Feb 6, 2014
CWA's Naomi Bolden meets her two senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, at the Senate Democrats' retreat.
CWA Local 2204 Vice President Naomi Bolden gave voice to the struggles of working families at Senate Democrats' retreat on Wednesday.
On a panel with two other workers, Bolden talked about working in a Verizon call center and how misguided trade policies have decimated jobs in her community. Over this past year, her husband fell very ill and had to be hospitalized. Because his job didn't provide any sick leave or sick pay, the family now lives paycheck to paycheck. Bolden works overtime just so she can pay the bills. Her daughter was supposed to enroll in college last fall, but because she worried about the cost, she instead joined the Air Force.
"That is not the decision I wanted my daughter to make. But she felt that she had no choice in order to help the family during this difficult time," Bolden said.
She told the senators, "We are doing everything right. We work hard. We play by the rules. We try to save for the future. We want a bright and secure future for our children. We want nothing more than the secure middle-class lifestyle that our parents enjoyed. But that's not the case today. Our wages can't keep up with our expenses. Our health care system is broken. I, and many middle class families today, am just one mishap away from bankruptcy. When you're living paycheck to paycheck it's hard to save for a retirement that you find yourself wondering you'll ever see. This is not the America that my parents left Italy to come to. And it's getting worse."
Bolden told her lawmakers that she's watched good customer service jobs – like her own – get shipped overseas to Central America and the Philippines. Some of her friends have even trained their overseas replacements before they were fired. She stressed that working families need fair trade and polices like raising the minimum wage, extending unemployment insurance, investing in infrastructure and making college more affordable.
"It's frustrating that we don't hear anything about ensuring that all workers have sick days and access to paid sick days," she said. "Instead we hear about pushing for major trade agreements that will only lead to greater inequality, downward pressure on our wages, more offshoring of our jobs and threats to our food safety and laws. Every day I talk to Verizon customers who are just as frustrated by the growing number of overseas customer service reps. Why are you here in DC even talking about passing major trade agreements that will only benefit a few sectors of the economy and the multinational corporations but that will only make the middle class situation harder?"
It was a moving speech. Bolden said when she looked up, two senators were crying.