Tennessee home care worker sending a strong message during fight for $15 day of actions

I got involved in the Fight for $15 is because I need to put an end to my own poverty wages.

By: Sepia Coleman is a home care worker from Tennessee

By: Sepia Coleman is a home care worker from Tennessee

Another day of action in the Fight for $15 is planned for April 14 and as momentum continues to snowball into a bigger and bigger movement, I couldn’t be more excited.  

I have been a home care worker for more than 20 years and got involved in the Fight for a $15 and union rights a year ago. I provide critical home care services for seniors and persons with disabilities, yet I find myself scraping by. I have gone to work each day not only to make ends meet but to provide a good example of hard work for my two daughters throughout their lives. Now, as they work their way through The University of Tennessee at Martin and culinary school, I would like to be able to help them cover some of their expenses. But even with 20 years in my field, I do not make enough to have something left over to help them. One of the reasons I got involved in the Fight for $15 is because I need to put an end to my own poverty wages.

Thousands of workers across the country will send a strong message to elected officials and large corporations on April 14 letting them know we won’t stop until we win and it goes beyond a wage increase. We can’t provide quality long term care for the growing number of baby boomers who need and will need care nationwide if we cannot attract quality home care providers. We need home care jobs to be good jobs – and that means $15 AND union rights.

Since I got involved in the Fight for $15, I have talked to students at Grinnell College before the Iowa Caucuses, I have lobbied my legislators at the Tennessee State Capital in Nashville, and I even spent the day canvassing for Hillary Clinton with SEIU President Mary Kay Henry. (I got to meet President Bill Clinton, too.) I marched alongside Memphis Sanitation Strikers and Reverend Jesse Jackson. I challenged Tennessee State Representatives Susan Lynn, Glen Casada, Mark Pody, and Jimmy Eldridge to take the “Minimum Wage Challenge” by living on the week’s wages that $7.25 bring. They all declined. 

I have talked to people from all walks of life in several different cities about supporting this movement because underpaid workers – in fast food, child care, airports, nursing homes, and home care – need $15 an hour and union rights.  

On days of action, like the upcoming April 14, underpaid workers get the opportunity to show our worth. Each day we work so hard and during the actions we are fearlessly out in force to show our efforts will not be taken for granted. Fast food and retail workers bravely go on strike. We home care workers don’t strike, but we show up to march, rally, and demand change alongside our neighbors. With each national day of action, more and more people are standing together to do something about the gross income gap. The list of cities – and states! -- enacting a $15 minimum wage continues to grow and the income gap is at the center of the presidential elections. Tennessee is known as the minimum wage capital and I want to see that label disappear, so I will continue to be active.

On April 14, I will stand with mothers, fathers, home care consumers, and everyone who supports the Fight for $15 at massive actions in 300 cities and 40 countries, calling for fair wages and union rights.  I will spend the next months making sure my neighbors are ready to go out and vote. We will show our power every day until we all win $15 and union rights.

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