Category Archives: Income

Blog: Work Needs to Pay; Work Needs to Work

Work Needs to Pay; Work Needs to Work

By Marge Clark, BVM
May 1, 2015

No household with a person working fulltime should be living below the poverty threshold. Yet, that is the case for millions of Americans. Work needs to pay! The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour provides a fulltime employee $15,080 annually. In 2014, the poverty threshold for a single person was $12,316; for a family of four it is over $24,000, leaving families in severe poverty although they are working fulltime. When the minimum wage went into effect, a household could meet all their needs – including mortgage payments. This is far from the case today.

The recently proposed rise in the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would still leave millions of households in dire poverty. This would yield $21,008 annually – before taxes!

NETWORK strongly supports the newest proposal for raising the minimum wage to $12.00 per hour by 2020. Two added benefits are that it would apply to tip workers, and that the base would increase with inflation each year.

Work needs to work for workers, families and households. Additional legislation is critical for this: equal pay for equal work, paid sick days, paid leave, and reasonable accommodations for women who are pregnant and with young children.

Therefore, NETWORK strongly supports a package of bills:


  • Raise the Wage Act: U.S. Senator Patty Murray (Wash.) and Representative Robert “Bobby” Scott (Va.) introduced the Raise the Wage Act, which would benefit 37.7 million workers—and the businesses that serve them—by gradually raising the minimum wage to $12 by 2020. (S.115)
  • Healthy Families Act: U.S. Senator Patty Murray (Wash.) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (CT) introduced (Feb. 12, 2015) this bill allowing workers to earn paid sick days.
  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): provides an important job protection for lower-wage workers, expected and provided in higher-paying jobs. This would allow a food service worker with the flu to stay home, protecting you and other customers.
  • Pregnant Workers Fairness Act: Many states have legislation going beyond the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (1978); however, gaps continue in many states, and the protections afforded vary greatly. Federal legislation would be most assistive.
  • Paycheck Fairness Act: Amends the portion of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 known as theEqual Pay Act to revise remedies for, enforcement of, and exceptions to prohibitions against sex discrimination in the payment of wages.


The above areas are among pieces of legislation that support workers – for many, making it possible to work and to care for family.

Attending the White Privilege Conference

Attending the White Privilege Conference

Alannah Boyle
March 28, 2019

This past week, my colleague Laura Peralta-Schulte and I had the opportunity to travel to Cedar Rapids, Iowa and represent NETWORK at the 20th annual White Privilege Conference. This conference was founded to examine the ideas of privilege and oppression and create space to work towards building strategies for a more equitable world.

For those of you participating in our Lenten reflection guide, you know that this Lent we are Recommitting to Racial Justice. The past two weeks, the reflections in the guide have been produced from our educational workshop on the racial wealth and income gap. We examine 12 federal policies and reflect on the ways in which each policy worked in order to create and perpetuate the racial wealth gap that exists today. Laura and I facilitated this workshop to over 50 other attendees. The reception was overwhelmingly positive. It is always exciting to spread the good work that NETWORK is doing to new audiences.

This was the second year that NETWORK staff have attended this conference. The presentations we attended ranged on topics from compassion as anti-oppression work, to the intersections of patriarchy and white supremacy, to embodied racial justice. Laura and I attended different presentations each session with the goal of gathering as much information in those four days as possible to bring back to the rest of our NETWORK community.

As I work to put my reactions into words for this blog, my thoughts and feelings after attending this conference, I am realizing the ways in which I am very much still processing the experience and all of the wisdom and expertise that was shared with me as a white person. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to attend this conference, and the ways in which NETWORK intentionally makes space for the ongoing work of racial justice amongst staff members.

Faith Community Supports Back Pay for Federal Contractors

Faith Community Supports Back Pay for Federal Contractors

Sister Quincy Howard, OP
February 8, 2019

This week, NETWORK joined fellow faith organizations asking Members of Congress to provide back pay to federal contractors who were unable to work and receive their paychecks during the five-week partial government shutdown. Without legislation from Congress providing this back pay, federal contract workers will suffer the most as other federal workers return to work and receive back pay for the weeks they were furloughed.

Read the letter below or as a PDF here.

February 4, 2019

Dear Members of Congress:

We write as faith-based organizations and religious bodies representing Jewish, Christian, Muslim and other faith traditions to urge you to support efforts to secure back pay for employees of federal contractors who were unpaid during the recent government shutdown. All of our faith traditions uphold the critical importance of the dignity of work and the obligation of employers to compensate workers for their efforts. Just as Congress rightly provided back pay for federal employees who were furloughed or unpaid during the shutdown, Congress should also provide back pay for the contract employees who face extreme financial hardship because they went more than a month without their paychecks.

Over the past few decades, the federal government has contracted out more and more of the jobs and functions it used to perform. For every federal worker hired, there are nearly double the number of contract workers hired, reaching about 3.7 million according to 2015 estimates from the Volcker Alliance. These jobs include the women and men who clean federal buildings, staff cafeterias and concession stands, who process payments, and who provide vital tech support to federal agencies.

These federal contract workers help keep our nation running even when their paychecks aren’t cut directly by the U.S. government, and they need their paychecks just as badly as federal employees. Many of these workers are struggling right now to pay their bills for necessities like food, medicine and housing. They deserve to be paid.

As Congress negotiates a deal to secure funding for the rest of the fiscal year, we urge you to do everything within your power to provide back pay for the contract workers throughout this country who have suffered just as grave a financial injury as federal employees during this shutdown. Equity and justice demands they too receive compensation for the injuries they suffered.


National Council of Jewish Women
The Episcopal Church
Interfaith Worker Justice
The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society
First Universalist Church of Auburn, Unitarian Universalist
Union for Reform Judaism
Ecumenical Poverty Initiative
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
American Baptist Home Mission Societies
Faith in Public Life
Office of Public Witness
Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, US Provinces
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
Alliance of Baptists

Rural Roundtable: New Mexico

Rural Roundtable: New Mexico

Erin Sutherland
January 28, 2019

Two weeks ago, Sr. Simone and I traveled to New Mexico to facilitate NETWORK’s first-ever Rural Roundtable.  The idea for a Rural Roundtable came when NETWORK realized that while we have a good understanding of how federal policies impact people in the urban and suburban areas, we needed to gain a better understanding of the lived realities for people in rural areas to be better advocates for the 100%.  The stops on some Nuns on the Bus tours had been in rural areas, but we wanted to make a more intentional commitment to specific communities by building upon events we would already be having in the state.

The day after we arrived, Sr. Simone and I spent the morning meeting with residents from the Laguna Pueblo.  We visited St. Joseph Mission School in San Fidel, NM, where we met 40 amazing students and staff who are actively committed to learning about and rectifying the environmental and health damage that was a result of decades of uranium mining.  Merrick, an eighth grade student, showed us a video he had made that  recently won first place in a regional competition.  The video featured the story of his grandmother, who had worked in the Jack Pile uranium mine and now has pulmonary-related health problems.  In the coming year, the entire school was planning to test their water for uranium, and the eighth-grade class was planning to travel to the University of Notre Dame to present their findings.  In the midst of such mature and thoughtful leadership and community engagement, it was heartbreaking to think of the health effects that these students and their families could face because of reckless extractive policies.

Later that night, we convened our roundtable in Albuquerque and spoke with service providers and community leaders from women’s health, childcare, rural dental care, indigenous communities, food security, and immigration sectors.  During our two-hour long conversation, Tina Cordova of Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium described the decades-long treatment of New Mexico as a “sacrifice zone” where corporations and government agencies have come in and extracted resources and conducted tests with little regard for the residents.  New Mexico has an endowment fund that is mostly invested and managed out of state.  Another community member described how this treatment has affected people’s view of their self-worth: if your government treats your community like it’s dispensable and not worth the investment, you eventually start to believe it.

As I reflect on everything I learned during my trip to New Mexico, it is empathy for all those who feel forgotten or left behind by their government that has stayed with me.  It is my faith, which upholds the dignity and value of every human life, coupled with my patriotism for “We the People,” that firms my resolve that everyone deserves to feel and be treated like a valuable member of society.  One thing Sr. Simone does so well is to help people move past helplessness and despair and towards hopeful action.  At NETWORK, this first roundtable gave  us an opportunity to reflect on how we can lobby for policies that will include the 100%- not just the people with whom it is easiest to engage.  This experience has given me and NETWORK an opportunity to listen more, listen first before acting, and then to act with intentional inclusion.  I am so grateful for the opportunity to have gone to New Mexico and to have met with so many amazing activists  heavily invested in bettering their communities.

To see more photos from the Rural Roundtable in New Mexico, click here

Reflection: Paying Our Union Dues, Then Heading South

Reflection: Paying Our Union Dues, Then Heading South

Sister Michele Morek, OSU
October 12, 2018

This post originally appeared on the Global Sisters Report website.

The Nuns on the Bus canvass Las Vegas neighborhoods with members of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 on Oct. 10. (Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice / Colleen Ross)


Si, se puede! U-nion! U-nion! 2-2-6! 2-2-6! We vote, we win!

We got right into the spirit of the vigorous chants of the members of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

After a long drive from California, we joined them Tuesday afternoon for a meeting with a large group in the union hall, listening to the issues they have with some of the casino owners. Most of the big casinos have come to an agreement with the workers on living wages and benefits, but there are still a few holdouts. The workers suspect it is not lack of funds that stands in the way — one owner just spent over $20 million on a daughter’s wedding. (One of the workers whispered into my ear that $2 million of it was for the cake!)

There are about 50,000 workers in the Culinary Workers Union Local 226, which includes food service industry workers in the big casinos and hotels as well as people in housekeeping and other aspects of the industry. Of these, 54 percent are women and 55 percent are Latino. There are workers from 173 countries who speak 40 languages. That they can organize themselves at all under those circumstances is a minor miracle, and that they have managed to do it so effectively is a major miracle! They have some talented and dedicated leaders.

Members of Culinary Workers Union Local 226 rally Oct. 10 in Las Vegas to hear us talk about the tour and about our support of their work before we all left for canvassing. (Provided photo)

I talked to one leader, Rashauna, who had taken a three-month “political leave” to work at turning out the vote for a candidate known to be more friendly to unions; she and many more had sacrificed their $20-per-hour earnings for $12 with the assurance of continued employment at the end of their leave thanks to the union. Their enthusiasm, love and respect and support of each other was inspiring to all of us.

It had been a long and exhausting day, so we were glad to see our rooms at the end of the second day: rooms at one of the less expensive casinos on the old Las Vegas Strip. There are no motherhouses or big convents in Las Vegas, and the casinos like to lure customers in with inexpensive rooms and food!

As tired as we were, there were some who ventured out to see the bright lights, and one sister even found a zip line to try. In spite of a few bleary eyes, we were at the union hall bright and early the next morning for our adventure in canvassing.

Sr. Michele Morek, OSU, left, and Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS, show off their red shirts from the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 for canvassing Las Vegas neighborhoods (Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice / Colleen Ross)

We helped prepare packets and distributed ourselves among the groups going out to canvass the neighborhoods to push their candidates for the 2018 midterm elections and urge everyone to get out the vote. First, the leaders outfitted us with red shirts and hats and assigned us to teams. That was after a few more rousing choruses of “Si, se puede!” and “U-nion! 2-2-6!” and “We vote, we win!”

After we returned to the union hall and the workers signed the bus, we left Nevada, eating lunch on the bus, not for the first time. What gorgeous desert and mountain scenery! We enjoyed seeing Lake Mead and going across the Hoover Dam into Arizona; when we saw our first saguaro cactus and Joshua trees, we knew we were ready for our next adventure in Phoenix.

We are educating ourselves by site visits and talking with people; that’s part of the listening mission of Nuns on the Bus. But we are also determined to educate people about what the tax policy really means for real people and to encourage them to use tax policy as one of the most important norms of who should get their vote.

Each day, we begin with half an hour of prayer together: once in a motherhouse chapel, once in an unused convent chapel, once in a convent community room, and once in Sr. Simone Campbell’s hotel room at the casino. That and a cup of coffee gets us going.

One of the best tools of the bus is the town hall developed by Network staff as an educational illustration, an effective graphic description of the effects of tax inequity. Without giving away the plot, let me just describe it as a human bar graph that introduces the audience to a real character NETWORK has encountered in the process of listening to people all over the United States.

The exercise dramatically illustrates how much that person benefited (or not!) from past and current tax policies. If you figure in other events likely to result from the tax changes, the lower economic quartiles of people even go backward.

Of course, the talented Nuns on the Bus take the parts of the characters. Doing the actions the exercise called for made me feel in my bones and muscles the desperation and despair of people in the middle and lower quartiles. The take-home lesson is (and you have heard this before): The lower economic groups suffer while the upper ones benefit.

A new insight I gained from the exercise is an understanding of why the richer people often cannot even see the suffering of the less privileged. They just do not move in the same circles — they are so far away from the other’s reality. It may also explain why some feel isolated, lonely, angry, and threatened by any discussion of tax justice.

Members of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 sign the bus after an Oct. 10 canvassing session in Las Vegas (Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice / Colleen Ross)

When we finish tonight, Thursday, we will have done this in three parishes or churches, each with its own personality and challenges. The discussion after the activity has been lively as the audiences discussed how the tax changes would likely affect their area or city or state and what they could be doing about it. Some great ideas have been suggested! The people have the answers. NETWORK then collects their input and uses it in later educational activities.

In legislative visits, we generally try to meet with a congressperson (usually one we know voted for the tax bill and does not agree with us!) to explain our position. We are meeting with them to hold them accountable for what their votes are doing to their constituents.

The first had to postpone the meeting with us but promised to meet with constituents on this topic later. We are heading for a meeting with office staff of U.S. Rep. Martha McSally of Arizona as I write this on the road to Tucson.

More later!

Travel Log: Las Vegas Canvassing

Travel Log: Las Vegas Canvassing

Sister Quincy Howard, OP
October 10, 2018

We started our second day in Vegas after a late night of heavy drinking and gambling (I’m joking, of course).  We were warmly greeted by the Culinary Workers Union 226 at their headquarters, joining a large room crowded with culinary workers diligently prepping canvassing materials.  Their morning briefing before heading out was raucous and full of energy—a great primer for a quick rally with the nuns to follow.  Sister Bernadine Karge, OP and Sister Simone were joined by two female union members to address a crowd of 150 or so unionized workers.  They spoke powerfully about human dignity, the need to respect workers, especially women (54% of their union members are female) and the importance of communal action and unity to bring about change.  The idea of solidarity and shared responsibility is especially crucial for a union that consists of 50,000 members from 173 countries that speak 40 languages.

Since over half (55%) of Union 226 members are Latinx, Sister Chris Machado, SSS and I had the opportunity to canvass with two Spanish-speaking women from Mexico and Cuba.  Most of the union workers had taken a political leave of absence—one of the contract provisions won through years of hard-fought negotiations.  Maria and Martha were both proud to take a leave—along with a pay cut—in order to put in their share of hours canvassing.  They want to promote candidates who will, in-turn, support workers’ rights and strengthened collective bargaining.

During their familiar routine going door-to-door, they explained that the names and addresses were of residents who did not, or rarely, voted in past elections.  As non-partisan participants, for myself and my fellow Nuns on the Bus, our primary push was to stress the importance of voting on November the 6th—that their vote and who we elect makes a difference. Most knocks had no response, so we left the materials at the door and Maria and Martha would return to follow-up.  Each time Maria saw that a resident was a registered Republican she would make the Sign of the Cross before approaching the door—but she did it anyway.  Needless to say, they are sometimes turned away with harsh words, but these workers are a persevering bunch.  They are driven for the sake of their families and inspired by their fellow union members who they consider their sisters and brothers.


To view more photos of the canvassing event, visit our Flickr album.

Blog: From Wall Street to DC – The 99 Percent Raise Their Voices

From Wall Street to DC – The 99 Percent Raise Their Voices

By Eric Gibble
October 07, 2011

The Occupy Wall Street protests have expanded from a small group of alarmed citizens to a nationwide movement. In solidarity, over 800 events are occurring across the nation in all 50 states. Diverse groups of people are demanding serious government reforms across a wide spectrum of issues. Their concerns seem to range from growing income inequality, the burden seemingly endless wars abroad have put on our nation, and the attack on collective bargaining rights for workers.

The media have focused on the movement lacking a leader and a clear, solidified message. But the problems of 99 percent are just as diverse and complex as the people themselves. Two words can encompass their message: economic justice.

On Thursday, Oct. 6, members of the NETWORK staff went to Washington’s Freedom Plaza equipped with Mind the Gap! materials and Connection magazines eager to engage in conversations with the people of #occupyDC.

Andrea from Atlantic City, whose home was foreclosed on by the Bank of America after a bitter divorce, now finds herself a single mother struggling to make ends meet. She was able to find the time to voice her disgust with the out-of-control tax evasion schemes of the corporate elite and the toll our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have taken on us as a nation.

“There are lots of messages here, but with one main, common goal,” Andrea said. “The ratio between the pay rates and the profits, they were more equal. Now pay rates haven’t gone up, but profits are skyrocketing. The corporate profits are just not in comparison to what the wages are.”

American’s can either continue to let income inequality rise to higher levels than in countries such as Ghana, Nicaragua, and Turkmenistan or we can speak out against corporate greed. Foreign Affairs, published by the Council on Foreign Relations, released a report today that reaffirms what we already know but puts it in a frightening perspective of where we could be heading.

  • Unemployment remains at nearly ten percent, the highest level in almost 30 years; foreclosures have forced millions of Americans out of their homes; and real incomes have fallen faster and further than at any time since the Great Depression.
  • In 2009, the average income of the top five percent of earners went up, while on average everyone else’s income went down.
  • The share of total income going to the top one percent has increased from roughly eight percent in the 1960s to more than 20 percent today.
  • Such a level of economic inequality, not seen in the United States since the eve of the Great Depression, bespeaks a political economy in which the financial rewards are increasingly concentrated among a tiny elite and whose risks are borne by an increasingly exposed and unprotected middle class.

Why is this happening? The report puts the blame squarely on tax cuts and deregulation.

Since the late 1970s, a number of important policy changes have tilted the economic playing field toward the rich. Congress has cut tax rates on high incomes repeatedly and has relaxed the tax treatment of capital gains and other investment income, resulting in windfall profits for the wealthiest Americans.

The wealth gap has grown so much that it has now rallied the 99 percent to Occupy cities across the nation. It is important that we engage in an honest conversation about how the wealth gap has exploited the most vulnerable in our society in favor of the superrich.

What can you do? Bring the Occupation of Wall Street to your congregation and discuss it in the context of your faith. You can also get involved in the movement in these ways:

  • Attend a Direction Action march, rally or sit-in, organized in your city.
  • Spread the word about the Occupy movement through social media, email, video and pictures.
  • Build relationships and introduce yourself to others, share your story and ideas, and discuss your visions for the future of America.

Occupy Together: Mind the Gap! Hits the Streets

Occupy Together: Mind the Gap! Hits the Streets

By Shannon Hughes
October 07, 2011

Yesterday afternoon, I headed out of the NETWORK office with Matt, Eric, and Maggie to #occupyDC. Armed with Mind the Gap! info sheets, petitions, and stickers, we ventured into the crowd of people rallying at Freedom Plaza. At one entrance to the plaza, I traded a Mind the Gap! sticker for a flyer that read, “We are citizens, professionals, students, activists, parents, unemployed workers, voters, and the underrepresented who represent the 99%. We are interested in separating money from politics and improving the country’s infrastructure to fix healthcare, education, environment and the economy. We are a nonviolent, peaceful solidarity movement with Occupy Wall Street, and other Occupy Together events around the world. Together, we can shift power away from the top 1% and back to the people.”


It seemed as though Mind the Gap! had stepped out of this blog and into the streets of DC through the hearts of some very passionate people. The crowd was diverse in age and agenda, even the speakers – from a stage cloaked in a giant Constitution – covered topics from the tar sands pipeline, to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, to racism, the national budget, and corporate greed. Winding through the plaza to read signs, we stumbled across many messages, a man dressed as a “Corporate Hog” (complete with suit and snout) and a shantytown of cardboard boxes that passersby were personalizing with painted windows and flowers. The painted boxes had each been stamped with the word “FORECLOSED”.

I decided to engage someone sitting on the perimeter wall; he wore a few buttons indicating that he might be interested in hearing our Mind the Gap! message. He took the sticker I offered, but when I tried to hand him a Connection magazine about Mind the Gap! He said, “Oh, I don’t need that. I’ve been on NETWORK’s mailing list for years!” He had traveled from Minneapolis to be a part of the Occupy DC rally. A pair of women wandered by, and after my initial sticker, they asked if NETWORK was religious. Explaining that we were founded by Catholic nuns, they exclaimed, “Oh! We are the product of Catholic nuns! . . . I mean, they weren’t our mothers. They were our teachers!” Dorothy Day quotes and Pax Christi signs and t-shirts sprinkled the plaza. I felt energized, and proud of the people of our church.

On my metro ride home after dinner, a man sat down across from me, next to a women who was quietly working on a crossword puzzle. He grinned as he peeled off a sticker from his coat and explained to both of us, “That’s from the rally!” He had traveled from his home in Vermont to the march in New York on Wednesday, and from there decided to join the DC crowd for a day. Curious, I asked him what this movement meant to him. “This is about taking back our government, and our rights,” he began. He felt that people had the right to gather and express their opinions, and the violence of the police against protestors in New York had moved him to action. The women next to him nodded earnestly. He talked about the military budget, and the difficult economic situation we face. I told him about Mind the Gap! and he asked for information so he could find us online. He turned to the other woman. “What about you?” he asked. “Who do you work for?”

“A contractor for the Department of Defense,” she answered quickly, “I’m just an architect. And we do contract for other people, but mostly the DoD.” After a short pause she added, “But I would always support people’s right to gather nonviolently.”  We all smiled.

She asked about Vermont, and talked about bringing her Boy Scout troop up to hike and camp. He told a story about his nephew, an Eagle Scout. The door opened to my stop, and I thought for a moment about continuing the ride, and the conversation, but I needed to get home, so I thanked them for sharing some of their story with me and stepped off the train.

I was grateful for the chance, yesterday afternoon, to tell people what this movement meant to me and to Mind the Gap! I was grateful to find like-minds gathering on the square, to hear and see that other Catholics felt their faith called them to take action in shaping a just economy. But perhaps I am most grateful for the reminder that I got on the metro last night: that people at a rally or in a metro car are strangers with different stories who, despite our differences, have allies in each other. And together we can achieve something good.

P.S. The above photo appeared on the Washington Post’s online edition here. Can you spot our NETWORK banner and Associates Eric and Matt?

Blog: Income Gap Continues to Widen – Shouldn’t It Be Decreasing?

Blog: Income Gap Continues to Widen – Shouldn’t It Be Decreasing?

Matthew Shuster
Oct 11, 2011

The wealth gap in the United States has grown larger, and the ugly beast is not done growing. According to an article on the Huffington Post’s official website, the median income for the United States is less than $27,000 annually.

Meanwhile, the wealthiest, much-smaller portion of the American population who make over a million dollars has increased to 94,000 people. In comparison, in 2009, 79,000 people made over a million dollars. How can it be that the richest people in America continue to get more and more money while a much larger number of people are struggling to make ends meet with just $30,000 to 40,000 a year (If that!)? Pretty soon, there will be no middle-class, just two teams: The Strugglers who must obsess over grocery shopping coupons and the Exuberantly Wealthy.

People have a right to feel pessimistic about the unemployment rate and salaries in America. Not only are the unemployed unhappy financially, but even people who already have jobs are upset because necessities like food and fuel are becoming more and more expensive while their incomes are not increasing. According to the Huffington Post, nine in ten employees do not expect a raise in the upcoming year. Furthermore, household income has declined more during this “recovery” period than during the initial impact of the economic recession.

Something must be done to mend this income gap and there should be more jobs created for the unemployed. In addition, I hope that there will be more salary rewards given to the already-employed who work hard to care for their families. If you would like to read into this further, check out this article!