Ai-jen Poo gave her speech "Jobs, Justice, and the American Dream" this morning at the American Dream Summit. As we blogged earlier, Ai-jen is at the heart of the organizing movement for better pay and better working conditions for domestic workers - nannies, housekeepers, and caretakers of the very young, the elderly, and frail. She called on the country to care for those women who dedicate their lives to caring for others.[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Photo courtesy of Jobs With Justice Flickr"][/caption]Ai-jen opened with the story of domestic worker Maria, who came to this country in search of the American Dream. She took a job as a live-in domestic worker for a family of six with a disabled child, working 18 hours a day, 6 days per week, for less than $3 an hour. Maria slept in a flooding basement, with hardly any time to take care of her own disabled child.Not every work place is a sweatshop, acknowledged Ai-jen. But every one of the 2.5 million domestic care providers working daily in our communities is vulnerable to abuse.The exclusion of domestic workers from basic union protections is a practice rooted in early Southern racism - in the 1930s, members of Congress from the South refused to support Congress's labor laws unless domestic and farm workers (at this time predominantly black) were excluded.That's why domestic workers are creating a new movement for more humane jobs with dignity and justice. After 6 years of organizing in New York, Domestic Workers United passed the first state-wide Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. In 2007, they formed an alliance to take the movement national. They are now on the way to passing a California Bill of Rights, and have 35 affiliate organizations in 19 cities and 11 states across the country.Here were Ai-jen's three pieces of advice:
1) We have to fight to win, no matter what. We do not in fact know what is possible if we are able to organize and change the context for our dreams. And no one wants to root for a team that doesn't fight to win. We have to embody the possibility of big wins.
2) We have everything we need in order to win. In this room [at the conference] and in our communities around the country, we have the desire, the resources, the strategic creativity and capacity, and the courage we need to transform this country. And our job as the American Dream Movement organizations and leaders is to create the context to turn that into power. We've done it before and we can do it again.
3) Jobs and justice have to go hand in hand. A campaign for jobs means a campaign for human dignity.
"We're building a movement based on values," said Ai-jen. "Love, respect, human dignity. That's what we're building today for our families, and for our future. That's the American Dream. And we will succeed. Si se puede."Check out Ai-jen's latest campaign, Caring Across Generations.
The Take Back the American Dream crowd was on its feet today as AFL-CIO president, Richard Trumka, spoke about corporations who’ve fed upon America’s economic collapse:“…They’ll cry class warfare. Well, I gotta tell you – it wasn't our class that declared war on working people! If they want to have a debate on class warfare, bring it on!” Trumka, whose coal-mining roots led him to become one of the country’s foremost labor leaders, spoke about corporate greed sucking Americans dry.“[There are] millions out of work, millions who have been thrown out of their homes, and now Wall St. wants more tax cuts for corporations with less regulations… My question is: Just when is enough, enough?”Trumka called out one bank specifically. He reminded the crowd that Bank of America - which rakes in about a billion a month – announced that it will begin charging customers $5 a month in fees for using their own debit cards next year.“Now mind you, this is the financial giant that paid its global banking and markets president nearly 30 million dollars... And this year turned around and announced that it’s going to fire 30,000 workers.”Trumka continued on to say that while over 25 million Americans are desperately looking for work, and 1 out of 3 Black and Latino children is living in poverty; CEOs of mega-corporations just got a 23% raise.He spoke of the doors of education being closed to students, and of banks filing millions of false affidavits used to seize the homes of the working class.“America is upside down.”Trumka urged the audience to support President Obama’s jobs bill, the American Jobs Act. “I've been one of the first to call out President Obama; but when he is doing the right thing - the courageous thing… we must support him.”Trumka implored that all Americans see the events taking place right now – Wednesday’s Jobs Not Cuts rally, the Occupy Wall St. movement – as no one group’s movement but a united movement of the people.“It’s our time!” This blog is part of our live coverage of the Take Back the America Dream Conference
The crowd was hyped for Robert Reich yesterday as we kicked off the first American Dream summit here in DC. And he didn't disappoint. Reich - the former Secretary of Labor under President Clinton, public policy professor at UC Berkeley, and acclaimed political economist and commentator - brilliantly weaved together the history of our broken economy with today's progressive movement.America is divided between two great forces, says Reich. The progressive force stands for tolerance and equal opportunity, and believes firmly in the interconnectedness of humanity. The regressive force believes in the opposite - intolerance, unequal opportunity, and that we all function on our own, independently. But as bleak as things may seem, "progressive forces always win out over the regressive forces."
Reich offered a quick overview of where three decades of regressive politics have gotten us. To name a few:
-One of the worst Supreme Court decisions in American history: Citizens United ruled that corporations are people.
-Currently, 37% of families with young children are living in poverty, the highest percentage we've seen since records have been kept.
-Corporations are sitting on $2 trillion in cash, and the ratio of coroprate profits to wages hasn't been this high since before the Great Depression.
-The top 1% rakes in 35% of total wealth in the country, the highest rate since the 1920s.
-The conservative right has left Americans feeling demoralized and cynical of our political system.
While the facts may be disheartening, for Reich they mean the time to instigate change is not only urgent but inevitable."Look at the civil rights struggle and the anti-Vietnam struggle, the darkest days of the 1950s with Mccarthyism. Every time this country has really been challenged, every time the regressive forces look like they're going to win, the progressive forces RALLY. That is the history of the United States."Catch this clip of Reich's speech from MoveOn.