John Oliver Breaks Down Unemployed, Essential Workers in COVID-19 Era - Rolling Stone
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John Oliver Bashes Amazon’s Treatment of Workers Amid COVID-19

“It shouldn’t have taken a pandemic to prove our unemployment system is a mess,” host said

John Oliver discussed two groups heavily impacted by the COVID 19 pandemic on Last Week Tonight Sunday: the unemployed and essential workers.

The host kicked off with the staggering statistic that one in 10 workers have lost their jobs in the past three weeks. He attacks the federal government’s Payment Protection Program, showing a clip in which Donald Trump shamelessly bragged about its “popularity.”

“If he was captain of the Titanic, you’d just know he’d be saying, ‘I just wanna congratulate everyone!'” he said. “‘These lifeboats have become so popular. A few weeks ago, nothing. Now they’re moving like hotcakes. It’s really a tribute to a well-run ship.'”

The host also acknowledged that any massive program would have an imperfect rollout amid a pandemic, yet he also points out the Trump administration’s failure to prepare for it. He also took a jab at Larry Kudlow, Director of the United States National Economic Council, who claimed his wife, Judith, had no issues getting assistance from the bank as an independent artist.

Oliver wasted no time displaying Judith’s paintings on the wall, which solely focus on Larry’s ties and clothing. He even offered to pay $10 for one, while donating $20 thousand to a food bank of the viewer’s choice. “These aren’t so much portraits of Larry Kudlow as they are portraits of the absence of Larry Kudlow,” he observed. “They showcase the beauty of where Larry Kudlow isn’t.”

He also recognized Congress’ expansion of unemployment insurance, despite the fact that it’s nearly impossible to get through to their hotline. “With those results, you might as well call (719)-266-2837,” he said. “It’s the Call and Oates hotline, an actual number you can dial to hear one of four possible Hall and Oates songs in an emergency. Now sure, they can’t help you with your healthcare or finances but, honestly, neither can the Department of Labor right now. At least with Call and Oates, you get to hear ‘Maneater.'”

Oliver shifted to essential workers, scrutinizing Amazon’s failure to provide for their overworked employees. He highlighted the firing of Chris Smalls, an Amazon worker who organized a walkout at the company’s Staten Island facility. Smalls was apparently terminated for “violating social distancing guidelines,” yet a leaked memo from an internal meeting said he was “not smart or articulate.”

“That is so racist, I can’t even point out how smart and articulate Smalls is without also sounding racist,” Oliver said.

“While many of the problems we’re being forced to confront right now weren’t created by the coronavirus, it has thrown a spotlight on some of the biggest flaws on how our system operates,” he concluded. “Things like paid sick leave and hazard pay are essentially Band-Aids, and we absolutely need them right now, because we’re bleeding. But when this is over, this country’s gonna need more than Band-Aids, it’s gonna need fucking surgery.”

“It shouldn’t have taken a pandemic to prove our unemployment system is a mess,” he continued. “That we need universal healthcare, and that workers need benefits, the right to organize and wages that reflect how essential they really are.”


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