Alabamians Deserve a Living Wage

The following is a transcript of Ava Caldwell’s speech at the National Women’s March to the Polls in Huntsville, Alabama on January 20th, 2018.

By Ava Caldwell

“You are just lazy!”

“Pull yourself up by your bootstraps…that’s what my generation did!”

“If you wanted to earn more money then go back to school!”

“Why don’t you just work harder?”

“You are not my problem!”

Oh, hello, I’m Ava Caldwell with the Tennessee Valley Progressive Alliance.

We are a big-tent progressive group here in Huntsville, Alabama. We represent a diverse group of individuals and organizations who unite under progressive principles. We believe that without a strong women’s movement, you do not have a strong progressive movement.

So, those statements I just made, maybe you’ve heard something like that if you’re someone who’s struggling—making minimum wage or just a little bit more.

First of all, and this is where we start, WE DESERVE A LIVING WAGE! Everyone out here, listening, breathing, living, deserves a living wage. You are not a charity case, and this is not a handout. A living wage is not charity. It’s about understanding that every person deserves the most basic requirements for living – food, water, clothing, education, and healthcare. You CANNOT get those things on $15,000 a year.

There are so many negative impacts that the very low, poverty minimum wage has on people’s lives. The desperation, depression. Missing time with your family, your children, because you have to work multiple jobs just to barely get by. Making decisions between putting food on the table and going to the doctor. You’re asking yourself, how is this even possible in a country so rich – the richest country in the world?

What would be the benefits of a true, livable minimum wage? Just in the city of Huntsville, it would mean tens-of-millions of dollars of additional consumer spending and small business revenue. That means increased tax revenue for the city. Better wages mean employees won’t leave jobs as readily, because they’ll actually be making a true living. And then people would not be forced to depend on government assistance, and believe me they are forced. The real welfare state is the corporations.

Morally this is the right thing to do, and studies have shown that 75% of Americans believe in a minimum wage of at least $10.10. In Alabama alone, there has been a lot of work done in this area. Birmingham even passed a law raising the minimum wage that would have gone to $10.10 in mid-2017. The Tennessee Valley Progressive Alliance led a campaign here – trying to get it in Huntsville. Other Alabama cities tried to pass one, and then the state legislature came down in February 2016 and said no cities or counties get to set their own minimum wage. They shut it down.

So, where do we go from here? What do we do about these setbacks? We are going to face these setbacks with renewed activism, dedication, organization, and with our votes!

There is a national Fight for Fifteen campaign that brings a national movement to a local level. You can access their information at They provide detailed information on trying to get a fair wage where you work. They are about organizing. They are about unionizing. You need to learn about it. You don’t need to be afraid.

You can contact your local and state representative. You can call, email, fax. Tell them that Alabamians deserve a living wage! Do not give up! Keep calling and keep writing! Your voice matters!

Again, I want to invite you, especially if you are local, to join the Tennessee Valley Progressive Alliance. We fight for the good of the 99%. We organize issue-based campaigns. You can find us on Facebook or you can Google us.

I want to leave you with this – you are absolutely not alone. Join us! Become an activist to better your life and the lives of those around you. Let your voice be heard across Alabama and the nation. WE WILL NOT YIELD…AND WE VOTE!


Ava Caldwell became a progressive political activist during the 2016 election campaign. She is a board member and volunteer with the Tennessee Valley Progressive Alliance. She has been heavily involved in working to spread the ideals that all people are equal and that government should represent the 99%. She is a wife and a mother of two beautiful children.