Posts Tagged: fairness

Living wage organizing works!

Betty2 Betty Martin (on the right) has worked for the Buffalo School District as a bus aide for over 20 years. As she puts it, she is the “first line of defense” for Buffalo’s school children. She is the first person a child sees on his/her way to school and the last person he/she sees before going home. Betty has broken up fights between students, warded off assaults from students, waited with children when parents haven’t shown up for pick-ups, and calmed a bus load of kids after the bus was caught in a gun fight. When the Coalition for Economic Justice (CEJ), a group funded by the Presbyterian Hunger Program, met Betty she was at top pay with the district, $9.05/hour with no benefits. Starting bus aides were earning just $7.66/hour. She had just risen to the rank of union president and returned a call from CEJ to find out more about who we were and how she could help herself and her coworkers secure a living wage. Although Betty’s fight is far from over, she has built her skills as a leader over the last two years, mobilized and engaged her coworkers, and played a huge role in securing passage of a living wage policy at the Buffalo School Board level – a policy impacting nearly 1,000 school service professionals. She has attended numerous school board meetings, testified in front of the school board, spoken at a CEJ sponsored Buffalo conference and on a panel at the last Jobs with Justice National Conference, moderated press conferences, collected petition signatures from students and parents, canvassed door-to-door to educate voters about the importance of living wages, and on and on. More than taking a leadership role in fighting for a living wage for school workers, Betty has become a permanent CEJ activist. She understands that her fight is connected to the fight of other low-wage workers, and that the struggle for living wages is connected to the struggle for health care, the right to organize, good government, and corporate accountability. Betty joined CEJ’s Board of Directors in 2008 and has been excited to participate in trainings to become a better leader and organizer both with her union and with CEJ. Together, CEJ, Betty, her coworkers, and our community allies have a battle still to win with school officials to ensure that the Buffalo School District begins full implementation of the living wage policy it passed. However, Betty’s efforts at the bargaining table with the district are now coupled with and supported by a community campaign, and because of that she is going to win more than what she thought was possible two years ago.

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