Monday, March 28, 2011

Still More History to Be Made

Sometimes as an organizer for 9to5 I’m asked, “Is the work you do really necessary? It's 2011, are working conditions still really that bad for women?”  My answer is always emphatically YES! Yes, women are obtaining more degrees than men at virtually every level of education; yes, in 1993 we were able to pass the Family and Medical Leave Act; and yes, because of the tenacious organizing efforts of women we have been able to decrease pregnancy discrimination and gender-based discrimination in the workplace. We at 9to5 celebrate all of these accomplishments, especially during Women’s History Month, but there is still so much more work that needs to be done.

Women still make approximately 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. For women of color that wage gap is even greater! In the United States, the average African American woman working full-time is paid $30,000 a year, while a white male with similar experience and educational background makes $50,767. That’s a wage gap of approximately $20,000 a year. For Latino women the gap is closer to $25,000 a year. In 2011 many working mothers still don’t have access to a single paid sick day, and only 1 in 5 low wage workers have access to paid sick days on their jobs.  So although we’ve come a long way and we rejoice over our accomplishments during Women’s History Month, we are aware of the history that still needs to be made. We are prepared to make it!

-Charmaine Davis, 9to5 Atlanta Lead Organizer

One More Step on the Long Road to a Good Law

Last Thursday afternoon, when I was already contemplating what to do on my Friday off, my supervisor returned from a meeting at the Capitol and said, “We have a hearing.”  She didn’t need to say anything else; I knew right away she meant that the bill 9to5 has been championing this legislative session, HB 432, was one step closer to becoming law.  

HB 432, the Georgia Flexible Sick Days Act, states that if an employer provides sick days, their employees must be able to use that leave to care for either themselves or an immediate family member.  Because it will provide parents and caregivers more flexibility to care for their families, 9to5 and the Georgia Job/Family Collaborative strongly support this legislation.

After a bill is introduced, it’s assigned to a committee based on its subject matter.  For a bill to be voted on by the entire House or Senate, it first has to be voted out of committee.  But most proposed legislation doesn’t get that far; many bills aren’t even given a hearing.  To get a hearing, you have to have the support of the committee chair.  The chair holds the power to move your proposal forward or just ignore it until the end of the session.  If he or she schedules a hearing, it’s a good sign!

At our hearing in the Industrial Relations Committee, three Representatives presented their bills.  Diiscussion on the bill preceding HB 432 only lasted about fifteen minutes, but it felt like it dragged on and on.  Then Chairman Hembree asked Rep. Dempsey to come to the podium and explain why she thought this legislation was necessary and what it would do.  The members of the committee asked questions, and any interested parties were invited to speak on the bill.  Four speakers came forward, all testifying in favor of HB 432.  Finally, Chairman Hembree told Rep. Dempsey that he would work with her between now and the start of the next legislative session to improve the bill.

I was proud to hear members of the committee acknowledge Rep. Dempsey’s hard work and express their support for the bill.  It was satisfying to hear that HB 432 would move forward in the process of becoming law, even though it’s going to take a while.  But thanks to the support of 9to5 and other hard-working organizations in the Georgia JobFamily Collaborative, in a few years parents might be able to stay home with their sick child without fearing for their jobs; and that’s the best feeling there is.

Beth Miller, 9to5 Atlanta Volunteer

For more information on the Georgia Job/Family Collaborative and HB 432, go to

(Originally posted 3/16/2011)

We Can Do It! Empowering Women at Work

Georgia State University's Women’s Collection and the Southern Labor Archives are joining forces to celebrate working women.  Join us for a panel discussion featuring National Organizing Director of 9to5 Cindia Cameron, AFL-CIO Community Services Organizer Janine Brown, and Bethany Morton, author of To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Free Christian Enterprise.

RSVP by April 1st to Pam Lucas, at or 404-413-2703.

When: Sunday, April 10, 2011 - 2:00pm - 3:30pm EDT
Location: Special Collections Department
Georgia State University Library South, 8th Floor
100 Decatur St. SE, Atlanta, GA 30303

Flexible Sick Days Bill Introduced!

The Georgia Flexible Sick Days Act, HB 432, was introduced on March 2nd by state Rep Katie Demsey (R-ROME) in the general assembly. We encourage you all to thank Katie for all of her work in getting this bill introduced. You can email her at

HB 432 would allow flexible use of the sick leave already offered at some workplaces. For example, if you are allowed 3 days of sick leave at your job you would be able to use this time off to care for a sick child, parent or spouse.

Your voices is needed to support this bill: Call your state Representative and tell them to support HB 432. Let them know that people shouldn’t have to choose between the family they love and the job they need. For the name and contact information of your state Representative call 9to5 (404.222.0037) or go online to:,.

If you have a story that you want to share about your experience with sick leave at work, call us at 404.222.0037.

 Are you unemployed and fed up?  Let your voice be heard.  Join other unemployed and underemployed workers in telling their stories, sharing ideas and uniting together. (Sponsored by Atlanta Jobs with Justice)

Free services provided:
  • Haircuts
  • Resume creation
  • Massages
  • Legal services
  • Foreclosure assistance
  • Expungment support
  • Medicaid/Food Stamps/TANF sign-up
  • And more!
FREE CHILDCARE and Spanish translation provided.  MARTA accessible, handicapped accessible and free on-site parking.

For more information on this event, please call Tony at 404-593-5227.

For more information about Atlanta Jobs with Justice call Kwame Ingram at 404-525-3559.

Fighting for Immigrant Families

“There’re no more seats available,” said Cindia. She had just received a call from Beth who was already at the State capital. It was just after 9 am, and the hearing about Georgia’s House Bill 87 which seeks to establish an Arizona-style immigration law was scheduled to start at 9:30 am. “Well at least there will be standing room,” I thought to myself as I and other 9to5 staff hurried to the Capitol.

I was wrong. There was a large crowd outside the hearing room waiting for the hearing to start. While there were grumblings about the inability for everyone to fit in the room, I was moved by the fact that so many people and organizations showed up to oppose this bill. I was energized by the anger from my fellow Georgians about how this could negatively affect our communities and our state.

Eventually, they opened up two over-flow rooms to accommodate the large crowd. In the room I was in, the audio/visual equipment was not working properly, but it was clear that many of the Representatives were only concerned about how to word the bill, not the impact of the bill. They wanted to address potential opposition to the bill. They did not want to talk about bad legislation.

There were no testimonials that day, which disappointed most people. But I was learning an important lesson: The sponsors of the bill were controlling the dialogue around the legislation. It was their performance of “democracy.” Afterward, 9to5 staff and members met with with other organizations to discuss ways to regain control of the dialogue and let our Representatives know we were watching this process.

We do not want see a bill passed that not only is unconstitutional and promotes racial profiling, but also will break up families and make it harder for people to work. So despite the lack-luster, one-sided legislative hearing, I am inspired to fight. To fight for immigrant women and their families. To fight for a more just Georgia.

-Ife Finch, 9to5 Atlanta Intern

(Originally posted 2/17/2011)

Fighting for More than $2.13 an Hour

Our Fair Eats Campaign is dedicated to increasing the minimum wage for tipped workers. 20 years have passed since servers have had an increase on the $2.13 hourly wage! While this campaign is focusing its efforts locally, we also have been lending our support to the WAGES Act, which would guarantee a base minimum wage of no less than $5.50/hr or 70% of the Federal Minimum Wage for tipped workers.

Rev. Garret J. Andrew, a former server himself, writes about the difficulties of living off a wage this low and why he supports the WAGES Act in an editorial for the Albany Herald.  "Reverend Andrew's op-ed in the Albany Herald articulates our moral and civic obligation to raise the minimum wage of tipped workers," says Vanessa Faraj, 9to5 Altanta Fair Eats Organizer. "Grassroots efforts such as 9to5's Fair Eats Campaign coupled with the WAGES Act-- a historic bill to address the inequality created by freezing the tipped minimum wage for workers 20 years ago-- demonstrates that we are quickly moving toward more just work place policies for all workers!"

Read Rev. Andrew's column:

“I worked as waiter to support myself in seminary. It was one of the more difficult jobs I have had. The hours are always a bit strange. You are on your feet for long periods of time.

"There are the customers, ah yes, there are the customers. Some were demanding and some were laid back. But no matter, I worked as hard as I could to ensure I did the best job that I could. It was the customers, after all, that ensured that I could actually survive as a waiter. Without the tips I would never have been able to make it.

"The worst nights were when I left with almost nothing. We had to tip others out and they had done their work well, so they deserved all I could give them. But one night I remember I was going to leave with just $6 after working for five hours.

"Knowing that I was not going to be getting any more money for food the next day, I went into the kitchen and found some food that was going to be thrown away. I asked the manager if I could have it for dinner. Granted permission, I found myself eating other people’s leftovers and thanking God that I had even that.

"I did this all while working in California, a state that requires all tipped employees to be paid minimum wage. Here in Georgia the minimum wage for tipped workers is $2.13 an hour. It’s with first-hand knowledge of the difficulties that tipped workers endure that I implore us all to support the federal Working for Adequate Gains in Employment Services (WAGES) Act, expected to be reintroduced soon in the new Congress.

"Should this proposal be signed into law, it would require that tipped workers minimum salary be increased to no less than $5.50 an hour, over several yearly increments. Fifteen percent of all waiters and waitresses live below the federal poverty level. If this proposal becomes law, it would ensure that people who are able to find employment are treated more fairly by their employers, and not as virtual slaves who have to rely on the generosity of others to ensure their own success.
"WAGES would strengthen our own economy by providing a better tax base and more disposable income for those who are in the most need. It would also combat poverty in a community where poverty is one of our fiercest enemies.

"Practical reasons aside, I support this measure because it’s the right thing to do. Perhaps you disagree and think that the economy will take a hit, or that unemployment will increase, or something else equally awful. I’m not sure about any of that, but I am sure that we are not treating people right.

"We are keeping working people from receiving a fair wage and requiring them to live off the generosity of others. We are making working people beg to survive in a land where we say anyone who works hard enough can make it. Let’s live into the vision of our words and make sure hard-working people have a chance."

The Rev. Garrett J. Andrew is pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Albany. This column was produced for Georgia Forum, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, educational organization that provides media with the views of experts on major public concerns in order to stimulate informed discussion.

Click here to see the original article.

(Originally posted 2/11/2011)

The Importance of 9to5's Vibrant Membership

As a new staff person at 9to5, I have quickly learned about the incredible power and importance of membership. 9to5 is the first membership-based organization I have worked for. Our membership not only drives our organizational priorities but they also fearlessly lead our work alongside staff, interns and volunteers.

Because 9to5 is a membership-based organization, we weave leadership development throughout all of our campaigns. Our Fair Eats and Flexible Use of Sick Leave campaigns are only as strong as the members who lead the work. As such, our membership charges us with the important task of developing skills that can be used in 9to5 as well as in other venues in their lives.

Working at 9to5 continuously teaches me that our work would not be nearly as affective if we did not have a membership. Our membership identified the need for an increased hourly wage of tipped employees as well as the grave importance of being able to flexibly use sick leave to take care of an ailing child, family or spouse. Our membership recruitment and outreach is much more effective because we know we are building campaigns that directly respond to low-income women’s needs.

I am continuously saddened by the sacrifices our members have to take merely in order to survive. However working directly alongside low-income women ensures that 9to5 engages and focuses on campaigns that will positively impact working women’s lives!

By becoming a member of 9to5, you will help forward 9to5’s values and commitment to work family flexibility, equal opportunity, and economic security.

-Vanessa Faraj, 9to5 Atlanta Fair Eats Organizer

(Originally posted 2/8/2011) 

Working Toward a Fair Minimum Wage

Is $5.15 an hour enough to support a family? The GA Minimum Wage Coalition doesn’t believe it is. The state minimum wage in Georgia – which covers several specific industries - is just $5.15/hr, leaving thousands of hard working Georgians stranded in poverty even when they work full-time, year round. The Coalition believes that hard work deserves fair pay and that the current minimum wage must be raised.

Rev. Stephanie Hankins, faith-based organizer for the GA Minimum Wage Coalition, gave a presentation in January to group of Columbia Seminary students, urging them to use their voices as religious leaders to increase awareness of urgent social issues, including minimum wage. Vanessa Faraj, 9to5 chapter organizer, spoke about 9to5’s local Fair Eats campaign that focuses on raising the minimum wage for tipped workers here in Atlanta. The minimum wage for tipped workers is a staggering $2.13 an hour.
Atlanta 9to5 leader, Tonya Pinkston (pictured here), spoke about the reality of living off a minimum wage paycheck. Here are her words about the day:

“I had the pleasure to be present for a presentation on raising the minimum wage in the state of GA. The meeting consisted of eight seminary students, a few of the 9to5 members and myself. I spoke about my struggles trying to support my family on minimum wage. I am grateful for the experience because it showed me that someone cared to hear my voice. The students were very intrigued to hear the presentation. I feel very blessed to have been graced by their presence.”

(Originally posted 2/4/2011)

Why I'm Proud to be a 9to5 Member

I have lived in Atlanta since 1991 and I had never participated in the Martin Luther King Celebration!  This year was entirely different.  I have been volunteering with  9to5 Atlanta for the past few years!  I love 9to5 because they advocate for women’s rights in the workplace.  Right now 9to5  is fighting for the server’s wage to increase.  Here in Georgia, servers still can only receive $2.13 an hour.  What 9to5 is doing is making people aware of this issue, as well as restaurant owners. 9to5 is fighting to get legislation before the Georgia Congress to change the law.  At the MLK rally this year as we were marching we did began chanting different slogans.  One was “9to5 keep wages high.”  We got cheers.  I felt like a star! I’m so proud to be a member of 9to5 Atlanta. 
Be Blessed!

-Rev. Harriet Bradley, 9to5 Atlanta member

Photo: Rev. Harriet, left, and Atlanta lead organizer Charmaine Davis

"Something for All Ages: 9to5 Members Attend Women's Assembly

On November 12, 2010, 9to5 Atlanta members attended the 20th Annual Georgia Women's Legislative Assembly, sponsored by Georgia Women for a Change.  Rev. Harriet Bradley, a 9to5 member, wrote up her impressions of the event:

The Georgia Women’s Assembly had something for all ages. Havilah Driver, a sixteen year old writer for VOX Teen Communications, shared wisdom beyond her age concerning human trafficking and sexual exploitation of minors during the “Intergenerational Conversation." Seeing a teenager like Havilah gave me a vision that there are young people who will carry on the work of rights and concerns for women.

Representing another generation, May Ruth Bradberry shared her many years of fighting within the corporate ladder to have equal status and access as her male co-workers. Listening to May Ruth made us appreciate the strides that have been made for women in the corporate arena, but also encouraged us to not stop in helping women in that area.

As a minister, I deal with the spiritual side of sexual abuse. I attended the workshops concerning Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence and Trafficking. I obtained some great resources and one of the speakers gave me a great reference book. It was so good to hear that much is being done in this area.

I am grateful that 9to5 makes their organization available to all arenas that promote women’s issues. Through our participation other organizations were made aware of the great things that 9to5 is trying to accomplish for the working woman.

-Rev. Harriet Bradley, minister and 9to5 Altlanta member

Photo: 9to5 Atlanta members at the event.

(Originally posted 1/20/2011) 


9to5 Members Work for Change on MLK Day

MLK Day this year was a typical January day - cold and windy. But the rain drops and dropping temperatures did not diffuse the spirits of our marchers. There was plenty of laughing and good times! 9to5 National Association of Working Women was nicely represented by handfuls of spirited women, supportive men and eager children. We marched with signs representing our Fair Eats Campaign and chanted "$2.13 is not enough!” handing out flyers, inviting others to join the Atlanta Fair Eats campaign and organize for a fair wage. 

We also chanted "Up with Equality - yeah, yeah!  Down with Injustice! - boom, boom!" and shared information about the need to ratify CEDAW (The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women).  Understanding that Women's Rights ARE Human Rights and it's time to see the US ratify our laws and give women equal opportunity in the workforce! 9to5 members handed out over 300 fliers, raised our voices for equal rights and honored Reverend King with our passion and determination to make positive change.  We are ready for that change!  And on that cold, rainy day, we were a part of thousands who organized to raise voices for change and we chanted . . . “What do we want?  Equal Pay! When do we want it?  Yesterday!” . . . and we said it loud and proud.  

-Marnie Bell-Ferguson, 9to5 Atlanta Member

(Originally posted 1/24/2011)

Fair Eats Campaign Takes Root in Atlanta

9to5 Atlanta is thrilled to kick off 2011 as our Fair Eats Campaign makes serious moves to urge restaurant owners throughout the city of Atlanta to do the right thing and raise the minimum wage of their tipped workers! The minimum wage of tipped workers has remained stagnant at $2.13 for over 19 years. Annually, $2.13/hour equates to merely $4,430, forcing servers to rely solely on our tips. We know that especially in this current economy relying just on tips is both unpredictable and unjust!

Organizers and members at 9to5 have embarked on extensive outreach process and letter writing campaign in order to build our base of tipped workers as well as identify and champion restaurants in Atlanta that already pay more than $2.13. We are also thrilled about our 2/21 Talk Back Session where we will bring tipped workers and our allies to get to know one another and plan our strategy for which restaurants we will target and pressure to raise their hourly wages.

Low wage working women in the restaurant industry deserve more than $4,430 a year and 9to5 Atlanta seeks to forward our goal of economic justice one restaurant at a time!

Join us! For more information contact Vanessa at 404-222-0030 or

(Originally posted 1/6/2011)

Winter Social

Our annual Winter Social was a HUGE success! Thanks to everyone who attended the social that was held at Radial Café on December 11th. We were able to honor Ms. Claudia Lewis and Ms. Gloria Smith in style. Ms. Lewis and Ms. Smith have been active with 9to5 since 2000 and now serve as Board Co-chairs. These two members have been and continue to be an integral part of 9to5 Atlanta and a celebration in honor of these two amazing women was long overdue.

With your help we were able to raise over $850 to improve the lives of working women! We raffled off prizes from generous donors like IMAX, Ria’s Bluebird, Noni’s, Home Grown, The Porter and Stone Mountain, just to name a few! The night ended in a dance party that could have lasted all night. Next year we will have to start the dancing earlier!

Thanks again and we hope to see all of you soon.

Thoughts on the Department of Labor's Dialogue on Workplace Flexibility

On November 10, 9to5 Atlanta staff attended the Department of Labor’s “National Dialogue on Workplace Flexibility” at Emory University.  Sponsored by the Department of Labor Women’s Bureau, the forum focused on flexible workplace options in the health care industry and highlighted health care businesses that offer commendable family-friendly policies.  Women’s Bureau Director Sara Manzano-Diaz spoke to the attendees about the importance of flexible policies for not just women but all working families: “Ensuring that our nation’s workers are able to balance their work and home lives without worry that they will lose their jobs is critical to our economic success as a country.”

Legislation supporting flexible workplace options that 9to5 Atlanta is actively working towards include: The Healthy Families Act which would guarantee all qualifying workers the chance to earn up to seven paid sick days per year; and a state law in Georgia allowing workers who receive sick leave to use that time off to care for a family member as well as themselves.

Beth English, Executive Director of Easter Seals of Southern Georgia and member of the Georgia Job/Family Collaborative Steering Committee, wrote the following about the benefits of attending this exceptional event:
“My participation in the National Dialogue on Workplace Flexibility was well worth the drive up from south Georgia.  The networking opportunities with other women concerned with making the workplace a family-friendly environment were wonderful.  The presentations were eye-opening.  In fact, our organization is exploring several of the programs that were highlighted and are planning to implement several of the practices that are not currently part of our operations.

“Working with over 2,400 families that are caring for loved ones with special needs has made Easter Seals very sensitive to employment practices that allow sick leave to be used for immediate family members.  Our policies have always included that type of flexibility.  Easter Seals looks forward to working with the Georgia Job Family Collaborative in continuing to advocate for workplace flexibility.”
Photo: Beth English