#49 Dotter

Oxfam works with partners and allies to advocate for better working conditions for people in poultry processing plants.

Earl Dotter

United States

More than 38 million people live in poverty in the United States—the wealthiest country in the world. Oxfam exposes the realities of life for working poor people and offers pragmatic solutions to policies that trap families in poverty.

Inequality in the United States has stranded millions of families in poverty. The most severely affected are historically marginalized people—disproportionately Black and Brown, immigrants and refugees, and women and children.

Millions of Americans work hard at jobs that do not sustain them and their families financially. Low-wage jobs do not pay enough to provide even a modest standard of living; do not offer adequate benefits to meet the demands of raising children; and leave workers unable to invest in paths to prosperity (like education) or to save for retirement.

Oxfam believes that we can find a way to restore opportunity and fairness to our economy and to our society. We help people secure their right to decent work: jobs that pay a decent wage, safeguard workers’ health and safety, provide pathways to advancement, and enable workers to have a voice in the workplace.

What is Oxfam doing to help people in the US?

Oxfam helps low-income people in the US survive short-term emergencies. Over the long term, we help workers earn a decent wage, safeguard their health and safety, and find pathways to advancement so they can have better futures.



Gulf Coast program

The last 20 years have presented numerous challenges to the people and environment of the Gulf Coast, one of the most vital, and most impoverished, regions of the country. When the BP oil spill hit in 2010, coastal communities were still recovering from several devastating hurricanes (including Katrina, in 2005) which killed hundreds of people, destroyed homes and businesses, battered wetlands, and decimated the seafood industry. The COVID-19 pandemic took a particularly brutal toll on Black and Brown communities in the Gulf states.

Oxfam America has worked in the region since launching its first domestic humanitarian response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. With funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Oxfam has maintained a Good Jobs program in Louisiana and Mississippi for the last six years, with the goals of strengthening job quality, work support, and worker competitiveness.

Our partners have included New Way Mississippi, Dependable Source, Dress for Success, MS Black Women’s Roundtable, Mississippi Urban League, One Voice, Louisiana Urban League, and Poor People’s Campaign. In the area of workforce training alone, since 2017 this program has supported the enrollment of 1,389 jobseekers and resulted in 726 graduates and 665 job placements.

Activists march in support of workers in poultry procesing plants.
Activists march in support of workers in poultry procesing plants. Mary Babic / Oxfam America

Poultry worker justice campaign

Poultry workers in the US suffer extremely high rates of injury, earn poverty level wages, and work in a climate of fear. In 2015, Oxfam America launched a campaign to expose the human cost of the modern poultry industry, collaborating with worker centers, unions, experts, and advocates. We convened regular meetings, brought workers and advocates together for strategy sessions, and funded visits to Capitol Hill so workers could speak directly to government agencies and members of Congress.

As COVID-19 battered the workforce in poultry and meat plants in 2020 and 2021, we demanded that the industry take steps to protect the lives and well-being of workers, drawing on our previous research and our Lives on the Line campaign. That campaign exposed the hazardous plant conditions that lead to elevated rates of illness and injuries, and industry practices designed to discourage workers from reporting violations and prevent organizing. Our subsequent report, No Relief, exposed the routine denial of bathroom breaks on the poultry processing line.

Working poor advocacy agenda

Oxfam also conducts vital and groundbreaking research that exposes the realities of life for the working poor in the US.

  • Our Best States to Work Index (BSWI) assesses and ranks states based on labor policies. Since the first edition in 2018, BSWI has encouraged a race to the top: better policies for workers in terms of minimum wages, worker protections, and rights to organize. Recently, the BSWI has examined working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic, and specific polices that affect women workers.
  • For nearly a decade, Oxfam has been advocating to raise the federal minimum wage, which has been stuck at the poverty wage of $7.25 an hour since 2009. Since 2014, we have produced regular editions of a low-wage map, which illustrates the impact of low wages on populations by gender, race, and family status. Nearly a third of workers in the US earn less than $15 an hour, according to research by Oxfam published in 2022.
  • Oxfam also works with partners and supporters to push for policies and actions that reduce, redistribute, reward, and recognize care work while also ensuring care workers and caregivers are represented in decision-making spaces. During the pandemic’s early years, we advocated for COVID-19 relief bills to include paid family and medical leave, paid sick leave, enough funding to stabilize the child care industry, and expanded child tax credits (and child and dependent care tax credits).
Oxfam joined with labor unions and other allies calling on Congress to fund affordable, accessible child care, and help ensure living wages for providers and all workers. Nancy Andrews/Oxfam
Oxfam joined with labor unions and other allies calling on Congress to fund affordable, accessible child care, and help ensure living wages for providers and all workers. Nancy Andrews/Oxfam Photo: Nancy Andrews/Oxfam

Many of these temporary policies have since expired, so we’re now focused on pushing for permanent, long-term solutions. We campaigned for care-related provisions in the Build Back Better Act and are looking for other legislative solutions to making child care affordable and accessible for families, while paying child care workers higher wages. Oxfam and our allies and partners are advocating for federally mandated paid family and medical leave, paid sick leave, and funding for home and community care services for the elderly and disabled (while paying care workers a higher wage).

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