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Maria Fortes, Family Activist

Maria Fortes, Family Activist

October 1, 2015
Maria Fortes, New Bedford, MA

Maria Fortes, New Bedford, MA

An immigrant from Cape Verde, Maria Fortes became involved as a volunteer with the Coalition for Social Justice helping with voter registration and turnout. When the statewide Earned Sick Time campaign launched, Maria stepped up her involvement and was hired as an organizer. Her team went door-to-door, especially in the Cape Verdean, Spanish and Portuguese communities, collecting signatures and then back to remind people to vote. They talked to 4,692 people – and got 4,062 of them to become members of CSJ.

“I love talking to people one on one, sharing information and collecting heartfelt stories,” she said. She’d had her own encounter with the issue. In 2013 when she had a miscarriage at the age of 44. “It was a devastating period,” she said. “Although I had been working at my job as a social worker for a long time, I still felt worried about my time off. But at least I earned sick time.” Most of the families she worked with did not – as she herself did not in earlier jobs. “Winning Earned Sick Time is an enormous burden lifted from these families,” she said.

The victory of the ballot initiative in November 2014 left Maria feeling “hopeful and excited. We the people can truly make things happen if we organize and send a message that all humans deserve this, especially if we are all working to contribute to our society. People were grateful and excited that we had won. They felt empowered that their vote counted. My daughter, an assistant manager at a retail store, was very happy for the impact this will have, especially for young, single parents.”

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