A few weeks ago, I attended the SEIU 25th International Convention as a member delegate. I stood with thousands of SEIU member activists and took a pledge to educate and motivate my co-workers to take action, to fight back against corporate tax evaders and say no to more tax cuts for the rich. When the super rich and big corporations don't pay their fair share of taxes, it contributes to federal and state budget shortfalls and cuts to programs that we all rely on - like education, public safety, after-school programs for our children and other essential services.
Now I'm back home in Saginaw, Michigan where I work as a teacher in the Head Start program. Right now I have 30 children ages 3, 4 and 5 and I help them develop their social, emotional, cognitive and language skills and prepare them to go to kindergarten. I believe we've got to give our children our best and give them the best chance to succeed in life.
Saginaw is where I raised my own two kids. My daughter is 24 years old, she graduated college with a degree in Business Administration. My son would have been older than her, but he was killed a few years ago. That was set back for me but by the grace of God I'm still standing. It was hard for me but at the same time I knew I had to push on, I had to be strong for my daughter who was a freshman in college at the time -- and for his daughter, she was only 1 year old when he died.
After my son was killed, I organized in my community to Help Save Our Children. At the time we were trying to keep the Boys & Girls Clubs open. If our kids have nowhere to go, being in the streets having nothing to do they might end up getting murdered like my son. This is personal to me.
Since I got back from the SEIU Convention, I've been our talking to SEIU members almost every day about what it will take to get our economy back on track and I'm building up my activist network. So far I've recruited 16 of my co-workers to get involved including two Head Start teachers who are under the age of 35, because I believe in bringing up the next generation of leaders right and not leaving that to chance.
Together, we're planning to participate in the national day of action to raise the minimum wage. We've got a big action planned for July 24th that will educate people about how the tax breaks for the 1% never really trickle down to the rest us. I think the politicians need to stop tax breaks for corporations that ship jobs overseas and start putting money in the pockets of those who actually work hard for a living and play by the rules. I've been organizing folks around Sagniaw, talking with a lot of teenagers, inviting them to come out to the action on July 24th and talk about how a raise in the minimum wage would make a difference in their lives. We've got to give young people a reason to get involved, too.
I think it's important that the politicians hear from us and understand we need a wage increase and we need it now. They need to see our faces and hear our voices. The more they hear from us, the less they might listen to the 1% telling them what to do.
Betty Nash is a member activist TEAM Leader of SEIU and also serves SEIU Local 517M as the Region 1 Divisional Vice President. She teaches Head Start in Saginaw, Michigan.
SEIU Members: Taking the "All in to Win for the 99%" pledge is the first step toward becoming a TEAM Leader of SEIU. It means you are making a personal commitment to build a network of at least 10 co-workers to go out there and do whatever it takes to wrestle our country back from the richest 1%. Click here if you are a member of SEIU and you are ready to join member activists like Betty Nash and take the pledge today.