Dawn O’Neal, GA

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Photo by David Sachs / SEIU

Photo by David Sachs / SEIU

I work in the three-year-old classroom at a child care center in Atlanta. I teach 19 children their letters and numbers. I read to them, and make sure they are safe and happy.

I love working with children, but at $8.50 an hour, I struggle. We can’t live on what we’re making. At the end of the month, I have to lay my bills out and choose what I can pay for with what I have left. Do I buy food or my asthma pump? Everything I make is going just to survive. 

I have to rely on the emergency room for health care. Sometimes I have to borrow my daughter’s asthma pump because she has asthma too. You feel like a hamster in a cage. We’re spinning around and getting absolutely nowhere. Nothing is being saved.

It didn’t use to be this way. The cost of everything is going up—everything except our wages. Economically, I’m not able to buy things for my grandkids. And I can’t even give them the time because I’m always working.

More than anything, I want to have a full life. We just want to be able to take care of our family and our medical needs. I want to do the same thing for my grandchildren that my grandparents did for me. They spent time with us. They built a swings for us. I remember spending all summer with them.

The only way that people who work for a living are going to improve our lives and have a better future for our kids is to join together in a union. Strong unions mean strong families and communities—and wealthy special interests are trying to take that right away.

I’m working to make things better. I’m involved with Black Lives Matter and the Fight for $15 in my community. These movements go hand-in-hand. If the community was more economically stable then there wouldn’t be as much crime. A lot of us are working low-wage jobs. We’re struggling and scraping at the bottom. If we had better wages and a union, we would be able to spend more time with our children, more money would go into our communities, and everybody would be better off.