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Saturday, October 28, 2006
Seven Days at Minimum Wage
From the site:

The federal minimum wage is stuck at $5.15 an hour and since the last increase, it’s purchasing power has actually decreased 20 percent, leaving hundreds of thousands of families scrambling just to put food on the table and a roof over their heads.
(sic)

(Hopefully this isn't too political of a topic for EW- my intention isn't to demonize (or beatify) any political party. I find this topic interesting and thought I'd bring it up here as I hash out my beliefs.)


This issue has much more to do with how the U.S. is treating those in society who are often the most vulnerable to exploitation (not to mention the stresses of a life in poverty): single parents, recent immigrants, teenagers and senior citizens, people who have mental or physical disabilities.

This topic is very personal to me. I spent a good portion of my childhood hovering at or below the poverty line. At one point my dad juggled two minimum-wage jobs (while also pastoring a new church) in order to support his family. It's a rough life even in the best of situations.

This kind of morality can't be legislated, of course - simply having a higher minimum wage isn't going to soften any hearts. I voted for an increase to the minimum wage when I sent in my absentee ballot last week, but I wasn't thinking of God, religion or morality when I did so. I was thinking of all of the people I know back in Ohio who could really benefit from this.

So, how do we as Christians respond to this sort of thing?

I'd be especially curious to hear the opinion of those who do not agree that the minimum wage should be raised. If this is what you think, how do you think those who earn a living on minimum wage would be better helped?

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posted by Lydia at 9:42 AM ¤ Permalink ¤


34 Comments:


  • At 10/28/2006 11:42:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Lydia, this is such an important issue. Consider that in Jewish culture, laws about "gleaning" and jubilee helped ensure that families were not perpetually hungry or stuck in a cycle of poverty. And acts clearly points to the believers having a conern for making sure everyone's basic needs were met. But I agree, you don't have to be religious to get that a living minimum wage is just BASIC to a decent democratic society AND for helping people get off welfare with the hope of having more self-respect as a hardworking person able to support self and family. I don't see this as a partisan issue, but in particular I don't see how you can be a compassionate republican, believing in a "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" philosophy" and NOT support a respectful living wage. Like fighting genocide in Darfur, this could (and I would add should) be an issue that Christians of all political persuasions unite to support.

     
  • At 10/28/2006 04:11:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Lydia, this is such an important issue. Consider that in Jewish culture, laws about "gleaning" and jubilee helped ensure that families were not perpetually hungry or stuck in a cycle of poverty. And acts clearly points to the believers having a conern for making sure everyone's basic needs were met. But I agree, you don't have to be religious to get that a living minimum wage is just BASIC to a decent democratic society AND for helping people get off welfare with the hope of having more self-respect as a hardworking person able to support self and family. I don't see this as a partisan issue, but in particular I don't see how you can be a compassionate republican, believing in a "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" philosophy" and NOT support a respectful living wage. Like fighting genocide in Darfur, this could (and I would add should) be an issue that Christians of all political persuasions unite to support.

    10/28/2006 11:42:41 AM

     
  • At 10/28/2006 05:55:00 PM, Blogger wit4life

    First I'll say I think min wage should be higher. $5.15 is ridiculous. HOW much higher is the big question. This is where things get nasty and tough to figure out. For the sake of this conversation. . . .Let’s say we say $9 per hour. That sounds like a fair wage, right?

    At that rate though, business couldn’t hire workers and many small business would be out of business or paralyzed. Tons of under the table and exploitation would come from that I think. Like the sweat shop sicko stuff in the American territories. I’m a small business owner. I can’t hire workers because of the financial impossibility to pay not just the standard wage but the other half of their social security owned, health benefits, and workman’s compensation insurance and tons more mandated expenses to hire help, but I won’t bore you further. Actually I sub-contract and pay out $20 per hour, so I’m not stingy. I have to do that or I can’t get by. If there weren’t so many regulations I would have a much larger business and probably about 5 full time workers by now to be conservative in my estimates.

    You will always have people say, “I can’t live on that!” One group insists it sould be close to $16 per hour. What if we make minimum wage $30 per hour… or how about $85 per hour? That would be really fair. . . . then no one would ever be poor again! (please realize I joking right now.)

    I know the wage SHOULD go up. It should keep up with inflation for sure, but we can’t make it impossible for small businesses to grow. In the end, they won’t be able to hire more workers and this hurts everyone.

    Honestly, I would like to see the church become involved more than I would wish the government to be. They screw stuff up. Red tape and regulations abound and you wind up with more headaches and not the right kind of help. Just ask FEMA, right? PAlease! there's my opinion, since you asked. Good thoughts. Thanks for the opportunity to weigh in.

     
  • At 10/28/2006 08:53:00 PM, Blogger Nancy

    Had an interesting conversation with my financial planner just yesterday. She was telling me about a book, the title of which escapes me, that was written about the disappearance of the middle class in the USA. She was describing how CEO's of companies in the US have experienced a phenomenal increase in annual salary...it was crazy and I hope I'm quoting it right when I say their salaries had increased close to 400% over the past decade or so while the worker bees had such a minimal increase as to be almost nonexistent. Meanwhile, jobs are getting sourced out of the country at an alarming rate. Of course, so those CEO's can keep making the big money.

    It seems to be all about the almighty dollar and those that have a lot wanting even more and those that have little getting less and less both compared to upper management and to the standard cost of living. I worry about how this will all eventually play out. And how do we respond as people of Light to what seems so unjust? Voting for an increase in minimum wage may or may not resolve the issue. I'm afraid it will end up being kind of a bandaid on a ruptured majory artery.

     
  • At 10/28/2006 10:49:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    I think standards should be different for small businesses and large corporations...thus with great success comes great responsibility.

    We have some of that already in terms of maternity leave act -- if you have fifty or more employees, you have to allow for twelve weeks of unpaid leave with job security. So analogously, businesses over a certain size could have a higher wage requreiment than small businesses. This would keep the entrepenurial spirit alive and also take a little from those rich CEOs (who probably don't need ANOTHER yacht) and give it to the poor and middle class workers who need it to support their families. Also, I think American laws should apply to American companies, regardless of locations...that would limit outsourcing and the problem of cheaper labor abroad.

    At one point Ben & Jerry's had an internal policy that the highest paid worker could only be paid a certain proportion more than the lowest paid worker. It was a significant gap, but had a measure of integrity and accountability to it. Then at some point they got bigger and threw that idea out. I bet it wasn't because the business was about to go under though...

    Anyway, I think Christian business people who are in upper management positions should advocate for this type of voluntary interrelationship between wage increase of upper level workers and wage increase of lower level workers.

     
  • At 10/28/2006 11:07:00 PM, Blogger Cary

    My hubby was sharing with me about something written by a person who was making observations about the early Church (sorry--the reference escapes me right now, but I know the person writing was not a Christian himself and was actually writing for someone in government who was anti-Christian). One thing that really impressed this observer was how the community took care of its own. They would all skip one meal a week to give the food they would have consumed to the family in need instead. I realize that we have to take care of the world and not just other Christians. But this would be a good place to start. It would be an awful turn-off to non-Christians to see that there are those in our midst on a regular basis who are allowed to starve while others grow fat on their excess.
    Also, on a slightly related note, the minimum wage for someone who has the ability to receive tips is much less. When I waited tables in college, I received $2.15/hr from the restaurant (before taxes). So...one way to take care of others is to take good care of your servers. They are basically living off your tips.

     
  • At 10/29/2006 10:07:00 AM, Blogger sylvia skinner

    I find it so interesting that you posted this. Just Friday, I came across a chart that showed the increases in the federal minimum wage and was surprised to see that the last increase was in 1997 (I think)--almost 10 years ago. It looked like there had been increases steadily every couple of years, or so, and then it just stopped at 1997. I was also floored to see how low it was. Guess it shows how aware I am.

    To be honest, though, I have two sons who took their first jobs at McDonalds. Neither of them started at minimum wage--I think in lilly white suburbia even McDonald's knows that teenagers would rather sit in front of a computer and have no spending money (instead, bumming off mom and dad) than work for $5.15 an hour. A lot of kids (not mine, unfortunately for them) get that much in allowance, without having to deal with greasy hamburgers. I think McDonalds realizes that it would be an insult to offer that to teenagers where I live. I also noticed that they let the kids make their own schedules and get time off whenever they need it. But, again, McDonalds where I live isn't stupid--they need those kids to sell hamburgers (to other teenage kids!--the ones lucky enough to still bum off mom and dad).

    BUT, I wonder if that's true in the inner city. I wonder (of course I have no idea whether or not this is true) how many single moms get that offer--take it or leave it--and are expected to bust their butts for a mere $5.15/hour. Can you even get childcare for two little kids for that much? And, it's not really $5.15/hour. You have to take off 7.5% for social security and medicare, so it's really only about $4.74--if my math is correct. That's not even enough for one person to eat at McDonalds!

    I think this is deplorable. I do think something needs to be done. AND I do think Uncle Sam can do something about it. If we have billions to spend on a war, why can't we take care of this problem? Whether or not we want to admit it, it does cost the government because people have no incentive to work and get off welfare if they can't make enough to survive. How can we possibly look down on people who would make that choice? All things being equal, most moms would rather care for their own children and get assitance than have to leave them with God knows who to go out and work for a pittance. The government pays for it through the back door. Poor kids don't eat well, resulting in health issues later in life. Teenagers would rather sell drugs than work at McDonald's because they can actually make some money--this produces crime, which costs the government.

    I liked the idea of giving the smaller businesses a break and holding the larger corporations accountable in order to make it possible for people to make a decent wage.

    Where the church comes in?? I don't know. I think all we can do is vote for increases and take care of the poor people in our communities as we can. I would love to say I would give up one meal a week so someone else could eat--heck, I wouldn't have to give up a meal, but maybe a Starbucks or two, or three, or....

    Just my 2 cents (or $5.15--I should say).

     
  • At 10/29/2006 03:59:00 PM, Blogger Past the Wishing

    All these comments are extremely thoughtful and speak truth. And there seems to be a consensus that "something" needs to change with the minimum wage ... yet NOTHING is even being said about this issue in this upcoming election! What is wrong with this picture??

    How can the people, like us, choose the ISSUES to be talked about? That's where I feel powerless. The media drives what is even touted as 'the main issues behind this election!' Who says? I think we only hear issues that are of interest to the two extreme ends of the pole, not the majority middle.

    My minimum wage input!

     
  • At 10/29/2006 05:54:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

    You all might find this book interesting: Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America.

    It's about a journalist who decided to spend a year trying to live on minimum wage (or just slightly above) and see if it's actually possible. Her experiences are very revealing.

     
  • At 10/29/2006 11:02:00 PM, Blogger Cary

    On a slightly related issue, people in other countries are living on a very small percentage of minimum wage, and I know two ways we can do something about that. Visit www.one.org/takeaction for ways you can let our nation's leaders know that you want to see more of our money going towards aid for these nations. Also, when you're making your Christmas purchases this year, consider buying (RED) gifts--visit joinred.com for more info. Neither of these efforts would cost you any additional money, but they could go a long way to easing the suffering of those experiencing poverty well below our minimum wage level. Also, I've been compiling a list of similar links to help us make a difference at http://dwellingplace.blogsource.com/post.mhtml?post_id=391633 if you'd like to see other ways you can make a difference.

     
  • At 10/30/2006 12:16:00 AM, Blogger sylvia skinner

    We are voting on raising minimum wage here in Arizona a week from Tuesday...

     
  • At 10/30/2006 09:16:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

    My dissenting opinion is here.



    It is not that I don't have compassion for those in the lower tier of society. A whole lot of my extended family is there.

    But we are people who take care of our own. Government intervention doesn't work--it has to come from education and our own hearts.

     
  • At 10/30/2006 10:42:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    My opinion is that while it is heroic and inspiring when someone is able to beat the odds and rise about a system that makes their success unlikely, that doesn't justify the system staying as it is, if it makes it require herosim to get out of poverty and provide a respectful life for one's family. Honesty and basic hardwork (that allows one to get a human amount of rest) should be enough.
    Everyone's brain is wired differently -- a point few people seem to deeply grasp. Some of us take initiative but struggle with follow through, some are hardworkers but find it virtually impossible ot take initiative. You know they've actually mapped a part in the brain that has to do with being able to plan and carry out an action, and people who are brain damaged in this area of the brain simply cannot just "decide to do it." It makes sense that this is a strength for some people, but not for everyone.

    Marcia has made some good points about what is a necessity and what is not, but inappropriate spending of resources is linked to poverty, not the relief of it through a decent wage. Poor people spend their money on fancy watches and pot and designer beauty products because they CAN'T afford the things they truly need for a healthy, decent life, so they use these things to give them a false sense of status, luxury, power and self-esteem.

    When people get out of poverty, they usually start acting more responsible (ie having fewer children, saving money, focusing on the kids education, etc.) So just as God loved us while we were yet sinners, and by his love enables us to transform into something better, people at the bottom of society need to be shown dignity if we are to expect them to take responsibility for the next steps in their lives.

    I don't think being an overcomer should make a person judgmental or resentful of others who would seek a path that is decent, yet not so harsh. The current minimum wage is not humane. It is injust. To argue that it is a poor persons problem to overcome this injustice, does not in my mind or heart embody the bold love of God.

    To me, advocating a better minimum wage, esp for large corporations whose CEOs and top execs make millions has nothing to do with Grace. Just plain decency and justice.

    To talk about God's grace intersecting with cycles of poverty could be the subject of another post.

     
  • At 10/30/2006 10:56:00 AM, Blogger lydia

    Good discussion so far.

    Honestly, I would like to see the church become involved more

    What do you think it could do?

    I don't know that it could have much of an effect on the law - or at least now right now. It takes time for momentum to build on these sorts of things, and there's also the question of how deep the church (as an institution, not as individuals) should wade into political issues.

    I could see how the church could inspire business owners to pay their employees as much as the business could afford to pay.

    I could see how the church could do other things to help people who live on those wages by sponsoring ESL (english as a second language) classes or by offering things like childcare or scholarships to make it easier to go to college or learn a trade.

    Are these the sort of things you were thinking of?

     
  • At 10/30/2006 10:57:00 AM, Blogger lydia

    To talk about God's grace intersecting with cycles of poverty could be the subject of another post.

    I'd be interested in this topic if you get a chance to post on it.

     
  • At 10/30/2006 11:00:00 AM, Blogger lydia

    But we are people who take care of our own..

    How? What have you seen that has worked in the long-term? (not trying to be snarky...i'm honestly curious as I've heard little about this in the churches I've attended.)

     
  • At 10/30/2006 11:01:00 AM, Blogger lydia

    Yep, Nickle and Dimed is an excellent book, Mike.

     
  • At 10/30/2006 11:07:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

    Jemila, you said, "but inappropriate spending of resources is linked to poverty, not the relief of it through a decent wage. " Do you have a cite for this?


    This makes no sense, "Poor people spend their money on fancy watches and pot and designer beauty products because they CAN'T afford the things they truly need for a healthy, decent life, so they use these things to give them a false sense of status, luxury, power and self-esteem." If they can afford those things, they don't need a higher wage, they need more education on how to be financially responsible.

    You also said, "Like fighting genocide in Darfur, this could (and I would add should) be an issue that Christians of all political persuasions unite to support. "


    You can't be seriously comparing the two. I'd bet the average Sudanese would give his eyeteeth to come here and live like America's "poor."

    Just because I advocate personal over government responsiblity doesn't mean I'm heartless or harsh. I merely believe societal ways to address this and a lot of other issues are better than just expecting the government to fix it, again. It doesn't work; all it does is perpetuate the cycle.

     
  • At 10/30/2006 11:11:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

    Hi Lydia, I wasn't talking about church when I said we take care of our own. I was talking about my family. If someone needs something, someone else will help them get it.

    I can't imagine any of my cousins, aunts, nephews, anyone, becoming homeless. The rest of us would just not allow it.

    And as I said, we have no family money; my dad was homeless himself as a kid. But again, he was a hard worker, and brought his own family up out of it, as did all seven of his siblings.

     
  • At 10/30/2006 01:18:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Marcia,

    I can affirm that I've observed many women I've worked with from poor communities do have supportive female networks to help with childcare, take in a friend or relative etc. Middle and upper class Americans could learn from these communities in this area. However, clearly many people still slip through the cracks, as you stated your husband was homeless as a child.

    Also number of these women that sense an opportunity to genuinely be free from cycles of poverty is small; it takes an individual with a greater-than-average independent, visionary spirit to get beyond the culture of poverty and a sense of delayed gratification and self-discipline either being modeled or innate as a rare gift.

    As I stated before, although I have great admiration that you were able to overcome all you did and pull yourself up by your bootstraps doesn't mean that everyone can, nor doesn't it justify corporations making millions off of people living in poverty.

    I'm afraid I don't remember the sources on my comments. Some are things I've read, others come from personal experiences with women I've worked with in various settings.

    Blessings,
    Jemila

     
  • At 10/30/2006 01:42:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    Hi Jemila--you said,"it takes an individual with a greater-than-average independent, visionary spirit to get beyond the culture of poverty "

    So how do we get there? How is bumping up the minimum wage going to help them out of the culture of poverty? Do we just keep bump, bump, bumping it and not addressing the underlying need?

    I don't have the answers, by the way. And I suppose I can allow for the fact that what I want is a fantasy world; where those who can get up from the bottom, and then help those who cannot. It seems to me that government intervention once again would merely be covering up the real problem.

    BTW, it was my dad who was homeless, not my husband. : )

     
  • At 10/30/2006 03:38:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    When a woman can be raped by a man and have a kid. Work two (or more) minimum wage jobs. Not spend friviously and still not get by - we have a serious issue.

    We can make excuses about how we disapprove what certain people spend their money on, but how can we let our stereotypes of the minority prevent us from actually caring for people?

    And I admit - this isn't a one solution issue. You want people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. They can't do that without education. But the schools in poor communities suck. We use property tax to fund to schools so therefore those schools have little to no money. Then on top of that we have the spawn of Satan - the "No Child Left Behind" crap that ruins education and forces teachers (especially in poor schools) to teach to meaningless tests. So the kids get no skills that they will need to actually get ahead nor do they ever develop a love for learning...

    Then you get a job that doesn't pay a living wage, the kids raise themselves with no parental input, you don't have enough money to pay the rent much less buy healthy food (which costs way more), so there are more health issues and children's brains don't develop fully because they don't get the right nutrients, and if everyone in your family is in the same boat... and the cycle continues.

    So no - I can't say that the christian response could be screw them they need to help themselves.

    I say I will advocate that they receive wages that actually keeps up with inflation, that we have tax and education reform, that grocery stores don't gauge the poor by only selling rotten veggies at insane prices, that we follow the Biblical mandates to serve the poor and set the oppressed free.

    and no I don't have an opinion on this, not at all... ;)

     
  • At 10/31/2006 06:47:00 AM, Blogger wilsford

    Hi Jemila--you said,"it takes an individual with a greater-than-average independent, visionary spirit to get beyond the culture of poverty "

    So how do we get there?


    now we are asking a question that comes closer to addressing the issue.

    the problem is, helping people and culture develop more effective personal econimies and attitudes is a long-term solution and does not have a simple, mechanistic answer.

    raising the minimum wage (a simple, mechanisitic answer) is a fast, short-term solution. My argument in favor of raising the minimunm wage is, yah, the purchasing price of a dollar has fallen a long way in ten years.

    But I think that offering this as the only solution ignores the complexity of people, culture, behaviors.

    being a bit of a pessimist when it comes to people, i tend to think that there will always be people who are willing to be poor. Not that they like being poor—but they dislike the hard work of change.

    how do we as the church (or society) accomodate both those who want to change and those who don't?

     
  • At 10/31/2006 08:19:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    I understand that there are some people who don't want to work and are willing to stay poor because of that. But honestly how maney rich people don't like working either. All the big guys who are figureheads and sit on board meetings occasionally. And what about all of us stay at home moms? I am the first to defend the choice to stay home and to insist that it is a full full time job, and in the church such a decision is often praised (if not insisted upon). But if a single mom who has decided to carry her child to term and keep it want to stay with her child instead of working, we dont praise her choice or help make it easier so she could be a good careing mother - no we critisize her for being lazy and living off the system. what a freaking double standard we keep in the church...

     
  • At 10/31/2006 12:32:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Yes, and I think a key issue here is the middle class resentment that arises, because there are many mothers who wish the could stay home but can't (or at least can't while providing what they consider a good quality of life,) and they feel (rightly) that it's acutely unfair for them to pay for a welfare mother to stay home with her kids when they would rather be home too! On the other hand, if big corporations and extremely rich people were footing the bill, my bet is the average person wouldn't feel notably resentful of poor mothers who choose to stay home with their kids. This still doesn't address the root cause stuff though.

     
  • At 10/31/2006 04:10:00 PM, Blogger Christy

    Okay, you've hit a nerve here. I live in Los Angeles, and according to a study done by the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, THIRTY PERCENT of people living in Los Angeles are considered the "working poor." What this means is that at least one adult in the family is working FULL TIME and the family is still unable to afford all of the basic necessities.

    What frustrates me about conversations like this is how the issues of a homeless drug addict and someone who is behaving responsibly and working full-time get conflated. The issues are completely different, and don't take into account the massive change that has happened in our economy over the past 30 years. Manufacturing jobs that paid a living wage have been outsourced to other countries and replaced with low wage service sector jobs; real wages have stagnated for everybody over the past 30 years; more and more people are without health insurance; and most big cities have an affordable housing crisis. (Median rent in Los Angeles is now $1750 for a two bedroom.)

    Some cities and areas have instituted living wage ordinances for businesses with over a certain number of employees, and have found that increases in worker productivity and decreased turnover have helped offset the higher costs. For more information, check out www.laane.org.

    As for what the church can do, in LA, there is a fantastic organization called Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (www.cluela.org). There is also the National Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice. Google them, and you should find scads of useful information.

    As for welfare, TANF is an infinitesmal portion of the national budget, and with a lifetime limit of 5 years, no one stays on welfare for years anymore. They never did - I did research on this in grad school, and most recipients of welfare (back when it was AFDC) got payments for a while, figured out their life, and then got off. There is a lifetime limit of 5 years now, so staying on welfare forever is not an option.

    I shall get off my soapbox now, even thought the sociologist in me could talk for hours....

     
  • At 10/31/2006 05:13:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    "Some cities and areas have instituted living wage ordinances for businesses with over a certain number of employees, and have found that increases in worker productivity and decreased turnover have helped offset the higher costs."

    Chicago tried to get this at least for big box stores (walmart, target... ) which are notorious for not paying a living wage. In Chicago to work full time and be just at the poverty line you have tomake $10 an hour. Well the city passed it, but Mayor I'm-as-corrupt-as-they-come Daley vetoed it. And it was the churches - especially the black catholic communities who led the plea to set restrictions on those companies... but to no avail."Some cities and areas have instituted living wage ordinances for businesses with over a certain number of employees, and have found that increases in worker productivity and decreased turnover have helped offset the higher costs."

    Chicago tried to get this at least for big box stores (walmart, target... ) which are notorious for not paying a living wage. In Chicago to work full time and be just at the poverty line you have tomake $10 an hour. Well the city passed it, but Mayor I'm-as-corrupt-as-they-come Daley vetoed it. And it was the churches - especially the black catholic communities who led the plea to set restrictions on those companies... but to no avail.

     
  • At 11/01/2006 08:48:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    I agree there are several things being discussed on this post, the primary being hardworking Americans who are living at or below the poverty level because the minimum wage is not a living wage.

    Christy, thanks for providing so many valuable facts for those of us like me who remember ideas more than figures and sources.

    Several people quoted my comment about addressing the culture of poverty and indicated they feel that's where the energy should be directed. I feel firmly that neither is a substitute for the other. We need a dignified living wage so that every hardworking American can provide a respectful life for themselves and their families. On a systemic level, I also think we need to change the way public education is funded so that economically struggling kids are not additionally disadvantaged by crappy schools.

    We ALSO need to address and wrestle with the culture of poverty and find ways as Christian communities of bringing healing, hope and opportunity to individuals and families that will enable THEM to tranform a culture of poverty into a culture of dynamic creativity and health.

     
  • At 11/02/2006 08:37:00 PM, Blogger Sue Densmore

    As I read all this, and as I get upset at the injustice of it all, I am forced to ask myself, "What have I given up lately so that I can help take care of another? How much am I giving to my church and its benevolence fund? How much stuff do I have which money might have gone to feed someone?"

    As we all send our opinions into cyberspace, maybe we should also look in the mirror.

    Not accusing. Just thinking.

     
  • At 11/03/2006 01:11:00 AM, Anonymous Mike Doyle

    If any of you haven't done so yet, I invite you all to come take a look at "7 DAYS @ MINIMUM WAGE", the video blog of hardworking Americans struggling to make ends meet on poverty wages, sponsored by ACORN and AFL-CIO and hosted by Roseanne Barr that Lydia scribed about above. We originally expected to end the project after the initial week, but due to its success it's been been extended through Election Day, November 7.

    

The interviews are pretty stark and honest, and they've been viewed by more than 30,000 people since the project began on October 23 (they can be seen at www.sevendaysatminimumwage.org or on YouTube under the user name, "7daysatminimumwage").

    

ACORN and AFL-CIO launched the blog as a way to get contemporary audiences to join in the national debate over fair wages.  We hoped, naively or not, that Paul and Susan, Jessica, Jeffrey, and the other poverty-wage workers who agreed to tell their stories to America, would become Internet celebrities in the fight for social justice. That's actually starting to happen.  A few days ago, part one of Jessica's harrowing interview, in which she describes raising four kids while getting a degree and begging her employer for full-time hours and benefits, became YouTube's top video in the News & Blogs category (the real heartbreak is in part two, though, if you're brave enough to watch it).

    

We've also had more than 60 bloggers across the country (much like you) take up the cause and write about or link to the 7 DAYS blog, gotten coverage from Air America, National Public Radio, and, with Roseanne Barr, a national Associated Press article. Last Sunday, we were honored to have celebrated labor-rights journalist Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch, as the guest for an hour-long webchat.

    

Now we want to know what everyone else thinks about the project and the fairness of minimum wage in general. Personally, I don't think an hour of human labor should cost the same as a large latte (you know, the drink we probably all had on our way to work this morning?)  Imagine having to work an hour at your job just to pay for that coffee--or being forced to raise a family on that kind of income because the government said you weren't worth being paid anything more.  Millions of people face just that dilemma every morning, every day, and it just pisses me off that they have to be in that position.


    
I invite you all to come visit the blog site and tell us what you think about the $5.15 federal minimum wage, however you want to do that. Post a comment under one of the videos and tell us your opinion or your story.  Or pick up a video camera like I did and interview a friend or neighbor working for poverty wages and post the video on YouTube or your own blog and tell us about it. And as far as YouTube goes, the comments some of our participants have received there have run the gamut from supportive to downright hateful (so we've been taking our blows, too). If you feel like entering the debate their, check out the comments under Jessica's videos and see if you agree with some of them (I bet you won't, some of them are just plain obnoxious).

    

For those of us who worked on 7 DAYS, we never considered the project a simple campaign tactic, or a partisan appeal or political story.  We wanted 7 DAYS to be a humanistic project. From the beginning, we tried to engage the blogosphere from the heart. We empathize with the people who told us their stories not because we feel sorry for them, but because we ARE them. Me, and you, and every American of any wallet size working to make ends meet--none of us is any different than a minimum-wage worker, and circumstance could deliver any of us into a minimum-wage income in an instant.


    
Last week, 30,000 people heard that message.  Some were convinced.  Some weren't.  Are you?  Come tell us.

    

Speech over ;-)

     
  • At 11/03/2006 09:32:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    I agree that we all should stop and reflect on our lifestyles and their indirect impact on other people's quality of life, via what we give through church/charity -- how bout a shopping fast, with the difference given to microlending groups, scholarships, soup kitchens or other charities. But this is a separate issue from the minimum wage debate. An able bodies American who chooses to work SHOULD NOT HAVE TO DEPEND ON CHARITY to make basic ends meet.

     
  • At 11/07/2006 12:27:00 AM, Anonymous Mike Doyle

    Thanks again for covering 7 Days at Minimum Wage. With Election Day finally upon us, I wanted to let you know what the project team is up to in support of the six minimum-wage ballot initiatives in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, and Ohio.

    I won't kitchen-sink you with all the details--you can browse the 7 DAYS project website for that, at http://www.sevendaysatminimumwage.org/site/?page_id=23 . But if you do click through, you'll find information about phone banks, door-knocks, prayer vigils, canvassing, election observations, and watch parties sponsored by ACORN and AFL-CIO throughout the six key states. (You can also find a lot of this last-minute info on ACORN's www.raiseswages.org and AFL-CIO's www.americaneedsaraise.org ).

    It's obvious why these increases are important: an hour of human labor should cost more than a Starbucks venti latte. That the federal government thinks it's ok to pay you or me or anyone else $5.15 an hour is positively obnoxious--and most of those hours are below full-time and without health insurance.

    I know I'm angry about that, and sad for the way the people we interviewed are forced to live because the law says it's ok to keep them earning below the poverty line. I know how deeply that fact affected me through my work on 7 DAYS. If the project touched just one other person out there to go to the polls and help raise their local minimum wage, then I know we've accomplished what we set out to do.

    Please remember the folks we interviewed when you consider your state's or your city's minimum wage...or the next time you tip anyone, anywhere, for that matter. Do click through and see how to support minimum-wage increases in your state. And most of all, thanks for watching. Good luck to everyone on November 7!

    Peace...

     
  • At 11/07/2006 09:33:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

    Okay, y'all. I can be taught.

     
  • At 2/19/2007 12:50:00 PM, Anonymous Wage Revolution

    SICK OF THE MINIMUM WAGE ARGUMENT?

    http://www.TheWageRevolution.com

    http://www.WageRevolution.net

    http://www.WageRevolution.org

    PAYING PEOPLE LIVABLE WAGES

    PERIOD

     

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