“Oh my god, it would be relief. I could breathe. I could sleep at night. No more tears or thinking about how I can pay for things.”
On Monday, I had the privilege of visiting the Fight for $15 office in Richmond, VA. The office was bustling with activity full of people scanning cards pledging to vote from the weekend’s canvass, planning the next event with workers across Virginia via conference call, and getting ready to go back into our neighborhoods to spread their message of raising the minimum wage and gaining union rights for everyone.
I sat down with three Fight for $15 members, Jackie Short, Kristina McClure, and Shamon Gilbert, to hear their stories, find out why they dedicate so much time to this effort, and learn why voting this year is so important to everyone fighting for a higher minimum wage.
The Fight for $15 is About Much More Than Raising the Wage
For Jackie, Kristina, and Shamon, the Fight for $15 is about much more than just raising the minimum wage. It is about family. It is about dignity. It is about being able to live life without fear. For them and other workers, raising the minimum wage is critically important, but it is just a stepping stone to a better life.
When I asked Jackie what a $15 an hour minimum wage would mean for her and her family, she replied by saying, “Oh my god, it would be relief. I could breathe. I could sleep at night. No more tears or thinking about how I can pay for things.”
For Kristina, raising the minimum wage would mean that she could be reunited with her two children. “I could get better housing, and I could afford to have my kids with me.” As it is now, her kids live with her parents because she can’t afford a good home for them on just $7.25 an hour.
“I could get better housing, and I could afford to have my kids with me.”
Shamon echoed their statements by saying that raising the minimum wage would mean “having more options.” By the time the bills are paid and there’s food on the table, there’s nothing left for anything else. More than anything, raising the wage would give Shamon the opportunity to make choices about her life, plan things out, and save money for the next step.
Jackie, Shamon, and Kristina spend a great deal of their time knocking on people’s doors so they can have conversations with people about the minimum wage. They rally to draw attention to the issue and plan strategic strikes to show their employers that they are valuable and deserve a workplace where they are respected and treated with dignity. All of that work is in the hopes of getting enough support for the issue that our legislators have to act and increase wages for all Virginians.
Voting Matters To Minimum Wage Workers & Their Families
But raising the minimum wage isn’t an easy fight. Bills to raise the wage have been defeated year after year in the Virginia General Assembly. So in addition to fighting for higher wages at work and in the streets, Fight for $15 members are now bringing the fight to the ballot box. If the legislators we have now won’t raise the wage, then we need new legislators.
[bctt tweet=”If the legislators we have now won’t #raisethewage, then we need new legislators.” username=”ProgressVA”]
In the Governor’s race, the choice for Fight for $15 members is easy. The choice is between Ed Gillespie, a candidate who has said straight up that he doesn’t “support a federally mandated minimum wage” and Ralph Northam, who supports raising the wage to $15 an hour.
But it takes more than just a supportive governor to increase the minimum wage. We also need members of the House of Delegates and State Senate to support a minimum wage increase in order to actually pass a bill.
“We need to get legislators who are fighting with us and for us to get the minimum wage raised,” Kristina said. “It won’t happen overnight, but if they could raise it a little bit every year, then we would be on the right track. We need unions, health care, affordable housing, and affordable childcare.”
The good news is that every seat in the Virginia House of Delegates up for election this year, so this is the chance to make real change. As Jackie put it, “Local votes are the most important votes because it affects you right here in your neighborhood and your community.” Voting for Governor and House of Delegates candidates makes a difference “right where we live.”
Many people believe that voting for president is all they need to do, but voting in smaller elections is even more important because “local elections really let you put the people there to serve your needs” and the needs of the community.
“We Need To Make Voting Go Viral.”
“Voting and the Fight for $15 go hand in hand,” Shamon said. If we don’t make our voices heard in this election, we can’t expect to have legislators that work for us. When asked what she would say to people who don’t plan on voting this year, Shamon said, “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain about what’s going on in the government. Your vote and your voice matter. You have to get out there and use it to get the results you want. We need to make voting go viral.”
Your vote and your voice matter. You have to get out there and use it to get the results you want. We need to make voting go viral.”
I couldn’t agree more, and that’s why I’ll be joining Jackie, Kristina, and Shamon in voting on November 7. Whatever issue you care about, whether it is the Fight for $15, racial justice, women’s health, or something else, you can’t fight to make it a reality unless you make your voice heard in our elections.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR:
- The deadline to register to vote is October 16.
- Request an absentee ballot before October 31.
- VOTE on November 7.
You still have time to do your research and see where the candidates stand on the issues that matter most to you. See you at the polls!