Archives for November 2015

NFPC This Week, #636 – 11/22-11/28/2015

Of Note This Week –

Worker Rights Manual

Wrk_RightsWorker Rights Manual – ARISE Chicago has produced the 3rd edition of its Worker Rights Manual. This 120-page helpful resource has sections on The Right to Organize at Work, Wage and Hour Laws, Safety and Health Laws, Workplace Discrimination Laws, The Rights of Immigrants at Work, T-Visa-Labor Trafficking, and more. The manual will soon be published in Spanish and Polish. To find out how to obtain a print copy contact, ARISE Chicago, 1436 W. Randolph St. Chicago, IL 60607. Tel: (773) 769-6000. Fax: (844) 270-4436. Web site: E-mail: [email protected].

The Tweetable Pope: A Spiritual Revolution in 140 Characters

Tweet_PopeThose unfamiliar (and familiar) with the social network Twitter will learn much from The Tweetable Pope: A Spiritual Revolution in 140 Characters, by Michael J. O’Loughlin. First and most importantly, this is Pope Francis’s Twitter account: @Pontifex. In the first chapter, Tweeting Like a Pope, O’Loughlin, explains some facts about why people, not only Catholics, listen to this pope and what makes him such a compelling figure. His Twitter messages focus on God, love, and mercy. The most common words he uses are, “us,” “we,” and “our.” O’Loughlin divides Pope Francis’s tweets into 16 categories. Here are some: Prayer, Mercy, Suffering, Gossip, The Devil, Inequality, Work, War, Service, and more. Available for $19.99 from HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 353 Sacramento St., Suite 500, San Francisco, CA 94111. Tel: (800) 242-7737. Fax: (415) 477-4444.  E-Mail: [email protected].  Web site:

What Teens Want You to Know (but won’t tell you)

TeensWhat Teens Want You to Know (but won’t tell you), Roy Petitfils draws upon his twenty years of work with teens as a counselor, teacher, and youth leader to help paint a picture of how parents, teachers, and youth leaders alike can connect with and engage teens in a life-giving and affirming way. From the introduction: “In each chapter you’ll read the actual dialogue of counseling sessions with teens, parents, youth ministers and educators.” The book is not filled countless theological references, ecclesial documents, or incredibly complex spiritual nuances. Each of the ten chapters ends with “Points to Remember,” “Questions for Reflection,” and “Prayer.” Available for $13.99 from Franciscan Media, 28 W. Liberty St., Cincinnati, OH 45202. Tel: (888) 322-6657. Web site:

Father Clete Kiley receives Prophetic Leader Award


From left: Fr. Larry Dowling, Fr. Clete Kiley, Fr. Scott Donahue, Fr. Mike Shanahan. Photo courtesy NFPC

On Tuesday, Nov. 24, your editor had the privilege to attend the Faith-Labor-Action Breakfast sponsored by ARISE Chicago. Over 650 religious, labor, community leaders, worker rights activists and their supporters attended the event.

Father Clete Kiley, Director of Immigration for Unite Here received the group’s Prophetic Leader Award. In remarks upon accepting the award, Fr. Kiley framed his thoughts around a verse from Isaiah, “For Zion’s sake I will not be silent.” [Is. 62: 1]. He focused on ARISE’s involvement in preventing wage-theft, ending workplace exploitation, and honoring the dignity of workers.

As many NFPC members know, Fr. Kiley is a founder of the Priest-Labor Initiative housed at NFPC. In addition Fr. Clete is a member of the Board of Directors of the Center for Construction Research of the National Building Trades. He is also on the Steering Committee of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Justice for Immigrants Initiative.

Other Chicago priests at the breakfast were Father Larry Dowling, Pastor of St. Agatha Parish and President of the Board of Directors of ARISE Chicago,Father Mike Shanahan, Pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, and Father Scott Donahue, President & CEO of Mercy Home for Boys and Girls

ARISE was founded by a diverse group of religious leaders in 1991 looking to address systemic poverty in the Chicagoland area. It is a non-profit interfaith organization dedicated to promoting economic and social justice in the workplace. For more information, go to –

See the Publications & Resources section about the ARISE Chicago Worker Rights Manual (3rd Edition)

Pope Francis names first bishop for Personal Ordinariate


Bishop-elect Steven J. Lopes. CNS photo/courtesy Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter via Crux.

On Nov. 24, Pope Francis named Monsignor Joseph S. Lopes as the first bishop to head the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, a circumscription which encompasses Anglican-tradition Catholic Communities in the US and Canada and based in Houston, Tex.

According to the National Catholic Register (Nov. 25, 2015), Bishop-designate Lopes is not a former Anglican. Originally ordained a celibate priest for the Archdiocese of San Francisco in 2001, Msgr. Lopes became immersed in Anglican traditions through work in the Vatican for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where he has been since 2005. He was involved both in setting up the Ordinariates under Benedict XVI and approving the new Roman missal for the Ordinariates, Divine Worship: the Missal, under Pope Francis.

Bishop-designate Lopes will replace the Rev. Jeffrey Steenson, a former Episcopal bishop and now a married Catholic priest who has led the Ordinariate since 2012. Under Ordinariate rules, married men are ineligible to serve as bishops. Lopes will be installed as bishop at a ceremony in Houston on February 2nd.

For the NC Register report, click here.

For a Crux (Nov. 25, 2015) analysis by John Allen, Jr., click here.



Archbishop Cupich: “We must not give into fear and panic that terrorists such as ISIS seek to sow.”

In a commentary appearing in the Chicago Sun –Times on Sunday, Nov. 22, Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich, said that the US must not “break our promise to the global community that we would help resettle just 10,000 of the 4 million Syrian refugees who have had no choice but to flee their homes.”

He decried the heinous acts of the terrorists and acknowledged the concerns of some who fear that some of the refugees might be ISIS agents. But, he said, “We must do our best to separate facts from fear. “

Archbishop Cupich then went on to list the stringent security process that refugees go through that can last from 18- to 24 months or longer. “Why then,” he asked, “should we turn away people who pass such a rigorous process? How can we look the other way, as they huddle with their children in foreign lands with barely any shelter, clothing or food?

We must not. These are our neighbors.”

For Archbishop Cupich’s entire commentary, click here.

Speculation on changes coming for the Roman Curia

Robert Mickens, A Roman Observer columnist for the National Catholic Reporter (Nov. 24, 2015) speculates on changes coming down the pike for the Curia. Mickens was previously a correspondent for The Tablet, the British Catholic journal.

For Mickens’s essay, click here.



Women’s economic agenda – Creating an economy that works for everyone

Economic Policy Institute

Over the last several decades, millions of women have joined the workforce and made huge gains in their educational attainment, which exceeds that of men. Yet women are still paid less than men. Indeed, gender wage disparities are present across the wage distribution and within education cohorts, occupations, and sectors—sometimes to a grave degree. Closing the wage gap is essential to helping women achieve economic security.

At the same time, the factors that have kept women’s pay from growing over the last dozen years are the same forces that have suppressed wages for male workers. While an expanding and increasingly productive economy creates the potential for broadly shared prosperity, in recent decades economic gains have been captured almost exclusively by those at the top. This is because intentional policy choices made on behalf of those with the most wealth and power have made it harder for working people to get paid the wages they deserve. This fundamental shift in the way the economy works has affected the majority of workers—regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or education level.

A progressive women’s economic agenda must close the gender wage gap and raise wages to improve living standards for all working people. The following 12-point policy agenda will give low- and moderate-wage workers more economic leverage, change the rules so that a growing economy benefits hardworking Americans, and maximize women’s economic security. Because low-wage jobs are disproportionately held by women, women are the primary beneficiaries of an agenda to raise wages for low- and moderate-wage workers.

1.  Raise the minimum wage

Raising the federal minimum wage will boost wages for millions of workers.

Nowhere in the United States can a minimum-wage worker—even one without children—earn enough to attain a secure yet modest lifestyle. Raising the minimum wage particularly benefits women. For example, raising the federal minimum wage to $12 by 2020 would boost wages for one-fourth of the workforce, or 35 million working people—56 percent of whom are women.

2.  Eliminate the tipped minimum wage

Raising and eventually eliminating the subminimum wage (currently just $2.13 per hour) for workers who earn tips will help boost wages and stabilize incomes for millions of service workers.

Two-thirds of tipped workers are women, yet they still make less than their male counterparts. At the median, women tipped workers make $10.07 per hour, while men make $10.63 (including tips).

 3.  Strengthen collective bargaining rights

Making it easier for willing workers to form unions, increasing penalties for corporate violations of labor laws, defending collective bargaining in the public sector, and halting and reversing the spread of so-called right-to-work laws will give workers the leverage they need to bargain for better wages and benefits and to set high labor standards for all workers.

The erosion of collective bargaining has been the single largest factor suppressing wage growth for middle-wage workers over the last few decades. Women in unions are more likely to be paid higher wages and have access to benefits such as paid sick days and pensions. When unions are strong, those benefits and protections spread to nonunion workers as well.

4.  Strengthen laws against discrimination in hiring, pay, and promotion

Requiring employers to demonstrate that differences in hiring, pay, and promotion are based on factors other than sex or race and strengthening penalties for equal pay violations will reduce pay disparities based on race and gender.

Significant wage gaps still exist between men and women, with the median woman worker earning 83 percent of men’s hourly wages. This wage disparity exists even among the most educated workers—among workers with an advanced degree, women make only 74 percent of men’s hourly wages. Women of color face even larger wage gaps: Black women earn 65.1 percent and Hispanic women earn 58.9 percent of white men’s hourly earnings.

5.  Provide paid family leave

Providing workers with paid family leave will enable them to take time off for the arrival of a child, or a serious health condition affecting themselves or a relative, without forcing them to choose between work and family.

Only 12 percent of private-sector employees have access to paid family leave. Without paid family leave policies, workers (particularly women) have difficulty balancing the demands of work and family.

6.  Provide paid sick leave

Ensuring all working people can earn paid sick time would allow them to meet their responsibilities at work and at home without compromising their family’s economic security.

Over one-third (39 percent) of workers have no paid sick days. When these workers get sick, they are forced either to stay at home without pay and risk losing their job, or go to work and jeopardize their health and that of their colleagues.

7.  Require fair scheduling practices

Employers should be required to provide more advance notice in setting and changing work schedules. They should also be required to pay workers who have not received sufficient notice of last-minute schedule changes for hours lost, for “on-call hours,” for being scheduled on split shifts, and for instances when they are sent home before completing their assigned shifts.

Over one-third (34 percent) of women hourly workers in their prime childrearing years (age 26–32) receive their work schedules with advance notice of one week or less. Irregular work schedules lead to income instability (especially as low-income workers face the most irregular work schedules), and children of parents with irregular work schedules are more likely to have poorer cognitive and behavioral outcomes.

8.  Provide accessible, affordable, high-quality child care and early childhood education

The United States must invest in early childhood education and more affordable child care, ensuring parents do not need to choose between leaving the labor force and affording quality child care, and ensuring no children start their academic lives a step behind.

Monthly child care costs for two-child families exceed the cost of rent in 500 out of 618 metropolitan statistical and rural areas across the United States. Ensuring access to affordable child care lets parents more easily balance work and family, which in turn makes it easier for women to stay in the labor force and therefore achieve higher lifetime earnings. Quality child care requires a commitment to decent facilities and well paid staff, which will disproportionately benefit women.

In order to better prepare children who grow up in disadvantaged circumstances for school (and life beyond school), we need more high-quality pre-kindergarten programs. Such programs have been found to boost children’s skills across multiple domains, from higher test scores to improved high school graduation rates—and even better employment prospects and less involvement with criminal activity.

9.  Protect and expand Social Security

Protecting and strengthening Social Security and pensions to address the growing retirement security crisis will ensure a higher standard of living for women, children, retirees, and people with disabilities.

More than half (53 percent) of elderly women are economically vulnerable, meaning one economic shock (for example, a healthcare crisis) could impoverish them. The average female retiree receives over $300 less per Social Security check than her male counterpart. This is largely due to the wage gap between women and men, but also because women are often primary caregivers and must choose between caring for a sick or disabled family member or pursuing their own professional goals.

10.  Provide undocumented workers a path to citizenship

President Obama’s executive actions to defer the deportation of undocumented workers and issue them work authorization will provide these workers with basic workplace protections and enable them to earn higher wages. Congress needs to go further and provide undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship, which would more fully integrate them and allow them to earn and contribute more. Providing a path to citizenship for undocumented workers will not only lift their wages, but will also lift wages of U.S. workers in the same fields of work.

Women are concentrated in many occupations likely to be held by undocumented workers. For example, they make up 93.1 percent of in-home workers, who are much more likely to be immigrants.

11.  Support strong enforcement of labor standards

The enforcement of labor standards in the United States is so weak that hundreds of thousands of employers routinely fail to pay minimum wage or overtime, fail to protect employees from workplace hazards, fail to accurately classify workers, fail to pay payroll taxes or worker’s compensation premiums, fail to provide family and medical leave, or even fail to pay employees the wages they’ve earned. More enforcement and tougher penalties are needed to deter these violations, and access to the courts must be available to harmed workers.

It is estimated that $50 billion is stolen from employees each year due to employers not paying them the wages they are owed. Women are more likely than men to have their wages stolen because they are more likely to work in occupations in which rampant wage theft persists.

The Department of Labor’s proposal to raise the overtime salary threshold to $50,440 would directly benefit 13.5 million salaried workers—the majority of whom are women—by guaranteeing them the right to receive time-and-a-half pay for work beyond 40 hours each week that is now provided at no cost to the employer.

12.  Prioritize wage growth and very low unemployment when making monetary policy

A decision to raise interest rates is a decision to slow the economy and weaken job and wage growth. It is imperative that monetary policymakers keep their foot off the brakes and allow the recovery to proceed as quickly as possible. Policymakers should not seek to slow the economy until wages are growing at a brisk pace.

Over the past 35 years, the vast majority of workers endured stagnant wages despite economy-wide productivity growth of 65 percent.

Better wage growth is crucial to ensuring that gender and racial wage gaps close for the right reasons, with wages rising for all groups but more rapidly for groups currently disadvantaged in labor markets. Pursuing a full-employment economy by keeping interest rates low will help to tighten the labor market, thereby requiring employers to raise wages to get and keep the workers they need.

Almost half of all American workers make less than $15 an hour

Three years after the first #FightFor15 strike, workers nationwide rallied again yesterday for living wages and union rights.

By Michelle Chen, November 11, 2015, The Nation


Workers rally for a living wage in New York City, November 11, 2015. (AP Photo / Seth Wenig)

We’ve come a long way since that crisp November day three years ago when a small group of New York City fast-food workers launched a strike with the slogan “Fast Food Forward.” Today, the movement continues its forward march with the viral hashtag #FightFor15. On November 10, workers in hundreds of cities again went on strike and rallied, this time with an especially militant overtone, timed to launch a year-long campaign to foreground low-wage workers’ issues in the elections.

Tuesday’s protests, supported chiefly by the SEIU with backing from an array of community and labor groups, showed how many methods of raising wages have made gains—through legislation, voter referenda, grassroots labor pressure—or even administrative intervention, such as New York’s Governor Cuomo’s two major executive-led wage hikes.

But more importantly, the efforts reveal why none of these measures add up yet to structural economic change.

In Seattle and Los Angeles, which got to $15 wages by legislation, and San Francisco, which voted for a raise via ballot initiative, municipalities face new challenges in labor enforcement in sectors that have traditionally had little oversight. On the upside, as other cities lean toward $15 an hour, concurrent local policy discussions have emerged around systemic worker empowerment, such as proposals for fair scheduling and paid sick days to improve workers’ overall economic stability.

And the executive actions in New York—along with new collective-bargaining agreements raising wages for home health aides in Massachusetts and Oregon—show grassroots pressure can spur reforms through administrative measures that might otherwise stagnate in legislatures. Governor Cuomo’s new executive action will boost wages for about 10,000 workers in state government offices and executive agencies. The move may serve as a prelude to Cuomo’s push for statewide legislation that will vie with a similar initiative in California for the first statewide $15 wage floor (a refreshing upward competition, after years of employers racing to the bottom in wages and labor standards).

But the Fight for $15 has so far probably done more to shed light on the crisis of economic inequality than it has to actually improve wages directly on a wide scale. New research shows much more than wage hikes is needed to build a sustainable jobs for low-wage workers.

According to the think tank National Employment Law Project, over four in 10 workers nationwide earn less than $15 per hour. Food services have the greatest percentage of ultra-low-wage earners of any industry, with a whopping 96 percent of fast-food workers earning sub-$15 wages. About 3 million cashiers and 2 million retail sales people—a large chunk working for some of the world’s most lucrative chains—currently earn less than $15 an hour. That wage is roughly the bare minimum needed to live decently anywhere in the country.

But more disturbingly, low wages are a symptom of more systemic, structural oppression across the labor force. Ultimately, while policies to raise hourly pay have drawn populist energy, they will not directly improve the lot of workers stuck in the informal economy, undocumented laborers, people who are part-time and erratically employed, or those trapped in jobs where wage theft and overtime violations are rife.

The New York wage board’s fast-track raise for fast-food workers is limited as well. A careful analysis by the Century Foundation found that—in contrast with rosier projections by the governor’s office—the $15 wage floor is structured so narrowly it reaches just a tiny fraction of low-wage New Yorkers; the estimated 94,000 fast food–chain workers covered by the wage standard represent “just 3 percent of its sub-$15 workforce, and a scant 1.2 percent of its overall workforce.”

Incremental victories aside, the concrete effect of the Fight for $15 is more subtle, equipping many workers with the organizing tools to push their own agenda, which now touches on social-justice issues beyond wages.

The other goal of the labor campaign, unionization, remains a distant prospect for poor workers. Despite some victories before the National Labor Relations Board that ease restrictions on organizing, unions are still hugely impeded by outsourcing and casualization of low-wage jobs and corporate deregulation.

And the intensifying political debate over wage inequality opens another debate around the disproportionate impoverishment of black and Latino workers. Rahel Mekdim Teka of the Black Youth Project 100, described the racial overtones of the crisis at Tuesday’s Fight for 15 rally in downtown Manhattan.

“I know and have witnessed firsthand that low wages are a form of violence,” she said. In marginalized communities, “how can we grow and how can we dream of a better future, if we’re working full time and unable to make ends meet, unable to provide for our children, and unable to pay rent?”

The gender dimension of the Fight for 15 is also instructive for the labor movement. It’s no coincidence much of the mobilization comes from two woman-dominated occupations: childcare workers and home health aides, nearly 90 percent of whom make under $15 per hour. They’re joining the fight to call attention to the overlooked value of their work as caregivers—a side of the economy that needs to be uplifted for consumers and providers, to foster community stability across generations.

As Atlanta childcare worker Dawn O’Neal explained ahead of Tuesday’s protests, their fight is not just for economic survival but for solutions to the inequality dividing communities. She’s observed how affluent communities that she’s encountered as an educator are self-sufficient and able to provide the safe, stable households and healthy neighborhoods that aren’t accessible to families like hers, “They’re able to give back,” she told The Nation. “But here we are, and we’re struggling.… we can’t afford to take care of ourselves, let alone put anything back into our own community.” With so many working parents depending on public benefits, “there’s no reason for us to be working 40 to 60 hours a week and have to go back to the government and say, ‘We need this.’”

So now the Fight for $15 isn’t telling politicians what they need, but what their families deserve and demand. By tying workers’ economic aspirations to the horizon of political change, they proclaim that the fight is not about the money: It’s about the dignity of earning, and of giving, their fair share.