It is insulting to be constantly told to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. President Trump’s budget proposal represents one of these insults. The budget he sent to Congress this week is pushing for the rich to get richer by cutting taxes and cutting corners. I ask our president: How do we pull ourselves up when we are overworked, underpaid, and have no boots?
Regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, income or creed, we all have the right to have the means to provide for our families. Economic security is a civil right! Yet the rules of the game are rigged. If minimum wage is not a living wage, health care is not affordable or accessible, quality education is not attainable, and time to care costs you your pay or your job, then we become a nation of the insecure.
It baffles me that those currently in power are so out of touch with the daily lives of us mothers, caregivers, tipped workers, farmers, and working people, and yet they get to shape the policy that dictates our futures. As women and people of color, we are systematically being stripped of our economic security and our civil rights. I traveled to Washington, DC this week to speak out about this at the launch of the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights’ new report: In Their Own Words.
As a black, single mother to three beautiful kids in Detroit, Michigan, I am part of the 87 percent of the working class that has benefited from basic safety net policies. In 2014, when my then 4-year-old daughter suffered an unexpected stroke, Comcast fired me. Because I couldn’t earn paid sick days on my job and had no access to paid family leave, being a good parent to my sick daughter cost me my job. I had no choice but to turn to public assistance to make ends meet while unemployed. Were it not for the Affordable Care Act, my daughter would not have been able to see her seven doctors and receive her therapies three times a week. These lifelines for my family are now on life-support under President Trump’s budget proposal.
Beyond merely surviving, we need to change the power dynamics between the haves and the have-nots. I became an expert on issues like Medicaid, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and paid leave because of my experience with how these policies affected me and my family.
Now, through the work I do with Mothering Justice and Family Values @Work, I am advocating for mothers and working families in Michigan and across the country. In order to thrive, we must ensure women are paid equally for equal work, that we have access to affordable childcare and education, that we ensure families have affordable and adequate paid leave, including the right to earn paid sick days, and that we increase the minimum wage to a living wage. This is exactly what we’re fighting for in Michigan, through the Mama’s Agenda. And today, Senators Murray and Sanders and Congressmen Scott and Ellison will introduce a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. This is the kind of bold response we need to the president’s insulting budget proposal.
How do you pull yourself up by your bootstraps when you are overworked, underpaid, and have no boots? You refuse to be silenced. You get active in your community, learn who your elected officials are, and create spaces for people who fight the same battles you do even if you are from different communities. You run for office at local, state, and federal levels. Lastly, you stop working in silos, move in solidarity, and keep pushing to change these policies by sharing the stories of our lives. If not for ourselves, then for our children.
Mothering Justice Member