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Thousands of Marchers Try to Shift RNC Focus to Poverty

An End Poverty Now March outside the RNC will call for higher wages for struggling Ohioans. (Bart Everson/Flickr)
An End Poverty Now March outside the RNC will call for higher wages for struggling Ohioans.
(Bart Everson/Flickr)
July 18, 2016

CLEVELAND – While unifying the GOP is on the agenda inside Quicken Loans Arena, ending poverty is the focus for thousands outside the Republican National Convention, which opens today.

An End Poverty Now March this afternoon is meant to raise awareness of the need for higher wages for working families.

Rowena Ventura, community organizer with Common Good Ohio, says with a 37 percent poverty rate, Cleveland is an unfortunate example of how the nation ignores people's economic rights.

She maintains low wages force parents to work multiple jobs, which prevents them from focusing on their children.

"Parents don't have time for that,” she stresses. “They're just trying to survive. That's devastating to families alone. Now you have a lot of children that are running the streets, have no supervision, and it's just a lose-lose situation – there's no win in it at all."

Also today, local and national experts on poverty and opportunity hold a panel discussion at Cleveland State University, with speakers from the Legal Aid Society, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee of the AFL-CIO and Policy Matters Ohio on the panel.

Senior Republican members of Congress and party leaders have also been invited.

Deb Kline, director of Cleveland Jobs with Justice, says among the key issues lawmakers must address are equal pay for equal work, the right to affordable, safe housing and immigration.

"We need to reform the current system, because especially undocumented workers are often the most exploited workers that we have, in Ohio and across the country," she states.

Ventura notes the march for economic justice follows in the footsteps of the welfare rights movement, which began in Cleveland in 1966.

"We have a great opportunity with the RNC being here,” she states. “And hopefully, we'll get the attention that we really need to get this going forward here in Cleveland, and hopefully to carry on across all Ohio and the United States."

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH