A More Just Minimum Wage

"Minimum Wage Rally at Atwater's" by Maryland GovPics / Flickr.com

"Minimum Wage Rally at Atwater's" by Maryland GovPics / Flickr.com

Last summer we marked the 75th anniversary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s signing of the Fair Labor Standards Act – a landmark law that protected children, limited the number of hours in a workweek, and established the nation’s first minimum wage. The genesis of that law is often traced back to the story of one little girl who managed to get a poignant letter in the hands of the campaigning president. The note read:

“I wish you could do something to help us girls. We have been working in a sewing factory, and up to a few months ago we were getting our minimum pay of $11 a week. Today the 200 of us girls have been cut down to $4 and $5 and $6 a week.”

During this season of Lent, as we ponder the deep meaning of our faith, we also contemplate what that faith teaches us about the inherent dignity of every human being, how it compels us to better listen to one another, and why we must always strive to better serve one another.

War on Workers

Anti-labor laws undermine unions in the Midwest. Will faith communities rise to the challenge?

Photo provided by Phil Haslanger.

Phil Haslanger is pastor at Memorial United Church of Christ in Fitchburg, Wisconsin. He recently received the 2015 Justice Award from the Wisconsin Governor's Council on Domestic Abuse. 

The Red Balloon of Social Justice: Wisconsin One Year Later

Red heart balloon. Image via Wylio, http://bit.ly/yctzSw.

Red heart balloon. Image via Wylio, http://bit.ly/yctzSw.

Now we are at Valentine’s Day a year later. For many months last spring, a solitary red heart balloon floated just under the dome of the Capitol. It became a gentle symbol of this powerful people’s uprising.

The red heart balloon can serve as a reminder of how God’s Spirit blows whichever way it will, but that God’s Spirit is a spirit of justice and of compassion. As Bishop Burnside said, voices of faith need both a vocabulary of love and a vocabulary of justice as we move into the highly-charged months ahead.

What We Need to Do to Cut Poverty in Half in 10 Years

Perhaps the most important finding from the report is that we have both the experience and the policy tools necessary to cut poverty in half.

Between 1964 and 1973, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, the U.S. poverty rate fell by nearly half (43 percent) as a strong economy and effective public policy initiatives expanded the middle class.

Similarly, between 1993 and 2000, shared economic growth combined with policy interventions such as an enhanced earned income tax credit and minimum wage increase worked together to cut child poverty from 23 percent to 16 percent.

We can't do this alone.

A Lifestyle of Enough

About two years ago, Minhee and I made one of the hardest decisions we've made thus far in our marriage and in our calling as parents.

In our hope to honor a conviction of the Holy Spirit to give up a year's salary, we had begun the two-year process of saving, selling, and simplifying in 2007. Our goal was to come up with our then year's wages of $68,000 -- in order to launch One Day's Wages. With only a few months left to come up with the total sum, we were a bit short and decided to sublet our home for couple months and asked some friends if we could stay with them on their couches or their guest room.

Needless to say, it was a very humbling time.

Our instruction for ourselves and our children were very simple: Each person gets one carry-on bag for their belongings.