Bring back May Day
Rev. William Barber and the new Poor People's Campaign are putting the demands of U.S. workers and the poor on the nation's agenda. Here, Barber addresses Fight for $15 protesters outside McDonald's headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill. on May 2, 2014. | Pat Barcas / MoutainX via Fight for $15

Most of the world recognizes May 1—May Day—as International Workers’ Day. Here in one of the few countries that doesn’t, it’s worth pausing to ask how U.S. workers are doing.

At an event last December, Fight for $15 organizer Terrence Wise recalled “going to bed at night, ignoring my own stomach’s rumbling, but having to hear my three little girls’ stomachs rumble. That’s something no parent should have to endure.”

Wise was marking the launch of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.

Last month, the Institute for Policy Studies and the Poor People’s Campaign released The Souls of Poor Folka report on 50 years of change in the issues that affect working people, and particularly those at the bottom. We looked at systemic racism, poverty, militarism, and ecological devastation.

We found some startling and unhappy results. For the most part, workers like Wise are struggling hard to get by.

With the destruction of industries and the cities that housed them, the nature of our economy has shifted. Although the official unemployment rate is low, employment today often means low-wage work that offers little job security.

Our society’s treatment of workers has changed, too. For example, 28 states have passed so-called “right to work” laws that undermine the ability of workers to organize.

That’s meant steadily declining union membership, which keeps workers from getting their fair share of the wealth produced by the U.S. economy over the past 50 years. Despite enormous growth in the overall economy, wages for the bottom 80 percent of workers have remained largely stagnant.

Other People’s World coverage: The Souls of Poor Folk—Saving the soul of U.S. democracy

In 2016, there wasn’t a single county or state in which someone earning the federal minimum wage could afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment at market rate. Yet today there are 64 million people working for less than $15 an hour.

Meanwhile, nearly one in five families have zero or negative net worth. That number rises to over a quarter of Latin American households and 30 percent of black households.

Of course, these changes haven’t happened in a vacuum. It’s not a coincidence that while most Americans are struggling, just three individuals—Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffett—together own as much wealth as half of the country combined.

It’s also probably no coincidence that the American politicians backed by billionaires don’t recognize May Day.

People in power made choices like passing “right to work” laws that have led to these outcomes. And it will have to be other people—people like Terrence Wise—that set things right. At that same press conference where he described his family’s plight, Wise talked about how the Fight for $15 had helped raise the wages of 20 million workers and promoted their fight for a union.

Starting the day after Mother’s Day, the Poor People’s Campaign plans to engage in 40 days of civil disobedience in at least 30 state capitals and Washington, D.C. It aims to show how systemic racism, poverty, militarism, and ecological devastation are all interconnected, and all undermine workers today.

Among numerous demands, they’re calling for federal and state living wage laws, a guaranteed annual income for all people, full employment, and the right to unionize.

These steps would restore a sense of well-being and economic security to America’s workers and give them what the hollow promises of politicians cannot: dignity. Join them this May Day at www.poorpeoplescampaign.org and make it one to remember for U.S. workers too.

OtherWords

 

Poor People’s Campaign May Day Week of Events

Monday, April 30

Little Rock, Ark.—Nonviolent Moral Fusion Direct Action Training / 6-8pm RSVP

Anchorage, Alaska—Anchorage Organizing Meeting / 5:30-7:30pm RSVP

Austin, Texas—Political and Moral Education / 7-8pm RSVP

Accokeek, Md.—Townhall & Direct Action Training / 6:30-8:30pm RSVP

 

Tuesday, May 1 

Waukesha, Wis.—Day Without Latinxs & Immigrants / 10am-12pm RSVP

Detroit, Mich.—May Day Detroit 2018 Rally and March / 3:30-6:30pm RSVP

Topeka, Kan.—Nonviolent Moral Fusion Direct Action Training / 5:15-9pm RSVP

Albany, N.Y.—Nonviolent Moral Fusion Direct Action Training / 6-9pm RSVP

Washington, D.C.—Poor People’s Campaign Call 4 Artists / 6:30-8:30pm RSVP

Washington, D.C.—Interfaith Community Outreach Meeting / 7-8:30pm RSVP

Paterson, N.J.—Mass Meeting / 7-8:30pm RSVP

Fayetteville, Ark.—Education Potluck / 6-7pm RSVP

 

Wednesday, May 2

New York, N.Y.—Multifaith Strategies for Nonviolent Direct Action / 9am-5pm RSVP

Collingswood, N.J.—Mass Meeting / 7-8:30pm RSVP

Jersey City, N.J.—Mass Meeting / 7-8:30pm RSVP

Austin, Texas— Political and Moral Education – mini sessions / 8:30-9:30pm RSVP

Baltimore, Md.—Song Training and Art Build / 6:30-7:30pm RSVP

Anchorage, Alaska—Nonviolent Moral Fusion Direct Action Training / 6-9pm RSVP

 

Thursday, May 3

Washington, D.C.—Nonviolent Moral Fusion Direct Action Training / 5:30-9:30pm RSVP

Kansas City, Mo.—Civil Disobedience Training / 6-9pm RSVP

Greensboro, N.C.—Nonviolent Moral Fusion Direct Action Training / 6:30-9:30pm RSVP

Sylva, N.C.—Nonviolent Moral Fusion Direct Action Training / 6-9:30pm RSVP

New York, N.Y.—NYC Poor People’s Campaign Fundraiser / 7-9pm RSVP

Trenton, N.J.—Mass Meeting / 7-8:30pm RSVP

Fayetteville, Ark.—Movement Music Workshop / 6:30-8pm RSVP

Austin, Texas—Political and Moral Education – mini sessions / 4-5pm RSVP

 

Friday, May 4

Ypsilanti, Mich.—Weekly Coffee and Catch Up / 2:30-4pm RSVP

Austin, Texas—Political and Moral Education – mini sessions / 6-7pm RSVP

Plainfield, Vt.—The Make: Radical Arts Intensive 3-day event / RSVP

Atlantic City, N.J.—Mass Meeting / 7-8:30pm RSVP

 

Saturday, May 5

Lanham, Md.—MD Poor People’s Campaign Town Hall at ELC / 9am-12pm RSVP

Dearborn, Mich.—Nonviolent Moral Fusion Direct Action Training / 10am-2pm RSVP

Anchorage, Alaska—Nonviolent Direct Action Training / 9am-12:30pm RSVP

Ontario, Calif.—Nonviolent Moral Fusion Direct Action Training / 10am-1pm RSVP

Ithaca, N.Y.—Nonviolent Moral Fusion Direct Action Training / 10am-3pm RSVP

Charleston, S.C.—Nonviolent Moral Fusion Direct Action Training / 10am-1:30pm RSVP

Syracuse, N.Y.—Nonviolent Moral Fusion Direct Action Training / 10am-5pm RSVP

Madison, Wisc.—Nonviolent Moral Fusion Direct Action Training / 12pm-3pm RSVP

Detroit, Mich.—Solidarity Saturdays: Stop The Water Shut Offs! / 12pm-2pm RSVP

Bangor, Maine—Nonviolent Moral Fusion Direct Action Training / 1-5pm RSVP

Chapel Hill, N.C.—Nonviolent Moral Fusion Direct Action Training / 1-5pm RSVP

Chattanooga, Tenn.—Nonviolent Moral Fusion Direct Action Training / 1-5pm RSVP

Highland Park, N.J.—Coffee House: Discussion on the PPC / 7:30-10:30pm RSVP

 

Sunday, May 6

New York, N.Y.—Nonviolent Moral Fusion Direct Action Training / 2-6pm RSVP

Trenton, N.J.—Nonviolent Moral Fusion Direct Action Training / 2-5pm RSVP

Nashville, Tenn.—Nonviolent Moral Fusion Direct Action Training / 1-5pm RSVP

Cincinnati, Ohio—Song Leader Training led by Rev. Dr. Susan Smith / 2:30-4pm RSVP

Philadelphia, Pa.—Nonviolent Moral Fusion Direct Action Training / 3-6pm RSVP

Austin, Texas—Civil Disobedience Training / 2-5:30pm RSVP

Columbia, S.C.—Regional Seminars: Political Education / 1-5pm RSVP

Washington, D.C.—Reverend Barber: Sermon on War and Militarism / 7-8pm RSVP

Fort Smith, Ark.—Fort Smith Teach In / 7-8pm RSVP

Portland, Ore.—Portland Phone Banking / 6-8pm RSVP

 

 


CONTRIBUTOR

Saurav Sarkar
Saurav Sarkar

Research Coordinator at Institute for Policy Studies, Washington D.C. Metro Area.

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