By Rekia Amoni
As the Covid-19 pandemic swept the world, a shortage of PPE, created an outcry to increase the production of masks, and Honeywell, one of the largest producers of safety masks in the country, has apparently done so by pushing workers to breakneck speeds.
One facility in North Smithfield, Rhode Island produces the N95 masks that have been praised as some of the most effective against the coronavirus— by offering temporary work positions and advertising a guaranteed wage of $750 a week, they’ve been able to attract many ambitious workers who have suffered unemployment amid the deepening economic crisis. However, as one worker explained, the unrealistic expectations and high work speed causes incredible strain and pushes many workers to quit the same week they are hired.
As the worker told Tribune of the People, he was initially excited about the prospect of making so much money when he was hired in August, but the pace of the work quickly evaporated this excitement. As workers are required to work eight hour shifts six days a week, the job was described as “rush rush, you had to do about 1500 masks, and the concern was getting the product.” Even on his best days he could not reach this standard and was only able to produce 1200 at great physical strain.
The pace of work also had the effect of isolating him from fellow workers, not being able to speak to others or even look up from the machine throughout the workday, he said, “If you take the eyes of the machine you hurt yourself or damage the product.”
As many companies have struggled to weather the storm of the current economic crisis, Honeywell has made massive profits off the backs of their workers by pushing them to the very brink of their capacity, discarding many along the way.