built to create change
SFIWJ is a leading worker advocacy organization. Our mission is to involve the faith community in issues that will improve the wages, benefits, and employment conditions of workers, especially low-wage workers in South Florida.
Friday, June 20, 2014
The Federal minimum wage, had it kept current with inflation, would be $10.74. Instead, the current Federal minimum wage is $7.25. This means that, in real dollar terms, the Federal minimum wage is worth just two-thirds of what it was worth in the 1970’s. When this is coupled with the fact that a larger percentage of the American work force earns minimum wage today than in the 1970’s, we see clearly that this country is moving backwards in the living standards of our working people. Because wage laws do not include a stipulation that the minimum wage be indexed to inflation, every time we have a debate on this issue we are merely fighting to regain some of the ground lost rather than fighting to move ahead. Ethical employers cannot compete against the unscrupulous greedy employers who are more than willing to undercut their competitors on price by keeping wages low. This is one of many reasons why it is imperative to increase the Federal minimum wage, in order to provide a morally tenable level playing field. In a country as rich as ours, no one working full time should be earning poverty wages. As people of faith we should realize that we are judged by how we treat the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society.
Father Frank J. Corbishley is the Chaplain of St. Bede Chapel at the University of Miami.
Monday, June 02, 2014
May 15th was a Global Fast Food Workers Strike Day. In more than 135 U.S. cities and dozens of cities around the world, workers from fast food restaurants went on strike, standing up to demand a living wage for the hard work they provide for the industry. The fast food industry is a billion dollar industry that is growing every year. The profit made by top restaurant CEOs in 2012, in fact, averaged about 788 times the minimum wage made by their employees, according to the Economic Policy Institute (see the chart here
). Many of these workers depend on their job in fast food restaurants to make ends meet and often it isn't enough.
Being able to walk with these workers in Miami, one of the cities to hold first fast food strikes, was a powerful experience because we met the workers who struggled daily. We saw that they were risking their jobs to speak out for what they believed was the right thing to do for themselves, their loved ones, and their co-workers. It is really easy to say "get a new job" until you meet a worker whose daily life is dependent upon two jobs that barely provide for her and her three children.
South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice joined the workers in solidarity at the crack of dawn and later in the pouring rain so that we could offer our support. And, we, along with faith leaders from many faith communities that came out to meet the workers that day and to hear their stories, will continue to stand with these and other workers until they gain the respect that they deserve in their workplaces.
Friday, May 23, 2014
When members of my congregation ask me why I have been on the board of the South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice Group for 8 years, I always have to stop and think for a couple of minutes and then I say something like”because we aren't finished with our work yet.” Now, of course, in reality, I do not delude myself that the work of bringing justice to working people and poor people will be something that I personally can ever finish. Nonetheless, I feel obligated to stay in the struggle for as long as possible even though it often seems to be filled with “little victories and big defeats” as Joan Baez once said about justice work in general. I have actually seen positive things happen in my time on the SFIWJ board, though. Sometimes I haven't even learned about our successes until long after the work we did as was the case with the NOVA workers who finally got their union long after I felt all our work had been for nothing.
Other times we win victories and then have to spend years trying to protect those victories as is the case with the local Wage Theft ordinances. Still, I know we are doing what we should be doing despite the set backs and the glacial pace of change. Every faith tradition tells us that we should pay special attention to the poor and that people who work hard should have a decent life. Pope Francis has been a huge inspiration to many people of faith, Catholics and others, with his bold effort to bring back some the tenants of Liberation Theology, namely what was termed “preferential option for the the poor.” After many years of Christian Prosperity theology combined with New Age ideas about creating our own reality, it is very refreshing to see the religious left grow bolder again in supporting an increase in the minimum wage, protecting people's right to all the money they earn, and other ideas that should seem obvious to any person of any faith tradition. May we all stay strong and ever hopeful for the journey to a more economically just world.
Rev. Gail Tapscott, Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church of Ft. Lauderdale and apparently life time board member of South Florida Interfaith Justice