It’s Time America Abolished Poverty

There are many jobs that we as a country do not appreciate. Think farm work, childcare, service jobs – these low-wage jobs, often racist and gender-specific, form the backbone of our economy. However, if you’ve worked in any of these areas, you know how difficult it can be to make ends meet on these jobs.

Three of Dorian Warren’s grandparents were caretakers, another job that doesn’t come due. But they were also proud members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and learned an important lesson through their work and union. If we want to improve the working conditions for these undervalued jobs, you can either update the workers or the jobs – or you can do both. The improvement and redesign of workplaces, especially dangerous and poverty-level jobs in growing sectors such as care work, is an extremely important strategy precisely because of the historically devalued nature of this work. But it takes power – the collective power of workers who join forces with communities – to turn the system of bad jobs at the poverty level into good jobs.

On this week’s show, Melissa Harris-Perry and Dorian Warren continue last week’s episode to answer the question: How can we eradicate poverty in America? It is not just about jobs and the answers are sensible but radical: to end poverty we have to meet people’s real needs such as food, diapers or childcare, but we also have to disrupt and reform the systems that people keep in poverty and we must give people the power to break the structures that hold them back.

For an insight into a poverty-free America, Melissa and Dorian turn to experts who lead campaigns and organizations that fight the system of poverty. Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, Co-Director of the Kairos Center and National Co-Director of the Campaign of the Poor, jointly discuss how the eradication of poverty is a moral imperative – and this also makes political sense and leads to greater organizational possibilities for all working Americans.

Next Up, Mary Kay HenryThe SEIU President speaks together on the role of power of multiethnic workers in disrupting the poverty system. Henry talks extensively with Melissa and Dorian about the innovative “Fight for $ 15 and a Union” campaign that SEIU launched in 2012 and the transformative power of workers who set the conditions for their own struggles.

We then check in with two guests on site in North Carolina and give them the last word. They do the job to meet the immediate needs of people living in poverty who are struggling to make ends meet. We speak to Eric Aft, CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank in Northwestern North Carolinawho talks to us about “feeding the line and shortening the line” for the over 200,000 people his organization and its partners serve annually. And Melissa and Dorian speak to Michelle Old, executive director of the North Carolina diaper bank, how important it is for babies, children and families to have access to diapers and what they refer to as “objects of dignity” in order to thrive.


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