The challenges of surviving on minimum wage are unfortunately too common.
Many workers who earn minimum wage are providing for not only themselves but also for families. Some are students trying to increase their odds in the job market while taking on mountains of debt. Some have to work more than one job to make ends meet.
Those who we have met while talking about the difficulties of living on minimum wage are hard workers; some are extremely qualified in terms of today’s labor market, and almost all of them are determined to help change the system.
We met Edgar while organizing on a local college campus around the issue of wage theft. He had been personally affected by wage theft, working as a valet attendant and getting paid just above minimum wage. A month ago, Edgar was getting paid an hourly rate below the state-mandated minimum wage, but he was lucky enough to get a promotion because of his hard work. Edgar gets sixty percent of his income from tips, and works in the busy Lower Downtown district of Denver, but unfortunately has very little say about what days he works, and makes significantly fewer tips when working on a slow week day.
His company makes almost $10,000 in profits every month.
Edgar is a student. He is majoring in Social Work, and is hoping to land a job as a counselor. He is set to graduate in a few short semesters. He has been lucky to get some loans and scholarships, but with the rising cost of tuition and supplies, he often feels buried by the burden. He is carefully balancing both school and work, in order to succeed at both.
Edgar is also a husband, and the father of a newborn baby girl. His wife is staying home to care for their baby and is not receiving any paid maternal leave. They have been fortunate enough to receive help from Medicaid to cover health expenses.
Since Edgar’s benefits at his job are so poor, he has chosen to pay for the health insurance that the college offers. In order to be able to do this, he must fulfill a certain number of class credits, which dictates how much additional time he will have to spend away from his family. Because of his low-wage status, Edgar and his wife are using their savings to pay for basic expenses.
Recently Working America participated in a low-wage roundtable hosted by the U.S. Department of Labor. Representatives from the Department of Labor were on a tour of a few different cities around the country to get input on President Obama’s proposed increase to $9/hour, and find testimonies as to how this would impact the lives of Americans. Edgar went to represent Working America and others who are in similar situations.
“If I were able to get paid just a few dollars more, I would be able to save money for a house and a car. I would not have to spend as much time away from my family,” Edgar told us, “I would be able to save for my daughter’s future, and make sure that she has a fair shot in life.”
Tags: Colorado, Denver, Health Care, Jobs, labor, minimum wage, Rights At Work
The legislative session in Colorado is now three weeks in, and all of our newly and not-so-newly elected officials are running around the capital trying to make their marks. What does that mean for Denver’s Community Action Team? We get a chance to do what we do best: strengthen our movement to hold our politicians accountable and stand up for working families across the state.
Many of our activists have never had the opportunity to be involved with an organization like Working America. Some became interested only after an organizer knocked on their door to talk about issues affecting the middle class. A few were actually former organizers that felt impacted by the work they were doing and the folks they got a chance to interact with. In each case, a small, moving conversation touched on a personal note for each of our activists, and inspired each person to take a step forward towards making a difference.
Fast forward to now and we have a group of diverse, smart, passionate, hardworking activists who can rely on each other and the organization to the keep the movement going. We are young, old, professional, retired, unemployed, parents, students, and everything in between. It is understood that it is not the differences that keep us coming back month after month, but our common bonds and experiences. Most importantly, we all agree on the same goals: to help strengthen the middle class in whatever ways that we can.
While the friendships and sense of community are powerful in themselves, our Community Action Team realized that if we really want to feel empowered and pass that empowerment onto our communities, we needed to challenge ourselves to become leaders. At our meeting in January, Working America facilitated an Organizing 101 training to give our activists the tools necessary to organize our individual communities. We developed a training that highlighted the power to fight with people versus that of money or weapons. We discussed having that very first conversation that might inspire someone to get involved, and some of the best practices for making those conversations effective. Part of the training was a fun interactive skit where we demonstrated the power of cooperative leadership. It illustrated what we want our leadership model to be; one where everyone relies on one another to build stability, motivation, creativity, and accountability and coordination keeps it together. We ended by agreeing to practice having those conversations by gathering petition signatures for an upcoming labor bill.
One member, Dave, is well on his way to becoming a leader of his own community. “My attitude is one of finding the infinite value and worth of every person and creature. That said, however, I repeat my sincere thanks to the whole team. I was deeply inspired by each and every team member. And, mostly, by the special magic of the simple fact that ordinary working people have once again come together to act out the promise of our common humanity. This simple fact of coming together elevates and inspires us all–and, we must hold on to and protect our common efforts.”
To get involved in the Denver Community Action Team, contact Alice Gardner at (303) 935-9300 or email email@example.com.
Tags: Colorado, community action team, Denver, Jobs, Right to Work, Rights At Work
Working America has endorsed the following candidates and ballot initiatives in the 2012 election. These endorsements do not cover all the candidates and ballot issues in which we have a stake, but they all reflect the passion of our members and the values of our organization.
On November 6, please consider the following as you go to vote:
Barack Obama for President
Elizabeth Warren for U.S. Senate, Massachusetts
Claire McCaskill for U.S. Senate, Missouri
Martin Heinrich for U.S. Senate, New Mexico
Sherrod Brown for U.S. Senate, Ohio
Tim Kaine for U.S. Senate, Virginia
Tammy Baldwin for U.S. Senate, Wisconsin
Joe Miklosi for U.S. Congress, Colorado, 6th District
Ed Perlmutter for U.S. Congress, Colorado, 7th District
Betty Sutton for U.S. Congress, Ohio, 16th District
Mark Critz for U.S. Congress, Pennsylvania, 12th District
No on Proposal 1, Michigan
Yes on Proposal 2, Michigan
Yes on Issue 2, Ohio
Tags: Barack Obama, Colorado, endorsement, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin
We’re proud to support President Barack Obama for re-election on Tuesday.
Four years ago, the nation was in crisis. We’d seen nearly a decade of stagnating wages, growing corporate power and steady erosion of the middle class. We were squandering time and resources we could have been using to rebuild America and create a fairer economy. In the fall, an under-regulated, irresponsible and out-of-control financial system detonated, which led to a massive recession and the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs every month. We nearly lost a major American industry as the recession crippled auto companies.
Today, we’ve seen nearly three straight years of jobs being added in the private sector. Though things are still tough, we stopped the nosedive of our economy avoided the catastrophic depression that seemed imminent in 2008. We saved nearly a million jobs or more by rescuing the auto industry. And what’s more, we passed much-needed reforms to our health care system and our financial system that will help protect working people and rein in corporate power. None of this was inevitable, none of it was easy, and none of it would have happened if our hard work hadn’t elected Barack Obama as our president.
President Obama also signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and an important credit card reform bill. He passed the Recovery Act that halted the economic collapse, cut taxes for working-class and middle class families and invested in our schools, our infrastructure and new kinds of energy. And he appointed champions for working people to the U.S. Supreme Court, the National Labor Relations Board and the new Consumer Financial Protection Board.
We haven’t agreed with the president on everything, but when it comes down to it, he’s shown that he wants to make America work better for middle class and working-class families. His values and his priorities are the same ones we hear from ordinary people at their doors thousands of times a week: building prosperity by strengthening the middle class, ensuring a great education for our kids, keeping the promise of Social Security and Medicare for today’s retirees and tomorrow’s.
Obama’s opponent, Mitt Romney, has been hard to pin down on a lot of issues, but on the basic economic issues that matter most, his views are remarkably clear: he thinks corporations and the very wealthy are the most important actors in the economy, and so in order to make the economy work we have to tilt it ever-further in favor of those rich and powerful actors. He said we should “let Detroit go bankrupt” rather than investing in the auto industry. He named Paul Ryan as his running mate—endorsing a radical plan to demolish Medicare and leave seniors at the mercy of private insurance companies. As a finance-industry CEO, he exemplified the worst trends in our economy, stripping companies of value for himself and his shareholders and leaving the people who worked for those companies stranded. In his business career, he was referred to as a “pioneer” of outsourcing, and his proposals would give companies further incentives to ship He’s maddeningly unspecific about much of his tax plan, but every serious analysis shows that he would give bigger tax breaks to millionaires (like him) than even George W. Bush did. And he has declared time and time again that his top priority is repealing the health care reform and Wall Street reform that President Obama worked so hard to pass.
This isn’t a close call. President Obama’s skill and leadership in stopping the economic collapse and putting in place health care reform and Wall Street reform would be enough to earn him a second term—but the case for a vote for Obama is even clearer when you compare it to what a Romney administration would look like.
On Tuesday, we recommend a vote for President Obama—and we hope you’ll get your friends and family to the polls, too.
Photo by Intel Photos on Flickr
Tags: Barack Obama, Colorado, endorsement, Jobs, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin
Two critical House races are taking place in neighboring districts around Denver. In the 6th district, centering on Aurora and the southeastern suburbs, Rep. Mike Coffman is being challenged by state legislator Joe Miklosi. And in the 7th district, to the north and west of Denver, Rep. Ed Perlmutter is facing off against wealthy former CEO Joe Coors.
Perlmutter has been a strong ally for working people during his time in Congress. He has put his efforts behind creating jobs, expanding access to health care and protecting the guarantee of Social Security and Medicare. He voted against Paul Ryan’s budget, which would have cost tens of thousands of Colorado jobs, and which the AARP said would “raise costs and lower benefits” for seniors on Medicare. He’s somebody who has earned our trust. Joe Coors, however, has promised to support Paul Ryan’s plans and continue tax policies that encourage businesses to move jobs overseas. He’d be one of the richest members of Congress if elected and supports tax policies that give millionaires like him huge tax breaks.
Coffman’s voting record is squarely opposed to Perlmutter’s. He voted for the Paul Ryan budget that privatizes Medicare. And he voted for a bill that would have extended tax cuts on the richest 2 percent while ending tax cuts that benefits middle-class families. Coffman has also made some radical statements that are out of step with voters in this district, including calling President Obama “just not an American.” Coffman’s opponent, Joe Miklosi, will better represent voters in this district. His priorities are best expressed by his vote in the state legislature for the Hire Colorado Act, a bill to give incentives for companies to hire locally, and his efforts on the Audit Committee to root out waste so that the state could balance its budget without cuts to schools. Those are the kind of values the 6th district needs in Washington.
Rep. Perlmutter has made the right choices and stands with working people in the 7th district. He deserves a trip back to Washington—and his neighbors in the 6th district should bring Rep. Coffman home and send Joe Miklosi to replace him. Plan your vote now.
Photo of Ed Perlmutter by Realtor Action Center on Flicker. Photo of Joe Miklosi by Joe Miklosi on Facebook
Tags: Colorado, endorsement
In the age of Citizen’s United, it’s easy for a young voter to feel small and overshadowed. While politicians shake our hands and tell us they care about the average American, we know better – that all too often, they are listening more intently to the pocketbooks of the wealthiest than the issues that affect young people in this country.
Between our role in the presidential map and our several crucial House races, it’s no surprise that Colorado will help decide the outcome of the 2012 election. On the traditional political red-blue color wheel, our state is often a confusing shade of purple. Every week there is another national political figure stopping by Colorado with hopes of tugging the minds of the voters one way or the other. Even so, issues facing young workers in our state – job creation, access to education, and corporate accountability – continue to fall by the wayside.
In Denver, young Working America members have set out on a path to bust the myths about our generation and show that we are hard workers and successful students who care about the issues and – above all – vote.
Every month, a small but growing number of young Working America members get together over $1 tacos to discuss the most effective ways to organize our community and our generation. There’s a common understanding that while we love Taco Tuesday just like any other 20-something, we do not fit the stereotype of apathetic youth.
Mike Rael and his wife Christine are two of the members of this group. They have offered their home tp host house parties to socialize and educate their neighbors, and they are eager to go door-to-door talking about the most important issues.
Mike puts our shared experience eloquently. “Working In the corporate world, I have come to notice that nearly all of my colleagues are summarily dissatisfied with not only the political system but also with their careers,” he says, “The common thread, as I see it, is corporate dominance over our politics.”
“Nowadays we middle-class Americans go to the office to work more for less and when we come home are asked to settle for home loans instead of home ownership, settle for student debt instead of quality education and a fair wage. All the while corporate America continues to enrich itself…”
“Since I can’t afford to buy a politician to represent my interests, I choose to fight. I choose to throw my passion and abilities behind an organization and millions of other Americans that share my concerns. I choose to join Working America and millions of others in the fight to restore the middle class because ‘united we stand but divided we beg!’”
Perhaps this year, the election will not be all about money but instead about reminders. Reminders that young people care about who decides our future. Reminders that working men and women, no matter how many jobs they have to work, will continue to stand up and speak up – until the politicians decide to sit down and listen.
To get involved in our growing community of young workers in the Denver area, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (303) 935-9300.
Photo by denverjeffrey on Flickr
Tags: Colorado, Corporate Accountability, Denver, Jobs
This year, the Colorado legislature had an opportunity to pass a common sense piece of legislation which would have ensured that our tax dollars (when used on State Contracts) were being used to hire workers from Colorado. In short, a large portion of our tax payers’ money has been, and will continue, going to out of state companies instead of being reinvested at home. SB-1, the Hire Colorado First Act, would have helped to ease the damage. Our canvassers talked to thousands of Coloradoans during the legislative session, many of them concerned construction workers, who value the importance of re-investing in our own community by keeping our jobs at home.
Sadly, in a party line vote, a majority of our lawmakers sided with big businesses over us, and sent a clear message that they believe profit is more important than the voice of the people.
In a few short weeks, Congress will vote on the Bring Jobs Home Act, which would end the tax breaks for outsourcing and turn them into incentives to bring jobs home. Right now, workers are battling damaging loopholes that create tax breaks for some of the world’s largest corporations to ship jobs overseas. The passage of this bill would be a giant step for the workers and unemployed that are the engine of our economy. The Bring Jobs Home Act provides an opportunity for our lawmakers to pass a real job creation bill, and make a difference that will last.
Colorado has lost nearly 26,000 jobs due to imports or offshoring. Colorado’s unemployment rate has doubled since 2007. Numbers are similarly disturbing across the nation. These facts no doubt correlate, but now it’s time to ask our legislators the tough questions: Will you take this opportunity to fight for the people who elected you? Do you work for us, or the big multi-national corporations?
“I have been out of work for 18 months,” Said Mark Moore, a Working America member from Denver, Colorado. “I have a house and two dogs to take care of. The thought of losing either seems like something we shouldn’t have to worry about in America.” Unfortunately, the numbers speak for themselves and many workers are facing problems like this, and worse.
A 2009 study by economists Alan Blinder and Alan Krueger estimated that one in four U.S. jobs is vulnerable to offshoring. If every one of those one-in-fours voted against the corrupt, money hungry legislators, the future would shine for those who represent the heart and soul of working America. We need politicians who will help the backbone of America, and not break it.
Tiffany Weber, Working America Field Manager may have said it best: “The only way we’re going to win is with strength in numbers. We need to get all of our voices together to pressure our politicians into standing up for the people and not just their greedy corporate sponsors.”
From taxi drivers and travel agents to cooks and health care providers, we are the 99%.
Tags: Colorado, Jobs, outsourcing
by Ali Cochran – Denver, Colorado
Last night members from the community group, Working America, joined together to share their stories and plan new ways to fight back against the avalanche of attacks being waged on working class families across the country. The members who came were from many different backgrounds, including recent college graduates, retirees, and even a one-year-old named Maggie. One common theme brought everyone together – a desire to strengthen and rebuild our community.
We all know things have gone out of balance in America. In neighborhoods across the country, working families understand what’s happening. Corporate power has grown, while working people’s power has crumbled. Corporate profits and banker bonuses are doing great, but the rest of us are, rightly, worried. We’re worried about keeping our jobs, staying in our homes, feeding our kids, and retiring securely. We know what the problems are, and we want to be part of the solution.
America’s workers are more productive than ever, but the benefits of our hard work have gone more and more to a small number of the very wealthy. As the cost of health care, housing, and education has gone up, our wages have fallen behind and America is more unequal than ever. In Washington, D.C., in state capitals, in workplaces and corporate boardrooms, the interests of ordinary working people and their families seem to have been forgotten.
There’s only one way we can reverse it and rebuild a country that works for everyone – and that’s together.
“I’m here tonight because a canvasser from Working America knocked on my door and inspired me to get more involved,” said Diane Stallard, who holds a master’s degree in HR and has years of experience in the field, but after a round of layoffs at her company two years ago, is still looking for work.
David Bouchey wants to see his community in Aurora get back on its feet, “I want to make sure my neighbors know about what our elected officials have been up to and to hold them accountable!”
It’s easy for banks, big corporations and the very wealthy to influence the political process – they have millions to spend on TV ads, lobbying and campaign contributions and, as we’ve seen, they’re not afraid to use it.
We can’t outspend these powerful interests – but we can fight for our needs with strength in numbers. Together, we can have a bigger impact on important decisions about our economy and our country. The morning after the meeting, Kevin Pape, CO State Director of Working America said, “this Community Action Team has voted and agreed to meet regularly to address the issues that matter most to us – rebuilding our neighborhoods. We’re organizing, we’re building, and we’re gaining momentum.”
If you’re in the Denver area and would like to get more involved with our Community Action Team, call our Denver office at 303-935-2776 or shoot us an e-mail at email@example.com.
Tags: Colorado, Jobs
Colorado working families, 1. ALEC, 0.
Sources from the Colorado AFL-CIO have confirmed that Colorado Senate Bill 100 (Right to Work) has died in the Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee.
SB 100 was sponsored by Tea Party State Senator Tim Neville.
Colorado voters previously defeated “Right-to-Work” in its 2008 form, Amendment 47. This round of “Right-to-Work” push was led by an adviser to the Independence Institute, Jeff Crank from Americans for Prosperity, The National Right to Work Committee, the Associated Builders & Contractors and Tony Gagliardi from the NFIB. The Colorado AFL-CIO alleges that “not one real worker or real business owner showed-up to back these extremists and it made them look pathetic.”
The bill died in a 4-2 vote.
Even though fair share agreements were banned in Indiana last month, and even though Colorado is surrounded by states with similar laws, the appetite for an attack on workers is not there in the Centennial State.
Tags: Colorado, Right to Work, Rights At Work
by Ali Cochran – Denver, Colorado
Federal emergency unemployment benefits will expire March 6th unless they are renewed. Under a costly and burdensome Republican proposal, supported by Mike Coffman, unnecessary cuts and barriers would make it even harder for jobless Americans to look for work. An estimated 2.8 million Americans face the prospect of going hungry and getting thrown out of their homes due to changes in the program. In Coffman’s district alone, approximately 11,000 people would lose unemployment benefits.
That is why working families around Colorado called on Congressman Mike Coffman and Congress to extend unemployment insurance at his congressional office in Lone Tree, Colorado. “Today we dropped off nearly 11,000 fliers for how people could obtain emergency assistance once their unemployment insurance ends; One flier for each potentially effected constituent,” said John Fleck, President of the Denver Area Labor Federation. “We are asking Rep. Coffman to extend the benefits for Coloradans and all Americans who are looking for work.”
The flyer of “Emergency Numbers for Constituents Losing Unemployment Insurance” has phone numbers to help people through an undoubtedly difficult time. There are numbers for the Salvation Army, the Food Bank of the Rockies, House of Hope, the Colorado Foreclosure Hotline, child care assistance, and bankruptcy lawyers, among others.
With so much at stake, it’s no wonder people are worried about whether their elected officials will do the right thing and stand up for those in need. “Shame on every politician who’s willing to use a jobless worker as a political pawn to payback corporate donors. It’s time to fully renew unemployment insurance for 2012 – there should be no cuts, no barriers that make it even harder to find work and to navigate a bureaucratic system, and with no cheap political points attached,” Kevin Pape, Colorado State Director of Working America said. It’s time for Congress to take action to help working people who just need the chance to succeed.
Fourteen million people are unemployed, many in the job search of their lives. And according to the December 2011 Department of Labor Jobs Report, there are nearly 5.6 million people in the U.S. who have been jobless for six months or more – that’s more than 40 percent of all jobless Americans. Another staggering statistic is the average duration of joblessness – 41 weeks – is higher than at any time in 60 years. At the same time, there are at least four jobless workers per job vacancy.
It’s clear that we need to spur the economy and keep it growing. Maintaining the unemployment insurance program does that. Jobless benefits go straight back into the economy – they support local businesses, help create jobs, reduce the demand for public services and cost taxpayers less in the long run. Congress has to put politics aside and do what’s right for Americans who’ve lost their jobs and are struggling to survive, and protect the communities that depend on the economic boost unemployment insurance provides.
Working families must reach out to their U.S. Senators and call on Congress to fully renew unemployment insurance for 2012 – with no cuts and no barriers. Please reach out to your elected officials and let them know how you feel. If you have any questions about how to contact your elected official or if you’d like a copy of the flyer we delivered this morning, please don’t hesitate to contact Working America at www.workingamerica.org.
Tags: Colorado, Denver, unemployment benefits extension