The earth is the LORD’S and all that is in it — Ps 24:1a
You shall love your neighbor as yourself — Matthew 22:39b
A job should lift everyone out of poverty, not keep them there.
In the U.S. today, fully one-quarter of all jobs pay poverty-level wages. All workers are made in God’s image and deserve living wages. Poverty jobs can be changed into life-enhancing jobs if we work to make this happen.
Jesus was a Low-Wage Worker is a resource describing low-wage work, the workers in these jobs, and how we can make low-wage jobs into living-wage ones. Buttons with this statement (in English or Spanish) are also available, see below.
In addition to low pay, these jobs often have other disadvantages:
• few benefits such as health insurance, a pension or retirement plan, or paid sick leave;
• inconvenient hours such as nights, weekends, rotating shifts, or part-time hours;
• these jobs are seldom ladders to better opportunities, they typically have few avenues for advancement;
• the work may be exceptionally dirty or hazardous.
Women and people of color are more likely to hold these jobs than white males.
Low-wage workers across the country are courageously putting themselves and their jobs at risk
seeking better pay and working conditions. Locate worker organizations in our communities
that seek our support.
Hard Work, Hard Lives by Oxfam America describes the difficult reality faced by millions of workers in the U.S.
A Day’s Strike Seeks to Raise Fast-Food Pay by Steven Greenhouse, New York Times, July 31, 2013. Fast-food employees across the country engage in brief strikes in an effort to boost their pay.
Fighting Back Against Wretched Wages by Steven Greenhouse, New York Times, July 27, 2013. Workers are organizing for better pay and working conditions; employers push back.
Alt Labor by Josh Eidelson, The American Prospect, January 29, 2013.
There are many types of low-wage jobs.
They can be found in any industry or occupation. Some of the more common ones are listed just below. Of course, there can also be high paying jobs in these industries and occupations also.
- health care: nursing homes, cleaning hospitals
- hospitality: cleaning hotel rooms
- restaurants and fast food
- child care including early childhood education
- farm work
- meatpacking and poultry processing
- retail sales
- security guard
Many of these industries are growing rapidly which means the number of low-wage jobs will grow in the future.
Note that much of this work cannot be moved overseas. The jobs performed by these workers — cleaning, caring for children and elders, selling items to customers — need to be done in our local communities. If people of faith stand with low-wage workers who are seeking to improve their wages and working conditions, then poverty-wage jobs can be changed into living-wage jobs.
Labor unions and a number of worker organizations seek to improve these jobs, bringing workers and people of faith together for a common purpose. Get involved!