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Share your story by using some of these questions:
  1. How do low wages and economic struggle affect you and your family?
  2. How are you affected by benefits such as health insurance or Social Security?
  3. Have you encountered barriers to work, such as your immigration status or conviction history?
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Read our permission statement here.
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About

Our Stories Our Power highlights the stories of individuals and families struggling to make ends meet because the rules around work and wealth in America put too many barriers in the way. Those speaking for higher wages, regular and workable hours and benefits that help raise a family often have their voices drowned out in the national conversation. This tool invites people to share their personal stories with others across the nation and empowers them by building a community to advocate for real changes that ensure every American has enough – not just to survive, but to thrive. Our Stories Our Power is a project of the Center for Community Change. For additional questions or media inquiries, contact us.


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anjeanettebrown
Statistics don’t define me

Statistics don’t define me

Anjeanette Brown is a mother and activist who works with Family Forward Oregon. She shares her story about how becoming a grassroots leader helped move her beyond some of the challenges she faced in life.

haroldcarnes
Underpaid, underappreciated & overworked

Underpaid, underappreciated & overworked

Harold Carnes talks about the Fight for $15.

joselitolopez
Social Security needs to be expanded!

Social Security needs to be expanded!

Joselito Lopez, community organizer and grassroots ambassador with Washington Community Action Network (Washington CAN!), shares why Social Security needs to be expanded.

shelbyhelle
Back on my feet, working for justice

Back on my feet, working for justice

Shelby Helle is a leader with the Washington Community Action Network (Washington CAN!) who is getting her masters degree in clinical mental health and art therapy in Seattle. She talks about her experience with police brutality and homelessness.

taqwabowie
Investing in Individuals, Not Prisons

Investing in Individuals, Not Prisons

Taqwa Bowie, SCOPE member, spent 30 years in prison. He is rebuilding his life and using his experience to advocate for state and local resources for individuals who have been formerly incarcerated. Proposition 47 is a ballot initiative passed by California voters to reduce the number of individuals in jail, reclassify specific, non-violent felonies to misdemeanors. Money saved from those savings would fund education, victim services, and drug and metal health services.

abrahamhernandez
Jobs in the Green Industry

Jobs in the Green Industry

Abraham Hernandez, of Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education, shares his story of going through an apprenticeship program, being hired by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and the need for more jobs and resources like this in communities like South Los Angeles.

mayravega
Making our Voices Heard at the Polls

Making our Voices Heard at the Polls

Mayra Vega, SCOPE Organizer, highlights the importance of working class, low-income communities of color getting out the vote.

isabelmedina
The Importance of Getting out the Vote

The Importance of Getting out the Vote

Isabel Medina shares why she volunteers her time with SCOPE door knocking to get out the vote.

rosazliagrillier
Parents need to be at the table

Parents need to be at the table

Rosazlia Grillier, of Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI), on why she advocates for equity to ensure that every child has access to a quality education.

jessicawood
I am blessed to be able to pursue my dreams

I am blessed to be able to pursue my dreams

Jessica Wood, of Parent Voices, shares why she is fighting for quality childcare.

debrathomas
Who Owns The Village?: A Childcare Story

Who Owns The Village?: A Childcare Story

Debra Thomas, program coordinator of Federation of Childcare Centers of Alabama (FOCAL), shares a story about “who owns the village.”

traceypolenance
Every child needs a quality education

Every child needs a quality education

Tracey Polenance, of the AMOS Project, stresses the importance of a quality education for every child.

Jamieleemorris
Expand access to quality preschool (Amos Project)

Expand access to quality preschool (Amos Project)

Jamie-Lee Morris, of the AMOS Project, talks about the preschool promise initiative.

meredithloomisquinlan
Childcare is a nexus of many things (Michigan United)

Childcare is a nexus of many things (Michigan United)

Meredith Loomis Quinlan, of Michigan United, talks about their gender equity program and their work on creating access to affordable childcare.

JoanBaker
Early Learning Centers are Vital (Ole)

Early Learning Centers are Vital (Ole)

Joan Baker of Ole talks about the importance of early childhood education and early learning centers.

EllenMurphy
Childcare starts with doctors (Michigan United)

Childcare starts with doctors (Michigan United)

For me, families need more than just healthcare. I come from a public health background. I used to work on food security issues. I ran a farm to cafeteria program. In 2012, I finished my English degree. Then went on to work on public health issues.
With my public health background, I worked in the ER and enrolled people in clinical trials and did health surveys. I followed patients through treatment. I interacted with lots of sick Detroiters. It was emotionally draining. Folks needed access to long-term care, childcare, and mental health services. I left the hospital because I didn’t want to just work on individual issues. i wanted to have a bigger impact.
That’s when I decided to go to med school.
In organizing, we face pressure to work on our own issues. but in life, we have to work on lots of issues at the same time. Doctors have to do the same thing.
Bold vision—child is born, parents get maternity leave, then get childcare assistance. It should be free for everyone.
A friend just had a baby. She only has 3 months off and then doesn’t have access to childcare. Her husband is the only one working. How amazing would it be if she got info about affordable childcare in the packet she gets sent home with when her baby was born?
Childcare should be mandatory. Just like school. Frame it as early education.
Pay for childcare workers needs to increase. If they’re not paid a living wage, they won’t be able to deliver care at their full potential. Workforce needs coaching and training.
How do you see yourself as a leader? Well, I’ve stopped working at just the individual level. I’m facilitating work between people and connections between issues.
Race always matters, especially in Detroit. We need representation that looks like our communities. Our legislature doesn’t look like our communities.
Childcare starts with doctors. If they don’t have the same experience, they can’t be strong advocates.

EllenMurphy
seydi starr
Childcare hard to access for mothers (Michigan United)

Childcare hard to access for mothers (Michigan United)

I came to Detroit in 2003 after studying in Paris and getting my bachelors degree. I’m originally from Senegal. I met my husband in France and got married.

I moved to Detroit and had no family support. In December 2004, my daughter was born. She was born with a heart disease. She had surgery at 6 months of age. Then she started doing much better. But I needed to work. But my degree didn’t help, so I had to go back to school. At the same time, my husband and I were divorcing. So what to do? I needed childcare. My daughter was only 9 months old at that time. I couldn’t find anything affordable that was also high quality. All of the places I felt comfortable with were $600 per month. I went to DHS to get help, but because I was on a temporary visa, I could not access childcare subsidies. I found a family friend who was willing to be a caregiver and could get state support to care for my child. But there was so much paperwork for her to quality and reimbursement rates were so low—less than $10/hour—she eventually said she couldn’t do it.
So all I could afford were the places that were not quality childcare spaces. Eventually, I got my daughter into a top flight center through social connections. It was still very expensive. But my ex-husband said he would pay for it.

I couldn’t believe how expensive the system is. For me, it’s the biggest slap in the face. We are the richest country in the world. It shouldn’t be this way. Childcare should be free. Even before childcare, during pregnancy, we need paid time off. And it shouldn’t be tied to poverty. Free for all women. After pregnancy, you don’t have time to bond and rest with your baby. Mothers need at least a year.

We’re (Michigan United) asking for $44 million. It’s nothing compared to what we spend on mass incarceration.
You have to be a good mom and work and be a professional, but we get no support to do anything. I see so many women in the peak of their careers who don’t want to be pregnant because of work and their career. We’re adding stress on top of stress of having a child.

I didn’t choose to be a leader. I started through the immigration work. That’s how I got connected to MI United. I organized my 1st action on the immigration issue. I felt like if all the knowledge I acquired was only helping me, I was not a good person.

In the African community, people are fearful. So they look to me to speak for them. I need to be an advocate. On the other hand, if you don’t have a voice for yourself, no on else can speak for you.

seydi starr
26563982_20151125_115035-1
I never worked minimum wage = wage theft

I never worked minimum wage = wage theft

My name is Arleta, I worked at beauty supply for 6 and a half years and was terminated while on maternity leave. In the six years I worked at my job I never got paid overtime or took rest breaks. In addition to being victim of Wage Theft, I was told to racially profile Black customers and even got into confrontations with customers as a result of the owners request to follow the Black customers around (only) .The owner of the Beauty Supply often referred to Black workers as “Ghetto”. All of us workers got paid in cash. We were all Black or Latino workers.
I performed work out of my classification. I had to perform managerial work like, evicting tenants and collecting rent. I never worked at even at minimum wage– they always paid me less. I filed a complaint with the Labor commission and experienced retaliation by getting my hours reduced. I used to work a full 6 days a week, and went to 3 days a week.

My former employer is trying to bribe me, by offering money. The owner even closed the business and opened up the business in a different location. The owner/employer attempted to say I never worked for her, and broke confidentiality by showing details of my case to a friend who works at the Beauty Supply. I was offered a settlement of $500 which didn’t cover the OT that I was never was paid.

It was calculated I was owed $7000 was only from the 3 years I was able to collect in back pay. I didn’t have pay check stubs.

“Its kind of depressing course especially around this time of year” I have a 17, 8 and a 1 year old. My daughter is a senior in High School and I don’t have the funds to provide for her. My daughter is about to graduate and I have to provide for.

“I have braided hair on the side to make ends meet but it’s just so inconsistent” I just want to work. I have over 35 references to testify in her favor e.g., dark and lovely reps etc.

26563982_20151123_175243-2
If you don’t fit in, they wont hire you

If you don’t fit in, they wont hire you

My name is Laron Green. I am from Los Angeles and a member of the LA Black Worker Center. I grew up in a family of 6. I graduated from high school and attended some college, while gaining a wide background in the trades. I am now a proud father of 3 children.

I am currently unemployed and often feel discriminated against when looking for work for multiple reasons, my race being one. I recently applied to work on a construction project and was told, “My crew speaks Spanish, and if you don’t fit in, I can’t hire you.” I am unable to support myself and I rely on government assistance.

The lack of finances really puts a struggle on me finding employment. At one of my previous jobs, when it was time for lay-offs the Black workers were targeted first; no matter how much seniority they had. I watched them be picked off one by one until it was my turn to be let go. It shouldn’t be this way.

As a youth I was taught to stay motivated, positive and consistent. Over the years I have kept employed because of my will and determination, and I hope to pass those values down to my children.

I recently accepted an offer for a low paying job because of my lack of stability, and my need to work. This makes it hard to improve my living conditions, for I am living with currently homeless a family member.

I feel positions of power work for the upper class and elite, the changes that are made affect me but not in a positive matter. The decisions made show me that I have more hurdles to jump, sink or swim. These companies hire workers they can exploit, by paying lower wages and no benefits.

26563982_paula
Paula’s Story

Paula’s Story

I am Paula, and I live in Nashua, New Hampshire in senior housing with my husband. I have been legally blind since 1989. I went on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) in 1990. SSDI has been helpful because I couldn’t work yet I had two daughters to raise. If I didn’t have SSDI, and Supplemental Security income for my two girls, we would have relied on my husband’s income which wasn’t much. With the SSDI check that I receive now, I have to pay for prescription drugs every month and by the time I am done paying these bills, I don’t have a lot left. My husband and I are always running in a hole. We have about $250 left to put gas in the car, pay for food and food is no longer cheap. Some months, I have to decide whether to pay for drugs or eat.

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