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Bills need to be paid

My husband Mario Ramirez was taken from his family on Feb. 18th, 2013.

ICE came to our home and cuffed him in front of my daughter who was screaming and crying for her daddy. Now he is in jail and waiting to be deported back to Mexico. My husband, who is the sole provider for our family, has done nothing wrong but try to better his and his families lives.

We have 3 children that will be without a father, my children deserve the best and without their father here I am afraid of losing my house because the mortgage will not get paid. Living as a single mother paying bills and not to mention a babysitter leaves no room for all of our bills and others need to get paid.

My daughter is two, she wakes up every night having a nightmare screaming I want my daddy! My family needs a father/husband. I thought we lived in a country with freedom. I understand he came here the wrong way but to rip a family apart is disgusting and to be honest, I am ashamed to be called an AMERICAN!

Credit for caregiving

Earlene Stewart-McEachin is a proud 42-year-old wife and mother of five children, ages 24, 22, 18, 14, and 10, from Charlotte, North Carolina. Originally from New York, Earlene has been working since tha age of 14. She has worked primarily as a school teacher’s aide.

During the majority of her children’s school-aged years, she and her husband worked opposite shifts to cover childcare because they could not afford to pay for childcare, nor could they afford for one to stop working. Her husband has primarily worked as a manual laborer, but with scarce opportunities, he has recently been working at a fast food restaurant to provide their household with a modest income. Unfortunately, due to budget cuts, Earlene was forced to leave her job. Now they are piecing together their finances, and Earlene has become proficient in managing due dates and cut-off notices as a part of her “Stay at home” responsibilities.

They have three children left in the nest. Even with finances in disarray, Earlene is aware of the benefits of working at home. The kids grades are better, and I can actually help them with homework and be there when I am needed,” Earlene said.

“I love to see the growth of children. I worked with special needs kids in the school system, so to see my own kids reach milestones was a blessing. This year, while working at home, I was able to see my son graduate from high school and head to the military. But even in all the excitement, I am worried about our finances now and in the future.”

Earlene is excited about the idea of a Caregiver Credit because it would allow those who are caring for loved ones to do so without penalty in the Social Security system. “As a wife and a mom, it would be nice to not have a ‘zero’ credit while staying home and caring for my children.”

Earlene’s heart to help and serve should not put her future in jeopardy. Her work as a teacher’s aide for special needs children is highly sought after, but poorly paid, meaning her Social Security benefits will be low. Counting the two years that she cared for loved ones as “zero” income will further penalize her and fail to honor the work that she has done as a caregiver for her loved ones.

It isn’t right

For work, I manage a group home.  For my work, I receive room and board.  I am also in a program to become a community health worker.  When I graduate, I expect to be paid a living wage for my knowledge, skill and the benefits I add to my community.

A person cannot live a healthy life on $7.75 per hour.  $7.75 per hour is well below poverty guidelines for one person, but so many jobs are low wage jobs, and parents are trying to make a living on that.  I see my friends, neighbors, and people in my church truly struggle and suffer on minimum and low wage jobs. People cannot afford housing, healthy food, or transportation. It isn’t right.

I’m standing up for wages that allow us to have safe homes, adequate transportation – to good grocery stores, for example, without public assistance.  I’m joining other workers at TakeAction MN in the work to lobby and push for better wages because we all need and deserve to live healthy, secure lives.

Losing the breadwinner

My daughter cries herself to sleep every night; she blames herself for her father not coming back home.

My name is Ashley. My fiancée and I have a 4-year-old daughter. But my fiancée was arrested in May 2012. After serving for 2 months, my fiancée was then deported on his birthday. It was July 25th; it was the day we planned to get married.

My fiancée was the breadwinner of our family and supported us all the time. Our little daughter has medical problems and relies on medications. On that day, my fiancée was on his way to get our sick daughter her medicine but was caught for driving without a license.

Now, I’m a helpless single mother who is trying to find a job to support my sick daughter.  My daughter is crying every night, holding her father’s picture and asking why her daddy doesn’t come back. She asked me if she did anything wrong and made her father leave us. She is blaming herself for what the Government did—- ripped our family apart.

But the Government doesn’t care. People are saying that this is a free country, but I don’t see how it is because the Government is ripping countless families apart.

My little daughter hasn’t spoken to her father for 7 months because I couldn’t afford to make calls to him. It makes me really sad to think of my daughter, as well as children in other families that are forced to grow up without a parent.

It could happen to anyone

My name is Debbie. I stay in a homeless shelter and poverty wages keep me there. My grocery job at ten cents above minimum wage just isn’t enough.

My story could have happened to anyone — and it happens to many women. I have an associate’s degree and for a while my late husband and me were solidly middle class. But then an accident left him paraplegic. I left work to care for him, and my elderly parents, who were also ill. By the time my husband passed, our savings was almost gone, and the recession started eating into it. Caring for my folks without an income meant just scraping by, so I went uninsured. At that point, an undiagnosed and untreated medical issue brought me to rock bottom.

Raising the minimum wage to at least $9.50 wouldn’t be a silver bullet, but at least it would give me a sense of hope. Also, a raise would give me enough money to move out of the shelter into an efficiency apartment. Even the conservative folks that I know should support this, because it would help people need less public assistance.

That’s why I’m standing with other workers and TakeAction Minnesota to demand an end to poverty wages.

No coverage

“No tenemos cobertura, entonces no podemos cubrir ni cuido preventive ni emergencias.”

“We don’t have insurance, so we can’t get preventative care or cover emergencies.”

I’m a “Flex” worker

My name is Mariah. I’m 32 years old, and I work for a large retailer part-time as a “flex worker”.  I get about 8-10 set hours per week, and then I pick up additional shifts up to a total of about 30 hours per week. I make $7.85 per hour. Health coverage isn’t offered through my employer, and I don’t get any paid time off if I’m sick. It’s not a very secure situation – not knowing what amount of wages I’ll bring in from week to week. I have to be extremely careful with money and watch what I spend. Luckily I can take the bus to work every day, because I can’t afford a car.

Working retail is challenging. We do a lot of extra work, and the company expects us to multi-task constantly by taking customer phone calls at the same time as we’re helping another customer at the register. But the thing is, you can’t be as good at customer service when you work like that. I have to say, though, that at least I’m not a contract worker. Some of my fellow workers, who do the cleaning at the retail company, get treated even worse than the flex workers.

If I earned better wages, I could plan for the future better. I hear other people talk about creating a yearly budget, and it’s like, “That is not even reality for me. I plan my budget for the week.” I can’t save for the long haul. I’m at the age where you’re supposed to be able to do that. I’ve actually been engaged to be married for six years. My fiancé and I can’t afford to get married. It’s not like I want an expensive wedding or anything – I think that spending the money that many people do on a wedding is ridiculous. But I can’t afford even a small, practical wedding. I’d love to afford to buy a home someday, but right now I don’t see that in my future. That’s why I’m standing with other workers and TakeAction Minnesota to call for an end to poverty wages!

I need my husband

I’m a 47-year-old U.S. citizen who married the most wonderful man who happens to be from Mexico. We met each other in 2005 and got married in 2010. My husband has been in the U.S. for about 20 years. When we married, we went through the processes and all the red tape to get an interview set up in Cuidad Juarez, Mexico. My husband has never had any sort of criminal record. The U.S. issued him a T.I.N. number, and he was able to work under his name and T.I.N. number; he speaks English and paid his taxes. We even got married in our church, and were issued a marriage license. We never thought that he would be denied his waiver during the interview. He was denied on the fact that he entered the U.S. illegally and stayed for more than one year. I fell into endless confusion due to the number of people who were given the waivers, stereotypes and prejudices aside, that were clearly a part of gangs or cartels.

My husband has now been in Mexico since May 2012, living with his mother in a remote area. Living resources are scarce. There was no water in their village for two weeks once. Food qualities are poor and there is no transportation to get to the closest city. Most importantly, he has no job. He was hospitalized in a critical state with Hemorrhagic Dengue Fever from a Mosquito bite.

I am staying in the U.S. and trying to support our home, vehicle and other financial responsibilities. Since my husband has been gone, I’m struggling to maintain the care of my ailing elderly parents after work and on the weekends, especially since my father’s health problem has gotten worse.

We each have two kids from previous marriages, and they are all grown up and living on their own. However, my daughter is in a difficult time, and she and her two children are living with me. They are all depending on my income. Now, I’m taking care of five people, and I have to sell my little assets to make sure that we all can survive. I send my husband money as often as I can, in addition to supporting my daughter and her two kids, and paying for an attorney for our unfortunate case.

These major depressions in my daily life are affecting my personality and my work ability. I have become short tempered and anxious even when performing some daily activities, such getting gas and going to the grocery store. I prefer to be alone, and hate to be around other people. I am consistently getting migraines and a rash all over my body because of these pressures. I always question the reasons that I stay here. It’s heart-wrenching to listen to the cries of my little grandson when he asks for his Grandpa. He often wants to see the pictures of his Grandpa on my phone. He sits there, with his chin on his elbow, and looks sad.

This is just a little tiny glimpse of my pain. We now have another grandson who has never met his Grandpa. My father has just had a critical surgery, and by the grace of God he came through fine, but it’s hard to think of those difficult moments during the surgery.

I need my husband, my best friend, here beside me, to share our lives together as we took that oath under God. I firmly believe in God’s word, ‘not to let any man or law tear apart what God has brought together as one’. My ancestors didn’t originate from the United States, and neither did more than 1/2 of the Americans’ here now. It’s so easy to sit back and judge the race that has been so badly stereotyped, judged, discriminated against like no other. It makes me sick to my stomach when seeing the myths of them being all criminals, and made to be less than “White” people. Most Hispanics I know can speak two languages; they are hard workers who don’t rely on the “system”. They are honest, pay taxes, and take care of their families. You can hear the United States in the news talking about getting away from discrimination, bullying and hate crimes. Yet those problems are happening right in front of our eyes. The discrimination, bullying and hate crimes are taking place at the cost of the Hispanics and it’s causing huge problems for them and their families.

The U.S. needs to practice what is being preached. It’s clear that in every race there are people who are involved in criminal activities-not just Hispanics. As a U.S. citizen, I have the right to speak up for what has been violated. Why do I have to be told who I can fall in love with and who I can’t fall in love with? Why would the government give my husband a T.I.N. number and a marriage license but then tell him to leave the country? People need to be educated and walk a mile in the shoes of others before passing judgment on others. Might I also add, do not judge unless you want to be judged as harshly as others when the time comes.

Every dollar counts

My name is Karen. It used to be that working hard meant good food and housing, health insurance, with a little aside to send your kids to college and retire someday.

But working minimum wage as a waitress for fifteen years, the only raise I ever get is when the minimum wage goes up.

Raising our kids, my husband and I worked opposite shifts to avoid paying for childcare. Now, we don’t have health insurance or retirement savings.

Our state needs jobs that pay at least $15 per hour so that Minnesotans can live in dignity and working families aren’t just a minor accident away from going over the edge.

Every dollar counts when you’re making so little. To meet basic needs, families like mine need two forty-hour-a-week jobs that pay at least $15 per hour, where your wage rises with the economy. With a living wage, we could finally afford healthcare and save for a rainy day, too. Most of all, it would give our family some dignity and peace of mind.

Are we going to let low pay, cut hours, and scarce benefits rob all of us of economic security? Or are we going to make sure that hard work means families can thrive in Minnesota?

It’s time for Minnesota lawmakers to increase the minimum wage to a level that all Minnesota families can support themselves and their children. That’s why I’m standing with other workers and TakeAction Minnesota to demand change.

If they cut it, what do you have?

Elizabeth Watkins explains why she cares about Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.