Meet the people who fuel our campaigns.
Demanding Just Hours
Kimberly Mitchell is a single mother who works as a senior make-up artist at Macy’s in Washington, D.C. For years, she and her colleagues worked with a human resources manager to set regular and reliable schedules, which meant Kimberly could effectively make ends meet and be counted on to drop off and pick up her daughter from school and activities. That all changed when the department store instituted a computerized scheduling system and her hours dropped down to 28 a week, even while Macy’s hired new part-time staff. Without knowing when she’ll have the opportunity to acquire more hours to pay the bills, Kimberly will pick up schedules that interfere with important commitments. “It’s not just helping with my daughter’s school work I’m missing. I have had to miss teacher’s conferences, planned doctor’s appointments. There’s a lot of strain and stress on many families.”
“When we should be able to spend time with our families celebrating and preparing for the holidays, they overload us with hours, sometimes at the last minute, while they are cutting our hours everywhere else.”
Kimberly is one of many people across the country engaged with Jobs With Justice in leading campaigns that allow men and women to have greater certainty about their work schedules, so they can spend time with their families while earning enough to support them. Large retailers and restaurants are increasingly assigning the people who work for them, predominantly women and people of color, erratic, last minute or otherwise unpredictable schedules. By issuing reports, organizing communities, amplifying brave spokespeople like Kimberly, and initiating solutions, we strive to ensure working people can earn stable schedules and secure enough hours to lead a good life. In 2014 San Francisco Jobs With Justice led the way to usher in the first set of comprehensive and meaningful standards that would address this issue. The victory in San Francisco has inspired similar efforts across the country, including campaigns led or supported by our coalitions in Washington, D.C., Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
“Once upon a time, I didn’t know how to use the voice I had to challenge power,” says Rasheen Aldridge, Jr. All of that changed when he was working at a Jimmy John’s in St. Louis and met a Missouri Jobs With Justice organizer. “It was the beginning of something amazing,” he explained. Discontent with low pay, inconsistent hours and disrespect, Rasheen said the organizer “showed me that I had a voice and the issues that were going on in my community were not much different than the issues going on in another community. But in 2013, when the Fight for $15 happened, that voice exploded. That voice got organized, and I organized four other people within my workplace. We all went on strike; we had our voice heard.”
Walking off the job catalyzed Rasheen’s activism, and he quickly joined Show Me $15 and Jobs With Justice. And when he learned about the murder of Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson, he quickly activated his organizing skills and networks to take a stand.
Rasheen grew up conscious of the deep economic and racial divides across his hometown of St. Louis. The divisions weren’t clear to most of the country until relentless protests by Rasheen and so many others in Ferguson ignited the Movement for Black Lives.
“When you step up and speak out, and you yell as loud as you can, no matter how crazy you look, things will change.”
A powerful, positive force in helping to reconcile his community, Rasheen is the youngest member of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s Ferguson Commission. Now a national leader in the Fight for $15, Rasheen has been actively campaigning for better wages across the state. He is one of many young leaders in the Jobs With Justice network organizing for racial, economic and gender justice who dream big.
The efforts of Rasheen and Jobs With Justice coalitions who are rallying for a fair return on work have already yielded incredible results. By contributing to victories in California and New York that establish wage standards up to $15 and by laying the groundwork across the country for rules to ensure more people have jobs they can sustain families on, Jobs With Justice is a proud partner in building and winning the Fight for $15.
Melissa Benjamin is a mom of two from Denver who has worked as a home-care provider for more than 16 years. Melissa has wanted to be a caretaker since she was young, as she watched her mother help rehabilitate her severely injured brother.
“You know that feeling when you get really sick? When you’re stuck in bed, and nobody is there, and you can’t get up? I take care of people when they are in that situation. And by the time I leave, they are feeling better and very thankful,” Melissa said.
Despite 16 years of experience caring for others, her work has never allowed Melissa to take adequate care of her family. Melissa says the hardest part of serving as a nursing assistant isn’t caring for her patients – it’s striving to make life work with no paid sick leave and limited health insurance. “Without sick days… a few months ago, I was sick enough that I needed to walk with a cane, and I was still working as a CNA with my client telling me, ‘Melissa, I think you need a nurse.’”
“With my job being 90 percent women, we have children that we have to take care of. I want to raise the wage so that maybe we can afford child care, get to work, make sure our cars run so we can be dependable for our clients, and make sure we have food, so we are strong when we get to work to take care of these people that need us every day.”
Melissa is actively involved in the Fight for $15 campaign for a better return on work for herself and those who want to grow up to be just like her one day. She’s also advocating for a legislative solution in Colorado that would levy a fee on large, profitable employers who pay unsustainable wages and provide no health insurance. The money recouped from these companies would pay into a fund overseen by working people and community leaders to support Medicaid and care needs. Working men and women then could tap into the fund when they aren’t compensated enough to get by. It’s one of many campaigns Jobs With Justice is leading and building that will hold profitable corporations accountable and push them to invest in our communities and our futures.
Organizing for Immigrant Justice
“I’m not American, but I feel like one,” declares Anabel Barron of Lorain, Ohio. Like millions of aspiring citizens in this country, she arrived in the United States as a teenager with her parents. She’s forged a life, raised four children and pays taxes here.
Everything suddenly changed for Anabel when a police officer stopped her for driving six miles over the speed limit and placed her in deportation proceedings. “Not knowing if I was going to come back and see my kids… for me, that day was the worst day of my life but ended up being the best day of my life.”
Anabel decided to plead her case in front of 200 members of her church. “I was not going to stay quiet. I was not a criminal.” One of the people who heard her story that day was the Lorain chief of police. He immediately revised his department’s policies so that his immigrant neighbors could feel safe in their community. Officers in Lorain can no longer arrest or detain anyone because they lack papers.
Anabel’s voice continued to grow from that day forward. With help from Cleveland Jobs With Justice and other groups, she’s been granted repeated stay of removals and work authorization, enabling her to regain some sense of normalcy, unlike so many people who live in the shadows with the threat of deportation hanging over them.
“I knew this happened for a reason because I was able to organize,” said Anabel. “I’ve discovered that doing this is my passion. If I can help others speak up, I do it.” In between supporting Lorain’s immigrant community as a caseworker and medical interpreter, Anabel works with Cleveland Jobs With Justice to ensure more women and men claim their rights, use their voice in the workplace and help keep families together.
“If I get deported, I want them to be their best. I don’t regret coming here. I’ve had a beautiful life here, and my kids are going to have an even better one. I’ve told them not to give up on their dreams.”
Just last year someone alerted Anabel to Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents rounding up 12 immigrants working on a construction site. Cleveland JWJ intervened with the agency, and as a result, no one lost their jobs or ended up in custody. At a subsequent federal interagency meeting, Jobs With Justice staff questioned the role of border patrol in worksite immigration enforcement, sparking a series of investigations into what happened in Cleveland. Within a few months, the regional CBP office has stopped pursuing worksite enforcement and no longer harasses community members.
Anabel represents the drive behind our policy and organizing campaigns that seek to change our nation’s immigration enforcement climate to improve the lives and conditions of all working people. She is one of many Jobs With Justice activists raising their voices for comprehensive immigration reform and the Obama Administration’s executive action, which was set to increase the number of immigrants allowed to stay in this country.