Putting a face on the economic inequality in America, Julie Kaas—a program supervisor at a school in Tacoma, Washington—and Katrina Gilbert—a certified nursing assistant, or CNA, from Chattanooga, Tennessee—joined President Barack Obama at the White House today as he signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal contractors. (Click here to see video of the signing.)
Julie and Katrina, both single moms, were featured in The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink as women living on the brink, and Gilbert will be featured in an HBO documentary that will be released on March 17th, titled “Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life and Times of Katrina Gilbert,” co-executive produced by Maria Shriver and HBO’s Sheila Nevins and produced by Emmy® Award-winning filmmakers Shari Cookson and Nick Doob.
Julie Kaas is a preschool program supervisor who is adjusting to life as a single mother of three teenage boys after her husband of 25 years left the family. Unprepared for her new role as the sole breadwinner, Julie turned to Washington Women’s Employment & Education for leadership training, “dress for success” courses, technology lessons, and community support.
She graduated from the program during the summer of 2013. Julie depends on child support, but thanks to her training at WWEE, she recently received a promotion in the school where she’s worked for four years as a part-time pre-school teacher, and was able to negotiate a small raise. In her new leadership role, she hopes to gain skills that will give her confidence, as well as the financial security and benefits she needs for herself and her sons.
Thanks to her employer’s flexible policies, Julie has also recently decided to return to school to finish her degree.
“I dream I will have a job where I can make people feel important and where I will be able to earn enough to keep my home and support myself,” she said. “Like anyone, I want to be independent, so it’s great to see the president recognize how important a decent wage is for so many people. I hope the rest of the country will follow.”
Katrina Gilbert works as a CNA at a local nursing home. She tries to work as many hours as possible and lives from paycheck to paycheck. Katrina experienced a number of health issues that she paid for out of pocket, and she struggles without a financial safety net. She is hoping to go back to school to get a higher-paying job to provide for herself and her three children.
“I live paycheck to paycheck with no savings at all, nothing,” Katrina said. “There’s always something that comes up, like the car needs a tire on it, how am I supposed to get that? That’s $100 right there. There’s always something. I feel like I work to get a little bit of savings, but something always comes up and I can’t. If I was paid a decent wage, I could start to get ahead.”
Julie and Katrina are featured in The Shriver Report’s extensive photojournalism project. A team of seven award-winning female photographers led by Barbara Kinney crisscrossed the country to document a day in the life of women living on the brink. Photos of Katrina can be seen below. Click here to read more of Julie’s story – in her own words – and see her photos.
These photos are part of a collection from “The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink in partnership with Center for American Progress”. The Shriver Report commissioned a team of award-winning photographers to crisscross the country, capturing a day in the life of women living on the brink. The team was led by photojournalist Barbara Kinney and included Melissa Farlow, Melissa Lyttle, Barbara Ries, Callie Shell, Jan Sonnenmair, and Ami Vitale.