City Newspaper February 26, 2014
By Bruce Popper
“Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery and apartheid, it is man-made and can be removed by the actions of human beings.” – Nelson Mandela
Perhaps there is no place in which this insight is truer than Rochester, New York. As community leaders discuss yet another exhaustive study of our region’s poverty, and how our city has become one of the poorest in America, a fundamental fact continues to be ignored: that much of Rochester’s poverty has been quite deliberately engineered by employers and a handful of law firms dedicated to crushing collective action by local workers.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.’s description of the poor at the 1988 Democratic National Convention is as true today as then:
“Most poor people are not lazy…. Most poor people are not on welfare…. They work hard every day. They raise other people’s children. They clean the streets. They drive dangerous cabs. They change the beds you slept in in these hotels last night and can’t get a union contract…. They work in hospitals. They wipe the bodies of those who are sick with fever and pain. They empty their bedpans. They clean out their commodes. No job is beneath them.”