Under the broad umbrella of domestic poverty, the Provinces are encouraging Jesuit institutions across the U.S. to advocate to address poverty wages, protect government programs that serve the poor and vulnerable, reform the juvenile justice system and create affordable housing.
The starkness of the employment and income picture in the U.S. calls each of us to action. Data from the Census Bureau showed that in 2010 the nation's poverty rate rose to 15.1% or 46 million people, the highest level in 17 years. Additionally, the median income of Americans dropped by more than 2%. The number of doubled-up households grew by 10% to almost 22 million and nearly 6 million young adults ages 25-34 were living with their parents. The bureau estimates that half of these young adults would be considered poor if their parents were not supporting them.
Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 (H.R. 1010)
Minimum wage workers in the U.S. have not seen an increase in their paycheck in four years while the cost of living continues to rise. Low-wage occupations have dominated job growth in the post-recession recovery, increasing a shift in the U.S. economy toward low-paying jobs.
The federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour translates to just $15,080 per year for a full-time worker. The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 will help restore much of the lost value of the federal minimum wage, providing an urgently needed raise to 30 million of America’s lowest-paid workers. The legislation would increase the minimum wage in three steps from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour. Most importantly, the rate would then be indexed to inflation each year thereafter preventing the minimum wage from falling in value each year.
Read an analysis by the National Employment Labor Project on the 2013 act here.
Read a policy brief about the economic impact of raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.
The Jesuit Conference office of Social and International Ministries is meeting with members of the House of Representatives and Senators on this legislation. Join us by advocating with your Senators and House Representative. Or, learn more about state-based minimum wage campaigns here.
Protecting Government Programs that Serve the Poor and Vulnerable
As the nation faces unavoidable choices about how to balance needs and resources and allocate burdens and sacrifices, the national Jesuit community is urging Congress to protect funding for critical government programs that serve low-income and vulnerable people. The Federal budget sequester, which went into effect in FY 2013, has disproportionately cut funding for programs that reduce poverty.
The call for a Faithful Federal Budget, endorsed by the Jesuit Conference, promotes principles that would: restore economic opportunity; ensure adequate resources for shared priorities; prioritize human security; meet critical human needs at home and abroad; ensure our budget choices don't burden future generations; protect the gift of creation; provide access to health care for all; and recognize a robust role for government.
We need folks from local Jesuit institutions to raise these issues with their federal elected officials. To learn more about the Faithful Budget Campaign click here.
Reforming the Juvenile Justice System
Over the last year, the Jesuit Conference and Provinces have felt more and more called to respond to issues of juvenile justice. In addition to well known Jesuit social ministries like Homeboy Industries and Hopeworks 'N Camden, juvenile justice reform touches Jesuits who work as chaplains or teaching classes in prisons, Nativity-Miguel and Cristo Rey Network schools where students come from communities that are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system, and higher education institutions researching this issue. In part, advocacy around this issue is a response to outbreaks of gun violence in communities across the U.S. in 2012.
Jesuits and lay collaborators in the U.S. have found many ways to respond to this call. Several Provinces, including the New England Province active in efforts in Connecticut state legislation, have been involved in efforts to revise juvenile sentencing guidelines in the wake of the 2012 Supreme Court decision finding juvenile life without parole unconstitutional.
At the Federal level, the Jesuit Conference has begun to meet with Senators and House Representatives to discuss the Youth PROMISE Act (H.R. 1318, S. 435). PROMISE stands for Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support and Education. In short, the legislation will provide grants to communities with the highest levels of youth delinquency to develop and expand local programs, research and advisory boards that reduce violence and delinquency. Additionally, the bills would hire and train youth oriented police. The Jesuits believe these initiatives could help reduce criminal recidivism and juvenile delinquency by expanding positive programs for young adults. We encourage partners at local institutions and communities to join us in this work.
The shortage of safe and affordable housing threatens the stability of households throughout the province. We encourage institutions to learn from and get involved in the work of preserving and creating more affordable housing
and working to end homelessness
on the national
, and local level
Other local, regional, and national advocacy engagements