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Yes, WE Can!

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Ai-jen Poo

Ai-jen Poo. Photo credit: Dale Robbins

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.

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  • Jill Beesley

    Thank you for highlighting the importance of those workers that help our elderly in transition. The home care workers I’ve had the pleasure to meet, made a tremendous impact on my father’s life, and they came energized, and possessed a big heart. They deserve the respect and dignity they in turn give to their clients, and they should receive a living wage.

  • A.O.W.M.

    Well said, Ai-Jen Poo. The toughest part is going to be integrating the new America with the America which some of (not all of) the Republicans symbolize. There’s only one America, as our (once and future) President said at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. Let’s (also) remember that what the press tells us is not necessarily the truth (to be very charitable). The latest slap against the Republican party since Election Day is that it’s the party of angry old white men. Funny, because I’m an angry old white man and I voted for the President. Let’s get to work!

  • Anonymous

    The most important message in the President’s victory speech was that this does not end at the voting booth. We need to participate daily and counteract the pressures of special interests, especially the fossil fuel industry in regard to climate change. E.g., the wind production tax credit (PTC) is at risk of not being renewed this year, which could drop investment by 65% and threaten 37,000 layoffs. Write your Congresspeople (Union of Concerned Scientists provides a template letter at — click “GET INVOLVED”, top right). The PTC is critical to the young wind industry to attract investments and sign purchase agreements with utilities. Koch-affiliated opponents argue against using the tax code to “favor certain groups over others” even though the oil and gas industry has received an average of $4.86 billion (today’s dollars) in subsidies yearly from 1918 to 2009. Nuclear received an average of $3.5 billion/year from 1947 to 1999, coal between $3.2 and $5.4 billion in 2008 alone. Renewables averaged only $370 million yearly between 1994 and 2009.

  • Winter Green

    Curiously many of the ‘entitlement’ programs were set into motion by Republicans! So was raising taxes. Dems/Reps have also bought into the Great Global Restructuring put into place under Reagan. It’s been all about giving Corporations control over our Societies and Environment as well as ‘the economy’.

    We know the steps: reduce the workforce, drive down wages and benefits, move businesses off shore for low wages, no environmental regulations and tax breaks. We know the Global Giant Corporations are controlling all our goods/services because we’ve permitted them to merge and acquire other businesses. Coca Cola now owns 500 brands. Multi-national Franchises are now considered ‘small business’.

    In order to change we must become more globally aware that the ISSUES are not just the US but an agreement between governments to let Corporations take charge.