When Hollie Albert found herself working five jobs – certified nurse’s assistant, pet sitter, barista, housecleaner, and sunglass saleswoman – and still not making ends meet, the economic crisis became a personal crisis.
“The psychological impact was one of dead fear. I was hopeless” Albert says. “I was barely sleeping, working five jobs and barely making it, and I thought ‘Is it going to be like this for the rest of my life?’ I didn’t think I would survive.”
Albert had started out her career as a funeral director and embalmer, but even that industry felt the impact of the economic depression. Finding work as a nurse’s assistant, she started as an “independent contractor” at $10 an hour. Soon the pay went down to $8 per hour with no benefits. Albert also had to pay all her own expenses, including transporting patients, occupational licensing, and supplies, which brought the take-home pay down even lower.
“You try to get yourself into a field and try to advance in that field so you can get a livable wage and the benefits you need, but then you find yourself steadily going backwards.”
Then Occupy Wall Street appeared on her television and everything changed. When she heard there was a movement springing up in West Palm Beach, she was ecstatic and rushed out to the first assembly, where, “it was literally the dream come true.”
“The Occupy movement was such a relief,” Albert says, “because my family has been saying to me ‘What is wrong with you?’ but this was proof that it wasn’t me. It’s the economy. They are failing us.”
She has joined Occupy Palm Beach & Stand Up Florida for a march in Miami, a bus trip to D.C. to speak to Congressman Allen West and other legislators, and countless other actions and assemblies. Among other things, the movement has helped her gain confidence in speaking to her elected representatives. She even has her congressman’s personal number in her cell phone. She sees it as every constituent’s duty to share their concerns about the community because, “politicians have been elected to represent us.”
Albert has put a lot of time into understanding the political and economic systems. She can name key influential legislation from the early 1900s through today. In her travels to visit her mother’s people in Germany, Albert was greatly impressed by the social-economic structures in place.
“In Germany, people pay high taxes, but that money gets invested back in the people,” she notes. “Over here, our taxes go to war and the military instead of education and health care.”
Albert, 32, is currently in school full time for social work under the Pell grant program. “It’s scary because, in terms of job security, social services are the first thing to get slashed. I know the best way to succeed would have been a degree in finance or banking,” she says, laughing, “but that’s not me. I gotta help people.”
Although she is unemployed, she says being a part of the movement has made her, “the happiest I’ve ever been.”