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Advocating for a fair shot

Campaign seeks to update policies to help women, working families

Photo Credit: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: KATHY FULLER - Hillsboro resident Susan Serres chats with 19th century man outside the Shute Park Library during the kick-off of Fair Shot Oregon, an advocacy group promoting fair pay and paid sick days for Oregons women and working families.Supporters of a living wage, paid sick leave and equal pay were out in force across Oregon earlier week to kick off an advocacy campaign called Fair Shot Oregon.

Campaign organizers hope to change what they say are outdated policies that are stopping women and working families from getting ahead.

In Hillsboro, group members canvassed library goers at Shute Park with their message, with the help of “19th century man” to demonstrate that current rules surrounding living wages for families are outdated.

The time is right for this advocacy group, said organizer Lisa Frack. “Women and working families are getting behind,” she said. “The deck is stacked and we want to unstack it.”

With the November election right around the corner and the 2015 legislative session approaching fast, the group aims to raise awareness and advocate for solutions, such as raising the minimum wage, equal pay for women, paid sick leave and a way to save for the future, Frack said.

Fair Shot Oregon brings together various other organizations — such as Family Forward Action, Oregon Action, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, the Mother PAC, Oregon Education Association and SIEU — to work for a common goal.

“We’re all on the same page and [as a group] we’re stronger and louder,” Frack said.

Susan Serres of Hillsboro has seen a 40 percent drop in her income since having her first child ten years ago.

With two children with special needs, now 8 and 10, Serres — who is an engineer and holds a teaching degree — has held a series of full- and part-time jobs since her children were born. None of those jobs paid what she was making before children.

Several of the companies — and one public agency — she worked for touted themselves as “family friendly,” but she said, it was difficult to take time off for family matters. At one company, Serres said, “the women weren’t serious” about their jobs.

“Women weren’t expected to succeed in that company,” she added.

At one point, Serres said, she stepped back and questioned whether she could be a mother and work a full-time job. “I said to myself, ‘Maybe I can’t do all that.’”

Financially, her family cannot keep up. “In that time I’ve burned through my retirement,” paying for medical bills schooling for her children.

“It doesn’t just affect our family,” Serres explained, it also affects people associated with our family’s income,” such as her children’s caregiver and teachers.

Fair Shot Oregon supporters are hoping to change Serres’ story into one where she can pay the bills with the work that she does.

“Work and families are out of sync,” Frack said.

In the near term, the group will concentrate on asking legislators and candidate where they stand on policies surrounding minimum wage and equal pay; then advocate in Salem during the 2015 session.

To learn more, visit fairshotoregon.org.

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