Consider the following abuses that result from our “system” of labor laws and regulations.
• The “system” has set the federal minimum wage at $7.25 an hour. In 1968, when the minimum wage was at its peak (adjusted for inflation), it was worth 52% of the median wage in the economy. To achieve that same ratio today, it would need to rise to $12.00. If this were to happen, 23 million people would get a raise. More
• The “system” sets the minimum wage for tipped workers at $2.13, where it has been since 1991. Anyone who earns more than $30 in tips per month can be classified, and paid, as a tipped worker. Some 4.3 million workers are categorized as tipped workers; two-thirds are women. More
• The “system” allows only about one-quarter (27%) of the unemployed to get unemployment insurance. The other three-quarters of laid-off workers get no supplemental support; they must live off their savings. More
• The “system” does not require employers to provide paid sick days. So over one-quarter of all employees (over 43 million people) have no paid sick leave. If they get sick, as we all do, or if a family member is ill, they are not paid for the time off they take and they may lose their jobs for missing work. More
• The “system” allows firms -- including huge multinationals like Tyson Foods and Purdue -- to employ one-quarter of a million people in their chicken processing plants where, according to Oxfam America, they “1) earn low wages of diminishing value, 2) suffer elevated rates of injury and illness, and 3) often experience a climate of fear in the workplace.” More and more
• The “system” enables wage theft – the illegal but common workplace practice of employers not paying workers all the wages they earn – by failing to enact simple safeguards to prevent it (like requiring employers to provide workers with pay stubs http://www.iwj.org/issues/wage-theft/paystubs-for-all ) and by failing to prosecute violators. Up to two-thirds of workers in low-wage industries have wages stolen by their employers in any given week. More
The “system” is how we, who live in a democracy, organize our society. If we don’t like the system, if we think it violates our values and is at odds with our faith, then we need to get involved and change it. We must follow Jesus’ lead, raise our voices and act to end these systemic abuses. This work, this ministry, probably won’t make us popular. We might be accused of engaging in political activities, just like Jesus was. But if we are to follow Jesus, it is what we must do.
Find out about groups that may be organizing in your area.
Join the Justice and Peace Action Network to help change federal policies on a variety of issues
Join the UCC Economic Justice Movement to take action locally and nationally