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“Stay creative, stay vigilant, stay positive:” fighting for a living wage in California

WATCH: hotel maids are among the least protected workers in America, yet a coalition of groups in Los Angeles has organized successfully to raise their wages. Two community organizers reflect on the struggle and how it has transformed them (Video, 6 minutes).

LAANE Building Community Power Short from Dog Park on Vimeo.

Jeannine Pearce and Nikole Cababa are community organizers with the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy. In this short video, they reflect on the struggle to win support for “Measure N”, which raised wages for some of the lowest paid hotel workers in Long Beach and the rest of Los Angeles County in 2012. Using innovative tactics that mobilized support across the city’s population, they and the rest of the Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community reached out to labor unions, small businesses, faith leaders and community organizations to galvanize support around a strong, shared vision of equality and justice. 

Local groups like “Khmer Girls in Action” turned out high-school students to knock on doors in the city’s Little Cambodia neighborhood.  The Filipino Migrant Center sent out canvassers who spoke to Filipino immigrants in their native Tagalog.  Long Beach is California’s seventh largest city with nearly half a million residents. A quarter of them are aged under 18 and an equal number live below the poverty level.  The city is 41 per cent Latino, 30 percent white, 13 percent African American and 13 percent Asian Pacific Islander – a prototype of America’s multi-cultural future. 

The living wage campaign has strengthened ties between the different communities that make up Long Beach, but it has also transformed organizers like Nikole and Jeanine. “Relationships are the most uplifting thing about organizing” says Nikole, “matching up what I believe in with how I work.” "We have to stay creative, stay vigilant, and stay positive. In the future, we’re going to have people who are not scared to challenge power.”

About the author

Michael Edwards is a writer and activist based in upstate New York, and the editor of Transformation. His website is www.futurepositive.org and his twitter account is @edwarmi.


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