Today in the State House Rotunda at 4:30 the newly formed “RI Mobilization Against Poverty”(RIMAP) is demanding bold action to address the economic woes of Rhode Islanders with plans that start with what Franklin Deleno Roosevelt called “the forgotten man” – the unemployed, the underemployed and the under-paid workers.
As growing wealth inequality pressurizes the streets, squeezing the middle class into poverty and those in poverty into despair, people of moral consciousness will not allow budget cuts to eviscerate what remains of the social safety net so that politicians can pad the bank rolls of the elite who fund their campaigns and profit off of side deals.
Mr. Elmer Gardiner of the George Wiley Center Leadership Committee explains:
“They recently announced that NORAD, the 7th largest auto importer in the US located in Quonset, are going to ‘create’ almost 300 new jobs paying only $10/hour -which means still they would be still economic slaves. We can’t be subsidizing these large corporations profits by paying for food stamps (SNAP) which wouldn’t be necessary if paid a living wage of $15/hour. Then these workers to have pride and self esteem, not feel that their work isn’t even enough to sustain themselves.”
We have more people today living in poverty than at any time in the history of this country, including the highest rate of children in poverty of any industrialized nation. Here the top one percent owns 38% of all the wealth in America while the bottom 60% own 2.3% collectively. In fact one family, the Walton’s of WalMart, are worth 138 Billion Dollars, more than the bottom 40% own all together. At a freezing cold Black Friday protest, a student said had to quit his job at WalMart and work for a local business the pay wasn’t enough to live on. While protesters chanted “low pay is not OK,” Scott DuHammel of the Painters and Allied Trades Union said “I think this is a terrible situation. The workers obviously deserve more.”
In fact one family, the Walton’s of WalMart, are worth 138 Billion Dollars, more than the bottom 40% own all together. At a freezing cold Black Friday protest, a student said had to quit his job at WalMart and work for a local business the pay wasn’t enough to live on. While protesters chanted “low pay is not OK,” Scott DuHammel of the Painters and Allied Trades Union said “I think this is a terrible situation. The workers obviously deserve more.”
UniteHere has been confronting the same poor pay and benefits at the Renaissance Hotel and the Weston, where the owners multi-millionaire owners lawyer threatened the city with “consequences” if they were not given tax credits for a development project.
And the story is the same all across the service industry. A mother of two children on strike at Wendy’s said “I am tired of getting paid $7.75/hour, and that’s sad…after working there for 4 years.” Women across the country have been earning 78 cents compared to every dollar that a man earns for doing the same job. Carolyn Mark, President of RI National Organization of Woman elaborated. “The number is higher now – 84.8 cents to the dollar, although it’s much lower for women of color. The common wisdom is that it’s not that RI women are doing so much better than women around the country, but that men in Rhode Island are doing that much worse.”
Poverty is the root community problem creating a cycle of crime leading to do to lack of opportunity – a downward spiral caused by a lack of jobs and unequal quality, materials for and access to education which is the key to social mobility. John Prince, founding member of Direct Action for Rights and equality points out that victory of the Ban the Box campaign, which a means amends employment laws to limit inquiries like “have you ever been convicted of a crime” helps to break a cycle of economic inopportunely. “I never heard a judge sentence anyone to a lifetime without employment. What we need now is for the City of Providence to finally enforce it’s First Source law to hire residents first so there are real jobs developed here.”
Today, the the House Finance Committee will be hearing Rep. Cimini’s bill H7471 would raise taxes by 2% for people making over $250,000 and Rep. Valencia’s Bill H7552 would raise taxes by 4% for people making over $200-250k. This is the way to raise revenues to develop the economy of the state, not by balancing the books on the backs of the poor and shrinking middle class. Austerity cuts are not an option. We need a law to raise the minimum wage to a living wage of $15/hour. Build Rhode Island “from the bottom up. Keep Martin Luther Kings Dream alive with action.
RIMAP is a coalition of organizations and individual from a wide array of backgrounds among anti-