“I Am Working America” across America

(Guest post by Barbara Helmick – thanks everyone for their amazing pictures! -Doug)

Working families are under attack across the country and Working America members, with courage and pride, sent photos to show they are one with these families. Eager to show our individual numbers quickly add up to power, these photos are just a sampling of the great people who want to show the powers that be, that we are strong, we are ready to act, and we are beautiful.

Keeping It Local

By Eddie Soliz

It was a regular Monday and I was pointed to canvass a neighborhood or city named Sterling, a middle class town located west of Dulles airport in northern Virginia. As it reflected in the press, healthcare was the national issue and it had most peoples’ attention, so as soon as I started to work I was talking about health care “…. And there are over 47 million Americans that can’t afford to pay for private insurance, that’s why we need a public insurance option and a health care reform. . . . . ”

After knocking and talking at some doors with different people I noticed that I was talking about the wrong issue, because for that particular community the most important issue was transportation and the beginning of the project about the extension of the Metrorail from Vienna to Dulles Airport. This project would bring million of dollars to the local economy and also employ hundreds of thousands of people for a period of ten to fifteen years. Realizing the issues that concern that community I started talking to people about Federal stimulus money. The federal government has already approved for money not only transportation projects but for unemployed workers here in Virginia and the projects in mention are delayed because of the inaction of politicians. The result was rewarding, most people now wanted to sign as members of Working America and actually build pressure on local politicians to take advantage of every federal aid or stimulus package that would benefit the city and state of Virginia.

Work injury means piling bills

by Marcella Drennan—Virginia

Last week I met a 32-year-old gentleman who had been injured at work. He had fallen at a construction site and broke his leg. He had not worked for his company long enough to have benefits. He is trying to apply for worker’s compensation, but his boss wasn’t trying to give it to him. He’d filed for unemployment, which he said was “a joke.” So the bills are piling up and he said he now needs surgery on the leg. Even though he was unemployed, he still gave a $5 dues payment. He also let me use the bathroom and gave me some Sunny Delight.

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Concerned about education

by Tim Robertson—Virginia

Last week, in an apartment complex in Herndon, I spoke with a gentleman who was a naturalized U.S. citizen from India. We engaged in a rather broad conversation about the issues as he became a Working America member, but he was constantly lamenting a problem he’d seen since moving to the U.S.

Specifically, he was frustrated that our education system is not preparing our children to compete on a global level. “Our children are our future, why are we not thinking about them?” he asked.

He then thanked me for my work.

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A job just to pay for health care

by Matthew Fitting—Virginia

As soon as I said that we were organizing in his neighborhood for better health care, the man at the door raised his eyebrows. Turns out, the issue had been constantly on his mind because of his family. The way he said it, I figured we were talking about two or even three kids, but he and his wife had only recently had their first son.

Still, this meant sacrifices. His wife had to take a job with evening hours—he does landscaping during the day—solely to pay for their child’s health care. The costs, he said, were just killing them.

After signing as a member, he also signed a band-aid petition, meant to put a spotlight on the depth of the health care crisis in America. I also suggested he take a look at the AFL-CIO’s online health care survey. Hopefully he can tell his story to other people, too.

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Thirty-one years, 5 months and 24 days

by Carissa Lovelace—Virginia

As I talk to people in Manassas, Virginia it is becoming clear to me that everyone, no matter what state they live in, is deeply affected by the issues that we fight for.

Last night was an especially eye-opening experience. I was talking to a woman on her porch about our issues and after taking the clipboard she pointed directly at “secure retirement,” saying “that’s the one that I care about.”

Before I could ask why, she began to tell me the story of her 62 year old husband who had worked for an airline for 31 years, 5 months and 24 days. The airline filed bankruptcy and laid off their most tenured employees, one of which was her husband. A government pension compensation program had taken up his plan and was paying him half of what his actual pension was. He was receiving half what he expected per month for the first 2 years, which dropped by $200 the next two year and is expected to drop by an additional $1,220.00 when he turns 66!

She has taken extra work around the neighborhood, and he has taken an evening job that pays 13 dollars an hour for a different airline. They pay double their mortgage payment so that when his pension sinks lower they will hopefully own their home. She could not stress enough the depression and anxiety that this scenario was causing both of them.

They had not envisioned their lives coming to this after they worked so hard. The last thing she told me was that the CEO of the airline was guaranteed a multi-million dollar salary during the time of the bankruptcy no matter what happened in the future of the company.

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