Mike Rowe: There’s No Such Thing As A ‘Non-Essential Worker’

OPINION | This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.

Mike Rowe built a television career as the host of “Dirty Jobs,” where he highlighted blue-collar jobs and trade school professions, so people can expect him to know a thing or two about what it means to be an “essential worker.”

But, according to Rowe, they are all essential.

During an interview this week, Rowe contended there is no such thing as a “non-essential worker.”

“Most of the country is going to come through this with the realization we’re being treated like children … by people who want us to look at them as parents,” he said via the Washington Examiner, referencing state and local governments decision to close various businesses to help combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Rowe also cautioned there might be some more “unintended consequences” of the coronavirus pandemic response.

“I would suggest to you right now that there is no such thing as a nonessential worker when it comes to the economy,” he claimed.

Rowe said his experience highlighting workers of various fields has helped him learn all positions are necessary, countering a claim from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“This conversation of essential work,” said Rowe, “and that’s what I wanted to say about  AOC [Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] in the last block, and Cuomo before that. When Cuomo makes that distinction between essential and non-essential workers, it’s ironic for me to make this point because I’ve been singing the praises of essential workers for 20 years, but in COVID, and in an economy like this, when you take 26 million non-essential workers out of the equation, what happens?”

“The whole thing collapses under its own weight,” he continued. “I would suggest to you, right now, that there is no such thing as a non-essential worker.”

“It’s a view of work that I don’t share,” Rowe continued, expressing the likely view of many Americans desperate to get back to work. “It’s a view of work that I don’t understand, it’s a view of work that is rooted in the belief that the effort itself is the enemy of happiness, it takes work and turns it into nothing but a presupposed definition of drudgery.”

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Rowe then explained one example of an unintended consequence for hospitals, who have been forced to furloughed their workers.

“There’s a corollary, I think, between essential work and elective surgery, right?” he explained. “So we said no elective surgery because we want to make sure we have the capacity to handle the onslaught of COVID. Well, what happens? Mayo Clinic’s laying off thousands of people, hospitals — and again, this shouldn’t be controversial, it’s just a fact. Hospitals are in real trouble, because they don’t have any patients/customers.”

“You’re gonna find when you peel back all the layers of this onion, a giant ball of unintended consequence,” Rowe warned per the Daily Wire.

“I don’t know exactly how deep it goes, but its gonna be everywhere, and I think also you’re gonna find really surprising corollaries,” he added. “You know, I was just walking my dog this morning, and some woman looked at me — I wasn’t wearing a mask and I’m in a fairly rural area here — and she walked by and just shook her head, just gave me that look, you know? It’s just, we can’t help ourselves, this thing is falling into this tribal thing, and it’s a trap.”

Rowe also suggested states should address the needs of their respective citizens independent of what other more-or-less affected states are doing.

“Maybe the grown-up in the room right now has to say, look the situation in Michigan is different than the situation in Florida. We can’t treat them identically, even if it makes us feel good to do that. There’s gonna be a consequence if we do,” he concluded.

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