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.
Millions of Americans fell deeper into poverty during the Covid-19 pandemic. Fighting poverty in America takes political will, investment, and strategy to win. Over the past two weeks, our System Check guests have identified two main problems that keep people poor: lack of cash and lack of electricity. This week’s system checklist highlights a political agenda that addresses both.
- Increase the minimum wage. The last time Congress raised the federal minimum wage was in 2007! We know that meager $ 7.25 / hour minimum hasn’t kept up with the cost of living. Right now there is nowhere in the country where a full-time minimum wage worker can afford the rent of a two-bedroom apartment. We have to increase the minimum wage. Take part in the Fight for 15.
- General health insurance. Unexpected medical bills cause 40% of individual bankruptcies. Universal health care recognizes that health care is a fundamental human right and that it is a link between health and wealth. By having access to affordable, available health care, families can spend their incomes on housing, food and other necessities while avoiding the poverty-into-poverty caused by the spiral. J.in the majority of Americans –General health care support.
- Universal child care. ÖA year of childcare costs more than a year of tuition at four-year public colleges in most states. Families need safe, accessible, and affordable childcare. With significant investments in childcare and early childhood education, we can alleviate poverty and transform the lives of millions of American children. Read this report from the Economic Policy Institute “An Ambitious National Investment in America’s Children” and sign up to participate Childcare Changemakers to get involved in the campaign for universal and equitable childcare for all families.
- Guaranteed basic income. Last week we heard from Aisha Nyandoro when she described how The Basic Income is guaranteed Magnolia’s mother trust influenced the lives of black mothers in Mississippi who live in poverty. AStockton, California, Guaranteed Income Program has also sparked interest across the country. If the lack of cash is at the core of poverty, then we bring cash to the people. Find out more about and support the work of Economical security project.
- Guaranteeing the right of workers to organize. Workers must have the right to organize to take a seat at the power table. The power to negotiate wages and working conditions is directly related to the ability to organize and form unions. It’s time to update our outdated labor laws to adapt them to our 21st century economy. Check out the campaigns from Jobs with justice and Sign the promise Promote workers’ right to organize.
As always, we look forward to your additions to our checklist! Use our Twitter and Facebook pages to add your comments, suggested actions and organizations to support.
System Check is a project by The nation Magazine, moderated by Melissa Harris-Perry and Dorian Warren and produced by Sophia Steinert-Evoy. Support for System Check comes from Omidyar Network, a social change company that is redefining the way capitalism works. Learn about their efforts to align our economy for the good of the individual, community and society Omidyar.com. Our executive producer is Frank Reynolds. Our themed music comes from a Brooklyn based artist and producer Jachary.
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