Monday, March 28, 2011

'The union is our hope, the only hope we have'

Gina Beck, shortly after speaking at a White House event.
There are 45 million people in the United States who belong to working poor families. That's right, 45 million.

Our sister Gina Beck is one of them. She understands that the best anti-poverty program is a union, which is why she joined Teamster Local 952 in Orange, Calif., earlier this month. Now she's looking forward to a good Teamster contract. She told us:
It’s important to come out to let people know there is hope in your darkest days and the union is our hope, the only hope we have. They’ve taken so much from us.
Beck battled tremendous odds to became a leader in the drive for Durham School Services bus workers to join the Teamsters. For that she was recognized today at a White House event held on the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire tragedy.

After the White House ceremony, Beck visited Teamster headquarters. Here, she told us she doesn't think things have changed much since the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, when 146 young women were killed in a fire that spread through an unsafe sweatshop in New York City.
We’re still struggling in some ways. We don't get raises, we don’t get water, or toilet paper. In the year 2011, people are still struggling. We are still the working poor, still struggling from paycheck to paycheck. There are a lot of people in my company that are homeless, live in tents or motels, 90 percent of the yard goes to the food bank. I live in the back of an office. I can’t afford rent...
I’m a three-year bus driver from Laguna Beach. I love my children. The company says if you don’t like it, get another job, but I work with special needs kids you fall in love with them.
She had a tough go of it even before working at Durham. She grew up in poverty after the death of her parents and the loss of their home after an earthquake. Since she got a job driving a bus for special needs children, she lost her apartment, moved into and lost a mobile home and now lives in the back of an office.
She was ill recently, and couldn't afford medicine so she borrowed it.
My Dad and grandparents were immigrants from another country and worked hard to become citizens and were proud to. And for all of us to live paycheck to paycheck, no insurance, can’t afford anything, it doesn’t honor them at all. They made a better future for us and this is no way to honor them.
Beck understands the importance of a union:

My brother is a Teamster and my father was a Teamster and my brother provides his family with a decent living and to take that away is horrible. He couldn’t provide for his children if he wasn’t with the Teamsters.
Her advice:
Speak up for yourself, don’t be fearful, that won’t get you anywhere. Stick up for your rights. We’re Americans, we should have a decent living and decent health care from a company that makes millions of dollars and I can’t see why we can’t have that... I’d like to walk in that yard one day and have everyone be happy and know that they’re not struggling everyday, living off extensions and credit cards. To have a happy environment. And to have a strong contract would be great.