Lessons Learned That Will Last a Lifetime

Katt Pic

My name is Katherine, and I am currently an intern at LIPC. I study business management and philosophy at Molloy College, and will be graduating in May. I’ve always been interested in politics, which drove me to seek an internship with the Long Island Progressive Coalition

Throughout my studies, I’ve learned the value of placing people, not profits, at the heart of business. As a future business person, I am proud to be working on the Fight for 15 Campaign, which places people, as well as their dignity and well-being, at the heart of the economy.

Long Island is a great place. We have some of the best beaches, we’re close to New York City, we’re home to the Hamptons, and we have some beautiful state parks. When you’re relaxing on the beach, coming home from a day in the city, or hiking on the North Shore, it can be easy to forget that this is also a place of extreme wealth disparity.   

When I first started at LIPC, I didn’t know much about the Fight for 15 Campaign. However, after being involved in outreach efforts at the local train stations, the various state senators’ offices, and the rally in Albany, I discovered that this is truly the issue of our time, and there are many people devoted to making a change. I never knew that faith groups, unions, and other organizations took such an interest in political issues. The most poignant of these experiences was when we delivered petitions to all of the local senators’ offices with Make the Road NY. I was deeply humbled by the people present from Make The Road, many of whom had given up so much to come to the United States, who had to accept low-wage jobs just to survive, yet who were all still so devoted and optimistic about making life better not only for themselves, but for us all. In Albany, a Honduran woman spoke about having been a lawyer in her home country, but coming here to find that the only job available to her was cleaning. Despite all of the crazy hours she had to work to make ends meet, she still made the time to fight for what she believes in. When the minimum wage increase was passed last week, I thought of these people and how much they stand to gain.

All issues stem from the economy.  When people don’t make a fair living wage, they can’t go out to buy from local small businesses. They can’t take part in the many amenities offered to us on Long Island, and they sometimes have to rely on welfare or other social services. For some, it is a choice between food or rent, electricity or transportation, or childcare and heat. It’s a complex issue that contributes to a lower quality of living for us all. With the increased minimum wage, over 300,000 Long Islanders stand to benefit. Buying power island-wide will increase by $2.5 billion dollars. Most importantly, perhaps people will not have to make the difficult decision of which basic necessity they will be able to afford during any given month.

Pope John Paul II once said, “A society will be judged by how it treats its weakest members.” If we do not fight for fair wages, what does that say about our nation? If we do not treat the economically disenfranchised with dignity and respect through fair wages for all of their hard work, then who are we as people? Further, if we do not stand with those fighting for justice, then who will stand with us when we seek justice someday? I think that the biggest takeaway from my time at LIPC is that fighting for increased rights for all, whether it’s through wages, education, raising the age, or fair elections, is not only something that lasts solely for the duration of a semester, it’s something that lasts for life. I’ve learned that it’s not only a rewarding volunteer opportunity or a resume-builder, but it’s a moral obligation to advocate for those seeking a more just state through any means that I can.  I am honored and grateful to have the opportunity to work on causes that I care about, and to work with such a welcoming and passionate staff!

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