An army of one

Some important things take time.

For instance, the struggle to get a living-wage resolution through the Sacramento City Council took almost forever. From the first discussions and original proposal to the last whack of the gavel, it spread out over four-and-a-half years.

When it finally passed, the document provided a wage of $9 an hour with benefits or $10.50 per hour without benefits. Now, some of us don’t think those wages, once taxes are taken out, are actually enough to live off of when you have a family that needs a place to live, food, electricity and gas to cook with.

But now contractors doing more than $100,000 worth of work for the city will have to follow those minimum-wage guidelines. Though the living-wage activists didn’t get all they wanted, they did get an agreement that is unique in the Central Valley of California, and for that reason, it is historic.

The people who came together to push for this, relentlessly, call it a victory for economic justice. I call it a victory for perseverance. Four-and-a-half years of lobbying Sacramento city staff, rallying and talking to anyone who would listen takes energy and determination. Eighty-five member organizations eventually came on board and stood up to be counted.

How many times did the activists, labor leaders and ordinary citizens think of giving up? Apparently, not many. There must be something deep inside that drives these people to sacrifice what they have—mostly their own time—to keep going. To get closer to an explanation of what pushes people toward a goal of helping folks, see our cover story this week (“Taking it to the streets”). It may help us all understand the struggles and motivations of the good people in our community who dedicate themselves to helping others.