During Election 2006, I had the good fortune to participate in 7 Days @ Minimum Wage, a video diary of working Americans struggling to keep their families afloat on minimum-wage pay. I interviewed Jessica, a single mom in Chicago. Her searing answers and barely contained sorrow made her, much to my surprise, the centerpiece of the entire project. I wonder whether if we had spoken during Election 2008, the current economy would have removed even what little hope she expressed back then for her children’s future.
A couple of days ago, the right-wing wonks at the inaptly monickered ‘Center for Union Facts,’ an arch-conservative national front group, took me to task for supporting the Employee Free Choice Act. When the national opposition sees fit to criticize the little guy, that’s pretty good evidence he’s on the right track.
Now that I’m back to labor blogging, some of you may be wondering why I care so much of late about the Employee Free Choice Act. It’s not that I march in lockstep with my fellow Progressives across the country. But I’ve seen many friends and colleagues get treated unfairly when it comes to labor-management issues and in the line of work I’m in, and I’ve heard far too many horror stories.
‘Every day, corporations deny workers the freedom to decide for themselves whether to form unions to bargain for a better life. They routinely intimidate, harass, coerce and even fire workers who try to form unions and bargain for economic well-being.’ (–AFL-CIO) And that’s why we need the Employee Free Choice Act.
Frequently, my friends and colleagues in D.C. turn me on to stories that they think I’ll find socially important. This one was enough to help break me out of a momentary funk: a beneficial alliance between a major California hospital and its labor union.
The project team behind the national video blog I helped work on with AFL-CIO and ACORN, ‘7 Days @ Minimum Wage,’ sent out this press release to celebrate successfully raising the minimum wage in six states on election day. Woo-hoo!
I had never picked up a video camera in my life before I interviewed Jessica, a low-paid mother of four, for the 7 Days @ Minimum Wage project. Her searing story and her quiet eloquence, both of which emerged absolutely spontaneously, blew me and the ACORN/AFL-CIO project team in D.C. away–so much so that her interview is being shown in its 13-minute entirety, with one small edit to protect her privacy. View that story here.
As I begin work on the 7 Days @ Minimum Wage video project, I keenly remember when I first moved to the Windy City in 2003. I moved midwest on the shaky strength of a job offer that shook apart just as I was arriving. Now here I was, with an urban planning masters degree, without an apartment, and with the sinking feeling I was about to return, albeit temporarily, to the crap jobs of my college days. I wish it had been that easy.
It’s about to happen. On Monday, October 23, the national video blog I was invited to work on for ACORN and AFL-CIO goes live on the Net. Here is a list of the people who’ll be telling their own stories–including Jessica, the amazing mother of four whom I had the honor to interview–and whose story is the centerpiece of the week-long event.
Last week I wrote that I was helping to produce a national video blog kicking off on October 23, 7 Days @ Minimum Wage, highlighting the hardships people go through when they’re stuckat the bottom of the wage ladder. I thought I would just be doing Internet outreach coordination. Instead I was tapped to find and interview participants–one of whom will become the project’s centerpiece.