Western Service Workers Association (WSWA) is a free and voluntary membership association built by and for our membership of low-income service, domestic, in-home care, part-time and temporary workers since 1975. WSWA is entirely volunteer run, without a dime of government or other “strings attached” funds. WSWA’s self-help 11-point membership benefit program – including emergency food, clothing, preventive medical care, non-emergency dental care, legal advice and “Know Your Law” sessions and more – helps meet immediate needs while we pursue solutions to the cause of low wages, lack of benefits and unsafe working conditions.
Through the combined efforts of WSWA members and volunteers, we can meet some of our immediate survival needs, enabling us to take a leadership role in our organization and in the fight for living wages and long-term solutions to the problems of poverty we face as low-income workers. With your volunteer participation, WSWA members can win the fight to determine our own fate and future. Your participation is needed to make that hope a reality!
We fight for change 365 days a year, in ways big and small. Sometimes we do it through collecting nonperishable foods for our emergency food closet, so families who have lost jobs don’t have to choose between paying the rent and putting dinner on the table. Sometimes we do it through assembling delegations to contest government policies, such as the Public Utilities Commission’s consistent approval of utility rate increases that come directly out of the pockets of local families and that increase poverty in our communities.
WSWA members have aided other members yearly by distributing over 100,000 pounds of donated food as part of our supplemental food benefit and advocated alongside other members to restore power and water service to hundreds of families shut off for lack of funds to pay their utility bill.
One member, a single mother whose daughter requires a breathing machine for severe asthma, came to WSWA’s bi-weekly utility advocacy session to request assistance as her utilities were shut off. To make matters worse, Oakland Housing Authority sent her a 24-hour notice that she would be evicted and she would lose her Section 8 housing subsidy if she didn’t get her power restored within a day. This was despite the fact that she had been on a waiting list for eight years for a Section 8 housing voucher. Our volunteer lay advocates worked tirelessly alongside her for five days and were eventually able to restore her power and stop the eviction! This was just one of the dozens of cases volunteers fight each week! When members receive support from volunteers, they also learn to organize and become volunteers themselves.
House-to-house canvassing in low-income worker neighborhoods is the primary way WSWA signs up new members and keeps current members informed about what WSWA is doing, allowing members to stay active in the organization. This dynamic arms-length organizing method to join low-paid workers together offers the ability for members to participate in independent non-government organization to fight for living wages and safe and decent working conditions. WSWA volunteer canvassers meet and speak with working people doing in-home care, domestic work, security guard work, temp jobs, fast food work, independent contractors and other jobs with low pay and few benefits if any. Interested members host membership house meetings in their homes, inviting people from the neighborhood, family and friends to learn more about WSWA and how to join with others of like mind to fight for better living and working conditions, offering hope through organization to those willing to invest their time, who recognize the need for change.
Our battle against the rising poverty rates and lack of living wages in our community is consistent with the campaign all 193 nations of the United Nations committed to in September 2015 when they formulated the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. These goals call upon all nations to prioritize the elimination of poverty, hunger and 15 other development goals that must be addressed if we are to have a sustainable future – to preserve both humanity and the planet. But we can’t do it alone.
You can make a difference and help demand that our country take up its responsibility to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, as one of the signatory nations. At WSWA, we know that in organization there is strength. WSWA members share much in common: low wages, lack of job security, and minimal or nonexistent benefit packages. Without an organized reversal of the growing poverty in our communities, there will be no recovery for businesses reliant on consumers.