On February 26, we joined working people here in Bakersfield and across the nation to fight for good jobs and give all families a shot at the American dream.
It was an especially important day for women like us. As a Tulare County family child care provider fighting for the right to unionize and collectively bargaining with the state , and as a Kern County human services supervisor whose union has fought to give my work value, taking to the streets to hold onto our ability to join or be able to remain in a union, wasn’t something we’d ever thought we’d have to do.
And that’s what is at the crux of a case before the U.S. Supreme Court today known as Janus v AFSCME – a lawsuit seeking to take away the voice and power of working people. The case is backed by corporate interests who know that shattering unions is the way to rig our economy and our political system so CEOs and the rich can continue to oppress working people, particularly women and people of color.
We will not back down or be intimidated. Just as women across our nation are standing up to demand respect in workplaces and the public sphere so too are we bolstered in our fight to protect and strengthen unions because we know it’s the way to fight poverty, achieve better working conditions for all families, and solve racial and economic disparities.
In our lines of work, we see how Tulare and Kern county families are struggling to make ends meet, working two and even three jobs but still trapped in poverty. As working mothers who have languished in low-wage jobs, we know the stress sudden cuts in pay, irregular work schedules or sudden medical bills can place on a family and children.
A union cures those issues, can change the course for generations of families and ensure we build up middle-class jobs for our future workforce. That’s why millennials strongly support unions, knowing solid union jobs become careers they can support themselves and future families on.
According to a study by the Economic Policy Institute, union members earn 10 to 20 percent higher wages than those who work similar, but nonunion, jobs. The impact is even greater for women, Latinos and African American men. The higher wage standard also boosts annual pay for all workers by about $1,558 in states that have a larger proportion of union members.
Our union involvement has given us the power to fight for $15, make health care accessible to all Californians and push for improved early childhood education and college opportunities for all of our kids.
We are building upon that work and strengthening the voices of people who have been shut out of the American dream for generations: women, people of color and low-wage workers and their children; the child care providers across this state who are educating children and living off poverty wages. It’s about lifting up entire communities.
We will continue the proud history of the working women and men before us – like Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta – who paved the way for us to rise up, use our voices and show our strength even when a well-funded court case comes our way.
We hope you’ll join us in asking our local and state elected leaders to use their power and voices to help all working people have the opportunity to join together in unions to improve jobs, families’ lives and communities.
Sonia Chagollan is a supervisor with the Kern County Department of Human Services and member of Service Employees International Union Local 521. Alice DeLaGarza is a Family Child Care Provide in Tulare County and member of Service Employees International Union Local 521.