Category Archives: Income

House Staffers Successfully Get the Green Light to Unionize

House Staffers Successfully Get the Green Light to Unionize

Gina Kelley
May 12, 2022

In March, NETWORK shared a blog discussing calls from Congressional Staffers for livable wages and the right to unionize. Last week in a Dear Colleague Letter, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) announced that the House of Representatives would vote on a Resolution from Congressman Mike Levin (CA-49) to allow House staffers to unionize and also shared that $45,000 will be the new minimum annual salary for House staffers. Thankfully, that vote was a successful one.  

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice applauds the passage of H.Res. 915 as well as the new $45,000 minimum annual pay standard for House staff. This is a great step in the right direction for workers’ rights on Capitol Hill.  

As people of faith, we know that supporting a living wage is one of the most effective ways to uphold the dignity of work. Catholic Social Justice teaches that work is more than a way to make a living — it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. Additionally, our faith affirms the right of workers to organize. We know it is a moral imperative that all workers are free to act in solidarity with one another and make their voices heard. Our belief in the intrinsic value of work and workers leads us to strongly support the expansion of the right of workers to bargain collectively, form unions, and engage in collective action.  

Representative Levin’s Resolution and Speaker Pelosi’s implementation of a minimum salary uphold the dignity of work. As an organization that proudly collaborates with Congressional staff — and has done so for 50 years — NETWORK affirms the faithful vocation of public service. We thank those who have answered that call and proudly support policies that recognize the dignity of that calling. 

Finally, while we are thrilled to see these actions taken to support Congressional Staffers, we simultaneously urge the Senate to prioritize the economic security of workers in all industries. Everyone deserves a livable wage and the right to join a union.  

Equal Pay Day: Privilege Should Not Predict Pay

Equal Pay Day: Privilege Should Not Predict Pay 

Gina Kelley
March 15, 2022

This year Equal Pay Day is March 15th, symbolizing how far into the year women have to work to earn what men earned the year before [1]. Women are not a monolith, a woman’s race, assigned gender at birth, ability, or sexuality can widen the gap. Therefore we mark multiple ‘equal pay’ days throughout the year to raise awareness for the persistent gender and racial income gaps that have become the norm.  

May is AAPI Women’s Equal Pay Day, marking the 85 cents Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander women earn for every dollar a white man does. June and July have LGBTQIA+ and Moms Equal Pay Days respectively. Black Women’s Equal Pay Day is in September marking the 63 cents they earn in comparison to white male counterparts.  

Both Native and Latina equal paydays are in December with Native women earning 60 cents on the dollar and Latina women earning 57 cents. Meaning that Native and Latina women have to work over two years just to earn what a white man earns in one. 

Cents on the dollar can seem abstract. A recent study found that in 2021 the difference in median earnings nationally found that in U.S workers employed full-time last year women earned $10,000 less. This difference in median earnings varied by states with states and territories like Wyoming, Washington, D.C., and Utah having gendered wage disparities of more than $15,000.  

In an even bigger picture, some reports have estimated that women earn over 400,000 dollars less than their male counterparts do over the course of a 40-year period. The total wage differences between men and women on average is more than $799 billion every single year. 

These gender and racial discrepancies are harmful examples of the ways our society undervalues women and communities of color. There are multiple ways labor laws and employment practices create this loss of women’s wages.  

Blatant pay is discrimination is only one of the ways these inequities are formed. Job segregation is a subversive way that women are overrepresented in lower-paying (and often) service-providing industries due to assumptions about the types work different genders are best suited due to an imagined inherent gendered quality. However, compounding on top of job segregation is that across occupations women are most often employed at the lower end of the wage distribution. A powerful example of this is that women make up 52.8% of legal positions in the U.S but only 37.4% of lawyers are women—meaning that women disproportionately occupy lower-paying positions like legal assistants and paralegals.  

NETWORK continues to actively support policies that address economic inequalities. This includes major labor law reform like the Protecting the Right to Organize Act because we know that collective bargaining agreements and implementing standard wage policies are critical steps to closing these gaps for women and people of color. We also know that creating a national paid family and medical leave program is instrumental in making sure women are not punished for the caretaking responsibilities they disproportionately hold. We also support legislation that implements equitable employment practices like the Paycheck Fairness Act, the Schedules That Work Act, and the Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights.  

This Equal Pay Day and this Women’s History Month we have to recognize that labor issues are women’s issues and these issues matter and demand prioritization. Women’s issues require our attention now more than ever and what women need is economic stability and just labor laws.  

 

1 All studies referenced compare women’s earnings to non-Hispanic white men—even if something more general like “male counterparts” is used. There are also harmful disparities between men of color and white men.  

President Biden in front of a microphone

Centering Solidarity and Healing for Our Democracy

Centering Solidarity and Healing for Our Democracy

A Response to President Biden’s 2022 State of the Union
Mary J. Novak
March 3, 2022

President Biden in front of a microphoneIn his 2022 State of the Union, President Joe Biden addressed people across the country who are anxious and weary as Vladimir Putin threatens the use of nuclear force in his quest for more power and the COVID-19 pandemic continues to shatter a sense of normalcy, claiming close to one million lives in this country alone. President Biden named the pain felt by families and recommitted himself to supporting policies that benefit all families and communities. This vision is grounded in his faith, which prioritizes community and solidarity over individualism and greed. He illuminated a path forward for our national community, marked by dismantling long-standing racist policies and building both a vibrant economy that prioritizes shared prosperity and a truly representative, multi-racial democracy.

Shaping an Economy Rooted in Solidarity

In this time of increasing economic stratification, President Biden spoke forcefully about the need to reorient our economy with a new economic vision built on respecting and protecting the rights of workers and putting people over profits. Given rising costs facing families, his statement: “Capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism. It’s exploitation” likely resonated with many listeners. We know that ensuring jobs pay a living wage is one of the most effective ways we can uphold the dignity of work. I appreciated hearing the President’s call to raise the minimum wage and for the Senate to pass the PRO Act to protect workers’ right to unionize.

Building Anew and Protecting the Sacred Right to Vote

President Biden’s commitments to advancing just policies in NETWORK’s Build Anew policy areas are deeply rooted in the faith values of solidarity, community, respecting the rights of workers, and caring for creation; they include strengthening our democracy and voting rights; making our tax code more just; and, investing in communities by expanding the Child Tax Credit, affordable housing, and healthcare for all. NETWORK strongly supports these efforts to build a more justice union and looks forward to partnering with the Biden administration to achieve these goals. Together, we still have a great amount of work to be done, including passing the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, but we know it is possible by working together.

Confirming a New Supreme Court Justice

Another important step for protecting the rights of everyone in our county will be the Senate voting to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Biden’s nominee to the Supreme Court Justice. The NETWORK community celebrates Judge Jackson’s nomination and the perspective she will bring to the highest court because of her years of service on the federal district court of D.C. and D.C. Circuit as well as her formative service as a public defender.

Defending the Lives of Immigrants and Asylum Seekers

While we commend President Biden clear commitments to advancing just policies for our economy and democracy, we continue to call on the President to be bold in his defense of asylum seekers at our nation’s Southern border. The President was mindful in his speech about the importance of welcoming refugees fleeing Ukraine. Likewise, we call on the President to meet that mission here. Pope Francis has said each person seeking refuge “has a name, a face and a story, as well as an inalienable right to live in peace and to aspire to a better future.” We ask President Biden to take heed of those words and end the cruel and unjust policies that he is perpetuating at the border, and end detention and deportation.

President Biden, our nation’s second Catholic President, often credits the Jesuits and Catholic Sisters with keeping his faith strong. The vision he laid out in his State of the Union reflects a roadmap to rebuilding solidarity, based in encounter. As President Biden said “We can’t change how divided we’ve been. But we can change how we move forward—on COVID-19 and other issues we must face together.”  If we want to rebuild the soul of the nation, we must rebuild it together, with a broad embrace of our human family.

From the Factory Floors to the Halls of Congress, the Call for Unionization is Growing

From the Factory Floors to the Halls of Congress, the Call for Unionization is Growing

Gina Kelley
March 2, 2022

After decades of inadequate labor laws and declining union membership, the labor movement is gaining traction. Initially titled “Striketober”, the swell of strikes and contract negotiations have finally reached Capitol Hill.

Sparked by the viral anonymous Instagram account “Dear White Staffers” which shares horror stories of working in Congress, the call for labor reform is in the halls of the Capitol. The account calls specific attention to the obstacles faced by people of color on the Hill. Congress has not escaped the pay and treatment disparities that harm people of color across the country.

Studies have shown that white staffers make about 8% more than Black staffers because Black staffers are rarely hired into high-level positions. The account has become a megaphone for what was previously one of the worst kept secrets in Washington: Working on the Hill often means low pay, poor treatment or harassment, and burnout.

The folks who answer the call of public service in the efforts of committing themselves to the common good. They choose this occupation with hopes and ambition of working hard and making a difference. Instead, the broken system inside the Capitol spits many of them back out into the private sector, where they can make more money on a normal schedule.

Staffers on both sides of the aisle call out the hypocrisy of their employment practices. Republican legislators wage war against subsidies but pay their employees so little they have no choice but to utilize food stamps and Medicare. In contrast, Democratic lawmakers promote progressive labor policies and call for a celebration of diversity in the workplace but fail to implement equitable pay and hiring practices in their own offices. It seems dissatisfaction is bipartisan. One report of 516 respondents found 47% of staffers struggle to pay bills, 68% are unhappy with their compensation, and 85% believe Congress is a toxic work environment.

Congress currently operates with each office and committee run individually. This means there are more than 535 “employers” on the Hill with no unified hiring practices, paid leave policies, salary structures, or human resource departments. Even with previous legislative attempts to modernize Congress as a workplace, bills like the Congressional Accountability Act have failed to create adequate systems to support a safe and healthy work environment.

We work with Congressional offices to advance legislation that promotes the common good and we proudly support their efforts to unionize. In that commitment, we signed onto the Staffer’s letter to Congressional Leadership in support of their effort to unionize. Our commitment to equitable labor reform is a central part of our mission and is embodied in our efforts to pass key legislation like the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act and the Protecting the Right to Organize Act. We know that we cannot live out our faith and mission if we do not root ourselves in solidarity with workers and hear their lived experiences.

Despite statements of support from Democratic Leadership and the introduction of a Resolution by Representative Andy Levin, the future of a Congressional Union is unknown. What is clear is that the movement for workers’ rights is growing. From factory workers to television workers to congressional staffers the message is clear: Enough is enough.

Legislative Update: Build Back Better

Our Work to Pass Build Back Better Continues

Julia Morris
November 9, 2021

While we have been talking about the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill (H.R.3684) and Build Back Better Act for months, last Friday, the Bipartisan Infrastructure package passed the House and became law and a deal was struck between moderates and progressives on Build Back Better. While the Bipartisan Infrastructure plan includes important investments in affordable housing, safe drinking water, and broadband access, we need Congress to also pass the social investments in the Build Back Better plan to support families and communities. You can read more about the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal on the White House website. 

Together, both bills will make a spectacular investment to improve lives, create good union jobs, add a more sustainable environment, and more! Last week’s vote, agreeing on the rule for Build Back Better, will pave the way for investment in the care economy, a clean environment, and having the wealthiest pay more of their fair share for it all. 

Five Democrats: Representatives Ed Case (HI-1), Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5), Stephanie Murphy (FL-7), Kathleen Rice (NY-4) and Kurt Schrader (OR-5); offered their tentative support for Build Back Better. If the cost estimate from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is “consistent with the toplines for revenues and investments” outlined in the White House estimate, they will vote in support. With this commitment, the House went forward and passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill. This is in large part thanks to the Congressional Black Caucus’s two-step solution: passing the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill along with the rule governing floor debate for Build Back Better (H.Res.774). 

NETWORK applauds President Biden, Speaker Pelosi, the Progressive Caucus and Moderates who are moving the whole package, both bills, forward.  Now, we urge Congress to vote before Thanksgiving to begin making transformational investments that prioritize vulnerable communities.  As the Build Back Better plan continues advancing in the House, we have to keep pressure on Senators Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema of Arizona, neither of whom have yet to support the plan publicly. 

Make your voice heard! Join us in emailing the Senate and House to show your support for Build Back Better. 

Or write a letter to the editor supporting the Build Back Better plan here! 

As Pope Francis said at the beginning of the pandemic, “it is necessary to build tomorrow, look to the future, and for this we need the commitment, strength and dedication of all.” 

NETWORK Urges Representatives to vote YES on the Build Back Better Act

NETWORK Urges all Members of Congress to vote YES on the Build Back Better Act

Julia Morris
November 4, 2021

Ahead of a vote on the Build Back Better Act (H.R.5376), NETWORK Executive Director Mary J. Novak sent a vote recommendation to the Hill urging Representatives to vote yes. This historic legislation reflects values inherent in Catholic Social Teaching as it embodies love of neighbor, care for vulnerable communities, and care for the earth. As importantly, this transformative bill requires those who have the most to contribute their fair share to advancing the common good.

The Build Back Better Act takes critical and necessary steps toward addressing long-standing injustices by:

  • Cutting childhood poverty in half by providing a permanently refundable Child Tax Credit and ensuring no worker is taxed into poverty by extending the expanded Earned Income Tax Credit.
  • Expanding life-saving health care by closing the Medicaid coverage gap, investing in programs to end the Black maternal health crisis, extending premium tax credits to improve affordability for low-income workers and families, making the Childrens Health Insurance Program permanent, ensuring returning citizens have access to Medicaid, and making medicine more affordable.
  • Expanding Medicaid home care to keep older Americans and people with disabilities in their homes while paying care workers a fair wage.
  • Supporting working families navigate the challenges of raising children and taking care of loved ones when they are sick without risking their economic security by implementing a national paid family and medical leave program.
  •  Providing protections to some of our immigrant sisters and brothers.
  • Ensuring improved access to stable housing by expanding housing choice vouchers and invest in building new affordable housing; at the same time remediating years of deferred maintenance at public housing properties.
  • Closing the digital divide and expanding opportunity by making high-speed internet accessible and affordable for low-income urban and rural communities.

The time to act is now. NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice urges all elected officials to seize this moment as a critical opportunity to act faithfully and make a once-in-a-generation investment in our families and all communities.

Read NETWORK’s Vote Recommendation on Build Back Better Act (H.R.5376).

Recovery Update: Building Anew with a Bold Recovery Package

Recovery Update: Building Anew with a Bold Recovery Package

Laura Peralta-Schulte
July 21, 2021

Right now, Congress is crafting their budget reconciliation proposal. Over the next weeks and months, our elected officials will decide what policy priorities to include and what to leave out.

Budget reconciliation gives us the opportunity to make bold, transformational investments in our families and our communities by:

  • Making the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit permanent
  • Increasing access to health care, eldercare, childcare, education, and broadband
  • Building affordable housing and increasing access to rental assistance
  • Providing a pathway to citizenship for those with DACA, TPS, farmworkers, and other essential workers
  • Establishing a national paid family and medical leave program, and more.

We cannot go back to the status quo of exclusion and inequality. We must build anew with racial and environmental justice at the center. The recovery package Congressional Democrats are working to pass through budget reconciliation will make bold investments in a more just future. We can afford this by reforming our tax code to ensure that the wealthiest people and big corporations pay their fair share of taxes. We urge Congress to unrig the tax code by:

  • Repealing the 2017 Republican corporate tax cuts
  • Strengthening IRS enforcement to prevent tax evasion
  • Eliminating tax breaks that encourage offshoring
  • Closing tax loopholes used by big corporations to avoid paying their fair share, and more.

Fixing our tax code is essential to closing the racial wealth gap and creating an economy that benefits all of us.

Pentecost and the Call for Reparations

Pentecost and the Call for Reparations

Jarrett K. Smith, NETWORK Lobby and Minister Christian S. Watkins, National Council of Churches
May 21, 2021

As we continue commemorate Pentecost this year, we are reminded of the strange and new power that came and rested upon the Apostles and other followers of Christ. The gift of the Holy Spirit was God’s way of showing and sharing His power so that the disciples could do great and extraordinary things.

We are heirs and spiritual descendants of those who were present for that event. That same power and spirit that was upon them is also upon us to do immeasurable tasks and feats as well! Today, we see the ways that systemic racism is holding back the true potential of our country and doing grave harm to our communities. In the spirit of Pentecost, we must take action to stake a moral claim against racism on our country.

Due to past and present systemic racism, Black people are pushed to the margins of our society; with lower rates of homeownership, greater difficulty securing reliable transportation, higher rates of food insecurity, and all the things that contribute to a person’s wellbeing. These conditions are manmade. Systemic racism is built into every historical and contemporary system and institution of U.S. society, placing Black people at a constant disadvantage.

The results of this widespread, systemic racism are perceived by the rest of society as normal.  Soaring rates of mass incarceration serve as a way to destroy the Black family unit. Street executions by law enforcement, painfully reminiscent of the violent slave patrols, threaten Black men and women every day. Given our country’s history (and our lack of reckoning with it), it is no wonder that those who commit these atrocities often garner no punishment.

Inspired by the feast of Pentecost and the nation-wide movement for racial justice, we call on Congress to pass H.R.40 (The Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act). We need legislation to examine the impact of chattel slavery, Black Codes, convict leasing, Jim Crow, redlining, access to fair housing, education, employment opportunities, and the list goes on. H.R.40 is the first step to understanding and quantifying the continued impact the legacy of U.S. slavery has had on the Black people.

We can see the devastating effect of white supremacy on Black people throughout the United States with our own eyes. It is time for Congress to support a start to end institutional racism. Passing H.R.40 to establish this commission on reparations would be a start.  As our scriptures affirm, God hears the cry of those considered “least” in our society. Now, we ask, will Congress hear those cries as well and act?


Call Your Representative NOW: 888-422-4555
Tell them to pass a H.R.40 and establish a Reparations Commission!


Jarrett K. Smith is a Government Relations Fellow at NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice and Councilmember for Ward 5 in Takoma Park, Maryland.

Minister Christian S. Watkins is the Justice Advocacy and Outreach Manager for the National Council of Churches.

“We Want Change and We Don’t Mean Pennies.”

“We Want Change and We Don’t Mean Pennies.”

Meg Olson
May 18, 2021

On Wednesday, May 19, McDonald’s workers in the Fight for $15 are going on strike in 15 cities across the country. Their demand? That “every worker who wears the McDonald’s uniform” makes at least $15/hr.

If that seems shocking or radical, consider this: last year, McDonald’s earned nearly $5 billion in profits, and paid shareholders nearly $4 billion in dividends. Meanwhile, thousands of their workers—essential workers—received an average of $10/hour, just over $20,000 a year for a full-time employee, without health or dental benefits or access to paid sick leave.

McDonald’s worker and Fight for $15 Organizer Ieshia Townsend said, “Some workers ask me why I do what I do and I tell them, ‘The reason I do what I do is so I can make a better life for my kids and your children, and our next generation. You should be able to go on family vacations and spend time with our kids if they get sick. We should not have to keep living in poverty.”

Fast food workers, who have been essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, are struggling to survive. Every day, these workers are forced to make decisions between basic needs such as food, medicine, and transportation. Many of them work two and even three jobs and are still unable to make ends meet, especially when it comes to housing. The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s 2020 Out of Reach Report, finds that in Illinois, where the minimum wage is $10/hour, one would have to work 72 hours a week to be able to rent a 1-bedroom apartment at fair market rent without spending more than 30% of income on housing. In Mississippi, where the minimum wage is the federal rate of $7.25/hour, a worker would have to work 68 hours a week.

The good news is that the Fight for $15 is working! Since Fight for $15 started in November 2012, workers in the fast food industry and other minimum-wage jobs have led the movement for the passage of $15 minimum wage laws in states such as California, New York, and Massachusetts, as well as the District of Columbia, and cities as diverse as Flagstaff, Arizona, St. Paul, Minnesota, and Seattle, Washington. In 2018, the National Employment Law Project reported that “22 million workers [had] won $68 billion in raises” thanks to the movement. Unfortunately, legislatures in states such as Florida, Missouri, and Kentucky fought back against the workers’ efforts and passed preemption laws that kept cities from raising their wages. This is why Fight for $15 is now focusing its efforts on McDonald’s.

I first got involved with the Fight for $15 in 2013, when I was the diocesan director of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development in St. Louis and a member of Missouri Jobs with Justice Faith and Labor Coalition. While it was thrilling to strike and shut down a McDonald’s or Wendy’s at 5:00AM, my participation in the movement was also a steep lesson in the principle of Subsidiarity. Catholic Social Tradition teaches us that Subsidiarity means that the people who are most injured by the injustice should have the dominant voice in creating a solution. Fight for $15 is a worker-led movement that truly embodies Subsidiarity. The workers are, to quote Pope Francis, “social poets” and “protagonists of their own destiny.” We faith leaders, an interfaith coalition of clergy, vowed religious, and laypeople, learned to listen, step back, and support the workers. This meant driving around the city the day before the strike delivering notices to surly store managers, letting them know that their employees had the legal right to strike. It meant babysitting children and serving snacks and cold water on hot days. It also meant accompanying workers when they returned to their first shift after the strike.

Faith leaders also had the responsibility of holding the fast food restaurants accountable if they retaliated against the workers. Once, one of SEIU’s lawyers called and told me that an Arby’s near my workplace was threatening to fire one of the workers, a young woman and mother of two. “Would you be willing to make a bunch of noise with other people of faith tomorrow? Are you willing to be arrested?” I told him yes. When we arrived at the Arby’s the next day, we were greeted by an H.R. Director from corporate headquarters who assured us that the managers now understood the labor laws.

Every time we gathered on a strike day, the workers asked to pray. Workers I talked to explained how working multiple jobs and second and third shifts made it nearly impossible to go to church. “So this is our church!” This was my ultimate lesson: for people of faith, the call to be in solidarity with workers means not just avoiding certain stores or companies, or hitting the streets, but also figuring out how to make Church fully inclusive to the low-wage workers, even if that means holding a service at 2:00 AM. Until then, “this is our church.”

To participate in a Fight for $15 day of action in your city, please visit https://actionnetwork.org/event_campaigns/15hr-day-of-action.

Email your Members of Congress to pass the Raise the Wage Act
www.networklobby.org/actnow.

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)