Why Buffalo Needs 15 and a Union

The population of poverty in the USA

Almost 50 million people are living in poverty in the United States, the richest country in the world. Although many elected officials have boasted of a decline in unemployment rates, mass poverty remains a painful, day-to-day reality for tens of millions. Most new jobs are paying poverty wages. People who have given up on finding meaningful work remain completely unrepresented in the official employment records.

African Americans, Latinos and other people of color have the highest percentages of those living in poverty, but make no mistake: millions of Euro-Americans are also trapped in poverty.

Buffalo has one of the highest poverty rates in the country. In 2014, local TV described Buffalo as the city with the fourth highest percentage in the nation. Of all the cities in the U.S. with more than than 245,000 people, Buffalo has the third highest rate of childhood poverty. Young mothers and their children make up a large proportion of those entering homeless shelters in Erie county.

This economic inequality creates intense competition for jobs and other resources, especially housing. Buffalo is the 7th most segregated city in the country. The racism fostered by unequal access to a decent home only serves to benefit the 1%, leaving Black and Brown Americans in constant fear of displacement, the loss of community, and the violence of police terror.

People living in many cities around the U.S. are suffering from rising rents and gentrification. Buffalo just hit a pinnacle moment: it’s first $2,500 studio apartment, ever. The Governor’s “Buffalo Billion” has been good to developers and the CEO’s in the Medical Corridor.  It remains to be seen whether this new money will benefit all the people of Buffalo, or just the 1%. While the Banks and developers celebrate, the working class is thrown into a panic.

The #Fightfor15 is part of this battle against poverty and displacement.

The Face of Poverty

In Buffalo, 20% of white people, 36% of Black people, 38% of Asians, and 56% of Latinos are living in poverty. 47% of children in Buffalo are living in poverty. The national rate of poverty is over 30%. 34% of women and 29% of men are living in poverty.

In Erie County, the poverty rate is 15.2%

The crisis of child poverty in Buffalo in itself is reason enough to fight for a $15 an hour minimum wage and a union. Poverty means families cannot afford decent housing or respectable clothing. It means the pain of hunger, poor nutrition, and more health problems. It means little to no medical care and the fear of sickness. It means families are able to buy very little of what they need each and every day. It means almost no toys for their children. It means almost no leisure time or recreational activities and a restricted social life. It means day-to-day worry and fear of the landlord, eviction, and foreclosure. It means the fear of displacement and the loss of community. It means dilapidated housing and lack of representation or concern. It means being unable to pay bills and the fear of losing electricity and communication. It means debt and the fear of creditors. Poverty means the loss of dignity, peace of mind, and security.

There is not much life, liberty or pursuit of happiness when you are trapped in the cycles of poverty that are passing from one generation to the next. The existence of poverty anywhere is an attack everywhere on the ideas of freedom, justice and equality which the U.S. people cherish.

The Causes of Poverty

There are many root causes of mass poverty. High on the list is mass unemployment. Wages have also remained the same for many years while prices have gone sky high. There are millions of working people who remain poor because of job discrimination. Many caught in desperation and using drugs for relief are funneled into a cycle of imprisonment even though rich people are also using the same substances, and even though prisons cost more money than rehabilitation centers. Countless others have been criminalized because of their immigration status. Millions have been forced into poverty after new technologies have led to the collapse of basic industry in the U.S. A huge number of jobs have been moved to less developed areas of the world where people can be paid for the same work with much lower wages. The number of those impoverished has gone through the roof as a result of 40 years of concentrated attacks on labor by corporate America and their refusal to give living wages and union rights to their workers. Today, all kinds of people’s organizations, unions, tenant associations, churches, civil rights and peace groups like “Black Lives Matter” are working with the $15 and a Union Movement.

Anyone who believes in economic and social justice for all needs to be a part of this historic push for universal economic equality.

Greed is not Good: The nationwide movement for $15 and a Union

It started with the super exploited fast food workers who were just plain sick and tired of the bad working conditions and poverty wages. That movement spread across the country with the unions supporting it nationwide. Ultimately, it called a strike at Wal-Mart, the largest private employer in the world, a company worth 100’s of Billions of dollars.

Today that movement is active here all over the state. It is the main democratic force that made Governor Cuomo finally support a raise for tens of thousands of workers in NY State from the current $8.75 to $15.

In New York City, a $15 minimum wage will be phased in by the end of 2018.  By 2021, the wage hike will have been completed in Buffalo and capped at a mere $12.50/hour.

All workers across the state are not included in this minimum wage hike to $15/hour. Black Americans and Immigrant Americans are still under attack by violent, unaccountable police and deportation centers. Voting and other democratic rights are still being taken away. Rents are still too high. Affordable childcare is not available to all families.

Workers cannot wait 2-5 years for a better life, and corporations can afford to pay them better now. Why should we have to wait for our basic needs to be met, especially when poverty has the greatest amount of permanent impact on our children in the earliest stages of their lives? Why should only some working people have an easier life and not all of us?

We need to keep the pressure on. Join in. Let’s make history.

Justice delayed is justice denied.

Join The Fight For $15. Now. Sign up at fightfor15.cpusa.org