Though not officially counted amongst the city’s essential businesses, Brooklyn’s bars and restaurants are the marrow in it’s bones. They’re where you meet your friends, where you leave your lover, wish a happy birthday, where you say goodbye. And while some will still deliver things like brunch and drinks and toilet paper, it’s likely the last closing time where everybody knows your name ticked by a few weeks ago, by order of the State. This week, we caught up with three of the owners of some of Brooklyn’s most beloved bars, cafes and restaurants that feed, enrich and nourish the communities they serve with a side of style. 

“The Skin On Your Body”
by Justin Bryant and Nefertiti Dallas

For the past two weeks, we’ve been dropping in on Mert Erogul - a Doctor on the front line or a Brooklyn ER. But this week, we’re starting our journey where most trips to the hospital start - in an ambulance. Nefertiti Dallas is an Emergency Medical Services worker at a private EMS company in New York. While the Fire Department is publicly funded, private companies like hers turn a profit and have been criticised for taking dangerous cost-cutting measures to reduce overhead, while charging exorbitant fees for their care. They’ve also been faulted for paying low wages for strenuous, stressful, and psychologically taxing work that exposes their workforce to contagion and assault. It’s not hard to imagine why, considering the load they bear, EMTs and paramedics have been among of the highest rates of injury and illness of all occupations. And that’s when we’re not in pandemic. 

“Workers Justice”
by Charlie Hoxie

There are over 725,000 undocumented New Yorkers who, despite paying over a billion dollars a year in taxes, hold no hope for any economic relief from the government. And as construction sites across the city close down, and the few that remain open threaten unsafe conditions and COVID-19 contagion, many undocumented workers worry about how they're going to make ends meet. The Workers Justice Project, a day laborer advocacy group based in Sunset Park, has started a relief fund to help its members, but with our economic downturn showing no signs of slowing, it's likely not enough.

“After The Pandemic”
by Charlie Hoxie

What if the coronavirus pandemic, and the devastation it has thrust upon our fragile economy, present an opportunity to fashion a more just & resilient system that works for all of society? That was the focus of a webinar recently hosted by Dale Willman, the associate director of the Resilience Media Program at Columbia University's The Earth Institute. The talk featured social economist Juliet Schor, ecological economist Jon Erickson, and interdisciplinary scholar Nate Hagens, who each laid out ideas for using the present tempest as an opportunity to chart a new course.

“They Kept Some Of It For Themselves”
by Ross Tuttle and Sachar Mathias

Last month, the governor of Illinois authorized a state official to meet a middleman in a MacDonald’s parking lot with a $3-and-a-half million dollar check to pay for a shipment of N95 masks from China. The official had to be there by 2pm. Arrive any later, and the deal would be off, they were told. A bidding war was about to begin for the merchandise.

The shortage of PPE, or personal protective equipment is real. Doctors are reusing what was once considered disposable gear and have to sign out masks to carry around in paper bags. Some are using trashbags as coveralls, using shreds of their gowns to cover their faces, and some are even making their own equipment at home. 

Before two months ago, PPE was hardly a household name and it’s probably safe to say few people had ever given much thought to how hospitals get their gear. But we’re living in unusual times, and the scarcity and competition over N95 masks almost feels like a measure of our collective wellbeing, or lack thereof. 

Given PPE’s outsized importance to those on the frontlines, we talked to some of the people who link the supply chain – whether for hospitals, collectives or loved ones. 

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See you on the other side, in Brooklyn, USA.

Brooklyn, USA is produced by Sachar Mathias, Emily Boghossian, Shirin Barghi, Khyriel Palmer, Mayumi Sato and Charlie Hoxie, with help this week from Ross Tuttle, Justin Bryant, Nefertiti Dallas, Junior Meteorologist Griff C, Lauren Germain, and Taylor Cook. 

For more information on this and all BRIC Radio podcasts, visit www.bricartsmedia.org/radio.