So much change happened in 2020. At times it felt like our world was falling apart. Between COVID and being at the epicenter of George Floyd’s killing, you can imagine that our 20-year service milestone was not top of mind for us.
Since its founding in 2000, Daily Work has certainly come a long way and done a lot of good within our community. Volunteers, students, donors, staff, and job seekers alike have made meaningful connections that have enriched lives and advanced careers. We’ve provided both the glue that keeps people together and the wind that helps people discover their wings and soar.
But what stands out to us most is what has not changed in a generation of service. Daily Work was born out of witnessing the American immigrant work experience. As Americans, we tell ourselves a mythological, romanticized story that in America, if you work hard, do the right things, and make sacrifices, you can do and be anything.
The reality is that the American workforce is fueled by rigid hiring practices, cultural arrogance, microaggressions, and conscious and unconscious biases surrounding skin color, gender, age, accents and more. These prejudices are so strong, so ingrained, and so pervasive that for many job seekers, no amount of education, training, experiences, credentials, and recommendations really help them break through. Despite strong credentials and qualifications, some people just don’t get the interview invitation, the job offer, or the promotion.
Lutheran church members of several Minneapolis and St. Paul congregations recognized this in 2000 when they noticed that their fellow immigrant church members were forced to work 70-80 hour work weeks in multiple, low-paying jobs just in order to survive. Even after organizing Daily Work to provide resume building, interview skills, and networking, they repeatedly saw immigrants with strong resumes and Master’s degrees, many who came from English speaking countries, almost completely shut out of good work opportunities because their experience and training was in another country, their accents were strong, or their skin was dark. The job seekers and case managers knew there was more behind the lines “Sorry, you’re not the right candidate” or “We went in another direction.”
Fast forward 20 years, when suddenly the duel forces of the pandemic, combined with the murder of George Floyd, both highlighted and intensified America’s disparities and created new awareness of how white supremacy and racism limit BIPOC folks' opportunities for hope, progress, and thriving lives.
As Daily Work continues to shape our mission expression, we see dual paths of continuing to advance job seekers’ life and work development as well as examining how we and our employer partners can broaden our definitions of what success and capability looks and sounds like. 2020 was a year like no other, and it brought us a choice to either be a part of real, systemic, and great change or cling to practices that root so many Americans in poverty and hopelessness.
We choose change. We hope you’ll join us.