Yesterday’s Heroes are Today’s Plague Rats

Those who have sacrificed so much since the pandemic began are now being forced out of their livelihoods.

I have previously mentioned that I left my job due to vaccine mandates being implemented at the University where I worked, but never went into much detail as to what went down.

Modern Discontent
The Optics have Shifted
I did not mention why I started writing on Substack but with everything going on I felt it’s important to talk about it. I left my job at the end of August because I chose not to get vaccinated and my University was implementing a mandate. I didn’t choose not to get vaccinated because it’s a new vaccine, the side effects, or the threat of government tyra…
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I worked as a lab tech for several years at a University. The pay was horrible; less than what Starbucks or Amazon pays their hourly employees. But the benefits were good, and it gave me an opportunity into the science field and academia.

I also worked hard, and did all that I could to appease my higher ups. I did not vocally complain when I was given too much work, but sometimes it felt like too much and I would sometimes become very frustrated. When people left for greener pastures we usually did not hire new employees. Instead, I took on many of the workload, so on top of my work I tended to have the work of multiple people. It got to the point where I was working several different sections of the labs. Nevertheless, I persisted and continued to work for a few more years, with hardly a substantial pay raise. Sometimes I was praised, and there were one or two higher ups that were great at that, but other than that not much else was heard except for the occasional meetings.

Then COVID hit, and we were told that some of the lab crew had to come in to work part time while others were allowed to stay home. I agreed to this, because I would rather come in occasionally than to force all of my coworkers to stay in order to feign some idea of “fairness”, especially since it was the early months of the pandemic and we were unsure of the severity of the disease. So for several months I and a handful of other coworkers would occasionally come in while others stayed home for months.

But then we were told we had to bring people back because the University could not afford to keep everyone at home, and we continued to work “normally”. After a few months of returning to work several of us were then told that there were plans to have us conduct COVID testing, and I was put onto this team. We were briefly trained using real samples and were told to standby until we were needed.

Then the layoffs began. The University was not able to afford to hold onto so many employees, especially with the campus closed and with so many employees staying at home for months while continuing to be paid.

Even though some of us came in to work while others stayed home, and even though some of us were trained to do COVID testing, a few of my coworkers were not spared from being laid off, and that was the start of troubles to come. The University deciding that they need to lay off dependable, reliable employees to start up a project that cost millions of dollars seemed absolutely nonsensical, but on it went.

And I continued to stay, and we eventually did start COVID testing. We were told we would receive a pay raise for doing COVID testing, but once again this was far below what many other labs were paying, sometimes less than half what other labs were offering. But again I stayed, and did COVID testing while also maintaining my own work. Luckily our main work never became overbearing, but we still had to try balancing the workload; a hard endeavor when a COVID run takes several hours each.

Fortunately the University came to their senses and began to offer us bonuses and higher wages for doing COVID testing, but ONLY if we were doing COVID testing; if we did our normal work we would be given our normal pay that was hardly competitive to Starbucks baristas. This isn’t hating on baristas; they always seem friendly and approachable, but when you went to school for several years and take out tens of thousands of dollars in loans you can’t but help to be envious of those who may be paid more for less education. So in order to get that higher pay many of us took on the COVID testing roles, putting our health and safety at risk (granted, the risk was low but it was still there). This included coming in on the weekends or staying late certain days, but the money was better than our old pay so we were willing to do it.

Soon we were allowed to get the vaccines, and just like I mentioned in my previous post I found the roll out unethical at the time (and I continue to do so today) and decided against getting vaccinated. At that time I was far too naïve to think that the vaccines would not be mandated.

After a few months the COVID lab needed to expand, and when more people were hired I offered to help them set up and train many of the employees (I helped train many of the new employees that signed on to do COVID testing over the winter months).

Summer was when the mandates notice came. People were told they needed to get the vaccine or else they would have to be put on leave. They did offer religious and medical exemptions, but they did not apply to me, and we know that many places have not kept their promises of allowing exemptions.

As many people in this situation know, unpaid leave is not meant to keep you on until businesses decide to change their policies; they are meant as “constructive termination” i.e. you leave so we don’t have to fire you. If you are not fired for being a terrible employee then there can be ramifications for the businesses, meaning that it is in many businesses’ interests to force their employees to quit and not be fired.

And once again I was too naïve when I went to a higher up and told them my situation. I was told I would be put onto unpaid leave as per the University’s policy, but that I should be put into contact with HR to check if I had any way of being exempt. HR reiterated the same topics, I went to my higher up, and told this person about the conversation. At this point what I was told was no surprise; I was told that I needed to have my position filled and that would not be possible as long as I remained.

That decided it for me. After being an employee for several years, taking on so much work (more work than one person should take on), hardly receiving a large pay raise, and eventually being told I was one of the most important employees I was told that I was disposable.

So many people are under the same pressures of whether to leave their job and commit to their principles or if they should cave in and continue to have a profession to provide for their families. I am not here to make an argument for or against leaving, the same way I would not tell people whether or not they should get vaccinated.

What I am saying is that my reason for leaving became easy. No, I did not put up a fight, and yes, maybe I should have put them in the position to have them force me out, but for me my former employers showed their true colors and it made the answer for me.

It did not matter how hard you work, how much you suck up and try to be in everyone’s good graces, or take on new projects, or help train new employees, or come in during a pandemic, or take on testing procedures that put your health at risk, or if you stay overtime, or if you decide to come in early to finish projects so that other people don’t have to stay late, or how little you were paid, or how much you were strung along about the possibilities of moving up to new positions; it all became moot as soon as I was told that they need to get rid of me to fill my role.

For those in this situation I understand the position you are in. It is extremely difficult to leave a job you have done for several years and have to try to find a new job to provide for your family, especially if the idea of a national mandate looms over your head. With that I have to ask the question: With all that you know about your employer, if you were offered your job back would you return? Or if you have not left yet are you willing to stay knowing what you do?

I knew my answer, and it’s why I chose to leave, because I would not want to work for an institution that found me so disposable but still had the audacity to treat me as if I would crawl back begging for my job at any moment.

People who have worked the entire pandemic have helped to maintain our society’s precarious functions, and without many of them our most vital infrastructures would collapse. The institutions depend on their employees, and they depend on the fealty and subordination of many of their employees to continue to operate unhinged.

But now those who have risked their health and safety for many months are now being denigrated. They are falsely being told that they are the reason why the pandemic persists, and that they are the diseased that we must rid our society of. I never would have expected to be labeled as part of the “plague of the unvaccinated” nor did I think that would be used to label fellow citizens, but just like with plague rats the only option is (ex)termination. As soon as things should be getting better the narrative has made things far more worse, and our society is begging to punish those who do decide to not follow along.

The power is centered into those that sustain the livelihoods of their countries’ citizens, and when those are put to the wayside disaster is absolutely ensured. As unethical as it may seem, sometimes people need to see the world burn to truly see the value in those who put out the fires, and when the kindling is laid and the sparks begin to ignite lookout for the smoke.

And now we will wonder, when the plague rats flee will civilization remain?

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