I had the unique pleasure and privilege late yesterday afternoon to sit with six of the twelve powerful, brave women who were in the seventh day of a fifteen day fast. They are fasting to bring attention to the campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. It was a privilege to be brought into their circle.
They shared their challenges and their blessings. Martha Sanchez grew up in Mexico, and raised her seven siblings by herself as her mother had emigrated to the United States in order to send back money to support the family. She said that this was the first time she felt comfortable—among these women—to publicly recount the hardships of her childhood, the hunger and the abuse. She is driven by the hope that her children’s life will be better. That she and her husband won’t both have to work so much, because of low wages, that they don’t see their own children.
TJ Michaels is an organizer with SEIU 721 and the Fix LA coalition. She is fasting as a sacrifice to identify with the sacrifices of single mothers who, in her words, “make 26 sacrifices every morning before I wake up.” She spoke her frustration earlier yesterday at a City Council meeting. She pointed out to council members that 40% of Angelinos make under $15 an hour, and if they really wanted to do something about homelessness in the homelessness capital of the country, they would raise the minimum wage. (A living wage for an adult with one child in Los Angeles is $23.53 an hour. $15 an hour is a step in the right direction, but it is not the shores of Canaan.)
Anggie Goddoy is a young American-born Angeleno who committed to the fast and is so proud of the fact that she can carry through with it. She is fasting because of the injustice of low wages.
All the women had stories and all the women had reasons, but most of all the women had strength, and commitment.
Ultimately, this is on all of us. Do we want to live in a city which has some of the largest concentrations of wealth in the country, and yet people who work full time jobs can still be living in poverty? Do we want to live in a city in which some people have to choose between buying medicine for their kids, or buying food? Do we want to live in a city with world class museums, a world class airport, world restaurants, and hotels—and third world poverty?
Do we want to live in a city which hears the voice from atop the mountain: “I am God, your God who has taken you out of the house of bondage,”—who knows the difference between wage labor and slave labor, who abhors oppression; or do we want to live in a city that says about the Golden Calf “this is your god Israel who has taken you out of Egypt.”
Walking the walk:
1. The fasters are sitting every day in front of Los Angeles City Hall (till around 7PM). If you are in the area go to see them, give them some support, say hello.
2. On April 29 at 10AM, the women will deliver the women’s voice to City Hall. Come support them.
3. No matter where you are, join the Fight for 15. Sign the petition, contact your representatives at the city, state, and federal level.