Farmworkers pick tomatoes in Immokalee, Florida. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)
This is a tough moment in the fight against poverty.
The sequester is the latest chapter in a time-honored tradition of kicking the poor when they are down. A do-nothing Congress certainly isn’t going to do something about poverty without pressure from the grassroots. And it seems that the only way most of the mainstream media will pay attention to the more than one in three Americans living below twice the poverty line—on less than $36,000 for a family of three—is if their lives make good fodder for tabloid television or play out in a courtroom drama.
That said, there are still plenty of people and groups fighting for real change, and plenty of ways you can get involved or stay engaged. I reached out to a handful of folks who dedicate their lives to fighting poverty in different ways. Here is what they asked people to do:
1) From Sister Simone Campbell, Sisters of Social Service, executive director of NETWORK: “Support an increase in the minimum wage to more than $11 per hour.”
What people don’t know is that a large percentage of people living in poverty are workers who support their families on very small salaries. In fact, 57 percent of individuals and family members below the official poverty line either worked or lived with a working family member in 2011.
Pope Francis said on May 1, 2013, that all workers should make wages that allow them to live with their families in dignity. Contact your Senators and Representative to urge them to vote for a minimum wage (one that’s more than $11 an hour) and tipped minimum wage that reflect the dignity of all people.
2) From the Coalition of Immokalee Workers: “Tell Publix: Help end sexual harassment, wage theft, and forced labor in the fields—join the Fair Food Program today.”
Until very recently, Florida’s fields were as famous for producing human rights violations—with countless workers suffering daily humiliation and abuse ranging from wage theft to sexual harassment and even forced labor—as they were for growing oranges and tomatoes.
Today, however, there is a new day dawning for farmworkers in Florida’s tomato fields. The CIW’s Fair Food Program is demanding a policy of zero tolerance for human rights abuses on tomato farms, and it’s working. The program sets the highest human rights standards in the fields today, including: worker-to-worker education on rights, a twenty-four-hour complaint line and an effective complaint investigation and resolution process—all backed by market consequences for employers who refuse to respect their workers’ rights.