Category Archives: Income

NETWORK Urges Congress to Pass the Paycheck Fairness Act

NETWORK Urges Congress to Pass the Paycheck Fairness Act

Gina Kelley
April 14, 2021

Ahead of the expected House vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 7) NETWORK sent a letter to members of the House of Representatives urging them to support this legislation as it eliminates loopholes in existing legislation, helps break harmful patterns of pay discrimination, and strengthens workplace protections for women.

Our faith teaches us that just and equal pay is necessary to recognize the dignity of work. Almost six decades after the landmark Equal Pay Act was signed into law, the gender and racial pay gap persists and this legislation takes a necessary and immediate step towards ending this immoral reality. Women, especially women of color, have been carrying a devastating burden for decades. Equal pay cannot be up for debate. Women have been economically exploited and treated as second-class citizens since the inception of this country. Widespread wage discrimination continues that legacy today. The Paycheck Fairness Act takes a necessary step towards ending systemic wage theft and discriminatory practices against women.

The choice could not be clearer. Now is the time to support women. NETWORK advocates strongly urge Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act because of the victories it achieves for working women across the country.

Read Our Vote Recommendation Letter on the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R.7)

Women’s Equality Requires Raising the Wage

Women’s Equality Requires Raising the Wage

Gina Kelley
March 24, 2021

This last year has been a challenging one for all us, but women have carried a heavy burden throughout this pandemic. In 2020, women’s unemployment hit its highest since 1948 with Black and Latina women facing higher rates of unemployment than white women and men. In February 2021, it was reported that women, in particular women of color, had lost 5.4 million jobs—nearly 1 million more than men. Women have also had to leave the workforce as the pandemic has closed schools and childcare facilities leaving many women to take on this essential caretaking role. This pandemic has not created inequalities, instead it has exploited what was already there.

March is Women’s History Month and the 24th is Women’s Equal Pay Day. Equal Pay Day marks the day in the year when women earn what men did the previous year, meaning it takes 15 months for women to earn what men do in 12. On average, women are paid 82 cents on every dollar a man makes meaning that on a typical 9:00-5:00 workday, women start working for no pay at 2:40 p.m. These Equal Pay Days continue throughout the year with Mother’s Equal Pay Day in June, Black Women’s in August, Indigenous Women in September, and Latina Women in September.

Clearly, working women, particularly women of color, are facing a devastating economic reality. While the American Rescue Plan achieved major victories for families across the country, it failed to raise the minimum wage. Raising the wage is essential to closing the gender and racial pay gap that has harmed marginalized communities for centuries.

The Raise the Wage Act of 2021 proposes slowly increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 over 5 years and ends subminimum wage practices for tipped, youth, and disabled workers over a 6 years. The tipped minimum wage is a currently only $2.13 an hour and creating one fair wage of $15 would greatly benefit women who represent more than two-thirds of tipped workers. Coupled with the Raise the Wage Act, Congress must pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which provides more remedies for gender pay discrimination.

So what would a $15 minimum wage mean for women?

Of the 32 million workers whose pay would increase from the Raise the Wage Act, 59% are women and more than a quarter have children. That means 19 million women would benefit. Nearly 1 in 4 of those women are Black or Latina. Women, and in particular women of color, are overrepresented in low-wage jobs due to historical gender and racial occupational segregation. According to recent reports, women working year-round, on average, would see an increase of about $3,500 in wages annually. For Black and Latina women, this figure increases to $3,700. 3.4 million Black women and 4 million Latina would see this substantial and transformative pay increase. Additionally, 8 million mothers across the country would see similar benefits giving them the capability and power to support their families. Analysis of 2019 data found that among mothers who would get a raise, 65% are primary or sole breadwinners for their families and an additional 19% are co-breadwinners.

It could not be clearer: women need a fair wage and a chance for economic security. No one can survive on $7.25 and those in opposition to raising the minimum wage are keeping women and Black and Brown communities in poverty. Closing racial and gender wealth disparities and recovering from an economic crisis demands immediate action.  Raising the wage to $15 allows families to have food on the table and a roof over their heads. Women need justice and equality now. This Women’s History Month and this Equal Pay Day show solidarity with working women and join the fight to raise the wage.

NETWORK Supports Raising the Federal Minimum Wage

NETWORK Supports Raising the Federal Minimum Wage

Caraline Feairheller
January 28, 2021

On January 25th, 2021 Representative Bobby Scott and Senator Bernie Sanders introduced the Raise the Wage Act of 2021 which seeks to gradually raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 by 2025.

NETWORK agrees that it is well past time to raise the wage. It is shameful that low income workers have gone over a decade without a raise from the federal minimum wage. The multiple pandemics of COVID-19 and structural racism have exposed how immoral the $7.25 wage is as essential workers are being asked to risk their safety while still living below the poverty line. The legislation is a crucial step in addressing income inequality and would lift the pay of nearly 32 million workers which in turn would stimulate the economy and promote job growth.

The legislation would not only make efforts to close the racial wealth gap, but also gradually phase out the subminimum wages for tipped workers, youth workers, and workers with disabilities. As Pope Francis says in Evangelli Guadium, “The dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good are concerns which ought to shape all economic policies.” The dignity of each person can be recognized through fair wages.

Labor Day 2020: Our Sick Economy and the Need for Structural Change

Labor Day 2020: Our Sick Economy and the Need for Structural Change

Laura Peralta-Schulte
September 7, 2020

Pope Francis, in his August 26 virtual general audience said, “The [COVID-19] pandemic has exposed and aggravated social problems, above all that of inequality. These symptoms of inequality reveal a social illness; it is a virus that comes from a sick economy.”

To that I say, Amen.

The reality of inequality in the United States is on full display during this COVID-19 crisis in both subtle and substantial ways. With the exception of “essential” professions, COVID-19 has not negatively impacted highly compensated white-collar workers, particularly those without small children. One simply has to turn on their laptop from the comfort of home to be “in the office.” There is no health risk and even some benefits, like eliminating a hurried commute. Many wealthy, white working parents have found ways to outsource educational and childcare services even in the pandemic, allowing them to continue working while their children receive care. For these workers, exposure to risk is a matter of choice. If desired, the wealthy can both work and get their material needs met from the safety of their home.

At the same time, at the very top of the economic scale, the pandemic has created incredible wealth. In 2020, U.S. billionaires have twice as much combined wealth as the bottom half of Americans – $2.95 trillion versus $1.5 trillion. Just 614 billionaires hold more wealth than the whole bottom half of our country. That is to say: 614 people hold more wealth than 61 million households.

During the first four and a half months of the coronavirus pandemic, while most families were stretching their budgets to stock up on food and other necessities, U.S. billionaires’ wealth grew by $685 billion. As our coalition partners Americans for Tax Fairness point out, this increase in wealth is about 80% of the total sum spent on Medicare for 2020, a lifesaving program which serves more than 62 million people. Medicare and other entitlement programs are routinely attacked as being too expensive and contributing to the national debt. How is it that hundreds of billion dollars is an acceptable sum when it is going to those at the top, but too expensive when it is providing health insurance to millions of people? Which one is a better investment in our nation’s people and our future?

The richest 1% now own half of the value of the U.S. stock market and the top 10% own 92%. This dangerous amount of inequality is causing real problems in our nation, even before the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, however, low-wage workers are suffering tremendously as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, particularly in Black and Brown communities. The pandemic has already killed over 180,000 people in our nation and continues to spread, putting low-wage workers and their families at severe health risk. Low-wage workers and essential workers must leave their homes to continue earning money, and the stress is even greater with children. With the closure of daycare centers and schools and with no ability to afford expensive childcare services, parents face huge challenges.

At the same time, our economy continues to hemorrhage predominately low-wage jobs. There are nearly 12 million fewer jobs in August than in February. More than 30 million workers are still filing for unemployment or are waiting for benefits, including 1.6 million workers who made new claims just last week, an increase from the previous week. Black and Brown communities suffer the highest rates of economic distress; unemployment remains in double digits for Black, Asian, and Hispanic populations. Unemployment reports do not even count the millions of workers who are underemployed or have been pushed out of the workforce altogether. Families risk eviction, food shortages, and toxic stress as they try to navigate the harsh new economic reality caused by the pandemic.

This Labor Day we must ask ourselves a fundamental question. What are our economic structures that allow such tremendous wealth to be held by the few while millions struggle to live in dignity? In 2019, CEOs in the S&P 500 received an average of $14.8 million in annual compensation. The average S&P 500 CEO to worker pay ratio was 264–1, a historic high. These same executives pay lobbyists to break up unions and work against increasing the $7.25 federal minimum wage. The economic status quo rewards a few not the collective. We as a society worship a false idol, the stock market, and measure the health of our economy by its success or failure, while families on the lower end of the economic ladder continue to struggle.

The Gospel and Catholic Social Justice ask us to live differently, to prioritize the needs of community and ensure everyone has what they need to survive and flourish. We as a society are failing; are we willing to follow Jesus’s example and flip over the tables in the temple to call out for justice?

Pope Francis ended his teaching with a challenge for the faithful. “We are experiencing a crisis. The pandemic has put all of us in crisis. But let us remember that after a crisis a person is not the same. We come out of it better, or we come out of it worse. This is our option. After the crisis, will we continue with this economic system of social injustice and depreciating care for the environment, for creation, for our common home?”

This Labor Day, let us pray for the grace to work together for a more healthy, more just, and more perfect union.

Our Nation’s Political and Moral Response to a Global Pandemic

Our Nation’s Political and Moral Response to a Global Pandemic

Seeking Justice in the Face of Both a Health and Economic Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused illness and death and led to widespread unemployment and an entirely new daily reality in the United States and across the world. NETWORK quickly shifted lobbying priorities, advocating for workers and families to be prioritized in every coronavirus response package passed by Congress. We knew that those with the least would be the ones hurt the most by this crisis, as is often the case.

The COVID-19 pandemic is both a public health crisis and an economic one, and people of color have been disproportionately affected on both counts. Families and individuals, especially in communities of color, will continue to experience the negative financial effects of this crisis for months and even years to come. We need structural solutions. Congress must recognize the challenges facing those at the economic margins during this difficult time and choose people over profit in all of their policy decisions.

COVID-19 has given new urgency and significance to our moral mandate to provide health care for all, to protect the rights and health of workers, to ensure sufficient affordable housing, and to mend the gaps in all other areas of our society. As we continue our advocacy, we recognize the undeniable truth that during this pandemic, and at all times, the wellbeing of our nation depends on the wellbeing of each and every person.

So far, three main pieces of legislation have become law, with some provisions supporting health and the common good, and others giving tax breaks and other benefits to the wealthiest people and corporations. Further action must still be taken, however, to provide sufficient financial resources for families and individuals to be able to afford their rent and other necessities. In May, the House passed another large package with billions of dollars that would go toward those most affected by this crisis. The Senate must act to pass similar legislation to respond to the needs of our nation.

 

This story was originally published in the Third Quarter 2020 issue of Connection magazine. Read the full issue

For A Better COVID-19 Relief Plan, Let’s #FundFamilies

For A Better COVID-19 Relief Plan, Let’s #FundFamilies

Ness Perry 
May 12, 2020

On Thursday, May 7, 2020, NETWORK Lobby and our partners Moms Rising, Children’s Defense Fund, First Focus, and The Coalition on Human Needs gathered virtually for a tweet storm encouraging Congress to #FundFamilies. This digital action aimed to ask for increased, consistent cash assistance for families and an expansion of the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Social media is key to putting pressure on Members of Congress while in-person lobbying and hill visits are no longer an option.

NETWORK participated in the #FundFamilies tweetstorm because our faith teaches us to care for people at the margins in our country. Our economic recovery package should support those who need it the most, which is why we call on Congress to provide cash payments to every adult until the pandemic is over. This should be given to households that did not receive prior support from the CARES Act. This includes low- or no-income families that do not file tax returns, and families with ITINs including mixed-immigration status households.

Families need direct aid, as well as credits in the coming tax season. We know that the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit works, therefore we must expand it to provide aid for more families. The Child Tax Credit leaves behind more than 1/3 of children in families who earn too little to get the full credit — including 1/2 of Black and Latinx children. In order to mend the racial wealth and income gap, we must call on Congress to provide relief for all families, especially families of color.

Here are some highlights from the event:

https://twitter.com/RepBarbaraLee/status/1258442973332869124

Essential Workers Bill of Rights

Essential Workers Bill of Rights

Gerri DiLisi, a NETWORK member in Lansdale, Pennsylvania wrote this Letter to the Editor which was published in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

As Pennsylvania reopens, we must protect anyone whose job makes them vulnerable to the coronavirus. The Inquirer reported that Philadelphia unions called for new city regulations, but we also need national laws. Our essential workers kept us going during this shutdown, leaving their homes so trash is collected, grocery stores are stocked, and children of other workers are cared for. But most essential workers aren’t being paid a livable wage and can’t access health care.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D., Calif.) have introduced an Essential Workers Bill of Rights to ensure these workers access to health and safety protections, robust compensation, and paid leave. On behalf of the Southeastern Pennsylvania NETWORK Advocates Team, I call on Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey to support the Essential Workers Bill of Rights. Our workers have sacrificed for us, and it’s time for us to give back.

Gerri DiLisi, Lansdale

This Letter to the Editor was originally published in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Unemployment and the Coronavirus Crisis

Unemployment and the Coronavirus Crisis

Alex Burnett
April 3, 2020

When my partner developed a small cough and mild chest pain in late February, we didn’t think they had coronavirus. My partner works as teacher’s aide in a public elementary school and gets sick all the time. We thought they caught a cold from a student or were dealing with stress-related illness.

We were wrong. Over the next few weeks, their mild chest pain turned major, their temperature spiked, and they developed such difficult breathing it became difficult to walk. During one particularly frightening Friday, they could not keep down food for over 24 hours, developed a 100+ degree fever, and could barely speak due to severe chest pain. As I Googled, “When should you go to the emergency room coronavirus,” I found myself anxiously wondering whether their insurance covered emergency room visits.

Thankfully, their symptoms improved since that awful Friday, but our anxiety hasn’t gone away. My partner loves working in elementary education, but feels terrified about finding another job. Most elementary schools hire aides on yearly contracts and we don’t know whether their school—or most schools—will be hiring aides during a global pandemic, which might force schools to remain indefinitely closed. Even if schools re-open in the fall, my partner knows they’ll struggle finding a summer job after their contract ends in June. Like many education workers, my partner might face at least three months of unemployment during an economic meltdown.

Nobody should experience any of this. That’s why NETWORK advocated for three COVID-19 relief packages, including the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, & Economic Security (CARES) Act, which became law on March 27th. This bill offers some relief to workers, like my partner, facing coronavirus-induced unemployment. Besides expanding unemployment insurance to gig, temporary, and self-employed workers, the CARES Act offers eligible workers an additional $600 per week in unemployment benefits for up to four months. As my partner’s story demonstrates, these reforms are profoundly important, especially since economic experts and the federal government predict that the unemployment rate could reach an unprecedented 32%.

However, my partner’s story also demonstrates that Congress must do more. The CARES Act doesn’t guarantee free coronavirus testing and treatment to people, like my partner and their colleagues, who could lose health insurance upon becoming unemployed. Additionally, the CARES Act does little for incarcerated and undocumented people, who remain ineligible for unemployment benefits and at-risk of receiving inadequate medical care. Because NETWORK knows closing these gaps will save lives, we’re advocating for a 4th coronavirus relief package, which guarantees testing and treatment for incarcerated, undocumented, and uninsured people. You can read about our work here.

The coronavirus pandemic has already harmed millions of people. By passing a 4th relief package, Congress can prevent more people from needlessly suffering. As an organization guided by Catholic Social Justice, NETWORK calls on Congress to provide care and economic relief for all U.S. residents, regardless of employment status, insurance, citizenship, or incarceration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

SCOTUS Punishes Vulnerable Immigrant Families

SCOTUS Punishes Vulnerable Immigrant Families

Laura Peralta-Schulte
January 27, 2020

A narrowly divided Supreme Court today allowed the Trump administration to begin enforcing a wealth test, called “Public Charge,” for immigrants seeking a green card. Under this rule, immigration officials could deny green cards or visas to legal immigrants seeking permanent residency if they’ve used Medicaid, nutrition assistance, or other safety-net programs, or if they’re considered likely to do so. The justices voted 5-4 along ideological lines. This controversial immigration rule will go into effect now, even as lower courts wrestle with multiple legal challenges against them.

Today’s court decision will increase confusion and fear broadly across immigrant families about using public programs for themselves and their children, regardless of whether they are directly affected by the changes. There have already been significant reports of families who are not affected by the ruling taking themselves or their children off lifesaving programs like the Children’s Health Insurance Program and SNAP.

Public charge is just one of many attacks on low-income families, immigrant families, and communities of color by the Trump Administration.

Read more from Bloomberg News:

“The Trump rule changes what critics say is a longstanding understanding of federal immigration law and its bar on permanent residency for ‘public charges.’ The new rule expands the definition of public charge and gives officials broad power to determine that someone is at risk of falling into that category.

The rule will ‘radically disrupt over a century of settled immigration policy and public-benefits programs,’ New York, Vermont, Connecticut and New York City argued in a filing that urged the court to leave the rule on hold.”

The Loretto Community Works to Mend the Gaps

The Loretto Community Works to Mend the Gaps

Alice Kitchen, Loretto Co-member
August 29, 2019

Recently, the Loretto Community went through a period of dialogue and discernment about how we can mend the gaps within our sphere of influence. Our considerations were guided by NETWORK’s 21st Century Poverty guide. Sisters and Co-members of the Loretto Community gathered in 19 community groups from California to New York. The groups discussed raising the hourly pay of low-wage workers to a livable wage. Each group’s job was to explore the issues facing low-wage workers in the communities where they live.

We already knew that low-wage workers undergird daily life in our communities. Low-wage workers care for children, staff nursing homes, and keep our airports functioning. Often these women and men have no steady schedule and have little control over their hours. Many work more than one job to get by. Their employers often have no regard for the multiple jobs they are juggling or their childcare needs. In our study, we learned that the cost of housing, transportation, childcare, and utilities far exceed the hourly incomes of most low-wage workers.

The need for these discussion groups emerged from our Loretto Assembly in August 2018. There, the community group in Kansas City put forth a proposal for the whole Loretto Community to hear, consider and vote on. The proposal advocated for Loretto administrators to “review the compensation of all our employees, working toward the goal of providing a living compensation package as nearly as is sustainable with our financial resources.”

Attendees from all over the U.S. and two overseas countries participated in the bi-annual Loretto Assembly. Participants were vowed members, Co-members, and Loretto employees, all of whom had previously affirmed the goal of a pay structure for all Loretto employees based on justice as a mission priority.

Last summer’s proposal was a spur to move forward on this goal. As a follow-up in January 2019, Loretto leadership approved an $1.50 an hour pay increase for Loretto Motherhouse and Infirmary employees and a 2 percent increase for those same employees who had worked 1,000 hours or more in 2018.

The next step in this ongoing process is collecting the thoughts and ideas of all 19 community groups and determining how to take this commitment to the next level. Much of Loretto’s social justice work lies in persuading decision-makers to make needed changes in both our living rooms and in the halls of power. We hope, therefore, that we can find ways to change our own community and beyond.

Some Loretto groups have natural allies in their communities where they can team up to support raising wages at either the local or state level. We are following the Raise the Wage Act (H.R. 582) in Congress and sending out alerts to call our Representatives in support of the bill.

This is all about living our Loretto mantra: We work for justice and act for peace.

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Alice Kitchen is a Loretto Co-member as well as a NETWORK Board member. She is based in Kansas City, Missouri.

This story was originally published in the July 2019 issue of Connection magazine. Read the full issue.