7:20pm Barbara Ehrenreich

Author of Nickel and Dimed.  Worked undercover and low paying jobs…. a server, a maid and even a Walmart employee.  She is a life long advocate for social justice.  She often featured in Time, Mother Jones and Ms. Magazine.

Barbara’s Remarks:

The recession has greatly affected poor and working class women.  The media is obsessed with the affects of the recession on the rich – cutting back on household staff and personal trainers.  Received an email about a women who is working three part time jobs to support disabled grand daughter and two daughters.  She had a heart attack in January – health care provided by medicaid.  Her home is a single wide trailer in rural Missouri, the mortgage interest is 12% percent because it is considered to be a vehicle.  There are women all over the country is tough situations.

One thing we must watch is that more and more women are turning to sex work during the recession.  People are skipping medication that they can not afford.  One way people cope is with over crowding apartments, houses and trailers.  Domestic violence rises with unemployment.  Catholic Charities reports a huge spike in domestic violence situations. 

Labor organizers are trying to organize in this very hotel.  Met this morning with the organizers.  This is what the workers talked about: Sexual Harassment from management –  Management is passing the cost of the recession on to the workers –   No time off, don’t report an injury – Low wages.

What can NOW do?  Acknowledge NOWs consistent support for labor and for low income women.  Work toward welfare reform, support labor organizers….  This is not a crisis of the banks, this is not a crisis of the auto manufacturers, this is not a crisis for wall street and the CEOs.  This is a crisis for the people who can’t afford to put food on the table.  I dont want to see any more money going to banks or corporations while this human crisis goes on.  It’s not enough to talk about shovel ready projects that will employ young men.  We need to rebuild our social infrastructure.   If the corporations won’t generate jobs, then let the government generate jobs.  If that’s a socialist thing to say – then well – too bad.

We need to start with the immediate necessity of getting cash and food assistance to people in need.  We have to raise the issue again of welfare and welfare reform…. the result of welfare reform has been that there’s nothing out there for people in need.  Maybe we should not call it welfare, maybe we should call it ‘we are fighting for nothing less than the right to live’.  Maybe that’s what we should call our feminist economic struggle – the Right to Live Movement.

 

NOW – Chicago NOW is going to eat some much needed dinner…. we will miss the ongoing delegate debate.

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