Last week, Senator Edwards toured San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Boston to help organize American Hotel workers (see UNITE HERE). He's trying to help hotel union workers to make it over the poverty line - to get them higher wages and better health benefits. There were huge crowds and a great response to each rally that took place. Where Unions are in place in hotels, wages are dramatically higher. In Boston, the hotels are nearly 100% unionized and they have the support of their mayor. In Miami, the hotel rates are the same as Boston, so there is obviously a lot of room for unionizing without the threat of hotels having to raise consumer rates.
Senator Edwards has been to Democratic fundraisers in Iowa (a state he especially loves visiting), to Missouri for their Democratic caucus, and he did a Wisconsin Poverty event with Congresswoman Gwen Moore along with a fundraiser for the state's Democratic caucus. [See this great post by SerbHallCelebrator at OAC]
Jack and Emma Claire have been busy with their basketball games. Elizabeth took them to a Carolina Women's game - a sold out game in the old arena that the TarHeels used to play in and where Elizabeth once played on that court in something called the Loser's tournament while she was in Law School (if you lost every game in the season, you qualified for the 'Loser's tournament'. This when John was the coach of their really, really - unbelievably - BAD intramural team. :)
The Edwards tell a funny story about signing Jack up for baseball, which is not an easy task because you have to take a day off from work to ensure that you're going to get your child signed up. Even then, you have to get into a long, long line with all the other parents who are signing their kids up at the same time. (the line was around the block by 8:30am - and if you wait until the end of the day to sign your kid up after work, you're out of luck).
The new One America blog is up and running and he hopes you all check it out. He says "We really want to hear from you." Elizabeth has a deadline on the book that she's writing and has been wishing and looking forward to to have more time to get to the blog.
- Dan's Question: About Minimun Wage - No one should work full time in America and still live in poverty. The work is important to Senator Edwards because it lifts people out of poverty. Currently the minimum wage stands at $5.15 an hour - a wage that no one can live on - no matter how hard you work or how many hours. There must be more legislative responsibility shown regarding doing something about raising the minimum wage. Some, like Senator Kennedy, have worked hard to raise the minimum wage, but most of Congress has failed in their responsibility to work to see that a wage increase is passed. What Senator Edwards is doing is "on the ground" - in states around the nation - Ohio, Arizona, Michigan, Arkansas, Nevada, and Montana.
Elizabeth recalled a 2004 story on NPR about the Miniumum Wage. It was about a woman with two children who was working for minimum wage (and trying to live on it) with two teenage daughters. One daughter was going to college and the other daughter was considering joining the Military because her mother could not afford to put her through college. NPR had called both the former Kerry/Edwards campaign and Bush/Cheney campaign to see what they thought about this. The Kerry/Edwards camp had replied that the minimun wage should be raised and there were programs they'd planned for to help kids go to college. The Bush/Cheney team, in contrast, replied that the Minimum wage is meant for teenagers - failing to admit or recognize that adults (many with families/paying rent) are struggling with their attempt to survive on $5.15 per hour.
- JennieForJRE: What does Senator Edwards think of Bush's 2007 Budget Proposal? Senator Edwards thinks the Bush budget proposal is immoral. It will make life harder for a lot of people. Look at what Bush's budget is doing: Making tax cuts for the rich permanent and providing billions of tax dollars for giveaways to big oil companies (as if Exxon's not making enough money right now). On top of that, this budget is proposed as funding is severely cut for programs that once provided nutrition for kids and seniors; programs for kids to be able to go to college; programs that once provided necessary and important health care for poor children. Think about it: Billions of dollars go to Exxon while Bush proposes cutting health care for poor kids. Senator Edwards believes that we should be screaming about this ugly fact from the rooftops, because most people do not realize it's happening. He's going to do everything in his own power to make sure citizens know about it.
Elizabeth mentioned that oil prices keep going up - while energy assistance keeps going down. Head Start money is being cut - 800-1100 slots will be cut for needy children in Iowa alone in the coming years.
- The next question is from Pete: How to keep people engaged in rebuilding the Gulf Coast? Senator Edwards visited New Orleans recently and was amazed to see how little progress has been made in the rebuilding effort since September - especially in the Lower and Upper Ninth Wards and East New Orleans. Here's what Senator Edwards is doing, specifically: He's got students who've signed up to come to New Olreans to assist in the rebuildiong effort over their Spring Break - March 15-18. [See this story in the Yale Daily News ] Over 600 students have signed up from over 81 different schools. He'll be there. The idea is to have young people engaged in an effort that they really care about and he would love to have as many students as possible join this effort. They can visit Opportinity Rocks to sign up for the volunteer effort: www.opportunityrocks.org/
Elizabeth reminded us of the young generation of the 1960s who left college on their breaks and traveled to the same areas of the country, for different reasons, in order to make a difference in the lives of citizens in their nation. Experiences like these can be life-changing.
- The last question came from Nan (by phone): On Election Reform: With activists in Florida working so diligently to have meaningful election reform with the Automarks voting machines (which leaves a paper trail), they were stymied at the last minute by the Secretary of State with political shananigans. In her state of North Carolina, the Diebold Machines weren't supposed to be certified because they wouldn't release information about their software, but after some "politicking", they were certified anyway. Nan's question: When Senator Edwards is President (and Nan averred that she was saying this with a big smile on her face), what will he do to ensure that the HAVA (Help America Vote Act) really helps Americans to vote?
Senator Edwards says it's critically important at a time when Americans are worried about how our voting process is working - to have a uniform system where everyone knows that, when they go to the polls, they'll be able to vote - and to have no question that their vote has been counted. In order to do that, we have to be able to have an audit or paper trail. We have to know that when people vote, that their vote has been counted. It will eliminate the perception that there's manipulation going on - and it can prevent what so many people worried about in 2000 and 2004 - that the election may have been stolen. We need to have non-partisans in charge of the election process - unlike the dubious Secretary of State of Ohio in 2004, who happened to be Bush's campaign manager there. We need independent monitors and operation officials to be responsible for how the elections work.
Elizabeth commended certain legislators from North Carolina who stood strong in the political battle vs. Diebold on the Black Box voting issue in her state. Alaska is now experiencing similar problems. In iraq they used great big plastic tubs stuffed with pieces of paper on which they voted - and if they are more comfortable with the integrity of the elections there, we know we have a real problem here in this country. It's an easy problem to correct and they have to be committed to doing it.
(My own state, New York is being pushed with obvious political shenaigans occurring, having been recently been sued by the USDOJ re: HAVA/Election Reform. We are concerned that the federal lawsuit will rush our state and our communities into adopting a flawed voting system. Here's a related story: Do You Know How Your Vote Will Be Counted? by Warren Stewart)
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