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Marching for America's Forgotten Workers


The Women's March is bringing hundreds of thousands to Washington, D.C. But it's not feminism per se that's calling this social worker there.

I am many things. One I take a lot of pride in is being a social worker. While many professions have codes of ethics, ours includes a mandate to "promote social justice and social change with and on behalf of clients." Our country needs a lot of social change these days. Legal sentences differ wildly based on race. Immigrants are often treated like animals. Women's reproductive rights are legislated primarily by men. LGBT people struggle for equal rights. Families with children are one of the quickest-growing populations among newly homeless.

While this list is seemingly endless, as I'm a Ph.D. student and research assistant, the topic that most calls to me is economic justice.The wealth gap in our country is astronomical, and sadly, many hardworking Americans feel their status below the poverty line is their own fault. Instead, I believe the deck is stacked against us. The system in place is driven by those in positions of power who choose excessive profit over people. In addition to denying workers living wages, many corporate leaders -- who I suspect would have a very different worldview had they been born into a lower socioeconomic status -- share a sick ideology that people struggling need only "pull themselves up by their bootstraps."

I hate to say it, but America's bootstraps are broken. It's a different time than these people realize. Former generations were often able to care for an entire family on one wage earner's salary, but that is a rarity in this age. Today, many individuals work multiple jobs and still can't make ends meet. It's possible to change one's circumstance with wit and work alone, but it shouldn't be this hard to realize one's dreams, let alone just to get by.

It is criminal that a country like ours has so many people living in poverty, unable to afford physical and mental health care, and in many cases lacking adequate housing. There will be many different voices at the Women's March with many different messages. Mine is simple: Americans deserve better. I believe with great privilege comes great responsibility. I have the privilege of living close to our nation's capital and time and money to go, so I'm going to D.C. to speak for those too busy or too tired to. These boots on this social worker's feet were made for walkin', and on January 21, that's just what they'll do. I plan to scream from the rooftops that our country needs to be more fair and more just too.

Ab-advocate-photoALLISON BERKOWITZ wants us to live in a better, kinder world and tries to be that change every day. Follow her on twitter @SocialWorkItOut.

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Allison Berkowitz