The movement is happening. Between Black Lives Matter, the King v. Burwell ruling, or the Supreme court decision inspiring America to be lit up in rainbows, it has been quite a time into the beginning of July. We are now infinitely closer to true equality and peace on this planet, however, we all know, change doesn’t come easy, and it is through using our collective voice and inherent individual power to stand up for what we value.
Yes, the future is bright for unions, that is, as Margaret Mead would say, those individuals united and committed to higher goals than themselves. Most inspiring is the overwhelming support to raise the minimum wage across the nation. A nationally local movement, we have seen cities take different stands on what they are committed to doing, with polls showing that 75% of Americans – including 53% of Republicans – supporting raising the national minimum wage to $12.50 by 2020. (1) Recently, home care workers were approved for a $15 minimum in Massachusetts amidst national shortages for our aging populations. Locally, in Los Angeles, a minimum wage hike was approved on May 15, thanks in part from the organizing done by LAANE, RaisetheWage, and other organizations and individuals, who we stand in support with. While this progress is good, we must be committed to fighting for what all workers and citizens deserve.
Ingela Dahlgren, Executive Director of SEIU Nurse Alliance of California, spoke at initial hearings before the $15 minimum was approved in Los Angeles and recently attended an Economic Development Committee meeting on the question of Paid Sick Leave. While there was a lot on the agenda, including Batman & Joker who joined the meeting to comment on the sorry state of affairs (more a distraction than anything) there was a huge turn out of support of workers, labor coalitions, and environmental organizations wearing face masks to show their support for workers that have no other choice than to go to work sick. Rosa Lopez was one of those who spoke during public comment sharing how she was forced to work as a cook while she had the stomach flu despite her employer and colleagues knowing that she was sick. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize the lack of paid sick leave as a public health crises. The public comment was limited to 10 minutes, 5 from each side, so we did not have the chance to share the nurse perspective, of all those individuals who have found themselves in a crises from being overworked and underpaid. However, you may read our public letter of support here.
For a low-income family, going just three days without wages is the equivalent to losing a month’s worth of groceries, not to mention the lack of affordable housing, just see this infographic. In contrast, it only costs employers an average of 26 cents an hour to provide paid sick leave. (2) As well, 90% of Los Angeles residents support mandatory paid sick leave. Despite the overwhelming support, the Council postponed voting on this measure until July 21st.
No doubt, we will continue to see many changes take place, as unions become more relevant than ever for organizing all to speak up for change against persistent institutions and protocols that are no longer relevant in this new landscape. As we organize around our values, for the health and wellbeing of all, we will see a real positive influence. Feel free to share your thoughts with us on Twitter and Facebook. We use the hashtag #NurseStrong in solidarity.