Posts tagged: Minimum Wage

Theft Is Always Wrong But….

By , April 17, 2014 5:49 am

When Moses came down from the mountain he had with him the tablets with God’s ten major ordinances – the Ten Commandments. The most important, of course, was that God’s people were to worship Yahweh faithfully and honestly, but down the line a bit there was the one that we now call “VII” – Thou Shalt Not Steal. We all know that stealing is wrong. To intentionally take something that is the private property of another person, is almost in cases a moral evil. I say in almost all because there are certain circumstances which would allow a person to make quick decisions in order to survive; for example, food when faced with hunger. In general, it is always wrong to steal.

But some kinds of theft are worse than others. Walking into a liquor store with a handgun in order to empty the cash register is theft and if you don’t get killed, you certainly can go to jail for a long period of time. You may not understand this but there is a certain honesty in that kind of theft. You have money, I want it and if you don’t give it to me, you are going to get hurt!

However, let me tell you of a worse kind of theft. Put yourself in the executive offices of a fast food place. It doesn’t matter whether it is McDonald’s or Wendy’s or Burger King. You see the hourly charts coming in reflecting that Gene Jones or Raul Martinez worked 52 hours at the minimum wage. No one can actually survive on that in an urban setting. Why should those two guys who sweated for so many hours get so much money? We will just say that he worked 40 hours cutting him out of overtime. Stealing from the poor is, in my opinion, the very lowest form of theft!

A few weeks ago the United States Department of Labor announced the results of a survey indicating that the scope of wage theft in this country is stunning. The practice of stealing wages, commonly called “wage theft”, is a national epidemic. It eats away at the livelihood of already underpaid workers. Eighty percent of surveyed fast food workers experienced off the clock violations, meaning that they were required to work without pay before punching in and after punching out. Forty-eight percent who worked more than 40 hours in a week did not receive overtime pay. Wage theft has ramifications beyond the employees who are cheated. We suffer when wage theft becomes a way of doing business. Law abiding businesses can’t compete with wage cheats who shave their operating costs by breaking the law. The less money that wage earners bring home, the less money they have to spend on basics, such as food, clothing and household necessities depriving local businesses of much needed consumer dollars and hampering our economy. When that happens everyone loses.

The Department of Labor has studied and documented that this heinous crimes. Now let’s give them the charge of cleaning this utterly cruel form of theft up as quickly as possible.

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The Struggle for the Minimum Wage Continues

By , January 3, 2014 7:23 am


More and more Americans are coming to realize that while the top 1% of this country continues to get an ever larger share of the economic pie, there is another problem at the opposite end- I am talking about the suffering of the people at the bottom. Their number is unknown but the pain is real.

Last month, we saw a flare up of tens of thousands of fast food workers joining together to convey first to their employers, and then to the entire nation, that the minimum wage is grossly inadequate and must be raised realistically and quickly. The opponents of raising the minimum wage state that the employers simply cannot pay these low- skilled jobs any more than they are doing at the present time. Such employers with this mindset are numbers in the thousands but the one that we ought to consider right now is Walmart, founded by Sam Walton of Arkansas.

Have you noticed the large public relations programs currently being conducted by Walmart? We are told that it is a marvelous place to work, good conditions and anybody with a little ambition can move right up the ladder. There is nothing wrong with that but Walmart tells us that they cannot afford to respond positively to their tens of thousands of employees who are working for $7.25 an hour.

Consider this fact: Six members of the Walton family possess wealth equal to that of the entire bottom 30 percent of Americans. The wealth of the six members total out to $102.7 billion for the whole family.

Sylvia Allegretto, a labor economist at the Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics at the University of California-Berkeley, compared the Waltons’ cumulative net worth with that of the overall population, as cited in the Survey of Consumer Finances. (She used the Waltons’ wealth from 2010, which was valued at $89.5 billion.)

Allegretto found that in 2007, the wealth held by the six Waltons was equal to that of the bottom 30.5 percent of families in the U.S. In 2010, the Waltons’ share equaled the entire bottom 41.5 percent of families. One percent indeed!

None of us should be indifferent to structured injustice in our society and that the vast wealth of our nation continue to oppose efforts to help millions of Americans who are working very hard under difficult conditions and not being paid adequately.

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A Change is Needed

By , December 10, 2013 5:01 am

It was in 1938 that Roosevelt’s New Deal established the first national minimum wage law to be utilized in the United States. The fact that the figure was 25 cents an hour tells you just how bad things were in the Depression. Over the years, the minimum wage has gradually been raised reflecting changing economic situations. Today is it $7.25 an hour and thanks be to God we are seeing a strong buildup of commitment to an increase.

There are some economic forces in our society that aggressively resist any change in the minimum wage. Those same forces offer no explanation of how people are to support themselves on that since they also oppose food stamps and the EITC.

I am proud of the fact that the Catholic Bishops of the United States came out forcefully for the establishment of a national minimum wage in 1919 and have supported every adjustment over the last 90 years.
Paul Krugman, a nationally recognized awarding winning economist, points out that the Economic Policy Institute tells us that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would benefit 30 million workers directly and millions of others indirectly.

Sixty percent of those receiving the current minimum wage are standing behind cash registers at Walmart or fast food restaurants. Just think what a shot this would be to our economy to have 30 million of our brothers and sisters getting a very real break in a difficult time.

Arguments that raising the minimum wage would contribute to unemployment have been refuted so many times, but this false argument is still made by people who have no concern for those struggling at the bottom level of our economy.

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Congress Must Simply Get To Work!

By , October 15, 2013 1:02 pm

Photo: Grimes

The impasse in Congress is not just a terrible economic threat to the country but it is also keeping our representatives from dealing with other major issues.

We need immigration reform, we need to reform the tax system and we are sorely in need of an increase in the minimum wage. I was happy to see that this issue has been getting a lot of attention over the last few months. A nationwide one-day strike by fast food workers produced a lot of good but not nearly enough. The Obama Administration has called for a minimum wage of $9 an hour but if you compare that to the minimum wage in 1968 when it was $10.77, when viewed in current dollars, the Administration’s push is inadequate. A study by the Economic Institute found that a $2.85 increase in the minimum wage would generate $32 billion in economic activity and translate to roughly 140,000 new jobs. Not taking this action is a real tragedy.

I don’t know the accuracy of the 1% and the 99% but, like everyone else in this country who gives any thought, there is a terrible disparity and an ever-widening gulf between the affluent and the poor. And it is not just the people at the very bottom of the economic barrel but hard working blue collar people as well. It is hard for many of them to keep up with the fast moving economic changes in our society. Ten or twenty million Americans are unemployed or underemployed. The one bright spot on the scene is that most of the poor now have a guarantee of health care thanks to the Affordable Care Act. The law was passed by a majority of both Houses, signed by the president of the United States and declared constitutional by the Supreme Court, and yet the right wing media continues to attack and misrepresent the facts connected with this extraordinarily important change in direction of our country.

I am proud of the fact that the Catholic Bishops of the United States first called for national health care in 1919. Did you hear that? 1919! And they have been calling for it for 93 years. We are almost there!

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A Voice from the Past

By , September 21, 2013 5:33 am

September 22nd, 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today we hear the voice of the Prophet Amos stretching across nearly 2,500 years touching our ears and reminding us of one of the saddest aspects of the human story. Human beings are weak, many of us have a strong temptation to take short cuts and do not always successfully resist those temptations. One of the most common temptations in all cultures and civilizations has been the temptation of the wealthy to take advantage of the weaker citizens in their society or culture. It was true in Egypt, Greece, Rome and it is true in the United States.

Poor areas of our cities have fewer grocery stores and the commodities for sale within them are more expensive than in the more affluent parts of town. When the poor get in trouble and they need a $50 or $100 loan they pay astronomical fees sometimes becoming much larger than the original loan itself.

Two weeks ago you saw an explosion as the fast food workers of the country challenged the food giants to pay them more than $7.25 an hour. In many parts of the country their effort was very effective and they received substantial raises. That is good but did their employers really think that their employees could live a normal life on our pathetic minimum wage?

In today’s first reading our friend Amos had a lot to say about this and the exploiters of the poor when he says, “The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob never will I forget a thing that they have done.” Not a thing? Wow! That is very strong. In our dealings with each other we ought to keep that in mind. God will not forget crimes of injustice against the poor. They must be atoned for and the perpetrator must experience sorrow and repentance because, “The Lord has sworn never will I forget a thing that they have done!”

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The Minimum Wage. Could You Live On It?

By , January 29, 2013 4:28 am

I am glad to see thoughtful and fair-minded people beginning to talk about the need to raise the national minimum wage. While 19 states have set their own minimum wage above that set by the federal government, Texas’ current political leaders wouldn’t begin to think about raising it. The federal level has been locked in at $7.25 a hour since 2009. In view of that, I hope that Congress will raise the minimum wage this year. It is interesting to see Congress arguing that $7.25 is just fine after they have spent months arguing that poor people who only make a million or more dollars a year should not have to pay additional taxes. Did you know that there is a minimum wage for waitresses and other “tipped” workers? It is $2.13 an hour and it has been that way for almost 15 years!
If efforts to raise the minimum wage would begin to get traction, you can expect to hear arguments that small businesses CANNOT AFFORD to pay a higher wage. The evidence shows that most low wage employees work for large companies. Raising the minimum wage would also put pressure to bring higher wages to those working above that minimum level. Let’s face it. The middle class has been caught in a terrible squeeze for more than two decades and the nation needs to begin determined efforts to increase the share of the economic pie that the middle class receives.
Regretfully, it has been several decades since the average American family could be supported by one wage earner. It is taken for granted that the majority of our families require two paychecks to simply get by. If one or both of those paychecks is based on $7.25 an hour, you can be sure that this family is living in poverty, real poverty. Wealth continues to soar in this country. Production and profits are up but it seems that the lower levels of the economy continue to be squeezed.

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