It's no surprise that the states with the lowest wages,
the fewest worker protections, and the least union representation are also the
states with the highest rates of poverty, particularly
among women and their children.
In a region referred to as the "poverty belt," politicians
brag about shutting
out unions, paying low
wages and refusing
to expand Medicaid, leaving millions of low-wage working people uninsured.
Inspired by the gains unionized home care workers have made over
the last 30 years of organizing in other parts of the country, Southern
home care workers have been leading the larger Fight for $15 and a union movement
in the South.
In North Carolina, the state with the country's
lowest union membership, home care workers do not spend much time worrying
about people who say it's a waste of time to organize in the South.
After weeks of making phone calls to other home care workers, Denise Rush, from Durham, N.C., got up at 4:30 this morning (her day off) to stand with the McDonald's workers going on strike. Then she joined hundred of other low-wage workers and supporters at other actions throughout the day and ended at a rally on Shaw University's campus where civil rights leader, the Rev. William Barber, called the fight for fair wages and union rights a fight for justice.
"I'm here today to stand up for the people who can't--for
the people who are scared. We want to thrive, not just survive," Rush said.
Richmond, Virginia home care workers joined striking McDonald's workers at 6am, kicking off a full day of Fight for $15 actions. Later in the morning, home care and fast food workers were recognized from the floor of the state house for their work bringing attention to issues of economic justice. They were then joined by hundreds of other home care and fast food workers from all over the commonwealth for a rally and march through Richmond.
In Memphis, Tenn., Mary Payne joined hundreds of other working
people who are also struggling to make it on low wages. She's been a home
care worker for 48 years but can't afford to retire; so at 76 years old she's
still at it. Mary was out on Wednesday because she wants to make sure future
generations do better and that there will be home care workers to care for
people like her daughter who has cerebral palsy and will need good caregivers
to live with dignity.
In Atlanta, one of the first Southern cities where home
care workers joined in the Fight for $15 last September, 1,000 people
gathered on the Clark Atlanta University campus to hear why low-wage workers, such as home care provider Marie Mdamu, are fight for $15 and a union.
Knowing that there are other home care workers and clients
who aren't able to go to the actions, but want to show their support, Atlanta
home care worker, Hope McCrary and her client LaKisha Senior took part in #take15for15.
In Florida, the
state with the highest percentage of elderly residents, home care workers
in Miami and Tampa joined Fight for $15 actions.
Molita Cunningham, a Miami home care worker who works with hospice patients, feels the work she does with the dying and their
families is more than just a job.
"It's my calling," she said. "I've tried doing other work that pays
more, like working in food service or retail jobs, but there's nothing more
important I can do than this. This is where I shine.
"Even though I love it, it's really hard work. In the last
two years I've watched more than 200 people die. I've been there for my
patients and their families. They all become like my family. I cry a lot. I
pray a lot. This kind of work really takes it out of you because it comes from
"I work 11-hour shifts and I try to work a lot of overtime
because on $10 an hour I'm just not making it. I work hard, but I
can't breathe never knowing how I'm going to pay my rent or my lights--$15 an
hour means I could afford to breathe.
"I know in my heart we're going to win.
I feel stronger knowing there are so many thousands of us all over the country
standing together. We're going to get to $15. And we're going to keep going.
People are really listening now."
To see what home care workers all over the country were
doing on April 15, check
out this Storify.