Category Archives: Income

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)

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.