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Take Back the American Dream, Day 2: "Something's Happening Here"

By       Message Marta Steele     Permalink
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One maid, fired from her $3-per-hour work, was made homeless; realize that FDR excluded domestic workers from his humanitarian relief legislation.

   But now this oppressed group is gaining ground. The New York bill is the first of its kind in this country and the idea is spreading.

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   "The world is clearer through the eyes of a woman," she said. Baby boomers are turning 65 at the rate of one every eight seconds or so and the demand for home care is consequently skyrocketing. We must care for the elders who sacrificed so much for us.  

There are five fingers in the Campaign for Caring across Generations: 1) there are 2 million jobs in home care; 2) we must address labor standards and the right to organize; 3) training and career ladders are needed; 4) the path to citizenship should be a guided one; and 5) support for struggling families is needed.  

A total of 5 percent of the military budget would pay for homecare plus benefits; there is no such thing as an enemy in working toward human dignity; no greater gift than the care we give to each other--taken together, all of these elements sustain the American Dream and are the basis for their drive.  

She had cited a short legend that invokes Native American as well as her own culture: "The sun never says to the earth, "You owe me.' And yet look at all the beautiful light the sun gives us without charge."  

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And where next did I go? Let's say I couldn't stay away from a breakout workshop titled "Superwomen." How can we be there heroes of an economic recovery? Al-Jen Poo had begun this narrative (see above) and it continued with an all-woman panel composed of group founders who had gone on to be their group's leader.

Heather Boushey was the facilitator, Senior Economist at the Center for American Progress.

The three panelists were Kirsten Rowe-Finkbeiner, of MomsRising; Karen Nussbaum, of Working America (affiliated with the AFL-CIO); and Saru ("Sue") Jayaraman, of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC-United).

Kristen's cause is paid sick days, a rare "perk" [perk?] these days, what with benefits falling off our paychecks like autumn leaves. She said that 80 percent of workers don't have this perk, nor do 40 percent of the white- collar group.

She has found that in this area progressive women share views with swing voters and Independents; lots of work is needed to spread this tripartisan [sort of] cause across the nation.

Karen has found in the course of her group's canvassing neighborhoods, that working women feel unconnected and isolated. Starbuck's and Walmart don't pay for sick days. "It's all about organizing," she said. "People must consider you empowered."

Then it's possible to fight back.

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[an anecdote: Karen's last name was my maiden name. We were both in Boston in the seventies when she founded Nine to Five. I once received a phone call for someone wishing to speak with her, who became worse than crestfallen when I told him he had the wrong Nussbaum.

I rightly thought that she must be a very special person. I have heard more about her through the years, but back in the seventies I remember the anecdote she told about how she became an activist:

She was working as a secretary when someone walked into the roomful of desks and asked, "Isn't anyone here?"

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Marta Steele is an author/editor/blogger who has been writing for since 2006. She is also author of the 2012 book "Grassroots, Geeks, Pros, and Pols: The Election Integrity Movement's Nonstop Battle to Win Back the People's Vote, (more...)

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