Dear World,

Who is going to have to die so you can continue to live?


I graduated with 2 majors and high honors from a prestigious university in June of 2019. Now, I’m a minimum-wage factory worker.

I had a temporary job until February. Before committing to my next position, I went backpacking in Europe with my best friend. We were in Slovakia when Trump announced the travel ban. Within 24 hours, countries in Europe started closing their borders, so we had to run out of Slovakia - to Austria - to Switzerland to catch our new flight back to the U.S.

After quarantining for two weeks, I applied to a variety of essential jobs because I needed to sustain my income, and I didn’t expect I’d get a job in my industry right away. Even though I could probably wait out the pandemic with my savings, I figured I was young and healthy enough to do something to help. I got hired to work in a medical device-making factory, a setting I was absolutely unfamiliar with. I make about 3 times less than I was making on unemployment. I used to make almost twice the amount I make now. I had to humble myself and change my perspective.

In the beginning, I didn’t think I’d learn anything from the job because it required me to do mindless work. Slowly, as I observed my environment, I started noticing the bureaucracy and operational complexities of the assembly line. I’ve been welcomed into this community of immigrants who share food with me during break, tell me stories about their lives, and always check up on whether I am doing okay.

Many of the assembly line workers are around 60-70 years old. Most people work 10 hour shifts, 6 days per week. We don’t sit 6 feet apart, there are hundreds of people in this room 24 hours per day, but we have reusable PPE. Production has increased by 2,700% in the past 6 weeks.

We have a meeting with the entire factory once a week. This is where the administration announced the possibility of a coronavirus case in the plant. The company I work for makes coronavirus tests, but they won’t administer the test on employees. Someone asked if we were getting hazard pay, but they said that wasn’t possible. They also announced that the company would no longer match people’s 401k and that executives were getting pay cuts. The one thing they are doing, though, is giving us one free lunch per week until the pandemic is over.

The devices we are making are essential to saving lives during this crisis, so we can’t just stop making them. This leads me to a moral question: who is going to have to choose between paying their bills and death because their health won’t survive coronavirus? Who is healthy enough to work out in the field but privileged enough to not have a job right now? Who is going to have to die so you can continue to live?


Free Lunch

Support this photographer: Sashi Mostafa ︎Instagram: @shashimostafa ︎ Venmo: @shashimostafa


About the photographer: Shashi is a conceptual artist who makes fictional narratives that humanize victims of social issues. As a director, screenwriter and photographer, she aims to instigate social change with her films and photo series. Exploring the dark parts of humanity, she creates pieces that brew empathy, challenge oppression and project power.


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