Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Casey Foundation’s Equal Voices Campaign: Words from a member

The Marguerite Casey Foundation is a major funder of the Georgia Minimum Wage Coalition, and therefore 9to5 Atlanta as a lead organization of coalition.

The Equal Voices Campaign is an effort to connect the grassroots, leadership education, and social justice organizing campaigns of the Casey Foundation's dozens of grantee organizations nationwide.
The annual Convening of Casey Foundation grantees was held in Chicago last month.  Marilynn Winn, chapter leader, and Charmaine Davis, lead organizer, represented the Minimum Wage Coalition and 9to5 at that event.
Below are Marilynn’s own words about her experiences:
"At the Marguerite Casey Foundation  Equal Voice Convention I gathered a multitude of information on what policy making means to the world, to me, people living in poverty, especially the low-income women of our nation.
"To me the positive progress of making and changing our policies is what the Marguerite Casey Foundation Equal Voice stands for. To pull together all the organizations that are funded by that foundation, to focus on strategies that are powerful, effective, and catchy. The enormity of multiple organizations' power is to transform lives.
"The Marguerite Casey Foundation Equal Voice is powerful but personal in their touch, and is able and willing to provide the help for the low-income women and people living in poverty.
"I give my gratitude and thanks to The Marguerite Casey Foundation Equal Voices for bringing together one thought, one mind, one heart. All together, this is strength and might for equal voices to be heard, through out our nation and the world."
For more information about the Casey Foundation, please visit

Friday, October 8, 2010

Support Striking Sodexo Employees

This past Wednesday I walked my first picket line. I marched with Morehouse College cafeteria workers, Morehouse students, and Sevice Employees International Union members protesting the unfair treatment of cafeteria employees by Sodexo Corporation.

Sodexo, a company which can be contracted by schools and companies to provide food service, is the world’s 22nd-largest employer. In 2008, the company revenues totaled $20 billion. And the recession isn’t slowing Sodexo down: In the first half of fiscal year 2009, its operating profits grew by 7.1%. And yet, Sodexo workers in four states are striking because they are being paid poverty wages and cannot afford the company-offered health care plan. 
Though many Sodexo workers are paid at a rate above the minimum wage, the yearly earnings of a worker making $8.50 an hour still fall well beneath the poverty line ($22,050 for a family of four). Earnings are even lower than they first appear: because Sodexo contracts work with schools and colleges, many workers end up unemployed during the summer. In order for a seasonal Sodexo worker to keep her family out of poverty year-round, she would have to make $14.50 an hour. Sodexo’s starting pay of $7.35 an hour falls far short. 
All of this would be enough to call for reform, but employees allege being forced to work off the clock and being denied proper overtime pay. Sodexo paid $80 million to settle a race-bias lawsuit filed by 3,000 employees, $60,000 for disciplining an employee who reported sexual assault, and $50,000 to an employee who claimed she was fired because she was pregnant. The U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration has cited the company for 160 violations in the last ten years, including two that resulted in fatalities. At the same time, Sodexo claims that advancing equal opportunity and supporting and valuing employees are fundamental values of the company. 
A business that advances equal opportunity would discipline those who commit race and pregnancy discrimination and assault, rather than those who report such actions. A business that supports employees would pay them a wage that would keep their families out of poverty. A business that values its employees would respond to safety hazards responsibly and quickly. Instead, Sodexo keeps its workers in poverty and fear. 
By Beth Miller, 9to5 Lutheran Volunteer