May Day 2014: The Minimum We Can Do for All Workers

By Alicia Criado, Field Coordinator, Economic Policy Project, NCLR

Every year on May 1, or May Day, people around the world celebrate and promote workers’ rights. May Day is also about ensuring that workers are respected and rewarded for their hard work. Coincidentally, this year’s May Day falls one day after the U.S. Senate blocked a bill that would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10. That boost would lift about 28 million workers out of poverty and afford them the dignity they deserve.

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NCLR at the White House for President Obama’s remarks on minimum wage. April 30, 2014

In an effort to shed light on what a minimum wage increase would mean for our familias, NCLR has collected stories from our Affiliates and the NCLR Action Network. Most of these stories convey the difficulty of surviving on poverty-level wages. Many workers, particularly mothers and students, are working hard at jobs that do not sustain them or their families financially. It is simply immoral that some of these individuals have to decide between paying the rent or paying the utilities.

Many wonder what ever happened to the American promise of an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.

Unfortunately, a large percentage of middle- and high-wage jobs were wiped out during the Great Recession. Recent studies have shown that low-wage jobs accounted for the majority of the job growth during the recovery. This reality has left young workers such as Balla and Tyvon, members of Latin American Youth Center, an NCLR Affiliate, with limited job prospects in industries that offer limited economic security, including fast-food restaurants and retail.

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Tyvon and Balla at the White House on April 30, 2014

Balla is a part-time sales associate in the retail industry and spends hours on his feet earning $8.50 an hour. He explained that his “limited income usually allows me to cover basic expenses like rent, food, and transportation, but not always.” Balla believes that access to a good job with livable wages would “allow him to save money to pursue other dreams like obtaining post-secondary education.” Balla stood with Tyvon and other low-wage workers behind President Obama yesterday at the White House, all expressing their dismay with Congress for not allowing a vote on the minimum wage.

Watch the president’s remarks below:

The life of the working poor is difficult without a good job that pays a living wage and other workplace benefits such as paid sick leave. Raising the wage floor would benefit all workers, including approximately 24% of Latinos, a segment of our workforce that is overrepresented in low-wage occupations. Latinos are more likely than other Americans to be employed in the low-wage labor market and work in part-time positions, which rarely afford them access to benefits or living wages. Ensuring that low-wage workers can afford basic living necessities helps not only them but also communities and businesses, which in turn strengthens our economy.

On this May Day, NCLR stands with advocates of workers’ rights, immigrant rights groups, labor unions, and other small business organizations advocating for federal and state policies that create living wage jobs and protect the most vulnerable working families. We think that’s the minimum our country can do for its workers.

It Takes a Village…to Make Sure Latino Youth Are Covered

Yesterday, NCLR joined our Affiliate Latin American Youth Center for an a press and Affordable Care Act enrollment event. Highlights from the gathering are below

NCLR Affiliates Feeling Pain of Government Shutdown

MarysCenter_LogoFor those who doubt the human toll of sequestration and now, the government shutdown, yesterday the Washington Post spelled it out in unmistakable terms.  An article about the impact of the shutdown yesterday featured two outstanding NCLR Affiliates, Mary’s Center and the Latin American Youth Center, whose ability to serve children and families in the nation’s capital is in jeopardy until Congress breaks its stalemate over the federal budget.

From The Washington Post:

The Latin American Youth Center announced this week that it has furloughed more than half of its staff and reduced its programming to essential services. The furloughed staff, which includes senior leaders, will continue to work as volunteers until the shutdown ends and funding resumes.

“I’m so depressed. It’s so sad,” said Lori Kaplan, president of the youth center. “The center means so much to so many people, and this is hard on a lot of people.”

The Columbia Heights nonprofit group, which offers youth development services to 5,000 children each year, will stop some programs that promote job training and education. The group is also in the process of piloting a program that offers mentors available round-the-clock for troubled youth. Kaplan said the mentors will now work part time. Services to homeless and foster-care youth will remain in operation.

Mary’s Center, a federally funded health facility, is struggling to make its October payroll and to continue serving more than 30,000 patients, according to a statement.

The D.C.-based charity was scheduled to receive nearly $600,000 from the District Health Department on Oct. 1. Those funds are on hold until the shutdown ends.

On Wednesday, Maria Gomez, chief executive of Mary’s Center, spoke at a news conference held by Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) at the Capitol to highlight the local effects of the federal shutdown. The Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington and a host of charities are lobbying on Capitol Hill this week, urging Congress to come to a budget solution.

Join our Action Network and stay updated on what you can do to fight for a more fair and equitable federal budget! Visit www.nclr.org/federalbudget.

Smart Shoppers Make Healthy Shoppers

By Paul A. Aguilar, Project Coordinator, Institute for Hispanic Health, NCLR

Last month NCLR highlighted the many successes of its healthy shopping program, Comprando Rico y Sano.  Since 2010 this program has helped us reach more than 4,000 Latinos in 22 communities across the country.  This year NCLR updated the Comprando Rico y Sano curriculum and provided training and materials for 14 of its Affiliate organizations.  All of this was made possible by the generous support of General Mills’s Que Rica Vida and the Walmart Foundation.  With these committed partners and the dedication of our Affiliates, this program will provide 6,000 more Latinos with valuable information on how to make healthy food choices by the end of the year.  Over the course of the next few months, NCLR’s Institute for Hispanic Health will showcase the efforts of many of these organizations.

One notable Affiliate is TODEC Legal Center, which has been serving migrant communities in California’s Riverside, San Bernardino, and Imperial Counties for almost 30 years.  They work every day to provide equitable access to information and services for people with limited or no English proficiency, including immigrants and migrant workers.  Since Comprando Rico y Sano has been integrated into their existing services, the organization has facilitated educational sessions, or charlas, for close to 400 individuals in the community.

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