When I left Washington, D.C., after Pope Francis’ historic visit, I walked away thinking about his call to heed the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It hit home with me because that is part of the reason I became so involved in the fight for $15 and union representation.
I am a home care worker in Miami. I have spent the last eight years taking care of a lovely couple. Since the passing of one of my clients, I have continued caring for his wife. I have worked more than 40 hours a week for them; fulfilling whatever care needs they have. I like my work but it is difficult to get by. I go to the grocery store and see the prices of everything rising. Despite my long hours, I still have to walk out of the store without things I want. That $4 item now costs $9; so I leave it on the shelf. When payday rolls around, I have to choose which bills to pay and which to leave until next payday, then hope and pray I don’t get hit with a late fee.
I don’t want to see that happen to other home care workers. I advocate for $15 and a union because I know many of my fellow home care workers are doing the same for me. United, we can make our voices heard and build the same kind of strength that has led to $15-an-hour wages for home care workers in Massachusetts and Oregon, and in cities such as Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
I am not Catholic, but I was really excited to see Pope Francis in Washington, D.C. It was an experience of a lifetime. Seeing Pope Francis and President Obama with my fellow SEIU members and partners inspired me to be part of something bigger than myself, to do more to advocate for my fellow home care workers in hopes they will do the same for me.
I believe in workers’ rights and immigrant rights that Pope Francis spoke about while he was at the White House and in his address to Congress, but for me, these rights are about hardworking moms like me. I just want to be able to take my four boys to a nice dinner every once in a while after a long week at work without having to worry about whether I can make rent this month. I want that for myself and I want that for the other home care workers like me.