From Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, and North Carolina AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer MaryBe McMillian:
This month, the famous “Nuns on the Bus” have been speaking with crowds of people in North Carolina, just as they have previously in other states across the nation. Each day, they hear North Carolinians repeatedly express the same worries and frustrations, just as people have in other parts of the country.
Income inequality and everyday struggles of working folks are always front and center. There are countless firsthand stories about how hard it is for workers to make ends meet and care for their families.
These workers also speak out about how people with the most wealth are growing richer by the day, often at the expense of those who work for them.
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And, in addition, they talk about their worries about the huge numbers of dollars that wealthy individuals, families and corporations pour into election campaigns. In the face of such an avalanche of money, the temptation for some is to become cynical and disengage from politics in general, and voting in particular, because that seems easier.
But that response hurts this state and our nation as a whole.
In recent days, the Nuns on the Bus and their supporters have stopped in Greensboro, Raleigh, Durham, Greenville, Asheville and Charlotte, spreading the word that the only way to reclaim our democracy so it works for ALL the people, not just the wealthy, is to show up at the polls in record numbers. The truth is that dollars can’t vote, but people can.
The Catholic sisters travel from town to town, city to city, in a brightly colored bus emblazoned with the words “We the People, We the Voters” and the names of thousands of people who have already signed the bus exterior as part of a pledge to vote this November. Signing the bus and pledge cards is a way to announce that we, the community of voters, are the only ones with the power to steer our elected officials in the right direction. The one thing politicians fear above all else is not being elected. Our votes count. It’s all about democracy.
So what is at stake this year in particular? For one thing, the ability of working women and men to earn enough to feed and care for their families. It's been five long years since the last increase in the federal minimum wage. At $7.25 an hour, a minimum wage earner can work full-time and still live in poverty. Raising the wage to $10.10 an hour would lift five million Americans out of poverty and help 735,000 North Carolinians.
By making our voices heard and our votes count, we can make sure that no one who works is trapped in poverty. And we can do so much more besides.
Voting is the patriotic thing to do. The Preamble to our Constitution says “We the People,” not “We the Rich People.” It is time that our elected officials understand that. Too much is at stake for working people – and everyone else – to sit out this election.