Finally, we are seeing discussions across the country about how to make things better for today’s working families. It’s happening now because families are at a boiling point. Too many of us are stuck in low-wage, no-benefit jobs with little way to support our families and no hope of advancement.
And despite exhausting ourselves trying, we still struggle to meet the competing demands of raising a family and earning a living. What working families need, it turns out, is pretty reasonable: a fair shot at economic opportunity, stability and success.
It’s promising to see some cities and employers stepping up with solutions that will help, like providing paid sick days, raising wages, and creating easier ways for everyone to save for retirement. And, so far, in this legislative session, some committed legislators are working hard to take similar steps forward for all of Oregon.
However, Oregon Republicans are throwing their weight behind policies that mostly benefit corporations and employers — on the backs of working Oregonians struggling to get by. These legislators say they will support paid sick time — if workers pay for it themselves and if the companies who offer it also get a tax credit.
They want us to save for retirement, but only through existing high-fee, bank-run 401(k) plans that few of us can access. They want to extend even more tax giveaways to big, profitable companies and let taxpayers continue to subsidize poverty-wage jobs through food stamps and other subsidies. And they keep trying to cut the most vulnerable workers out of labor laws — those who need them most. That’s not what we call “family friendly.”
These legislators say they’re trying to help working families, but the ideas they’re proposing won’t change anything. They won’t grow the economy. They won’t reduce income inequality. They won’t make it possible to get ahead. And they won’t ease the incredible tension between work and family demands. It’s disingenuous and the outcome is more of the same: The haves will have more and the have-nots will have even less.
Enough is enough!
For the Oregonian who has worked for more than 25 years without a single paid sick day, or the person who has earned minimum wage without a raise for a decade, or the aging Oregonian who plans to work until she dies because she can’t afford to retire, or for the farm worker who is routinely left without the basic protections at work that are ensured for everyone else — change cannot come fast enough.
Families cannot afford to wait.
Right now, there are policies on the table in Salem that can make a big difference — proposals that make working families a priority and create real opportunities for every Oregonian.
It’s time for the people we elected to take actions that will make a real difference for all of us. It’s time to fix our broken economy, address outdated family polices, end long-standing inequalities, and finally give everyone a fair shot.
Heather Conroy is executive director of SEIU Local 503. Ramon Ramirez is president of Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste. Both organizations are part of the Fair Shot For All Coalition. Reach them at: Heather Conroy, firstname.lastname@example.org SEIU Local 503, 6401 S.E. Foster Road, Portland 97206; Ramon Ramirez, ramon email@example.com, PCUN, 300 Young St., Woodburn 97071.