Yesterday, I voted at my polling place in Queens, where thankfully my neighbors and I had escaped the worst of Hurricane Sandy. Sandy cast a shadow over the election, particularly as people in devastated areas, still without power, struggled to reach polling areas.
As I cast my ballot, I thought of the disappointing political silence and inaction that has prevailed on the issue of climate change. I thought of the fragile populations of disabled and older people who are getting pounded every season by increasingly violent storms. And, as I voted, I thought of the heroic home care workers who have mobilized first in every crisis to protect their clients. So many of them are immigrants, and I thought of the deportations that threaten to sweep them out of the country with the same abrupt force that Sandy washed away roads and cars and homes. I thought of all the seniors who didn’t have the resources they needed in their community to help get them out of harm’s way during Sandy. In my vision for a caring America, everyone will have the support of the caregivers they need to survive.
The president of the United States was re-elected by a diverse and representative cross-section of Americans, including women, LGBT communities, youth, people of color, immigrants, workers, seniors and people with disabilities. While the country remains divided, this winning majority holds the seeds of a new America, one that stands together across diverse experiences to address our challenges, together. Just like in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, we know how to come together when it’s most important to do so. We’re already connected, and that’s powerful.
However, it’s one thing to win an election, or respond in a crisis, and it’s another to build the movement we need to win the change we need. We need to continue to organize to protect the social programs we count on, like Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. And we now have the opportunity to win the kinds of policy we need for the future, like immigration reform, quality job creation and access to quality care for the growing aging population in America. That work begins now, and the opportunities are great: as Van Jones says, it was never “Yes HE can,” it’s always been “Yes WE can.”
A year ago, President Obama promised to bring respect and dignity to home care workers through a regulatory change at the Department of Labor that would end the exclusion of home care workers from minimum wage and overtime protections. Let’s move that forward, and let it lay the foundation for a caring, 21st Century America.
Ai-jen Poo appeared on Moyers & Company in March to talk about the 99% Spring actions happening across the country. She is the director of National Domestic Workers Alliance which advocates for protection, recognition and respect for the 2.5 million domestic workers in the U.S. She is also the co-director of Caring Across Generations, a coalition of 200 advocacy groups that seeks to provide quality care and dignity for aging Americans, as well as their caregivers.