You are here

UFCW 770 Supports the Poor People's Campaign

Orginal Story from NPR

Thousands of low-wage workers, faith leaders, and civil rights advocates are expected to descend on more than 30 state capitals and Washington, D.C. today to relaunch a fight against poverty, war and income inequality that first took root half a century ago.

The original 1968 Poor People's Campaign was a multicultural, multi-faith coalition planned by Martin Luther King. It brought thousands of Americans living in poverty to the national mall to demand better living conditions and higher wages.

Organizers of the new Poor People's Campaign say 50 years later, King's dream remains unfulfilled and those demands largely unmet. So demonstrators are kicking off 40 days of nonviolent direct action.

"We understand that in order to change things we have to do the rallies, we have to do organizing, we have to do voter mobilization, we have to engage in civil disobedience," says Rev. William Barber, a pastor at Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, N.C., and a national co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign.

"People will come together and put their mouths and their bodies on the line to force the nation, the media to have to see and hear the people that are impacted," says Barber, who will be in Washington to lead the demonstration at the U.S. Capitol.

The plan is to have simultaneous "waves" of action across the country calling attention to the "enmeshed evils," including systemic racism and America's war economy that organizers say are contributing to so many living in poverty, the majority of whom are white.

According to the U.S. Census, there are nearly 41 million people living in poverty, though Barber believes that number is off.

He points to research by the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank that focuses on social issues, which estimates 140 million Americans are "either poor or low-income" when items beyond income are considered, including out of pocket costs for food, clothing, and utilities.

"It's just constant juggling, figuring out what bill to pay and what not," says Terrence Wise, a fast food worker for 20 years.

He lives in Kansas City but is making the trip to Missouri's capital, Jefferson City, to protest.

As a shift manager at McDonald's, he makes $10.25 an hour. His fiancé is a home healthcare worker who makes $12 an hour. Wise says it is difficult to make ends meet while raising their three teenage daughters.

"And it's really dangerous when we are skipping meals or having to buy less food. Now you are not only struggling financially, you're possibly affecting the health of your family and your children."

Wise is a leading voice in the push to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

He hopes that the new Poor People's campaign helps make Americans more mindful of the struggles low-income people go through.

"I'm hoping it shakes America's conscience — that it makes many more aware," Wise says. "The goal is to bring more and more Americans into the movement and help make things better on all levels for everyone."